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LIVE! Advani likely to get RS seat in lieu of Gandhinagar loss

16:57  News updates :  Ananda Bhaskar Rapolu, former Rajya Sabha MP from Telangana, resigns from the primary membership of Congress party. 

Bihar seat sharing:  RJD on 20, Congress on 9, HAM-3, RLSP on 5, VIP on 3 and CPI-1 in RJD quota.

16:50  Advani likely to get RS seat in lieu of Gandhinagar loss :  

Senior BJP leader LK Advani is likely to be given a Rajya Sabha seat in May 2019 from Gujarat. BJP president Amit Shah is contesting from Advani’s Gandhinagar seat and if he gets elected to the Lok Sabha, Advani will replace him in the Rajya Sabha. In other words, the two are swapping seats. 

Sources in the BJP headquarters tell us that Advani has been sounded out about this swap before the 1st lot of candidates were announced and has been told that he is ageing and therefore contesting an election may prove tough, but he remains a tall leader for the party. Advani has retained the Gandhinagar seat six times. 

What we also hear is that Advani wants to retain the Type 8 government bungalow in the heart of New Delhi, which is security cleared. Advani, who is  91, lives with his daughter Pratibha and is keen to continue living in the same bungalow, which has been allotted considering his seniority in the party, as an MP and also because because he enjoys ‘Z Plus’ security. 

Protocol for ‘Z Plus’ security means eight  commandoes and 20 plainclothes security personnel have to be accommodated in the bungalow, apart from parking space for eight vehicles. IN addition there is the mobile phone jammer which consumes considerable electricity. 

The BJP on Thursday evening declared 184 candidates including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Textiles Minister Smriti Irani for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls, beginning April 11 and concluding on May 19. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.


16:37  Karan Johar tech-challenged, has fat fingers: SRK weighs in :  

The wittiest of them all, Shah Rukh Khan, steps in to the inconsequential debate and Twitter war on filmmaker Karan Johar ‘liking’ a tweet criticising him. 

SRK tweets, “I hate clarifications on SM. @karanjohar is technologically challenged but has other good qualities like his taste in clothes!?Just like Life, twitter doesn’t come with instructions, so mistakes r natural….& also he has fat fingers. Go easy all, Make Lov not War…it’s more fun.”

SRK’s tweet came of course after Karan Johar’s explanatory tweet:  “Guys having a technical problem with my twitter account! Strange things are going on!from uploading shoe picture and gibberish to liking tweets I havent even read and would NEVER even acknowledge! Please bear with me and I apologise for any inconvenience! Sorting it out asap!”

Johar apparently ‘liked’ a tweet that abused Shah Rukh Khan and compared him to Akshay Kumar’s stardom. The tweet by a user called Mannu Yadav read, “Half day colls [collections] of Kesari on Holi day (which is worse than pre diwali day) [is] greater than Zero full festival day collection.”

The tweet went on to use expletives for Shah Rukh Khan, and said how SRK’s stardom was nothing compared to Akshay Kumar’s.

Shah Rukh Khan fans spotted the ‘like’ and have since go on an online rampage against the filmmaker with #ShameOnKaranJohar was at the fourth position in India trends, just above Sam Pitroda. 


15:32  Caravan report: Cong seeks probe into ‘pay-offs’ to BJP leaders:  The Congress on Friday sought an investigation by the Lokpal into a media report that alleged bribes of Rs 1800 crore were paid by former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa to the BJP’s top brass. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, addressing a press conference, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should come forward and clarify whether bribes to the tune of Rs 1,800 crore were taken by the BJP leaders or not. There was no immediate reaction from the BJP on the allegations. 

Surjewala said the report by Caravan magazine cited a diary containing details of the alleged pay-offs to senior BJP leaders and it was seized by the Income Tax Department during raids. 

“Prima facie, this is a case of investigating all BJP leaders, right from the PM and downwards. It is a fit case to be investigated by the newly appointed Lokpal,” he said.

The Congress spokesperson also read out a purported conversation between Yeddyurappa and a BJP leader alluding to the bribery. “The diary with B S Yeddyurappa’s signature on it was with the Income Tax Department since 2017. If that is the case why did Modi and the BJP not get it investigated,” Surjewala asked. “Has the Modi government refused permission to order a probe into the pay-offs? Is the diary not proof of corruption by the BJP leadership,” he asked. — PTI


14:48  Rahul’s close aide Jitin Prasada may join BJP:  
If true, this is both an embarrassment and a major loss to the Congress party. Jitin Prasada is likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

The senior Congress leader and two-time Lok Sabha MP is considered to be very close to Congress president Rahul Gandhi. 

He won from Shahjahanpur and Dhaurahra Lok Sabha constituencies in UP in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections respectively.

Prasada comes from a family which has traditionally supported the Congress with his grandfather Jyoti Prasada being a member of the party. His father Jitendra Prasada was a Congress vice president and served as the political advisor to former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narasimha Rao.

Jitendra Prasada had also challenged Sonia Gandhi and contested against her in 2000 for the post of Congress president but lost. 


14:13  An Editor Like None Other:  “Do you know how to type?” Darryl D’Monte asked after he had quizzed me about my knowledge of the world.

Filled with the persistent-as-acne arrogance of one’s early twenties, I declared, “As Auden said, ‘Men like the sight of their own handwriting as much as they enjoy the smell of their own farts’.

“In a look that I came to know so well and love, Darryl’s mouth curled in a wry half smile, he blinked, as he asked again, “But can you type?” 

Darryl D’Monte mentored more journalists than any other editor of his generation.

Some of the biggest bylines owe their beginnings in our glorious profession to this wonderful human being.

Nikhil Lakshman salutes his mentor.


13:53  ‘Congress will be a very distant third in UP’:  Since his arrival in India in 2005, Gilles Verniers — assistant professor of political science at Ashoka University and co-director of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data — has been a keen observer, researcher and writer on Indian politics.

His research interests include state politics, especially Uttar Pradesh. Two of his recent publications explore studies in Indian politics and the transformation of the Samajwadi Party.

“The Congress can either concentrate on its revival in UP or it adopts a strategy to defeat the BJP by not getting in the way of the other parties who stand a better chance of winning. The Congress is trying to do both, but it probably is going to get neither,” Dr Verniers tells’s Archana Masih in the first part of an interview on electoral politics in UP, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.  Read the interview here. 


13:36  Baffled at PM’s response: Sam Pitroda:  

Sam Pitroda, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s close confidant, on Friday said he is “baffled” at the response of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who slammed Pitroda for questioning the death toll in the Balakot air strike in Pakistan. 

“I just said as a citizen I’m entitled to know what happened. I don’t understand what is the controversy here, I am baffled at the response. Shows how people react to trivial matters in India,” he said.

In an interview to ANI earlier on Friday, Pitroda, also the chairman of Overseas Indian National Congress, had questioned the death toll in the air strike by the Indian Air Force in Pakistan in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack.

Reacting to the remarks, Prime Minister Modi hit out at Pitroda, tweeting that Pitroda “kick-started the Pakistan National Day celebrations on behalf of the Congress”.  Pakistan observes its National Day on March 23.

“What is the problem in raising a question? As a citizen in democracy, discussion, dialogue, debate, discourse is a way of life,” Pitroda said.

BJP president Amit Shah and several other party leader also lambasted Pitroda for his comments in the interview.  — ANI

13:31  2 Army jawans injured as Pak troops violate ceasefire along LoC:  Two Army jawans were injured as Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire by firing on forward posts and civilian areas along the Line of Control in Rajouri and Jammu districts, officials said Friday. 

Pakistani troops continued night-long mortar shelling and firing in Pallanwala, Sunderbani and Nowshera sectors, they said. The two Army jawans, who were injured in Pallanwala sector, were admitted to a hospital, the officials said.

On Thursday, an Army jawan was killed as Pakistani troops shelled forward areas and Indian posts with artillery and mortar bombs heavily along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district, they said. — PTI


13:03  No wonder disciple will be nikamma: Jaitley slams Pitroda, Rahul:  Aun Jaitley on Sam Pitroda’s airstrike remark, slams the Gandhi confidante and Congress president Rahul Gandhi without actually naming him: He believes what we did was wrong. No country in the world said this, not even the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) said this, only Pakistan was of this view. Unfortunate such people are ideologues of a political party.  “Agar Guru aisa ho to shishya kitna nikamma niklega ye desh ko aaj bhugatna pad raha hai. If the guru is like this, the disciple will also be useless and the the country will suffer. “

Close confidant of Rahul Gandhi and Chairman of the Overseas Indian National Congress questioned the death toll in the Balakot airstrike conducted by the Indian Air Force in Pakistan in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack. “If they (IAF) killed 300, its ok. All I am saying is can you give me more facts and prove it,” said Pitroda in a wide-ranging interview to ANI.

Pitroda, who is part of the Congress’ manifesto committee for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and is considered a senior ideologue of the party, sought a dialogue with Pakistan. 


12:31  ‘Inspired by PM Modi’: Gambhir joins BJP:  Former Cricketer Gautam Gambhir joins the Bharatiya Janata Party in the presence of Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad. Jaitley welcomed him to the party and said Gambir’s role will be decided. “He’s an important induction,” Jaitley said. Gambhir said he was ‘inspired by PM Modi’. 


11:46  PM slams Sam Pitroda: He has kick-started Pak Day celebrations :  

PM Narendra Modi reacts to Congress aide and loyalist Sam Pitroda questioning the air strikes, in a series of tweets.

Modi says, “The most trusted advisor and guide of the Congress President has kick-started the Pakistan National Day celebrations on behalf of the Congress, ironically by demeaning Indias armed forces. Shame. 

“Loyal courtier of Congress royal dynasty admits what the nation already knew — Congress was unwilling to respond to forces of terror. This is a New India – we will answer terrorists in a language they understand and with interest.

“Opposition insults our forces time and again.I appeal to my fellow Indians — question Opposition leaders on their statements. Tell them — 130 crore Indians will not forgive or forget the Opposition for their antics. India stands firmly with our forces.”

Close confidant of Rahul Gandhi and Chairman of the Overseas Indian National Congress questioned the death toll in the Balakot airstrike conducted by the Indian Air Force in Pakistan in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack.

“If they (IAF) killed 300, its ok. All I am saying is can you give me more facts and prove it,” said Pitroda in a wide-ranging interview to ANI.

When asked on his views on the airstrike against the Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, he added that international news outlets had an alternate view of the impact of the air strike and that the people of India deserved to know the facts of the Air Force operation.

“I would like to know a little more because I read reports in the New York Times and other newspapers. Did we really attack? We really killed 300 people? I don’t know that. As a citizen, I am entitled to know and if I ask it is my duty to ask, that doesn’t mean I’m not a nationalist, That doesn’t mean I am on this side or that side. We need to know the facts. If you say 300 people were killed,  I need to know that. We all need to know that, people of India need to know that and then comes global media which says nobody was killed. I look bad as an Indian citizen,” said Pitroda.


10:29  Fitch slashes India GDP growth forecast for FY20 to 6.8% :  Fitch cuts India’s economic growth forecast for next financial year to 6.8 per cent from 7 per cent forecast earlier, on weaker than expected momentum in the economy. In its Global Economic Outlook released in December 2018, Fitch had estimated India’s GDP growth to be 7 per cent and 7.1 per cent in financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21 respectively. 

“While we have cut our growth forecasts for the next fiscal year (FY20, ending in March 2020) on weaker-than-expected momentum, we still see Indian GDP growth to hold up reasonably well, at 6.8 per cent, followed by 7.1 per cent in FY21,” Fitch said in its Global Economic Outlook. 

Fitch Ratings cut India’s FY19 GDP growth forecast to 7.2 per cent from 7.8 per cent on December 6. The rating agency has also cut growth forecasts for FY20 and FY21 to 7 per cent from 7.3 per cent and 7.1 per cent from 7.3 per cent, respectively. 

According to Fitch, the RBI, has adopted a more dovish monetary policy stance and cut interest rates by 0.25 percentage at its February 2019 meeting, a move supported by steadily decelerating headline inflation. 

“We have changed our rate outlook and we now expect another 25 bp cut in 2019, amid protracted below target inflation and easier global monetary conditions than previously envisaged,” it said. 

“On the fiscal side, the budget for FY20 plans to increase cash transfers for farmers,” it added. Fitch said, it’s benign oil price outlook and expectations of accelerating food prices in the coming months should support rural households’ income and consumption. 

10:08  Sensex rises over 100 points on robust FII buying:  Rising for the ninth straight session, market benchmark BSE Sensex rose over 119 points in early trade Friday led by gains in banking, metal and auto stocks amid sustained foreign fund inflow. 

Gains were, however, capped tracking Asian markets as investors turned cautious after the US Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged, experts said. 

The 30-share index was trading 119.52 points, or 0.31 per cent, higher to 38,506.27. The index began the session on a firm note at 38,452.47 and hit the session’s high of 38,526.71 on steady buying by foreign funds as well as retail investors.

The NSE Nifty also advanced by 36.35 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 11,557.40. Major gainers were Bharti Airtel, L&T, Yes Bank, Tata Steel, NTPC, Asian Paint, Bajaj Auto, HDFC, Axis Bank and State Bank of India, rising up to 3.03 per cent. 

Among the losers in the Sensex pack, ITC, Reliance Industries, Maruti, M&M, TCS and ONGC down up to 1.75 per cent. Brokers said sustained foreign fund inflows and continued buying by retail investors influenced the market.

Meanwhile, the rupee appreciated by 6 paise to 68.57 against the US dollar in opening trade.  — PTI


09:51  Man found alive 3 days after Dharwad building collapse :  The Dharwad building collapse death toll mounted to 14 on Friday after one more body was found from the debris as the rescue operation continued for the fourth consecutive day. However, in nothing short of a miracle , a man was found alive buried under the debris, three days after the building collapse. Two more people were rescued yesterday.  

Deepa Cholan, Deputy Commissioner, Dharwad said, “A total of 14 people have died. Yesterday, we rescued two people. Three more people are trapped in the debris. We have given oxygen and ORS to them. SDRF and NDRF teams are conducting rescue operation. 

Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy visited the site on Thursday and told the media that several people were suspected to be trapped under the rubble. 

He said the district administration has already announced a magisterial inquiry and the government is ready to appoint a retired high court judge if required.

On Wednesday, the Indian Air Force airlifted two teams of the National Disaster Response Force to Karnataka’s Hubli from Hindon in Uttar Pradesh to join the rescue and search operation after an under-construction building collapsed in Kumareshwar Nagar in Dharwad on Tuesday. — ANI

Image: The rescue operation is being conducted jointly by the NDRF and the State Disaster Response Force. 


09:41  India one of world’s fastest growing large economies: IMF:  India has been one of the fastest growing large economies in the world, the International Monetary Fund has said, asserting that the country has carried out several key reforms in the last five years, but more needs to be done. 

Responding to a question on India’s economic development in the last five years at a fortnightly news conference in Washington, IMF communications director Gerry Rice Thursday said, “India has of course been one of the world’s fastest growing large economies of late, with growth averaging about seven per cent over the past five years.”

“Important reforms have been implemented and we feel more reforms are needed to sustain this high growth, including to harness the demographic dividend opportunity, which India has,” he said.

Details about the Indian economy would be revealed in the upcoming World Economic Outlook  survey report to be released by the IMF ahead of the annual spring meeting with the World Bank next month, he said. This report would be the first under Indian American economist Gita Gopinath, who is now IMF’s chief economist. 

“The WEO will go into more details. But amongst the policy priorities, we would include accelerate the cleanup of banks and corporate balance sheets, continue fiscal consolidation, both at centre and state levels, and broadly maintain the reform momentum in terms of structural reforms in factor markets, labour, land reforms and further enhancing the business climate to achieve faster and more inclusive growth,” Rice said. — PTI

09:14  6 killed as car rams into crowd in China, driver shot dead:  

A man rammed his car into a crowd in China’s central Hubei province, killing six persons and injuring seven others before being shot dead by the police on Friday.

The incident took place around am (local time) in Zaoyang city, state-run CGTN reported.

The driver has been shot dead by the police, it said.

A total of seven persons, including the perpetrator, have been killed in the incident, it said.

The seven injured have been hospitalised, the report said.

Incidents of random attacks on civilians by disgruntled persons have become common in China in recent years.

Last September, three people were killed and 43 others injured when a man drove his SUV into a crowd and later went on a stabbing spree in China’s Hunan province.

Some persons carrying knives targeted primary schools and mall to vent out their anger.



09:04  Encounter in south Kashmir’s Shopian, third in last 24 hours in Valley:  

An encounter broke out between terrorists and security forces in South Kashmirs Shopian district on early Friday morning. Police said this is the third encounter which has taken place in the Valley in the last 24 hours.

A tweet from Kashmir police range this morning read: Exchange of fire at #ImamSahib #Shopian. Area under Cordon. Details will follow. @JmuKmrPolice.

On Thursday, two separate encounters broke out between terrorists and security forces in Baramulla and Bandipora district of north Kashmir. Two civilians were held hostage by terrorists in the Bandipora encounter of which one of was rescued.

Efforts are on to rescue the other civilian, reportedly a minor, who is held hostage by militants, police said.

Meanwhile, in the Baramulla encounter at Kalantara in Kreeri area, two terrorists were killed. A cordon and search operation was launched at Kalantara area on Wednesday evening and suspected terrorists fired at the search party during the operation. On Thursday morning contact was established with the terrorists leading to an encounter.


08:31  Smriti Irani says writing on the wall for Rahul Gandhi:  

It will be round two of the electoral battle between the Rahul Gandhi and Smriti Irani in Uttar Pradeshs Amethi as BJP announced on Thursday evening that it has fielded the union minister to take on the Congress chief from the Gandhi bastion again. 

Irani had unsuccessfully contested against Gandhi in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and had lost by around 1 lakh votes, but was seen to have put up a spirited fight. The Congress has earlier announced the candidature of Gandhi from Amethi.

Irani said the writing is on the wall for Rahul Gandhi. 

Dubbing the fight as one between a Kaamdar and Naamdar, she claimed that while Rahul Gandhi never found the time to address the key issues of the people of Amethi, she had given most of her time to the people there in the last five years. She said she will go to the constituency soon to begin her campaign.


08:05  Britain’s May gets two-week Brexit reprieve from impatient EU:  

European Union leaders have given British Prime Minister Theresa May two weeks reprieve, until April 12, before Britain could lurch out of the EU if she fails to persuade lawmakers to back the withdrawal treaty she concluded with Brussels.

But after seven hours of summit brainstorming on Thursday, her 27 peers kept a host of options open, ramping up pressure on parliament to support May, giving Britain an outside chance of staying in for much longer but also preparing to deflect blame for the chaos of any no-deal Brexit.

May had wanted to be able to delay Britains departure until June 30 to tie up legislative loose ends and tried to reassure the EU that she could overturn two heavy defeats to clinch last-gasp parliamentary ratification of her deal next week, so allowing a status-quo transition period to come into effect.

EU leaders had planned to endorse a shorter extension, to May 22, the eve of EU parliamentary elections, and leave any discussion of how to deal with May losing until next week. But diplomats said the prime minister singularly failed to reassure them she could win. Some sensed she did not believe it herself.

Source: Rediff