15:11 ‘This election is a battle between hope and opportunism’:
Union Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday expressed gratitude to the BJP for fielding him from Bihar’s Patna Sahib Lok Sabha constituency, while refusing to comment on Shatrughan Sinha, the sitting MP, who has apparently been dropped for his critical views on the top leadership.
“Patna is my city. I was born and brought up there. I was a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh there and I have emotional connections with Patna,” Prasad said after he got Lok Sabha ticket from Patna Sahib seat.
The actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha had won 2014 general elections from the constituency on BJP ticket. However, he was dropped from the list. Sinha has been vocal against the top leadership of the party on various occasions in the past.
Refusing to comment on him, Prasad said: “I have not commented on him before and I will not do it now.” However, he added, “This fight will be on issues of development; this would be between hope and opportunism.”
He added, “This election is about hope and making Narendra Modi the Prime Minister of the country again. We have worked in the IT sector in Patna. Many Business Processing Outsourcing and innovation centres started there, I will take these works forward. The voters of Patna are very aware and they know which way takes India forward,” he added.
Lok Sabha MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who has been re-nominated by the party from Saran constituency, said: “Saran has been a bastion of Lalu ji. I have been again given the opportunity to fight election from there. I would thank the party and leadership for this.”
On being asked about Sinha, he said, “I don’t know where he is and from which party he is going to contest elections. We are clueless about him as of now.”
14:44 Congress’s Digvijaya Singh to contest from Bhopal:
Congress has announced Digvijaya Singh as its Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
It is pertinent to mention that the Bhopal is considered a stronghold of the BJP, which has been winning from the seat since last 8 consecutive years.
Earlier, the veteran leader had said that he was ready to contest wherever his leader “Rahul Gandhiji wants me to.
14:32 Kerala Congress wants Rahul to contest LS polls from Wayanad:
The Congress in Kerala has proposed Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s name for the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, a party bastion in the state, but he has yet to respond to the request, senior leaders said on Saturday.
Talking to reporters in Pathanamthitta district, AICC General Secretary Oommen Chandy said the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee has requested Gandhi to contest from Wayanad but he has not commented on the proposal.
There is a demand from party leaders that Gandhi should contest from any of the South Indian Lok Sabha seat and “we have requested Gandhi to contest from Wayanad seat,” he said.
The party, which is contesting 16 out of 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala, has announced the names of 14 candidates but has not declared its candidates from Wayanad and Vadakara.
The Congress earlier this month had announced that Rahul Gandhi will contest from his bastion Amethi and Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli.
14:13 Vice Admiral Karambir Singh named next naval chief:
The Narendra Modi-led government appoints Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next Chief of Naval Staff.
Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba will vacate the office on May 31, 2019.
13:40 Amit Shah attacks Congress over Sam Pitroda’s remark on Balakot strike:
Amit Shah attacks Congress over Sam Pitrodas remarks on Balakot strike, says Rahul Gandhi must apologise.
Addressing a press conference, the BJP chief said, “No party should doubt the Indian Air Force. The Congress party needs to answer why did they raise questions on the IAF strike.”
He further added, “If terror attacks shouldnt be responded with surgical strikes and air strikes, and should be dealt with talks, is this Congresss policy to deal with terrorism. Congress president should respond on these.”
13:19 After Gandhinagar snub, Sena calls Advani BJP’s tallest leader:
The Shiv Sena on Saturday said L K Advani would remain the “tallest leader” of the BJP irrespective of his poll presence, two days after the party nominated its chief Amit Shah from Gandhinagar, a seat represented by the BJP patriarch.
In an editorial in the party mouthpiece “Saamana”, the Sena said Shah contesting in place of Advani is politically translated as the ‘Bhishmacharya’ of Indian politics being “forced” to retire.
“Lal Krishna Advani is known as the ‘Bhishmacharya’ of Indian politics, but his name does not feature in the list of BJP’s candidates for Lok Sabha polls, which is not surprising,” the edit said.
The Sena said the development underlined that the BJP’s Advani era has come to an end.
“Advani has been elected from Gujarat’s Gandhinagar constituency six times. Now, Amit Shah will be contesting from that seat. This simply means Advani has been forced to retire,” the editorial said.
Marking a generational shift in the BJP, the party recently announced candidature of Shah, who will be contesting his debut parliamentary election, from Gandhinagar.
Advani, 91, had served as Union home minister and deputy prime minister. He won the Gandhinagar seat six times.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP to massive victory in 2014 and Shah was made the party president, Advani was made a member of Margdarshak Mandal (group of mentors).
The Sena said, “Advani was one of the founding members of the BJP, who along with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee steered the rath of the party ahead.
“But today, Modi and Shah have taken the place of them (Vajpayee and Advani). An environment has already been created in the party to ensure that seniors do not get any responsibility this time,” it stated.
12:59 Islamic State has lost final stronghold in Syria: Syrian Democratic Forces:
Islamic State has lost its final stronghold in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced on Saturday, bringing an end to the so-called caliphate declared by the terrorist group in 2014.
The Syrian Democratic Forces said it defeated IS and fully liberated Baghouz in eastern Syria.
“Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of so-called caliphate and 100% territorial defeat of ISIS. On this unique day, we commemorate thousands of martyrs whose efforts made the victory possible,” tweeted Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF press office.
At its peak, IS controlled a huge stretch of territory stretching from western Syria to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. But the final battle took place in the past several weeks around the small and otherwise unremarkable Syrian town of Baghouz, on the banks of the Euphrates River.
A coalition of Kurdish and Arab soldiers backed by US, British and French special forces launched the last assault on the IS enclave in early February.
For weeks, US-led coalition airstrikes had pummeled parts of the town while fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces pushed forward on the ground.
12:37 Jet suspends services to 13 international routes till end-April:
Jet Airways, on the verge of going belly-up, has suspended operations on as many as 13 more international routes till end-April even as it grounded seven more planes due to non-payment of rentals, taking the number of such aircraft to 54.
Besides, the airline has also reduced frequencies on seven other overseas routes, mostly from Delhi and Mumbai, according to airline sources.
“… an additional seven aircraft including two planes of JetLite, have been grounded due to non-payment of amounts outstanding to lessors under their respective lease agreements,” the airline said in a filing to the stock exchanges late evening Friday.
Earlier, sources said routes where services have been temporarily withdrawn include Pune-Singapore (seven a week), which was launched with much fanfare late last December, and Pune-Abu Dhabi (seven flights a week).
Jet Airways has already suspended services on the Mumbai-Manchester route.
Gasping for funds and no bailout on the horizon, the Naresh Goyal-controlled airline has now reduced its operations to one-fourth from over 600 daily flights earlier, with just one-third of its 119 fleet being operational.
The airline has discontinued services from Delhi to Abu Dhabi (nine a week), Dammam (14 weekly), Dhaka (11), Hong Kong and Riyadh (seven each a week) up to April 30, said the airline source.
Besides, the airline has also suspended services on the Bangalore-Singapore route, where it flies twice daily, till April 30.
The flights which have been suspended from Mumbai for this period include services to Abu Dhabi (12 weekly), Bahrain (4-7 weekly), and Dammam (14 weekly). These services will remain suspended till April 30, as per the source.
Similarly, flights on the Mumbai-Hong Kong (7 weekly) route will also not be operated between March 23 and April 30, while the Kolkata-Dhaka services have also been suspended till April 30.
In addition to this, services from Delhi and Mumbai to Kathmandu, Bangkok, Doha, Kuwait and Singapore have been also reduced significantly.
12:02 Kapil Sibal keen on contesting elections from Chandni Chowk:
Expressing his interest to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Chandni Chowk, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said he had conveyed his desire to Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit.
He said would like to be the partys face from the seat irrespective of whether there was a Congress-Aam Aadmi Party alliance. If the party gives me a ticket, I would certainly contest from Chandni Chowk, irrespective of whether there is an alliance with AAP, Sibal said.
Sibal had won twice from Chandni Chowk in 2004 and 2009 before losing to BJP leader Harsh Vardhan in 2014. He said the final decision on a seat-sharing arrangement with AAP was for party leadership to take. There are two views within the party on it and it is for the party leadership to make a final call, he said.
Sibal, who has held various important portfolios as a Union minister under the UPA government, is a member of the Rajya Sabha from UP. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2016.
11:41 Ravi Shankar Prasad to contest polls from Patna Sahib:
The NDA released the list of its 40 candidates in Bihar.
Earlier, on Friday, the BJP released its second and third list of candidates carrying 37 names, which included 23 nominees for Andhra Pradesh where polling will be held in the first phase on April 11. According to the third list, BJP’s spokesperson Sambit Patra will contest from Puri in Odisha.
According to the list, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will be BJP’s candidate from Patna Sahib. This is interesting as this seat is currently being held by actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha. Sinha in the recent past has been quite vocal about his criticism of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
BJP’s Giriraj Singh will contest from Begusarai.
Furthermore, Lok Janshakti Party’s Chirag Paswan will contest from Jamui.
Ramkirpal Yadav to contest from Patliputra, RK Singh from Arrah, Aswani Choubey from Buxar, Radha Mohan Singh from East Champaran, Rajiv Pratap Rudy from Saran.
11:27 Paresh Rawal unlikely to contest Lok Sabha polls:
Actor and BJP leader Paresh Rawal on Saturday announced that he is not keen on contesting the Lok Sabha polls. Rawal is a sitting Member of Parliament from Ahmedabad East constituency.
“I had told the party 4-5 months ago that I do not want to contest the elections. But, ultimately it is the party’s decision,” Rawal said.
Rawal’s statement comes shortly after his name was not seen in the first list of candidates released by the BJP on Friday.
Lok Sabha elections are scheduled to be held from April 11 and will go on till May 19 in seven phases. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.
10:56 Justice Pinaki Ghose takes oath as India’s first Lokpal:
Justice Pinaki Ghose takes oath as the first Lokpal of India.
He was administered the oath by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi were also present.
Justice Ghose was on Tuesday appointed as the country’s first Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman. — ANI/Agencies
10:39 2 dead after landslide hits truck in J-K’s Doda:
Two persons were killed when their truck was hit by a landslide in this hilly district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said on Saturday.
The truck was on its way from Thathri to Gandoh and the accident occurred at Piykul Kara, 37 km from Doda, on Friday night, a police official said.
He said the landslide hit the vehicle, burying alive two of its occupants — driver Shahzad Hussain, 27, of Bhadarwah and conductor Arif Hussain, 22, of Kishtwar district.
While the driver’s body was retrieved from the spot around 3 am, the other body was recovered around 7 am, the official said, adding that both the bodies were shifted to a trauma centre Thathri for completion of formalities. — PTI
10:23 Karnataka suspends Ola Cabs’ licence for 6 months; company says ‘unfortunate’:
The Karnataka government’s s transport department on Friday suspended Ola Cabs’ aggregator licence for a period of six months starting March 18.
The transport aggregator has been charged with running bike taxis in
violation of license conditions and rules prescribed by the government.
The company termed the decision ‘unfortunate’ while reaffirming that the company is ‘evaluating all options to find an amicable solution’ for its driver-partners in Karnataka to continue working.
‘We have been closely working with the authorities on this topic, responding to queries and making proactive representations to the ministry.
‘Despite other companies continuing to operate illegally, Ola halted our bike taxi experiment weeks ago, instead seeking the state’s cooperation to develop a legal framework for a pilot that will continue to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the mobility economy,’ the company said in a statement.
‘This notification is unfortunate, and we look forward to an opportunity to address these concerns directly with state officials to find a solution for our driver-partners and millions of Ola users in Karnataka,’ it added.
The Karnataka government noted that Ola’s response to a probe it carried out regarding illegal operation of bike taxis was not satisfactory, thus forcing it to serve a notice to the app-based cab aggregator. — ANI
09:39 Dharwad building collapse toll mounts to 15:
At least 15 people have lost their lives due to the collapse of an under-construction building in Dharwad on Tuesday.
“It has been more than 72 hours, the operation is still on. Till now, the death toll is 15,” Sunil Agarwal, Additional Director General of Police (Fire and Emergency Services), Karnataka told ANI.
An FIR was registered on Friday against five people, including owners of the four-storeyed building situated in Kumareshwar Nagar, namely Basavraj Nigadi, Ravi Sabrad, Mahabaleshwar Puradgudi and Gangappa Shintre, and an engineer Vivek Pawar.
While the four partners of Renuka Construction surrendered before the police, Vivek Pawar was taken into custody from Maharashtra’s Kolhapur.
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy had visited the site on Thursday and told the media in Dharwad that several people were suspected to be trapped under the rubble.
He had also 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.
The rescue operation is being conducted jointly by the NDRF and the State Disaster Response Force. — ANI
09:08 Cong announces 35 more candidates; Raj Babbar’s seat changed:
The Congress on Friday released the seventh list of its 35 candidates for the April-May Lok Sabha election and shifted Uttar Pradesh state unit chief Raj Babbar from Moradabad to Fatehpur Sikri, the party said in a statement.
The party has nominated Imran Pratapgarhiya from Moradabad where Babbar’s candidature was announced earlier.
The party fielded former Union Minister Renuka Chowdhury from Khammam in Telangana.
The party also fielded Vikramaditya Singh, the son of former Union Minister Karan Singh, from Udhampur constituency in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Congress also released a list of 54 candidates for Odisha Assembly election. — PTI
08:36 BJP releases 2nd list; Sambit Patra to contest from Puri:
The Bharatiya Janata Party has released its second list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls containing 36 names, which included 23 nominees for Andhra Pradesh where polling will be held in the first phase on April 11.
The list announced late on Friday night also contained names of six candidates for Maharashtra and five for Odisha.
Also, one candidate each for Assam and Meghalaya has been announced in the list.
BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra will contest the general election from Puri parliamentary constituency in Odisha. — PTI
00:12 Pak army resorts to fresh ceasefire violation in Poonch:
Pakistani troops on Friday resorted to fresh mortar shelling along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district, while two Army soldiers were injured in overnight shelling from across the border in Jammu and Rajouri districts, officials said.
“At about 1545 hours, Pakistani army initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by shelling with mortars and firing of small arms along LoC in Mendhar Sector in Poonch district,” PRO defence said.
The Indian Army is retaliating befittingly, he said.
Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, Army Commander, Northern Command accompanied by White Knight Corps Commander Lt Gen Paramjit Singh on Friday visited forward posts in Rajouri and Reasi sectors to interact with soldiers and review the operational preparedness.
Pakistani troops continued night-long mortar shelling and firing in Pallanwala, Sunderbani and Nowshera sectors, officials said.
The two Army jawans, who were injured in Pallanwala sector, were admitted to a hospital, they said.
On Thursday, an Army jawan was killed as Pakistani troops shelled forward areas and Indian posts with artillery and mortar bombs along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district. — PTI