L A T E S T      N E W S

Pranab is Cong's first choice for Presidentship: Mamata 

NEW DELHI: Ending days of suspense, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today made it clear that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was her first choice for Presidentship and Vice-President Hamid Ansari was also in the reckoning.

Gandhi revealed her mind to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who gave no commitment of her party's support, saying that she would convey her position after discussions with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and her own party.

"We had detailed discussions.... Soniaji told me that she had held meetings with two-four allies and her first choice (for Presidentship) is Pranab Mukherjee and second choice is Hamid Ansari," Banerjee told reporters after her 30-minute meeting with Gandhi.

The West Bengal Chief Minister said she told Gandhi that "at the moment, I cannot say anything. We need to discuss with Mulayam Singh and my own party. Then only we can say something." Banerjee, whose party is a crucial constituent of the UPA, later met Yadav for the second time since last evening.

The Trinamool chief and Yadav are apparently coordinating their efforts to extract financial packages for West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

However, prior to her meeting with the Congress chief, Banerjee insisted that her demand for a three-year moratorium on payment of interest on central loans was not linked to her party's support to the UPA nominee in the Presidential polls.

"No, no, no. Support (to UPA in Presidential polls) is not linked to financial package to the state. Both are two different things," she told reporters. 

"Whenever I come to Delhi, these kind of rumours and gossips are planted by some quarters. These are plantations.

“Plantations not of trees but plantation of rumours," she said, adding "I condemn this circulation of rumours," the Trinamool Congress chief said.

Banerjee said West Bengal was in a precarious situation financially due to the policies pursued by the previous Left Front government and hence she had sought a moratorium on payment of interest for three years.

She said the demand for moratorium was a year-old and not linked to the Presidential polls.

"I have sought a moratorium on payment of interest (on Central loans) for three years and this debt burden is not my creation. Unless there is a moratorium, how will we run the government," she said.

"Whatever the state earns goes in repayment of interest.

“It is a very precarious situation. Please don't link it with Presidential elections," Banerjee said.

Sources in Samajwadi Party said its leadership was inclined to support candidature of Mukherjee for the next President.

Yadav is understood to have told party MPs recently that he personally would prefer Mukherjee but a final decision could only be taken after Congress officially comes up with a name. — PTI



SC upholds AP court order quashing minority sub-quota

NEW DELHI: Questioning the government on giving 4.5 percent sub-quota for minorities on the basis of religion, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court order quashing the decision.

“We are not inclined to grant stay,” a Bench comprising justices K. S. Radhakrishnan and J. S. Khehar said while issuing notices to the petitioner on whose PIL the high court had quashed the 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities carved out of the 27 per cent OBC quota in central educational institutions like the IIT.

The Bench, before which the Ministry of Human Resource Development placed the relevant and supporting documents forming the basis for the sub-quota, asked “can you make classification on the basis of religion“.

It further said the December 22, 2011, Office Memorandum on the issue of sub-quota did not have the legislative support.

The Bench, which also questioned the calculation of providing 4.5 per cent sub-quota within the 27 per cent OBC quota, wanted to know from the government as to “whether there was any Constitutional and statutory support for granting 4.5 per cent sub-quota.

“We are asking whether 4.5 per cent sub-quota has got Constitutional or statutory support or not,” the Bench said.

It said “the second question is whether the office memorandum has Constitutional and statutory support or not”.

Additional Solicitor General Gourab Banerji made all efforts to see that the apex court considers his plea for staying the high court order in view of the on going counselling for IITs for which 325 candidates have been short listed under the 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities.

However, the Bench said it was not inclined to stay the high court order and noted that there was ambiguity in the calculation for carving out sub-quota within the 27 per cent OBC quota. 

The Bench was of the view that carving out sub-quota from minorities would have a bearing on the OBCs.

The court once again questioned the government for not consulting statutory bodies like the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) and National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) in determining the sub-quota.

“Why you overlooked the NCBC and NCM. They are two most important statutory bodies,” the Bench asked.

At the outset, the Bench told the Centre that voluminous documents, which have been placed before it now, should have been produced in the high court.

When Banerji said the high court was under the impression that the sub-quota was for all minorities, the Bench shot back “it was because that was the reflection in the office memorandum“.

Banerji said all religious minorities like Buddhism and Zoroastrianism are not in the list of 4.5 per cent sub-quota.

He said though the OBCs among the religious minorities are covered under 27 per cent OBC quota, 4.5 per cent sub-quota is granted to lowest ranks of Muslims or converts to Christianity.

Banerji said the first cut-off identifying the OBC within the minorities for 4.5 per cent sub-quota were that they have to be socially and educationally backward and they have to be religious minorities.

At this, the bench said “that is the difficulty and that is the point. We can understand if it’s is across the board.

How you made the calculation?” 

The Centre had on Tuesday placed before the Supreme Court the “relevant” material and documents on the basis of which it carved out 4.5 per cent sub-quota. — PTI





Ghazal king Mehdi Hassan passes away in Karachi

Karachi: India-born Ghazal legend Mehdi Hassan, the melodious voice behind evergreen hits like 'Patta patta, boota boota' and 'Kab ke Bichhare', died today following multiple organ failure at the age of 84.

Hassan, who had millions of fans in India and Pakistan, had been admitted to the Agha Khan Hospital in the southern port city of Karachi some days ago. He had been in a serious condition and was on ventilator.

"My father passed away at 12:22 p.m. after a long battle against different ailments," his son Arif Hassan said. "My father has been ill for the last 12 years but this year, his condition has deteriorated significantly... in the last one month," said Arif. "He was released from hospital for just one day before being admitted again."

Hundreds of fans gathered at the hospital on learning of his death.

Hassan was born into a family of traditional musicians at Luna village in India's Rajasthan state in 1927. His family migrated to Pakistan at the time of Partition in 1947.

Hassan cut back on his performances in the late 1980s due to illness. Hassan leaves behind his nine sons and five daughters. He married twice. Both his wives are dead.

The maestro, who began his career primarily as a 'thumri' singer, earned recognition within the musical fraternity at the time when Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar and Mukhtar Begum were considered the stalwarts of ghazal rendition.

It was his passion for Urdu poetry that made him take up ghazal singing on a part-time basis but he soon became its greatest star.

There was a time in Pakistan's film industry when a film was considered incomplete without Hassan's voice. He ruled the Pakistani film world along with Ahmed Rushdi in the 1960s-70s.

He was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions: the 'Tamgha-i-Imtiaz' granted to him by Gen Ayub Khan; the 'Pride of Performance' bestowed on him by Gen Ziaul Haq; and the 'Hilal-i-Imtiaz' conferred by Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Besides the Nigar Film and Graduate Awards from Pakistan, he was presented the Saigal Award in Jalandhar, India, in 1979, while the Gorkha Dakshina Bahu Award was given to him in Nepal in 1983.

Hassan stopped singing in the late 80s due to ill health. Despite his ailments, Hassan had a great desire to sing with Lata Mangeshkar. In 2010, "Sarhadein", an album which had the first and last duet song "Tera Milana" by Mehdi Hassan and Lata Mangeshkar, was released.

Hassan recorded his part in Pakistan in 2009 and Lata later heard the track and recorded her part in India in 2010. The tracks were later mixed together for a duet. Lata, who once called Hassan the 'voice of God', said "A singer like him is born once in a millennium. It is my bad luck that I could not sing with him when he was healthy. Now I can only regret. With his demise the music fraternity has lost a great and legendary singer."

Hassan, who last performed in India in 2000, wanted to visit his birth country again, a wish that remained unfulfilled.






Mamta-Sonia meet today on prez poll

NEW DELHI: With the race to the Rashtrapati Bhavan entering in its final lap, all eyes are on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who is expected to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday to seek her support for Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature as the next President.

The Congress has so far remained tight-lipped on its choice for the top post. However, veteran Congress leader and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has emerged as the front-runner among those vying to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The TMC chief arrived in the national Capital last night for consultations with UPA chairperson today on the issue of Presidential poll nominee of UPA amid intense speculation on Pranab Mukherjee's candidature for the post.

Soon after her arrival here, Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress is a key constituent of UPA, met Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav to discuss the Presidential polls.




Controversial guru Nityananda sent to jail

Bangalore: Controversial religious guru Nityananada Swami, facing allegations of sexual exploitation of women, was on Wednesday sent to jail for a day by a Karnataka court.

Nityananda, already facing criminal cases including rape on complaints from some former disciples last year, was reportedly absconding from his ashram at Bidadi in Ramanagara district near Bangalore.

The Karnataka government on Monday had ordered arrest of Nityananada and sealing of his ashram complex near here following the allegations of sexual exploitation of women.

The order was issued by Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda in the wake of a state-wide demand for his arrest and closure of the ashram in Bidadi, 35 km from Bangalore.

Nityananda is facing criminal charges, including rape, after a slew of complaints were filed against him in 2010 after some local TV channels telecast purported videos of the self-styled godman in a compromising position with an actress. — Agencies



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | E-mail |