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No party can decide what will be our political work: Congress

NEW DELHI: Adopting a combative approach over the controversy on The Associated Journals issue, the Congress today said it has discharged its “political dharma” and was ready to contest any challenge in any fora for giving loan to support National Herald. 

Party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi also launched a hard-hitting attack on Janta Party chief Subramanian Swamy and the BJP for carrying out “propaganda of lie” and “distorting” facts. 

Seeking to rebut the allegations point by point, Dwivedi told reporters, “How can there be a commercial purpose as alleged when no interest was charged for the loan?” 

Responding to BJP leader Arun Jaitley’s contention that a political party can use its funds only for political purposes and not any business or financial activity, Dwivedi asserted, “Who will decide what political work for any party? We will decide what is political work for us and not any other party. BJP will not be allowed to decide what is political work for us. For some parties spreading rumour and unrest is political work.” 

“To promote the Gandhi-Nehru thought is political work and to encourage the people, organisations and instruments working for the cause. We have discharged our political dharma because Associated Journals has worked to promote the Gandhi-Nehru thought.” 

Holding that the revival of National Herald was an issue of great importance and sentiments for the Congress, he said, “National Herald was established by Jawaharlal Nehru to give strength to the freedom struggle. Nehru is not only the leader of a party but the whole nation.” 

Dwivedi also pointed out that the revival of National Herald has helped over 700 employees get their salary dues, Provident Fund and VRS benefits. 

“Four hundred people working in the Associated Journals had become homeless, while 300 workers in its Lucknow office had lost their jobs. We are proud that not only the salary dues of these 700 employees were paid off but even the VRS was given with all the benefits to those, who opted for it and and their Provident Funds were also paid,” he said wondering whether any other news organisation does all these for their employees. 

Noting that questions have also been raised over a new company Young Indian having Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi floated to take over the functioning of Associated Journals, Dwivedi said, “An impression is being sought to be given that Young India has taken over The Associated Journals and there will be a commercial venture now.” 

“The existence of Associated Journals has not come to an end. Young Indian has got the shares of it. Any organisation can keep its existence as long as it serves the purpose for which it exists. Associated Journals is being made functional. That’s all.” 

A senior party leader speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the party will fight out the issue in Election Commission. 

“Let Swamy go wherever he wants to go. We will contest it technically,” the leader said when pointed out that Swamy has decided to approach Election Commission seeking de-recognition of Congress. 

The press conference called on a non-media briefing day today is the second intervention by Dwivedi within 24 hours on the issue. 

Breaking its silence over the allegations levelled by Swamy, Dwivedi said in a late last night press release that the support of Congress to National Herald newspaper was interest free loans yielding no commercial profit to the party. 

He also claimed that it was done in compliance with the law of the land. — PTI





Swamy to move EC against Congress

New Delhi: A day after the Congress said it had done its duty in supporting The Associated Journals Limited in the form of an interest-free loan, Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy on Saturday said that he would file a petition before Election Commission of India seeking de-recognition of Congress party.

“Based on Cong confession of the loan crime yesterday I am filing a Petition today before ECI seeking De-recognition of Congi party.” Swamy tweeted this morning.

 In a late night press release, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said: "The Indian National Congress (INC) has done its duty in supporting The Associated Journals Limited to help initiate a process to bring the newspaper back to health in compliance with the laws of the land”.

"The support was extended in the form of an interest free loan from which no commercial profit has accrued to the INC," said Dwivedi. Back




Police files closure report in Amar Singh case

KANPUR: In a relief for Amar Singh, the Uttar Pradesh Police has submitted a closure report in a district court in Kanpur in the three-year-old fraud and embezzlement case against the Rajya Sabha MP, citing lack of evidence. 

The police submitted the report in the court of district judge on Friday, official sources said on Saturday. 

The complaint was lodged by Shivakant Tripathi during the BSP regime in 2009 accusing Amar Singh of misusing his office during his stint as chairman of Uttar Pradesh Development Council and alleging a scam of Rs 500 crore, they said. 

In the complaint, large-scale money laundering was alleged by floating 55 companies and later merging them. The case lodged by Babupurwa police on October 15 included charges under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Prevention of Corruption Act. 

Sources in the court of district judge said the Investigating Officer (IO) in the case has submitted a closure report and a notice has been issued asking the petitioner to present his side on November 29. 

DIG Amitabh Yash had on Friday night confirmed that the case had been given to the local police for investigation. He, however, declined to give details. Attempts were made to reach CO Babupurwa but to no avail. 

Amar Singh, who was once a prominent SP leader, was expelled in February 2010 for “anti-party” activities. 

Tripathi said he will file a protest petition either on Saturday or on Monday. He had submitted 1,500 pages of evidence against Amar Singh in his FIR to the police. 

In his complaint, the petitioner had alleged that Singh had claimed his property to be worth Rs 32 crore when he fought the Rajya Sabha election. 

However, when he was made Uttar Pradesh Development Council chairman, he declared his property worth Rs 500 crore, Tripathi alleged. 

Initially, the UP Police had transferred the case to Kolkata Police stating that many of the companies mentioned in it were having their registered office there. 

But, the plea was turned down by Kolkata Police which stated that allegations mentioned in the case originated in UP after which Babupurwa Police in Kanpur was directed to investigate. 

However, immediately after this the state government had directed the Economic Offences Wing to investigate the case. 

In between Amar Singh filed a plea in Allahabad High Court seeking direction to quash proceedings against him. 

In his plea, Singh had contended that since the Enforcement Directorate had found that the allegations against him were baseless, all proceedings against him should be quashed. 

On October 12, the court rejected his plea and directed a probe by a state agency. 

On October 28, the state government had directed the EOW to transfer the case to Babupurwa police station immediately. 

Five days after that circle officer Babupurwa Pavitra Mohan Tripathi, who was investigating the case, submitted the closure report in the court on Friday. — PTI





Kejriwal lashes out at Mulayam Singh

New Delhi: Social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday lashed out at Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for withdrawing the money laundering cases against Amar Singh.

"Money laundering cases withdrawn against Amar Singh? Shameful. Is this criminal justice system? We have to completely overthrow this system," Kejriwal tweeted.

He further tweeted that Mulayam Singh will now withdraw cases against Salman Khurshid. “Wait n watch. And in return, congress wud withdraw cases against mulayam.”

“Abs no hope for India from present politicians. These leaders and the system ought to be overthrown. New young leaders shud take over India. Since we started exposing politicians, people have started sending us huge amount of information,” the IAC activist said.Back




Himachal Pradesh set for Assembly poll tomorrow

SHIMLA: Battle lines have been drawn for Sunday’s poll for the 68-member Himachal Assembly where political heavyweights Prem Kumar Dhumal and Virbhadra Singh are jostling for attention of voters for whom the issue of price rise and corruption seems to have surpassed the anti-incumbency factor.

The BJP and Congress are contesting all 68 seats while BSP has fielded 66 candidates followed by Himachal Lokhit Party (36), TMC (25), SP (16), CPI(M) (15), NCP and Swabhiman Party (12 each), CPI (7), Shiv Sena (4) and 105 Independents.

Led by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, the incumbent BJP is hoping to script history in Himachal by going the Punjab way, where the Akali-BJP combine returned to power against historical projections.

Much like Punjab, Himachal has never repeated a government since 1977. Whether the November 4 elections mark a departure from norm or whether they see the Congress repeating an Uttarakhand, remains to be seen.

In all, 459 candidates are in the fray for Sunday’s elections, 27 of them women. As many as 7253 polling stations have been set up, including the highest polling station in Hikkim in Lahaul and Spiti at a height of over 15,000 feet.

Counting will take place on December 20.

In the 2007 poll, BJP had won 41 as against Congress’ 23, while the independents and BSP won 3 and one seat respectively.

Corruption in both the BJP and Congress camps is a major election issue in the state, with the latter facing graver charges in the wake of scams such as coal block allocations, 2G spectrum and Commonwealth Games by Cong-led UPA at the Centre.

Though corruption charges have flown thick and high throughout the period of campaigning, the Congress has somehow managed to neutralise their effect by launching a counter offensive against Dhumal and his Cabinet colleagues. Virbhadra Singh has openly accused the CM of giving away chunks of prime land to private players at throwaway prices.

The much-hyped BJP offensive against Virbhadra Singh on corruption in the wake of a series of graft allegations against him got diluted after Congress launched a counter-offensive against BJP in wake of allegations of “dubious” funding by companies of its president Nitin Gadkari.

In fact, by the end of canvassing on Friday, corruption had taken a rear seat with price rise emerging the strongest.

The BJP leadership has used LPG cap and diesel cost hike issues well to push the Congress to the wall by telling the voters how their household budgets would go for a toss.

In Himachal, where rail network is negligible, diesel is the lifeline of economy and at home, LPG remains a must have in the absence of alternative fuels.

Dhumal tried to woo 22.31 lakh women voters by projecting free induction hotplates as his answer to Congress’ LPG cap.

The local Congress leaders too were pushed to get the Centre to stall another LPG price hike at the last moment.

“Price rise is affecting us badly and the LPG cap is going to disturb our household budgets. It is a major factor this time,” says Satya Sharma in Amboya village in Sirmour district. Neelam Kumari of Bannaur village on the border with Uttarakhand in the same district airs similar views and this is also echoed by women across the state.

Though national and local issues would impact election results in their own way, the emergence of BJP rebels under the umbrella of Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) has made the fight interesting.

In 12 segments out of 68, rebels will make a huge difference. That’s a critical factor considering in 2007 elections, the victory margin in 22 seats was less than 2500 votes and in another 40 segments it was less than 5000 votes.

In such a scenario, the power of Dhumal and Virbhadra to swing votes at the last moment will matter. The ground situation indicates that while the BJP may perform better in smaller districts like Hamirpur, Una, Kullu, Chamba, Solan and Nahan, the Congress will retain its hold in Shimla and Kangra districts. In Kangra, BJP rebels will mar party’s chances.

So far as voters’ constitution goes, a significant 50.01 per cent is upper caste vote in Himachal, followed by 25.59 per cent SC, 17.08 per cent OBCs, 4.32 per cent ST and 3 per cent minority votes. Traditionally, SCs go with the Congress.

The presence of a third force in HLP and also of BSP, NCP and TMC contestants will also determine results and so will independents who had bagged 8 per cent of the vote share in 2007 elections when the BJP took 43.78 per cent and the Congress 38.90 per cent.

The BSP had in the last elections managed a meagre 7.26 per cent vote share followed by CPM’s 0.57 per cent and CPI’s 0.19 per cent. The Left Parties, which are part of HLP this time, are hoping to improve their tally riding on the wave of Shimla Municipal election win.

Sunday’s elections will decide the fate of several key players. For two time CM Dhumal, a repeat victory would mean a stronger position within the BJP ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the party taking itself forward strongly in the next elections.

For Virbhadra, who is fighting his last elections, winning is a matter of prestige considering the Congress hasn’t projected him as the CM candidate. Maheshwar Singh, the former BJP Himachal Chief and head of HLP, is also keen to make a point by toppling the BJP applecart in and around Kullu, his home district where he is a “raja“.

“In the absence of a definite wave in favour of any party, HLP may well hold the key to the next government,” says Gagan Kumar in Kullu. But Khyali Ram in Hamirpur feels there has to be a CM from the lower hills this time, as this would ensure all-round development of the neglected areas and pitches for Dhumal.

In Shimla’s outskirts, Neetu Sharma of Tutu comes strongly in favour of Virbhadra and his party. Sunil kumar, a young bank employee in Dharamshala also comes in Congress’s support, saying, “there has to be a change of government, as Himachal has done in the past.”

Also on watch will be 84-year-old Vidya Stokes of the Congress, the oldest candidate in the run, who is fighting her Marxist nephew in Theog.

Sunday’s poll will also see 96-year-old Shyam Saran Negi of Kalpa village in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, cast his vote. He is considered as the first and oldest voter in the country as per EC records. — PTI





Bodies of 5 sailors recovered

CHENNAI: Bodies of all five sailors, who went missing after an oil tanker ran aground off the city beach hours before cyclone ‘Nilam’ made landfall on November 1, have been recovered.

While four bodies were recovered on Friday, one more was found washed ashore near Minjur coastal area early on Saturday morning, police said.

The five went missing after their lifeboat capsized in choppy waters while 16 were rescued by local fishermen and one drowned on Wednesday. Fifteen sailors were rescued on Thursday from the ship, which had a crew of 37 on board.

The Directorate General of Shipping (DGS), which ordered a preliminary probe into the incident, will soon begin salvage operations of the ship, belonging to Mumbai-based Pratibha Shipping Company.

The salvage operation is likely to start from November 7, the Directorate said last night.

The Madras High Court had yesterday ordered that the vessel not be moved out of Chennai Port until further orders. — PTI




India to showcase Aakash tablet at UN

United Nations: India, which assumed this month's rotating Presidency of the Security Council, will showcase its low-cost Aakash tablet at the United Nations, highlighting the country's innovation involved in the "most competitively priced" tablet computer.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri said a presentation on the tablet will be held on November 28 at the world body's headquarters here to which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be invited.

Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Canada-based Datawind, which had won the Indian government's tender for making and supplying the tablets, will also be present on the occasion.

Aakash has been "described as the most competitively priced tablet computer by an Indian-origin entrepreneur," Puri said at a news conference yesterday to outline the Council's monthly agenda under India's presidency.Back




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