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Andhra CM meets Sonia ahead of Cong meet on Telangana

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the crucial Congress meeting on Telangana, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kirankumar Reddy on Friday met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and briefed her about the political situation in the state.

The meeting came amid indications that Congress has decided to spell out a clear stand on the vexed issue of separate statehood soon.

Sources said that more than half a dozen Lok Sabha MPs from Telangana region on Friday held a meeting at the residence of MP Ponnam Prabhakar. The meeting was also attended by ministers from Telangana region in the Reddy-led government in the state.

The MPs Prabhakar, Madhuyakshi Goud, Sukhender Reddy, S. Rajaiah, Suresh Kumar Shetkar and others also held a meeting at the residence of AICC secretary and a senior leader from the region V. Haumantha Rao.

The pro-Telangana leaders have plans to meet AICC general secretary in charge for the state Digvijay Singh and Gandhi's secretary Ahmed Patel before the core group meeting in which some finality on the issue is expected.

In the core group meeting, which will also be attended by Rahul Gandhi, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, PCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana and Deputy Chief Minister Damodar Rajanarasimha will give a presentation on the issue of Telangana.

Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was the AICC in charge of Andhra Pradesh before Digvijay, is also expected to attend the core group meeting.

Maintaining that a decision cannot be postponed "anymore" Singh had on Thursday said that the core group meeting will discuss the Telangana issue with "both options open" — status quo or creation of a separate state.

"This has to be decided by government of India in consultation with UPA partners. As this may also need amendment to the Constitution, we may have to take opposition parties also on board," Singh had said.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who as Home Minister had on December 9, 2009, announced the starting of the process of formation of the state, is abroad and hence will not be able to attend the meeting.

The meeting chaired by the Congress president with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by her side will have the full attendance of core group members minus Chidambaram.

They include Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Defence Minister A. K. Antony and the Congress president's political secretary Ahmed Patel. Antony is also the head of the Congress sub-committee on alliance.

A decision on Telangana is being taken amid a talk for an alliance with YSR Jaganmohan Reddy's YSR Congress in the state.

Chief Minister Reddy, PCC chief Satyanarayana and Deputy Chief minister Rajanarasimha are also likely to meet Digvijay Singh before the core group meeting.

Singh had submitted a report on the Telangana issue to Gandhi last week.

To questions about the party's commitment on the issue, Singh had said on Friday, "If you see the manifesto, we had promised Second State Reorganization Commission."

In the 2004 manifesto, the Congress did not promise anything specifically on Telangana.

But subsequently after the elections when it tied up with pro-Telangana TRS to form the government at the Centre, the common minimum programme of the coalition said the UPA government will consider the demand for formation of a Telangana state at an appropriate time after due consultations and consensus.

The issue of separate statehood in the state has virtually bifurcated all parties in Andhra Pradesh on pro and anti Telangana lines.

In February 2010, the government appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice Sri Krishna to look into the issue, which came up with six solutions to the problem, including keeping the state united. — PTIBack











Cong will not declare Rahul as PM candidate: Digvijaya Singh

NEW DELHI: The Congress will not declare Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate in the Lok Sabha elections, senior party leader Digvijaya Singh hinted on Friday while dismissing suggestions that BJP's projection of Narendra Modi is a challenge to it.

He also did not say whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could be a candidate for the top post once again if the party wins next year's elections.

"We do not have a presidential form of government. Congress party does not declare PM or CM candidates before elections...Even in the Karnataka Assembly elections, we had not declared any CM candidate," Singh told in an interview.

He was replying to questions why Congress was diffident about projecting Rahul Gandhi, why it should not project him and who is the PM candidate of Congress.

Singh also gave indications that the Congress was not averse to doing business with the Left after the next elections and apprehended that the advent of Modi could lead to communal polarisation in the polls.

Asked about BJP's elevation of Modi as its election campaign chief, just a step short of announcing him the prime ministerial candidate, Singh said, "We are not concerned. It is not an issue with us. BJP is free to take any decision. We are in the politics of ideology and not personality...Congress party does not believe in the politics of polarisation.

Asked whether Congress treats Modi as a political challenge and about Union minister Jairam Ramesh's comments that Modi presented managerial and ideological challenge to the party, Singh said, "The very name of Modi and before that of L K Advani give an impression of polarisation.

"It is not Modi. It is the ideology of the Sangh and the BJP which believes in divisive politics. Politics of hatred and violence based on religious lines, which is the challenge," he said.

Singh sidestepped a query on whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could again be Congress' PM candidate. "First the country has to give us a mandate again and then the parliamentary party and the party chief have to take a decision in consultation with elected MPs," he said.

To a question on whether Left Front, which supported the UPA I government from outside is a natural ally of the Congress, Singh said, "We had very good experience for the first four years of working with the Left in UPA I but unfortunately Left made a big issue of the nuclear bill" and withdrew support to the government.

"My own perception is that with Left, we know the parameters in which we work together. It is easier to work with the Left because we know the parameters in which they work, " he said.

About the political fallout of the JD(U) walking out NDA in Bihar and whether it can be a part of UPA, Singh said this is an issue which has to be considered by the Congress high command.

"Nitish Kumar did not resign when there was an accident in Godhra and he was railway minister though Ram Vilas Paswan had resigned. Now he (Kumar) has taken a positive step, which is of course a very bold step, which we are appreciating.

"My own view is if he had shown this courage in the last Bihar election, the BJP would not have got so many seats and BJP would have landed in the same position as in Odisha where Naveen Patnaik asked them to leave the coalition," he said.

Asked as to whether RJD was its natural ally in Bihar, Singh said it was for the Antony committee to decide.

The fact remains that RJD chief Lalu Prasad was supporting the Congress president and the Congress even before 2004, he said.

To a query about the poll-plank of Congress for 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he said, "Our campaign theme will be on the basis of the work done in the last ten years and the work we will be doing in the next five years."

"UPA-II has managed to give a sustained growth even in the worst economic crisis the world is facing. UPA pumped more money in lot of development schemes that led to high spending in rural areas," Singh said.

He also rejected suggestions that UPA II's image suffered a jolt and cited Congress victories in assembly elections in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, the states it wrested from the BJP.

"If the image is so badly hit, why the votes of Congress increased in every election post 2009 except in Goa and Bihar.

"While the Congress has added more than 100 seats in the earlier tally in the Assembly elections, BJP has lost not only states like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, but also lost more than 90 seats since the last Lok Sabha election," Singh said.

Asked about UPA allies DMK and TMC deserting the alliance, he said that in a coalition whether be it UPA or NDA, there have been instances of allies, which had been initially supporting the government, leaving the coalition and there is nothing new in that. — PTIBack










Girl allegedly gang-raped, set afire in Etawah

Etawah, Uttar Pradesh: A 20-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped and set afire by a youth and his associates in Desarmau village under Ekdil police station area in Etawah, the police said today.

The girl was in a relationship with Farman, also of the same village. She had yesterday gone to his house to ask him to marry her when the incident took place.

According to an FIR lodged by the victim's brother, Farman and his five associates raped the girl and when she threatened to disclose the matter, she was set ablaze by the accused.

The girl who was rushed to the district hospital was referred to the Safai hospital where she is said to be critical, the police said.

The villagers have, however, alleged that the girl herself sprinkled kerosene and tried to set afire to pressurise Farman, who was not interested in marrying her. The girl accidentally caught fire when the youth tried to snatch the matchstick.

The accused Farman and his family members have fled the village and efforts were on to nab them, police said.

Infuriated over the incident, the locals tried to set Farman's house ablaze but the elders in the village mediated and brought the situation under control. — PTIBack









Tri-series final: Dhoni powers India to thrilling win

PORT OF SPAIN: Mahendra Singh Dhoni once again lived up to the 'Captain Cool' tag as he held his nerve to almost singlehandedly guide India to yet another title triumph with a narrow one-wicket win over Sri Lanka in a thrilling final of the the Tri-nation ODI series.

Needing 15 from the last over in their chase of 202, Dhoni smashed Shaminda Eranga for two sixes and a boundary in just four balls to finish off the game in style at the Queen's Park Oval.

The result also meant that the Champions Trophy winners' recent run of success in the 50-over format continued.

As the captain slammed Eranga over extra cover for the winning shot, the Indian crowd erupted in joy and the jubilant players ran down the pitch to flank the man of the moment, who remained unbeaten on 45 off 52 balls.

Coming in at the fall of Suresh Raina's wicket with India in a spot of bother at 145 for five in the 35th over, Dhoni added important runs with lower-order and in the process hit five fours and two sixes.

Dhoni was calculative and waited till the end before launching that one final assault which left the Lankans shell-shocked as the islanders fancied their chances after Rangana Herath's four-wicket burst on a pitch that was not conducive for strokeplay.

While Dhoni played the match-winning knock, Rohit Sharma, who hit five fours and a six, top-scored for India with 58 off 89 balls. Raina contributed 32 off 27 balls.

In pursuit of what seemed like a modest target, India lost Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli early to Eranga.

Sharma found an ally in Dinesh Karthik with whom he added 50 runs for the third wicket before the wicketkeeper-batsman was dismissed for 23. Sharma then forged a 62-run stand in eight overs with Raina to consolidate India's position.

Sensing the need to bid time in the middle, Sharma and Raina played sensible cricket before the Mumbaikar was done in by a Herath ball that kept low before hitting the stumps.

This was Herath's second wicket, after he sent back Karthik who was caught by Mahela Jayawardene at slip.

Before making his way back to the pavilion, Sharma showed exemplary patience. While he slashed Lasith Malinga over third man for a six in the 14th over, Sharma had to wait until the 19th over of the Indian innings to score his first four.

While Sharma's first four was a slice past point, the next one came off a hook that almost cleared fine leg. Lasith Malinga was carted for three fours -- a drive over extra cover and a pull along the ground was followed by a cut over point.

After that Sri Lanka pulled things back by dismissing Sharma and Raina followed suit to leave the game evenly poised.

Desperate to put India under more pressure, Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara appealed against Dhoni for what they felt was obstruction of field while running for a single.

After responding late to Jadeja's call, Dhoni was running towards the striker's end and came in between the throw and the stumps. Both the SL players were convinced that Dhoni changed his direction, but the umpires thought otherwise.

The Lankans soon found reasons to cheer as Herath took two wickets off successive balls in his final over to leave India precariously placed at 152/7 in 38 overs.

With Sri Lanka closing in on India's tail, Dhoni decided to use the long handle, which was evident from that thick outside edge that flew over the first-slip for a four. He then whacked Malinga's full toss delivery through deep midwicket, before pushing Mathews for a four through the gap between point and short third man.

Dhoni saw Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and R Vinay Kumar getting dismissed in quick succession, but himself showed nerves of steel to steer his side home in company of number 11 Ishant Sharma.

Earlier, India benefited immensely after Sri Lanka's middle and lower-order batsmen committed hara-kiri, which saw the team lose eight wickets for just 30 runs before being bundled out for 201.

Sent into bat, Sri Lanka were sitting pretty at 171 for two in the 38th over, but lack of application saw them being packed off with seven balls left in their innings.

Jadeja was the most successful Indian bowlers returning figures of 4/24 while there were two wickets apiece for Bhuvneshwar, Ishant and Ashwin.

Bhuvneshwar made use of seaming conditions to send back Upul Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene. Incidentally, the duo had punished India with a double-century partnership in the match that the young seamer was dropped.

Sri Lanka then rode on Sangakkara (71) and Lahiru Thirimanne's 122-run partnership for the third wicket to stage a fightback before their innings disintegrated due to some mindless batting. Thirimanne scored 46 off 72 balls.

From a comfortable position with about 12 overs to go, Sri Lanka were left licking their wounds at 193 for seven in the 46th over when skipper Angelo Mathews got out. None of the last six batsmen could reach double figures.

Sri Lanka made a cautious start but after reaching 27 in the seventh over, the islanders suffered their first blow when Bhuvneshwar changed his angle to induce an inside edge from Upul Tharanga.

The ever-consistent Bhuvneshwar was at it again, in the 14th over, as he removed Jayawardene with an innocuous delivery that moved a bit on landing at the Queen's Park Oval.

Losing the experienced Jayawardene so early into the innings was a big blow for the Lankans and they desperately needed solidity at that point of time. Sri Lanka found the answer to their worries in the form of another veteran, Sangakkara, who anchored the innings.

Sangakkara mixed caution with common sense as he realised early that playing expansive shots was not the way to go about the task on this wicket. Playing equally responsibly at the other end was Thirimanne who complemented his senior partner to prop up Sr Lanka's innings.

Joining hands at 49 for two in the 14th over, the two brought up their 100 partnership in the 36th over with Thirimanne cutting Ishant for a boundary.

It was the start of batting powerplay and Lanka were straightaway on the money with both Sangakkara and Thirimanne going after Ishant who conceded 24 runs in the two overs he bowled at that stage of the game.

After being carted for two fours through the offside by Thirimanne, Ishant was at the receiving end of Sangakkara's treatment. Not content hitting two successive fours in the 38th over's first two balls, Sangakkara launched into Ishant smashing his length ball straight down the ground for a six.

But the over turned to be an eventful one as Ishant finally tasted success having Thirimanne caught by Bhuvneshwar at midoff. Soon Sri lanka suffered another jolt as Ashwin joined the party by removing Sangakkara with a tossed-up ball.

Sangakkara's mistimed drive was taken by Vinay Kumar, who ran a few steps backwards from mid-on, to complete a catch.

Ashwin struck again as he had Kusal Perera who was swiftly stumped by Dhoni. After fighting their way back into the match, Sri Lanka were crumbling with Jadeja having Dinesh Chandimal. Mathews followed suit as Sri Lanka's innings approached its end. — PTI Back









Pak troops violates ceasefire along
international border in Jammu

JAMMU: Pakistani troops today fired on Indian forward posts along the international border (IB) in this district of Jammu and Kashmir, a BSF officer said.

Pak Rangers fired on border outposts along IB in Pindi forward area along IB of R S Pura belt of Jammu district around 9.35 am, the officer said.

The small arms firing went on for a brief period, he said, adding that Border Security Force (BSF) troops guarding the border fired back, resulting in exchanges.

However, there was no loss of life or injury to anyone in the firing, he said.

Pakistani troops had violated ceasefire along the Line of Control on June 26 by resorting to unprovoked firing for nearly 30 minutes in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir.

There were five ceasefire violations by Pakistan in the last month. — PTIBack










6 die in landslide as heavy rain lashes Nainital

DEHRADUN: Six persons were killed in a landslide in Uttarakhand's Nainital district, officials said on Friday.

The landslide came after a heavy spell of rain in Bheemal area late Thursday.

Five persons of a family and one other person were buried following the landslide triggered by incessant rains in the past few days.

Police confirmed the death of six people even as the met department predicted more rains in the region.

Seven persons, all labourers, were killed two days back in Chamoli when a JCB machine caved in and fell in a gorge while clearing rubble from a road.

Heavy rain continued to disrupt rescue and rehabilitation work in Kedarnath and Badrinath area. — PTIBack









Ireland votes to allow ‘life-saving’ abortions

LONDON: Irish lawmakers on Friday overwhelmingly voted in favour of a groundbreaking law that will allow abortion in limited cases in the predominantly Catholic country, following an outcry over the death of an Indian dentist after a miscarriage in 2012.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his coalition government pushed through the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill, which will allow for abortions only when a woman’s life is under threat if her pregnancy continues or if she is suicidal.

The Bill was voted through early morning, shortly before 12:30 am (local time), by 127 to 31 against after marathon discussions on 165 amendments.

Ireland was forced to review its abortion law in cases where the mother’s life is at risk following the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last October after she was denied an abortion.

An inquest into Dr. Savita’s death earlier this year was told that a timely abortion may have saved her life.

Doctors had denied her pleas for an abortion, even though her uterus had ruptured, because the 17-week-old foetus still had a heartbeat. By the time it stopped, Dr. Savita had already contracted lethal septicaemia or blood poisoning, investigations into her death later revealed.

Opponents said the Bill, which still needs the Upper House’s approval, could lead to more widespread abortions.

Others argue the Bill is too limited as it does not allow for terminations in cases of rape or incest, or when there is a foetal abnormality. Nor does it allow for termination when the foetus cannot survive outside the womb.

Anti-abortion campaigners have argued that the Bill will allow the intentional killing of the unborn for the first time in the Republic of Ireland. — PTIBack




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