L A T E S T      N E W S

Manmohan rules out third term, says Modi as PM will be disaster

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today ruled himself out of the race for prime ministership after the next elections holding that Rahul Gandhi had "outstanding credentials" for the top job but said Narendra Modi as PM would be "disastrous" for the country.

He said the Congress Party would decide on its prime ministerial candidate and announce it at an “appropriate” time.

Addressing a press conference, the third in his two terms, he sought to dispel the negative image of his government and the tag of weak Prime Minister for him after nine and half years in office, saying he had done his best and put the country on a good growth momentum.

“I do not believe I am a weak Prime Minister. It is for historians to judge. The BJP and its associates may say whatever they like. If by strong Prime Minister you mean you preside over mass massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad, if that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that that this country needs that kind of strength,” he said.

In his opening statement, the Prime Minister said after the general elections in a few months time. “I will hand the baton over to a new Prime Minister. I hope it will be a UPA-chosen Prime Minister and our party will work to that end.”

The Prime Minister, faced a number of questions on corruption charges that sullied the image of UPA II, asserted that the controversies surrounding coal blocks allocation scam and the 2G spectrum licences pertained to UPA-I, and people had voted the coalition back to power in 2009.

“Well as far as charge of corruption are concerned, most of the charges relate to period of UPA-I. The coal block allocation as well 2G spectrum allocation, they were both in UPA-I. We went to the electorate in 2009 and people gave us mandate to rule again. These charges have been raised from time to time by the media, CAG and courts. They belong to the previous five years. People of India entrusted us with the responsibility to rule again. They do no seem to have paid heed to all charges of corruption,” he said.

Asked if he could have done something differently on the corruption issue since it has tainted his Mr Clean image, Dr Singh said he felt “somewhat sad. It was I who insisted that spectrum allocation should be transparent and fair. It was I who insisted that the allocation of coal blocks should be on the basis of auction. These facts were forgotten. Opposition has vested interests. Sometimes the media plays into their hands. When history is written we will come out unscathed. This is not to say that there are no irregularities. But the dimensions of the problem have been overstated by the media, by CAG sometimes and other entities.”

To various questions about his performance and how he would be judged, he said, “I honestly believe that history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media or for that matter opposition parties.” 

Replying to a question, Singh said he has indicated in his opening remarks that he is not going to be the candidate for prime ministership again. "Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials to be pm candidate." To another question, he said he has full confidence that the next prime minister would be from the UPA.

Asked whether a contest between Modi and Gandhi would be equal, he said "without discussing the merits of Narendra Modi, I sincerely believe that it will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as prime minister." 

When a questioner asked him about Modi's campaign theme of a Congress-free India, Singh shot back, " I sincerely believe what Narendra Modi is saying, it is not going to materialise." 

To a query whether "dual centres of power" in Congress had affected his functioning, Modi said, "I sincerely believe that the arrangement where the Congress president and the Prime Minister did not happen to be same person has under the circumstance worked exceedingly well.

"For me it was a remarkable achievement that I have been able to complete 10 years without any hiccups between the Prime Minister and Congress president. Sonia Gandhi's support has been enormous. She was there to back me, which facilitated my task in more than one way." 

Asked about the perception that the decisions were taken at 10, Janpath, a reference to Sonia Gandhi's house, he said, "It is not a question of Congress president or the vice-president. If they have any view, it ought to be reflected in the government to the extent possible. It is not a disadvantage or a drawback in our system. This has enabled us to deal with many issues.

"If the government recognised issues, I don't think it is right to say that this is wrong or it is disadvantage to make corrections if the party leadership says it is required in national interest."— PTIBack









Inflation a concern; India heading for better times: PM

NEW DELHI: Admitting government’s failure to contain inflation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said high prices have helped farmers and asserted the country was heading for better times.

"...we have also not been as successful in controlling persistent inflation as we would have wished. This is primarily because food inflation has increased. However, we should remember that our inclusive policies have put more money in the hands of the weaker sections," Dr. Singh said while addressing a press conference, the third as Prime Minister.

The worry about inflation, he added, “is legitimate but we should also recognise that incomes for most people have increased faster than inflation.”

While making a case for increasing supplies and improving marketing and logistics to contain food prices, especially of perishables like fruits and vegetables, he stressed “much of this work lies in the domain of the states.”

As regards the growth, which has slipped to decade’s low of 5 per cent in 2012—13, the Prime Minister attributed the slowdown to global factors but exuded confidence that the growth momentum would revive in the coming years.

“We are set for better times. The cycle of global economic growth is turning for the better. Many of the steps we have taken to address our domestic constraints are coming into play. India’s own growth momentum will revive”, he added.

He said that during the term of UPA, India for the first time in its recorded history, witnessed a sudden acceleration of economic growth to 9 per cent.

“This exceptional performance was followed by a slowdown initiated by the global financial crisis. Over the past couple of years, all emerging economies have experienced a slowdown. India was no exception”, he added.

Dr. Singh further added that it was not just the acceleration of growth that “gives me satisfaction. Equally important is the fact that we made the growth process more socially inclusive than it has ever been.”

Expressing the government’s commitment to economic reforms, Prime Minister said “so long as we are in power we will continue to push for reforms...our government attaches highest priority to reforms.

"...we will continue to implement our policies, with vigour and commitment, aiming to revive growth, promote enterprise, generate employment, eliminate poverty and ensure the safety and security of all our people, particularly women and children.”

India, he further said, “provides a hospitable environment for foreign direct investment (FDI). We will continue to improve our practises wherever needed.”

Observing that over the past decade economy has gone through many ups and downs, Singh said, “we should not focus overly on the short term.”

Citing the achievements of the government, Singh said that in 2004 it tried to give “a New Deal for Rural India” and pursued farmer friendly policies including raising support prices, expanding credit to farmers, and increasing investment in horticulture, rural development, and rural infrastructure, especially roads and electricity.

He further said that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has assured agricultural labour of a floor and has increased their bargaining power, besides improving delivery of health and education services.

Because of the policies pursued by the government, he said, percentage of the population below the poverty line has fallen much faster in the period 2004-2011 than it did in the previous ten year period and that the number of people below the poverty line has come down by 13.8 crore. — PTIBack











BJP condemns PM's remarks on Modi 

New Delhi: BJP today condemned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks that Narendra Modi as premier will be disastrous for the nation and said it was unfortunate he was saying this even after the clean chit given to him by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and a court.

BJP president Rajnath Singh, while condemning the remarks, also said the Prime Minister had admitted to the dual power centre that existed in the UPA government, a contention that the saffron party has been making for quite some time.

Singh said that the Prime Minister has accepted that the next government is not going to be that of UPA and that is why is has opted himself out for a third term.

"I condemn this statement of the Prime Minister. It is very unfortunate that the Prime Minister is saying this even when the SIT and court have given him a clean chit," he said.

The BJP chief said it was "laughable" to make such a statement even when Modi as Chief Minister has presented Gujarat as a model state in the country through the development initiated by him there.

"It is a laughable statement to say that he should not be the Prime Minister as during his tenure riots have taken place in Gujarat. Modi in his tenure as Chief Minister has presented Gujarat as a model of development and a model state in the country," he said.

"Though whatever has happened in 2002 is unfortunate and painful," he added.

Reacting to the statements made by the Prime Minister during his press conference, Singh said he has admitted that his government has failed to control rising prices and corruption and could not create enough employment opportunities.

"Instead of listing out his achievements, the Prime Minister has instead listed out the failures...This government has proved a failure on all fronts. The Prime Minister has admitted that there is a dual power centre...

"The Prime Minister has tried to justify whatever BJP has been saying that due to dual power centre you cannot expect anything good from this government. That the freedom to take decisions has been completely finished," he said.

Lamenting that the prime minister did not talk about national security during his press conference, he said this government has proved a "failure" on the issue of internal and external security.

The Opposition party president said it was "laughable" to say that UPA has done better than NDA and claimed that India had become current-account deficit, growth rate had reduced and economic disparity had increased and employment opportunities had reduced during this government.

He also charged the present UPA of being a government against which corruption charges were levelled as no other government in the history of independent India. — PTI








Ganguly resigns as NUJS honorary professor

KOLKATA: Beleaguered West Bengal Human Rights Commission chairman Justice (retd) Ashok Kumar Ganguly today resigned from the post of honorary professor of the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), a student of which had made allegations of sexual harassment against him.

"Some members of the faculty were expressing their reservation about my continuation. So I have sent my resignation today," Ganguly told PTI here.

On the resignation from the post of chairman of the WBHRC, he said earlier today that he would prefer to remain "quiet".

"I have read about it (Cabinet clearance of presidential reference) in newspapers. What can I say about it? The development of events is not in my hand. I haven't decided anything and would prefer to stay quiet," Justice Ganguly told PTI.

The process for removal of Justice Ganguly as WBHRC chairman moved a step forward yesterday with the Union Cabinet approved a proposal for sending a Presidential reference to the Supreme Court for a probe into the allegation of sexual misconduct against a law intern who was the student of the NUJS.

The proposal will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee who will then send the matter to the Chief Justice of India seeking a probe into the issue based on the three points raised in the reference.

A three-judge Supreme Court committee formed by the Chief Justice of India had earlier indicted Justice Ganguly of committing an "act of unwelcome behaviour" and "conduct of sexual nature" towards the woman law intern.

Justice Ganguly today attended the office of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) as usual, though for a brief period.

Asked on the presidential reference, Justice Ganguly said that the development of events is not in his hand. — PTIBack










Dhir is new Delhi Assembly Speaker

NEW DELHI: AAP candidate M. S. Dhir was today elected as the Speaker of Delhi Assembly with the support of Congress.

Dhir was also backed by the lone JD (U) MLA and an Independent.

While 37 MLAs supported Dhir, BJP candidate Jagdish Mukhi got the support of 32 MLAs from his party.

Immediately after his election to the post, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BJP leader Harshvardhan greeted Dhir and wished him good luck.

"I congratulate you from the core of my heart and hope that you will keep the prestige and the tradition of the Assembly intact," said Vardhan.

The pro-tem Speaker conducted a voice vote twice following objections by BJP MLAs.

The minority Aam Aadmi Party government yesterday had crossed the first hurdle in the Delhi Assembly when its confidence motion sailed through easily with the backing of the members of Congress, JD(U) and an Independent. — PTIBack










Cash-at-door scam: SC dismisses former judge Nirmal Yadav's petition

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed former Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Nirmal Yadav’s plea for stay on proceedings of trial court, which is set to frame charges against her in cash-at-judge’s door scam, and pulled her up for adopting delaying tactics.

A bench headed by Justice H.L. Dattu ticked off the former judge for filing multiple petitions in various courts to delay the trial court proceedings in the 2008 case.

Yadav’s counsel submitted that it is a case of no evidence and the trial court should be restrained from framing charges against her but the apex court was not satisfied and dismissed the plea.

Yadav had approached the apex court challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s November 22, 2013 order, dismissing her plea against trial court’s proceedings.

Yadav had moved the high court against the orders of the special CBI judge, Chandigarh, who had given the go-ahead for her prosecution in the alleged corruption case. On July 31, 2013, the trial court had ordered framing of charges against Yadav.

The high court was rocked by the controversy after a sum of Rs 15 lakh was delivered at the residence of Justice Nirmaljit Kaur, another judge of the high court, on August 13, 2008, following which she reported the matter to the Chandigarh Police.

The money, allegedly meant for Yadav, was said to have been delivered to Kaur due to confusion over their names.

Yadav, in her plea, had denied the allegation that the money was meant for her.

The charge sheet was filed against her by CBI in the special court on March 4, 2011, a day after Yadav, then posted as a judge of the Uttarakhand High Court, retired. — PTIBack









Evacuation begins from Muzaffarnagar relief camps

Muzaffarnagar: Shamli district authorities have started taking steps to evacuate people from relief camps in the wake of the cold wave gripping the North.

According to District Magistrate K.P. Singh, 267 families have left for safer places and efforts are being made by the district authorities to evacuate more families.

The families that left the camps were given ration of 15 days, Singh said.

A relief camp in Kandhla has also been vacated, he said.

The district authorities are appealing to riot victims to leave the camps to prevent untoward incident due to the cold wave sweeping the region.

Meanwhile, victims living in Malakpur relief camp in Shamli district have refused to leave citing unavailability of any safe place for them.

The victims refused to leave the relief camp when some officials reached there on Thursday.

It is learnt that four official relief camps are functioning in Shamli district.

The riots in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas that started in the last week of August claimed over 60 lives and left thousands homeless. — PTI Back










Shutdown in Seemandhra hits normal life

HYDERABAD: A shutdown is being observed on Friday in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions of Andhra Pradesh to oppose the bifurcation of the state.

On a day when the state Assembly resumed its winter session to debate the Bill for formation of a separate Telangana state, normal life came to a halt in 13 districts of Seemandhra, as Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra are together known.

Shops, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed while buses of state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) were off the roads in response to the shutdown call given by Samaikyandhra Parirakshana Samithi or the committee for protection of united Andhra. It is headed by P. Ashok Babu, a leader of government employees of Seemandhra.

Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress party in Seemandhra are supporting the shutdown.

Buses of APSRTC remained confined to depots as protestors staged sit-in outside the depots since early on Friday.

Leaders and activists of the political parties, government employees, students and others took to streets in support of the shutdown. Shouting slogans of 'Jai smaikyandhra' they blocked the vehicles.

The shutdown hit the normal life in Vijayawada, Guntur, Visakhapatnam, Tirupati, Anantapur, Kurnool and other towns in Seemandhra. — IANSBack










India, US mishandled Devyani case: Ex-diplomats

WASHINGTON: The diplomatic row between US and India over the arrest of an Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was mishandled by both countries and it is high time to move forward and find a diplomatic resolution, two former American diplomats have said.

"This storm has blown us temporarily off course," former diplomat Frank Wisner told PTI in an interview. He added that Americans treated the case inappropriately, while India reaction was emotional.

A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade, India's Deputy Consul General in New York, was arrested on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. She was released on a $250,000 bond.

The 39-year-old diplomat was strip searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two sides with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps last month.

"The position that we have got into is deeply regrettable and I hope that the two sides could come to an early solution. It can only be done quietly in discussions with qualified diplomats," Wisner said.

Wisner said the relationship between the two countries is too important to be derailed by this arrest.

A retired US diplomat and a well known South Asian expert, Teresita C. Schaffer also blamed both India and the US for the current impasse.

"The charges involved a serious offense and one that had arisen in the past as well. The treatment of Khobragade was unnecessarily provocative and offencive. India's response was dangerous," Schaffer said.

"The United States has always drawn a distinction between diplomatic and consular immunity (as indeed the Vienna Conventions do). The US considered this a serious offence, and there were at least two recent cases where Indian consular officials were charged with the same offence," she said.

"Other options might have included a formal legal complaint involving payment of fines and/or back wages, asking for her withdrawal, or, in an arrest did occur modifying the search protocols," Scaffer said.

Schaffer said the Indian government could also have handled the case differently.

"The Indian Embassy and Ministry of External Affairs knew that this kind of issue is trouble in the United States (there had been two recent cases involving other consular officials), she said.

"I have no problem with India enforcing reciprocity on consular immunity and changing the ID cards of US consular officials in India", she said.

"But some of the other measures were really courting disaster, and had no relationship to the underlying incident", she added.

"I'm thinking in particular of dismantling the security barriers in front of the US embassy in Delhi. An incident involving injury or damage, or worse death, under those circumstances would really have serious consequences for both countries," Schaffer said.

"In this case there is much less substance involved, but still the grievances and misdeeds of the past are eagerly raked up, and the press is happy to report these," Stephen P Cohen, senior fellow at the prestigious Brookings Institution, said.

However, he felt it is unlikely to have much impact on Indo-US relationship in the long term.

"On both sides, there are far more important issues uniting (and dividing) India and the US, and Indians and Americans, than this," Cohen said. — PTIBack




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