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Modi anointed chairman of BJP poll panel

PANAJI: Brushing aside reservations of patriarch L.K. Advani and some other senior leaders, the BJP on Sunday anointed Narendra Modi as chairman of its election campaign committee for the 2014 polls, a move considered just short of making him the prime ministerial candidate.

"I want to give you a significant information. ...I have announced (at the national executive) that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as chairman of the BJP election campaign committee, keeping in mind the challenge of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and to achieve victory in the polls," party president Rajnath Singh told the media at the conclusion of its two-day deliberations.

The announcement was made in a terse statement by Singh who was flanked by Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, former president M. Venkaiah Naidu, general secretary Ananth Kumar among others. No questions were taken at the media interaction.

"Whatever has happened has happened on the basis of consensus," Singh said without elaborating. The decision to appoint 63-year-old Modi came against the backdrop of Advani, who is said to be strongly opposed to the elevation of Modi, keeping away from the meeting.

Several other leaders, including Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Uma Bharati and Shatrughan Sinha who are also said to be reportedly having reservations on Modi's elevation, also kept away from the executive meeting.

After two days of deliberations and dilemma, the party appears to have taken the plunge by plumping for Modi in a crucial role, ignoring reservations from leaders like Advani, the tallest leader after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Singh said all parties view elections as a challenge and BJP also viewed the coming Lok Sabha elections as a challenge and Modi's elevation was done keeping in mind the need to achieve victory.

"We are absolutely sure that the Congress-led UPA government has lost the confidence of the people and are confident that the BJP will be voted to power in the 2014 elections," he said.

Modi, considered a polarising figure in the country's politics after the 2002 post-Godhra riots which his detractors alleged had happened with his sanction as chief minister, said in a tweet that Advani has given his "blessings" to him after Singh's announcement.

"Spoke to Advaniji on the phone. He gave me his blessings. Honoured and extremely grateful to receive his blessings."

"Senior leaders have reposed faith in me. We will leave no stone unturned for Congress-mukht bharat nirman (building India free of Congress). Thanks for support and blessings," he said in another tweet message.

Today's decision of BJP could be seen as a gamble to perk up the party's prospects after its defeat in two consecutive Lok Sabha elections.

Throughout the whole of yesterday, there was media speculation that the party could defer an announcement on Modi. One version was that Advani wanted that Modi should be made head of the campaign for the Assembly elections, including in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, later this year.

Party sources said Singh resolved the dilemma after it was felt the meeting should not conclude without a "result" as it would lead to demoralisation of the cadre. Hence, the announcement was made, they said.

The announcement of Modi's elevation towards the end of Singh's valedictory address at the national executive session was received with cheers and standing ovation.

One of the delegates said there was clapping for five minutes as a signal of acceptance of the decision on Modi.

Swaraj declined to make any comments when reporters sought her reaction to Singh's announcement.

Naidu told PTI that Singh had spoken to Advani yesterday and today on the elevation of Modi. However, sources close to Advani said there was no discussion on the issue between Singh or other BJP leaders or from the RSS either today or yesterday.

Party spokesperson Siddarthnath Singh said Rajnath Singh announced in the executive meeting that Advani has given his consent to the decision.

Party sources said with his today's elevation Modi will oversee the party's election campaign across the country for creating a national mood and enthusiasm among the party cadre and the public.

They said that the RSS had conveyed to the BJP that it should go ahead with the announcement on Modi.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has come with a demand that Modi be declared the prime ministerial candidate, said "it is a good decision taken firmly. It is a decision of everyone and based on public opinion".

"You should have seen the clapping after the announcement was made," he told reporters on the reaction among the delegates to Singh's announcement.

JD(U), which is opposed to Modi being made the BJP prime ministerial candidate, sought to play down the BJP decision saying it was an internal matter of BJP as he has been made only the chief of his party's campaign committee and not NDA.

"The NDA will decide its prime ministerial candidate," JD(U) President Sharad Yadav said in his reaction. — PTIBack








Chouhan congratulates Narendra Modi

PANAJI: Often pitted to counter Narendra Modi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Sunday said the decision to hand over the reins of the BJP poll campaign to the Gujarat Chief Minister would benefit not only the party but the entire country.

“I am confident that not only the party but the entire country would benefit by the decision taken by the BJP President under the guidance of L.K. Advani and in consultation with senior party leaders,” Chouhan told reporters in Panaji.

Only last week, Advani, who is strongly opposed to the elevation of Modi in the party hierarchy, had heaped praise on Chouhan and compared him with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“I congratulate him (Modi). We all will work tirelessly to ensure that BJP forms the government at the Centre in 2014,” Chouhan said reacting to Modi’s appointment as chairman of BJP’s campaign committee for 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

He said Advani’s blessings would always be with Modi and other leaders of the party.

“Vajpayeeji and Advaniji are personalities who have taken the BJP to great heights. We have grown up under the guidance and affection and their blessings are always with us,” Chouhan said. — PTIBack








SAD welcomes Modi’s appointment

CHANDIGARH: NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal on Sunday welcomed BJP’s decision to anoint Narendra Modi as chairman of its election campaign committee for the 2014 polls, saying the decision would be “catalytic” in the alliance’s victory march.

“The people of the country are looking towards National Democratic Alliance to save the country from the clutches of most corrupt UPA government. As Narendra Modi has been made chairman of poll campaign committee of BJP, the biggest alliance partner of NDA, it (the decision) would be catalytic in NDA’s victory march in 2014 elections,” SAD leader Sukhbir Badal said in a statement in Chandigarh.

This is the “beginning of decimation of corrupt, inefficient and insensitive UPA-II government from the Centre,” he said.

The Punjab Deputy Chief Minister said that Modi has shown his capability and calibre in successful poll campaigns of Gujarat.

“We should utilise his services to effectively chalk out NDA’s campaign, and projecting the failures of UPA-II,” he added.

He also said the SAD has remained an inseparable part of NDA and would continue to support BJP in all its moves and decisions to oust Congress from power. — PTIBack








Time to weed out 'bad' players from cricket: Delhi Police chief

NEW DELHI: The game of cricket is too good to be spoilt and it is actually time to weed out some "bad" players from the sport, says Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar whose team is aiming to file the charge sheet in the IPL spot-fixing scandal before he hangs his boots end of next month.

59-year-old Kumar, who has been engaged in several high profile cases in his career spanning over three decades, feels that the spot-fixing scandal was a murder of faith of millions of cricket lovers.

"After this case surfaced, I actually started getting into the history of this game and came across what Australian captain Bill Woodfull told English team manager Pelham Warner in 1932 when bodyline attack was the order of the day between the two arch rivals.

"This game is too good to be spoilt. It's time some people got out of it," Kumar quoted Woodfull and added, "similarly, I echo the same view that the game is too good to be spoilt and it is actually time to weed out some bad players from the game."

The Police Commissioner said that cricket was known as "gentleman's game" but it is no longer the same. "The spot-fixing scandal will remain fresh in the memory of people as they will not be able to get over the cheating they had to face at the hands of some of the cricketers," he said.

"I am afraid that love associated with the game may go forever as the sweet gestures of players may now be viewed with suspicion by people," he said.

And when asked about the criticism about application of stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case, Kumar feels that it was a decision taken rightly after consulting legal experts.

"What is the fuss all about? I am not here for any media trial. My case will be judged by the courts where we will present our entire evidence.

"Here, bookies are negotiating rates with underworld people sitting in Dubai and Pakistan... Is this not an organised crime?" he asked.

To a question whether some more cricketers are on the radar of the Delhi Police in connection with the spot-fixing in the IPL, Kumar said, "there are some names and we are waiting for more evidence before we nab them."

He, however, refused to indicate whether the players under scanner were fancied ones or unknown ones.

"If anyone is on the wrong side of the law, he has to face the music," the Delhi Police chief said.

Known for his no-nonsense professional approach, Kumar, who unearthed the UTI scam leading to arrest of its chairman P.S. Subramanyam, said, "even mighty people have to bow before the law of the land."

"So no matter how high and mighty are involved in the case, the Delhi Police will ensure that every crook is brought before law and every evidence is placed before the court."

The Police Commissioner, who solved the 2002 American Center shooting incident at Kolkata within three weeks and secured deportation from the Gulf of main accused in the case Aftab Ansari, said, "Before I demit my office, we will try and charge sheet all the accused in the case..."

Kumar is due to retire on July 31 after serving in various capacities in the Delhi Police and CBI for 37 years.

And about any role of Rajasthan Royals' owner Raj Kundra and his wife Shilpa Shetty in the spot-fixing scam, the Delhi Police chief said, "there is evidence that they used to bet and they needed to be questioned. We have done that with Raj and if required, we will call his wife too."

Kumar also said that the Special Cell of Delhi Police has done a wonderful job, but many a times his team had to face unnecessary criticism in media.

"Media is the fourth pillar of our democracy and we, in the Delhi Police, respect it. But at the same time, it should refrain from printing or airing reports which are nothing more than the figment of imagination of the reporter." — PTIBack








35 militants killed in Pak’s Khyber tribal region

ISLAMABAD: Thirty-five militants and a soldier have died in fighting in the restive Khyber tribal region of northwest Pakistan during an operation to flush out rebels, the military said on Sunday.

Five soldiers and 15 militants were also injured in clashes over the past two days, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a brief statement.

Security forces had made “significant gains” over the past three days and cleared key areas of the Maidan region of Khyber Agency.

Troops have also taken “full control” of the strategic Derastani Ridge that overlooks Maidan and Kuki Khel Valley, the statement said.

The operation in the Maidan region was launched after troops cleared Muhammadi Top in Kurram Agency and Haider Kandao in Tirah Valley of Khyber Aegncy.

Security forces also flushed militants out of the heights of Darwazgai Kandao.

The military offensive in Khyber Agency was launched some weeks ago after dozens of Pakistani Taliban fighters entered the tribal district and occupied key areas.

The latest reports of casualties could not be independently verified as journalists are barred from the tribal belt. — PTI








South Africans pray for hospitalised Nelson Mandela

SOWETO (South Africa): South Africans prayed for Nelson Mandela's recovery on Sunday as the 94-year-old former President spent a second day in hospital with a recurring lung infection.

Mandela, who became a global symbol of triumph over adversity and South Africa's first black leader in 1994 after the defeat of apartheid, was hospitalised early on Saturday after his already frail health worsened.

It is his fourth hospital stay since December and the government said on Saturday his condition was "serious". During previous hospital visits it had highlighted his " good spirits".

His health is a cause for concern to the millions of South Africans who revere Mandela for his decades of struggle against white-minority rule and steering the continent's biggest economy to all-race elections.

Hundreds gathered to pray for him at Sunday Mass at the Regina Mundi Catholic church in the sprawling Johannesburg township of Soweto.

"We wish him speedy recovery, he must get well," Soweto resident Mlugisi Sekhosana said. "We know what he did for us in South Africa. All the nation, black and white, we wish him well."

The government had yet to give an update on his condition early on Sunday.

The Sunday Times newspaper took a sombre tone, with the headline "It's time to let him go", quoting a longtime friend of Mandela's, Andrew Mlangeni.

"The family must release him so that God may have his own way. They must release him spiritually and put their faith in the hands of God," the newspaper quoted Mlangeni as saying. — ReutersBack




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