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LIVE! Emergency meeting of airlines begins in Delhi

17:07  EC gives go-ahead to GST Council meeting on March 19:  The Election Commission has given approval for holding the upcoming GST Council meeting on March 19 to consider various issues including the implementation of lower GST rates for the real estate sector. The next meeting will be held through videoconferencing, sources said. 

Following the approval from the Election Commission, sources said, notices have been sent from the GST Council Secretariat to states for the 34th meeting of the Council on March 19, they said. 

The nod from the Election Commission was required as the Model Code of Conduct has been in force since Sunday. The meeting will be held to discuss only transition provision and related issues for the implementation of lower GST rates for the real estate sector, the sources said. 

In the previous meeting, the high-powered GST Council slashed tax rates for under-construction flats to 5 per cent and affordable homes to 1 per cent, effective April 1. — PTI

16:33  Emergency meeting of airlines begins in Delhi:  In Delhi, the emergency meeting of all airlines called by Civil Aviation Secretary begins at Ministry of Civil Aviation at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan. The Civil Aviation Ministry is holding a meeting with the airlines at to prepare a contingency plan as a number of flights have been cancelled because of the grounding of the 737 Max 8 aircraft. 

On Tuesday night, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation announced its decision to “immediately” ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft that are currently being used by airline companies in India. The decision came days after a 737 MAX 8 aircraft operated by the Ethiopian Airlines crashed near Addis Ababa killing 157 people, including four Indians. 

The aviation watchdog has issued a statement, saying no Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft would be allowed to fly in Indian airspace from 4 pm.

16:05  Election Commission meeting tomorrow :  The Election Commission has called meeting of Chief election officers of States and all Observers tomorrow. Meeting is scheduled tomorrow in Delhi. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora along with Election Commissioners Sushil Chandra and Ashok Lavasa will brief the observers.

15:35  What the first Indians tell us about ourselves:  “India is a strange place.

“On the one hand we have the most advanced science working on our origins and our ancestry.

“On the other we are at war with ourselves over a temple to a god whom our first ancestors knew nothing of,” says Aakar Patel.


15:30  BJP urges EC to declare Bengal ‘super sensitive’:  Expressing apprehensions that the ruling TMC government might not allow free-and-fair elections in West Bengal, BJP on Wednesday urged the Election Commission to declare Bengal a “super-sensitive zone.”

A high-level delegation of BJP leaders comprising Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Health Minister JP Nadda and others met EC officials in New Delhi.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Prasad said, “We have demanded that entire Bengal be declared a super-sensitive zone. We have also handed them (EC) a list of officers whose impartiality is doubtful and urged that they be removed from election duties.”

“Around 100 murders took place during Panchayat elections in West Bengal. Officers sit on dharnas along with Chief Minister. The ruling party (BJP) president’s chopper is not allowed to land there,” he added.

BJP also demanded the deployment of Central forces on all booths in West Bengal while accusing the West Bengal police of acting as TMC workers


14:52  Failure to designate Masood Azhar as global terrorist against regional stability: US to China:  The US has said that Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar meets the criteria to brand him as a “global terrorist” by the UN and China’s opposition to the move to “update” the designation list went against the interests of Washington and Beijing in achieving regional stability and peace. 

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino’s significant remarks came on the eve of a crucial decision by the UN Security Council on listing Azhar as a global terrorist.

The Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), headed by 50-year-old Azhar, has carried out many terror strikes in India and was involved in the attack on Parliament, the Pathankot air force base, army camps in Jammu and Uri. It also claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack which left 40 CRPF personnel dead.

In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, three permanent members of the UNSC — the US, Britain and France — have moved a resolution to designate Azhar as a global terrorist under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. All eyes are on China, which has in the past blocked India’s bids to get Azhar listed as a UN-designated global terrorist. — PTI

14:18  India to ask Pak to insulate Sikh pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Gurdwara from Khalistani propaganda:  India will ask Pakistan to insulate Sikh pilgrims visiting the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib through the Kartarpur corridor from Khalistani separatist propaganda, official sources said. India will raise the issue during the first meeting with Pakistan to finalise the modalities for the Kartarpur corridor on Thursday. The meeting will take place on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border, they said.

Last year in November, India had lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over the alleged harassment of Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad and the denial of access to Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting the country. India had also expressed “grave concern” over reports of attempts during the pilgrims’ visit to “incite” communal disharmony and “promote secessionist tendencies” with an aim to undermine India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

There were reports that pro-Khalistan banners were shown to the Indian pilgrims while they were on their way to the two Sikh shrines. — PTI


14:01  Rahul promises GST reform if Cong voted to power:  

Congress President Rahul Gandhi held a press conference in Chennai after interacting with students of the Stella Maris college in the city. He said alliances have been firmed up in a number of states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Jharkhand and talks on an alliance in Bihar have practically concluded. “Conversation on an alliance in J&K is close to the final stages,” the Congress president said when asked if the party was lagging behind as the BJP had already firmed up alliances in states. 

Addressing the conference, Rahul asked why the prime minister was hiding, saying he should have the guts to face the media. He also assured GST reform if the Congress was voted to power. 

At the interaction with students earlier in Chennai, Rahul said everybody should be investigated be it Mr Vadra or the Prime Minister, advocating for equality before the law. 

“Government has every right to investigate every person. Law should apply to everybody equally, not selectively. Prime Minister has his name in government documents that say he is directly responsible for negotiating parallelly with Dassault on Rafale. Investigate everybody, be it Mr Vadra or Prime Minister,” he said while interacting with students of Chennai’s Stella Maris College. 

Rahul will formally launch the party’s poll campaign in Kerala on Thursday when he will address a huge rally of workers at Kozhikode on March 14. Gandhi will arrive in Thiruvananthapuram this evening after his programmes in Nagercoil and Kanyakumari in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.


13:39  PM doesn’t have guts to be questioned: Rahul wows Chennai students:  

Rahul Gandhi, in his outreach in Chennai today as part of his campaign for next month’s national election, addressed hundreds of students at a women’s college and urged them to ask him “only difficult” questions. Amid high-pitched shrieks, Rahul urged the students to call him by his name instead of ‘sir’. The Congress president, who ditched his regulation white kurta and jacket for a grey T-shirt and jeans took questions from the audience and held court in an atmosphere of bonhomie.  

Rahul Gandhi, who is at Stella Maris College, Chennai said:

“There is currently an ideological battle going in India. It’s sharply divided between two ideologies. One ideology is a unifying ideology which says that all people of the country should live together and shouldn’t be dominated by one idea. The other ideology represented by the current govt and PM where they believe that one idea should be imposed on our country. They have a particular view about role of women in our society, different languages and cultures are inferior to one centralising culture and idea. 

“How many times have you seen the Prime Minister of India standing in the middle of 3000 women like this? How many times have you seen him standing here like this being open to any question from anybody? How many of you have had the opportunity to ask him ‘Mr Prime Minister what do you think about education? What do you think about this? What do you think about that?’ Why doesn’t Prime Minister have the guts to stand in front of 3000 women & be questioned by them? 

“Govt has every right to investigate every person. Law should apply to everybody equally,not selectively. PM has his name in govt documents that say he is directly responsible for negotiating parallely with Dassault on Rafale. Investigate everybody, be it Mr Vadra or PM.” 


13:18  EC notice to BJP MLA for using posters featuring IAF officer Abhinandan:  The EC has issued a show-cause notice to Delhi BJP MLA Om Prakash Sharma for putting up two posters featuring him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman on Facebook. The Election Commission has asked him to take down the post and give a reply by Thursday. The Lok Sabha election is scheduled to begin on April 11 and will continue till May 19. Polling in Delhi will be held on May 12.

The posters, shared on social media on March 1, feature Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, the IAF officer, and Sharma, who represents the Vishwas Nagar seat in the Delhi Assembly. 

“Pakistan has bowed down. Our brave soldier has returned. It’s a big diplomatic victory that Modiji has brought Abhinandan back in very little time,” the posters read. 

District Magistrate, Shahdara, K M Mahesh, told PTI, “We issued a show-cause notice to Sharma on March 11 for posting posters featuring Abhinandan Varthaman on Facebook.” “He (Sharma) has been asked to furnish a reply by 11 am Thursday. It’s a violation of the Model Code of Conduct and appropriate action will be taken,” Mahesh, who is also the district election officer, said. 

Sharma confirmed to ANI that he had received the notice. “EC sent me a notice last night. The post was made before LS poll dates were announced. Can’t understand how EC is operating,” he said.

Referring to its December 2013 letter to all political parties, the poll panel had recently asked them to refrain from making references to the armed forces while canvassing for elections. The directive had come against the backdrop of a picture showing a hoarding with images of Varthaman and leaders of a party. — PTI


13:09  Another Congress MLA set to join BJP:  In yet another embarrassment for the Congress party in Maharashtra, its MLA from Wadala-Naigaon constituency Kalidas Kolambkar is set to join the BJP. “I worked in the Congress party for 10 years. But they stopped a lot of development work in my constituency. I support those who work,’ Kolambkar told ANI. 

He shared that two of his demands have already been fulfilled by the BJP, but one demand of police housing project in his area is still pending as model code of conduct for Lok Sabha polls is already in effect.

Kolambkar has replaced the Congress signboard outside his office and has put up Fadnavis’ portrait there. “After Devendra Fadnavis took over as Chief Minister, I told him about the work needed to be done in my area and he completed those works. Then, whose photo should I put? Those who work or those who don’t?” said Kolambkar.

A senior Congress leader, Kolambkar is a seven-time MLA. Before joining Congress, he was with the Shiv Sena. — PTI


12:32  Nick, Priyanka add to the family :  The Jonas Brothers made a comeback with hit single Sucker and recently made their Billboard debut at the No 1 spot on the list of Billboard Hot 100 and celebrations are on in full swing. So, Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra celebrated the big win with a brand new Maybach in their garage. Priyanka  shared pictures from Nick’s home in Los Angeles featuring the Maybach and wrote: “When the hubby goes number one… the wifey gets a Maybach! Introducing… Extra Chopra Jonas… haha… I love you baby! Yaaay! Best husband ever!”


11:40  ‘Bodies moved from Balakot to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after IAF strike’:  

There have been reports in the Urdu media of some bodies being transported from Balakot to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas of Pakistan following the anti-terror strike by India, claims an activist from Gilgit.

“#Pakistan military officer admits to “martyrdom” of more than 200 militants during Indian strike on #Balakot. Calls the terrorists Mujahid who receive special favours/ sustenance from Allah as they fight to support PAK government [against enemies]. Vows to support families,” Senge Hasnan Sering, the United States-based activist from Gilgit, tweeted.

Speaking to ANI, Sering said, “Pakistan is definitely hiding something very important that has happened in Balakot. International, as well as local media, have not been allowed to inspect the site and assess the damages there. Pakistan continues to claim that the strike happened and it damaged the forest area and some farmland. But then there’s no reason for Pakistan to cordon off the area for such a long time and not allow the international media to have an independent opinion on the situation there.”

“At the same time, the Jaish-e-Mohammed claims that its Madrassa was there. At the same time, there have been reports in the Urdu media of some dead bodies being transported from Balakot to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas a few days or the next day after the attack happened. So there is enough evidence where one could speculate with confidence that the Balakot strike by the Indian Air Force was successful and Pakistan has not been able to prove otherwise since it has not enabled the international media or national media to visit the site,” he said.

Following the ghastly February 14 Pulwama terror attack, India launched pre-emptive, an anti-terror air strike on terror launch pads in Pakistan’s Balakot. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had said on February 26 that the air strike resulted in the elimination of “a large number of terrorists”.

Pakistan, however, has denied time and again India’s claims of having inflicted casualties at the JeM training camp. — ANI

Image: The IAF’s Mirage 2000 was used in the Balakot air strike. 

11:19  26 teachers in Maharashtra booked for refusing election work:  At least 26 teachers from Palghar district in Maharashtra have been booked for allegedly refusing to do election-related duty, police said Wednesday. The teachers from a school in Nallasopara area were last year appointed as booth-level officers to update the voters’ list and undertake other poll-related works, Palghar police spokesperson Hemant Kumar Katkar said. 

They were supposed to carry out the works between June 2018 and February this year, he said. However, since the 26 teachers did not turn up for the work, an electoral registration officer in-charge of the area complained to police, he said.

Based on the complaint, the teachers were on Tuesday booked under Section 32(1) (breach of official duty in connection with preparation of electoral rolls) of the Representation of People Act, Katkar said. — PTI


11:17  Let me sleep, human!:  And another leopard cub was rescued by the Bahraich Forest Department from the Kakraha Range yesterday. The mother could not be found and the cub has been sent to the Lucknow zoo today. Safe and secure, but a world behind bars.

11:13  LS polls: Leave of UP police personnel stopped:   The leave of all Uttar Pradesh police personnel has been stopped by the state authorities due to the Lok Sabha election. According to a directive of the state Director General of Police O P Singh to all the district police chiefs, leave of all types of police personnel is stopped from March 15 till further order in view of the general election. Leave may be sanctioned by the officers concerned in special cases, the DGP added. PTI


10:59  Failure to designate Masood Azhar as global terrorist against regional stability, peace: US:  Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar meets the criteria to be designated as a “global terrorist” by the UN and China’s opposition to the move counters a mutual interest in achieving regional stability and peace, the US has said. 

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino’s remarks came on the eve of a crucial decision by the UN Security Council on listing Azhar as a global terrorist.

The JeM, headed by the 50-year-old Azhar, carried out many terror strikes in India and was involved in the attack on Parliament, the Pathankot air force base, army camps in Jammu and Uri. It also claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack which left 40 CRPF personnel dead.

In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, three permanent members of the UNSC — the US, Britain and France — have moved a resolution to designate Azhar as a global terrorist under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. All eyes are on China, which has in the past blocked India’s bids to get Azhar listed as a UN-designated global terrorist. 


10:42  Ayodhya title suit: Mediation panel’s 1st meeting today :  As the three-member mediation panel meets for the first time on the Ayodhya title suit today, Muslim Rashtriya Manch and Hindu Maha Sabha have expressed support for the construction of Ram Temple by resolving the issues through talks.

The Supreme Court had on March 8 referred the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for court-appointed and monitored mediation and expressed the view that the proceedings should be conducted with “utmost confidentiality’ to ensure its success.

“We welcome this decision by the Supreme Court. I believe that through this meet will give a push to the new start for the construction of Ram Temple. If there will be a decision taken by the mediators soon then I feel it will be positive for the country and the people,” Syed Yaser Jilani of Muslim Rashtriya Manch told ANI.

Resonating similar sentiments, Hindu Maha Sabha’s Swami Chakrapani said, “This country belongs to all of us. Through talks, we can resolve big-big issues. The Supreme Court wants both the parties to win. It does not want anybody to lose. Even I have received a letter to be a part of this. I will definitely go there. Even after the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya we all have to stay in this country. We don’t want to construct the temple through violence. We want to make it through the support of everybody. We believe that through mediation a decision will surely be taken on this matter.”

The panel will have Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior Madras High Court advocate Sriram Panchu as members and will be chaired by retired top court judge Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla.



10:27  Pakistan criticised at UNHRC for its duplicity on Kashmir :  Kashmiri political activists and intellectuals have strongly criticised Pakistan for its duplicity on Kashmir during the 40th Session of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Tuesday.

Junaid Qureshi, a Kashmiri and director of the European Foundation of South Asian Studies lambasted Pakistan for becoming a broker to China. He said, “Firstly, Pakistan invaded Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. Since then, it has been an Occupier – And now, it is a broker, as it is negotiating the sale of Gilgit Baltistan to Beijing’.

In collaboration with China, Pakistan’s attempts to change the status of Gilgit Baltistan have increased exponentially, as the region is vital for the construction of the illegal China Pakistan Economic Corridor.   — ANI

Image: Delegates at the UNHRC in Geneva. 

10:14  PIL politically motivated, says Parrikar’s son :  In other news, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s son Abhijat, who has been accused of committing illegalities in the construction of an eco-tourism project, in is written submission to the High Court of Bombay at Goa, has stated that the ‘writ petition against him is politically motivated’. 

Abhijat told the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court that a Public Interest litigation filed against him is “politically motivated” by the Congress party and was filed on the eve of the elections to get political mileage in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. He said the PIL was filed at the behest of certain politicians to settle political scores before the election.

The PIL alleged that his eco-tourism project Hideaway Hospitality being constructed on a buffer zone identified as eco-sensitive zone around Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, was responsible for massive deforestation and cutting open forested land. There are also allegations that suggest a clearance was given to a project for the construction of a cow-shed.


10:05  Civil Aviation ministry calls for emergency meeting of all airlines at 4 pm:  

Update: The Civil Aviation Secretary has called an emergency meeting of all airlines at 4 pm today in Delhi. In a late night move, all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft were grounded, a senior official of Indian aviation watchdog DGCA, said in the backdrop of Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 plane crash near Addis Ababa killing 157 people, including four Indians, on Sunday. 

“We will ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, which are currently in use by Indian airlines, by 4 pm today,” the DGCA official said on Wednesday morning.

SpiceJet has around 12 such aircraft in its fleet. Jet Airways has five, which have been grounded already. 

In a statement on Wednesday, SpiceJet said,” SpiceJet has suspended Boeing 737 Max operations following DGCA’s decision to ground the aircraft.”

“Safety and security of our passengers, crew and operations are of utmost importance to us and we will be working with the regulator and the manufacturer to attain normalcy in our operations. 

“We are confident of accommodating the vast majority of our passengers and minimise inconvenience,” the airline said.

The Ethiopian Airlines incident on Sunday was the second such crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in less than five months.

In October last year, an aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed killing over 180 people in Indonesia.

The European Union and many other countries across the world have already banned the use of the 737 Max 8 aircraft in their respective airspace.


09:49  Militant hideout busted in J&K’s Kulgam district, one arrested :  As expected, the news from Kashmir is not peaceable. 

A man was arrested and arms and ammunition, including grenades, were seized by security forces from a militant hideout in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district, police said Wednesday. “On credible input, a joint party of police and other security forces busted a hideout in a residential house at Kulgam district’s Yaripora area, and recovered arms and ammunition, including grenades and live rounds, last night,” a police spokesman said here. 

Mohammad Ayoub Rather, a resident of Yaripora, was arrested, he said. Police have registered a case and an investigation has been initiated, the spokesman said. — PTI


09:47  I want mommy!:  Cuteness overload: The Forest Department and Wildlife SOS group in Maharashtra have rescued 10-week-old and 13-week-old leopard cubs from Vadgaon Anand village and Golegaon village in Junnar on 11th March. We are happy to inform you that the cubs have been reunited with their mothers. 


09:05  Designer Wendell Rodricks urges President, PM to save 100-year-old Goa chapel:  

Noted fashion designer Wendell Rodricks has written to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging them to intervene and save from demolition a 100-year-old chapel in his native village of Colvale.

St Anthony’s Chapel is being demolished to widen national highway 17 that passes through Colvale village in Goa .

In his letter to the President and the PM, Rodricks said, We have learnt about the expansion of the highway, which will destroy our St Anthony’s Chapel. This is totally illegal and in violation of the Supreme Court order that a religious structure over 100 years old cannot be demolished. This ruling was enforced after the Babri Masjid demolition.”

Rodricks and the people of Colvale, have been protesting against the cutting down of trees in and around the village for widening of the highway. 



08:34  Masood Azhar a global terrorist, says US ahead of crucial meet:  

Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar meets the criteria to be designated as a global terrorist and not doing so is against regional stability and peace, the US said on the eve of the UN Security Council making a crucial decision in this regard.


The JeM, headed by the 50-year-old Azhar, carried out many terror strikes in India and was involved in the attack on Parliament, the Pathankot air force base, army camps in Jammu and Uri, and the latest suicide attack on Central Reserve Police Force in Pulwama which claimed the lives of 40 personnel.

In the aftermath of the February 14 attack in Pulwama, three permanent members of the United States Security Council – the United States, Britain and France – have moved a resolution to designate Azhar as a global terrorist.

Several previous attempts by these three countries inside the UNSC were blocked by China, the all-weather ally of Pakistan.

China, which is one of the five veto-powered members of the Security Council, so far has been asserting that there is not enough evidence against Azhar to designate him as a global terrorist.

Amidst a mounting global outrage in the wake of the Pulwama attack that led to a flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan, US, Britain and France hope that Beijing would act wisely and would not oppose their move this time to designate Azhar as a global terrorist.

On the eve of the crucial decision by the UN Security Council, the Trump Administration made it clear that there is enough evidence against Azhar to designate him as a global terrorist.

“Azhar is the founder and the leader of the JeM, and he meets the criteria for designation by the United Nations,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino told reporters at his daily news conference.

The JeM, he said, has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and is a threat to regional stability and peace.



08:21  Former US vice president Biden to run for White House in 2020: Report:  

Former United States Vice President Joe Biden will run for the White House in the upcoming presidential elections, a Democratic lawmaker has confirmed, The Hill revealed in an exclusive report.

It is assumed that if Biden runs for the White House, the already crowded Democratic primary field will steer clear to make him the clear front-runner for his partys nomination against US President Donald Trump.

The Hill quoted the House Democratic lawmaker as stating that the former vice president said, “Im giving it a shot, during a phone call with lawmaker during the past week, interpreting it as a sure sign that Biden will run in 2020.

According to the lawmaker, Biden also asked if he could get some campaign strategy ideas and invited him to sit down with him in person in the near future.

In 2017, Biden had told a leading magazine that he has not made a decision on it yet, but is not against the idea of running for the presidency in 2020.

“I haven’t decided to run. But I’ve decided I’m not going to decide not to run. We’ll see what happens,” Biden said in the interview, adding that he would have run for president in 2016 had his late son Beau not fallen ill.

“I had planned on running, and I wasn’t running against Hillary or Bernie or anybody else. Honest to God, I thought that I was the best suited for the moment to be president,” Biden had said.

Biden was the US vice president from 2009 to 2017. 



07:56  Month after joining Twitter, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweets for first time:  

In her first Twitter post, a month after she joined the social media platform, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted for the first time and invoked Mahatma Gandhi and his ideals of non-violence.

“In the simple dignity of Sabarmati, the truth lives on” she wrote in her very first tweet which was liked over 16,000 times and retweeted over 5,000 times.

In a subsequent tweet posted after around five minutes, she shared a photograph of a room in Bapu’s Sabarmati Ashram, with the chakra (spinning wheel). She accompanied the picture with a quote from the Mahatma – “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. Mahatma Gandhi.”  

Priyanka Gandhi who joined Twitter on February 11 currently has over two lakh followers on the microblogging site.

The comments on Twitter come hours after the first political rally on Tuesday of the newly appointed Congress general secretary in which Priyanka told electorates that their votes are a “weapon” which should be used wisely, disregarding useless issues and tall claims made by others.   

Priyanka was appointed AICC General Secretary for Uttar Pradesh East by Congress president Rahul Gandhi on January 23.

During earlier elections, Priyanka had kept herself limited to campaigning for Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in Amethi and Raebareli parliamentary constituencies only.



00:36  Theresa May makes final push for her deal ahead of crunch Brexit vote:  

British Prime Minister Theresa
May on Tuesday made a final push for the United Kingdom Parliament to back her
Brexit withdrawal deal in a crunch vote after she claimed to have
secured ‘legally binding’ changes to the draft rejected by the House of
Commons earlier this year.

May called on MPs in the House of
Commons ahead of the vote scheduled for around 1900 GMT on Tuesday to
get behind her enhanced agreement setting out the UK’s exit strategy
from the EU or risk going against the will of the majority that voted
for Brexit in the June 2016 referendum.

“This is the
moment…Back this motion and get the deal done. We cannot serve our
country by overturning a democratic decision of the British people,” she
said, hours after claiming a breakthrough in negotiations with the European Union
to secure changes to the controversial Irish backstop to make it more
acceptable to all sides of the Commons.

Opposition Labour Party
leader Jeremy Corbyn countered that it was the same ‘bad deal’ MPs had
rejected in January and that his party would be voting against it again
because it risks people’s living standards and jobs.

The clash
came soon after UK Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox confirmed that the
legal risk from the controversial Irish backstop ‘remains unchanged’,
leading to hard-Brexiteers from within May’s own Conservative Party
refusing to back the so-called ‘improved’ divorce arrangement, leaving
Britain’s exit from the EU still precariously poised ahead of the March
29 Brexit deadline.

In a last-minute dash to the European
Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday night, May emerged alongside European
Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker to declare that the UK and EU
have agreed ‘legally binding’ changes to the controversial Irish
backstop clause to ensure any such arrangement would not be permanent.

The move was aimed at addressing the concerns of hard-Brexiteers
in her own Conservative Party and the Northern Irish Democratic
Unionist Party (DUP), which provides her government with its majority in
the House of Commons.

“MPs were clear that legal changes were
needed to the backstop. Today we have secured legal changes. Now is the
time to come together to back this improved Brexit deal,” May said at a
joint press conference with Juncker.

Brexiteers from within her
party and the DUP had refused to comment if they feel the changes she
has secured will be enough for them to vote in favour of the deal before
they take full legal advice on the changes.

UK’s chief legal
advisor Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the extra assurances won by
May do ‘reduce the risk that the UK could be indefinitely and
involuntarily detained’ in the backstop if talks on the two sides’
future relationship broke down due to ‘bad faith’ by the EU.

the ‘legal risk remains unchanged’ if no such deal can be reached due to ‘intractable differences’, the UK would have ‘no internationally lawful
means’ of leaving the backstop without EU agreement.

Brexit-backing European Research Group within the Tory Party declared
soon after that it will not be voting for the withdrawal agreement in
the Commons later, in a major blow to May’s leadership.

parliamentary arithmetic at this stage seems to be titled against May
even though many of her Cabinet ministers have been publicly trying to
drum up support for the deal to be passed through the Commons.

May also addressed a meeting of Conservative MPs in an effort to change
the minds of those opposed to her deal and many seem to have agreed to
switch their no during a Commons vote earlier this year to a yes on

Earlier, the EU had said it had made significant
concessions as two additional documents were agreed to back up the
withdrawal agreement struck in December last year — a joint legally
binding instrument which the UK could use to start a ‘formal dispute’
against the EU if it tried to keep the UK tied into the backstop
indefinitely and a joint statement committing both sides to find an
alternative to the backstop by the end of the Brexit transition period
of December 2020.

“In politics, sometimes you get a second
chance. There will be no third chance’ it is this deal or Brexit might
not happen at all,’ Juncker said, issuing a stark warning to Britain’s
MPs over the importance of the parliamentary vote in the UK on

Ireland’s Indian-origin premier, Leo Varadkar, also
stressed the new agreements were an ‘unambiguous statement’ of both
sides’ ‘good faith and intentions’ even if they did not ‘undermine’ the
principle of the backstop or how it might come into force.

Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to maintain an open border
on the island of Ireland between UK territory Northern Ireland and EU
member-state — the Republic of Ireland — has been the biggest sticking
point for many MPs in the UK who voted against the withdrawal agreement
tabled by May in January, by a massive margin of 230 votes.

Opposition Labour Party, meanwhile, declared that May has secured
nothing new.

“The PM is giving us basically the same deal,” said
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Kier Starmer.

The legal
arguments around the new changes will be the focal point of the vote
scheduled at 1900 GMT.

If the deal fails to pass through, May’s
previously set timetable is set to kick in — with MPs given a vote by
Wednesday on leaving the EU without any deal in place, which is expected
to be defeated as there is very little support for such an option.

eyes will then be on another vote, expected by Thursday, in favour of
delaying the March 29 deadline.  — PTI

Source: Rediff