L A T E S T      N E W S

Decision not to contest is ‘personal’, says Priyanka

NEW DELHI: Priyanka Vadra on Monday trashed reports that she wanted to challenge Narendra Modi for the Lok Sabha seat from Varanasi and was stopped by the party high command, stating it is a “personal” decision not to contest and that her family would “wholeheartedly support” her if she ever wanted to.

Priyanka came out with a rare statement to journalists following reports this morning that she was keen to be the Congress candidate from Varanasi as she was willing to place a higher principle above the real risk of defeat.

“My decision to not contest is personal. I will only change it [if] I feel from within that I should,” she said.

“My brother, mother and husband (Robert Vadra) would wholeheartedly support me if I ever wanted to (contest),” she said.

She went on to reinforce her earlier remarks that she wanted to campaign only in Amethi, from where her brother is contesting, and in Rae Bareli, from where her mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi is fighting.

There has been speculation that Congress is keen on Priyanka playing a bigger role in the party.

Priyanka, mother of two, admitted that Rahul had on several occasions asked her to take the electoral plunge.

"My brother has expressed to me many times that he thinks I should contest," but she was not inclined.

"This certainly is my own personal decision and I will change it only when I feel from within me that I should," she said.

According to the reports, the decision by Congress on whom to field from Varanasi against Modi was delayed. Congress MLA was finally named as the Congress candidate from the holy city.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, "I don't think anybody can prevent her and nobody will prevent her from enlarging her role as and when she chooses to play a larger political role in the Indian political spectrum". — PTIBack










MH370 search to shift focus to underwater scan

PERTH, Australia: Australia decided on Monday to deploy a mini-submarine to scour the unmapped Indian Ocean seabed for missing Malaysian jet MH370 at a daunting depth of 15,000 feet, ending the search for black-box signals.

Angus Houston, who heads the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, also revealed that an oil slick had been sighted in the area of the search led by the Australian vessel Ocean Shield far off Perth.

"Ocean Shield will cease searching with the towed pinger locator later today and deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin-21 as soon as possible," Houston said, adding it could enter the water later on Monday.

"We haven't had a single detection in six days so I guess it's time to go underwater," he told a news conference.

"We anticipate deploying it this evening."

The US navy said the vehicle would deploy at 5.00 pm Perth local time (0900 GMT), but did not immediately confirm the launch after the specified time.

"(It) will descend to a depth of between 4,000 and 4,500 meters, approximately 35 meters above the ocean floor," the navy said in a statement.

"The AUV will spend up to 16 hours at this depth collecting data, before potentially moving to other likely search areas," it added.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. The reason why the plane came to crash in the southern Indian Ocean remains a mystery.

So far no debris has been found despite an enormous search involving ships and planes from several nations. But Houston said about two litres of the newly spotted oil slick had been collected for testing.

"I stress the source of the oil is yet to be determined but the oil slick is approximately 5,500 metres downwind... from the vicinity of the detections picked up by the towed pinger locator on Ocean Shield," he said.

It would be a number of days before the oil could be conclusively tested ashore, but Houston said he did not think it was from one of the many ships involved in the search.

"It's very close to where the transmissions are coming from and we'll investigate it and that will take a little bit of time, given that we're in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Houston emphasised that it was 38 days since the Boeing 777 vanished and the batteries powering the black box tracker beacons had a life of only 30 days.

Ocean Shield has detected four signals linked to aircraft black boxes, helping to narrow down the vast search zone. But the last confirmed ping came on Tuesday last week and officials suspect the batteries are now dead.

The retired air chief marshal stressed the enormous difficulties in working at great depths in such a remote location.

"This is an area that is new to man," Houston said, expecting to find a lot of silt.

"It's not sharply mountainous or anything, it's more flat and almost rolling, but we understand... that part of the India Ocean has a lot of silt on the bottom.

"And if we have silt on the bottom, that can be quite layered, quite deep and that will complicate how things are on the bottom. It's around 4,500 metres."

The Bluefin-21 is equipped with side-scanning sonar and will initially focus on 40 square km of seabed in the vicinity of the detected signals.

But Houston explained that the US-made vessel operates slowly, with each mission taking a minimum of 24 hours to complete.

The device needs two hours to reach the bottom, where it will work for 16 hours producing a high-resolution 3D map before surfacing in another two hours.

Downloading and analysing data requires a further four hours.

But while the mini-sub could take the search a step closer towards visually identifying any wreckage, Houston repeated his longstanding note of caution that nothing was guaranteed.

He noted that after Air France Flight AF447 crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009, it took nearly two years to retrieve the black boxes from a depth of 3,900 metres.

"However, this is the best lead we have and it must be pursued vigorously. Again I emphasise that this will be a slow and painstaking process."

The Bluefin-21, a 4.93-metre long sonar device, weighs 750 kilograms and can operate down to 4,500 metres - roughly the depth of the ocean floor where the pings were detected.

Houston also said the search for floating material from the plane would end in the coming days. — AFPBack












BJP dancing to the tune of RSS: Sonia

Moradabad: Terming the Lok Sabha elections a battle between two completely different ideologies, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday alleged that the BJP was dancing to the tune of the RSS, whose "parochial and extremist" thought was aimed at dividing the society.

Wooing Muslims, she said the Congress government has taken "historical" measures like carving out a separate ministry for the welfare of minorities and launching National Wakf Development Corporation while putting a special emphasis on empowering women from the community.

"There is another ideology which dances to the tune of an organisation whose parochial and extremist ideas spread division in the society. It breaks values and customs which we have preserved for centuries.... I am sure you won't be misled by them and hand them over a resounding defeat," Gandhi said at an election rally.

Without naming the BJP and its ideological parent RSS, she said they believed in foisting their narrow ideology on the country in the name of unity.

Gandhi added that her party alone was capable of providing a stable and strong government, which the country needed, and the BJP's ideology will harm the people and the country.

Attacking the Samajwadi Party-led UP government, she said the Centre made abundant funds available to the state for enhancing its power supply but it had failed to provide electricity available in villages.

The Congress, she said, while quoting from the party's manifesto, would provide free healthcare to people and provide vocational training to youths so that they could easily get employment. — PTIBack










Stones pelted at Shazia Ilmi's rally; AAP Nalanda
candidate 'roughed up'

Neemuch (MP): Unidentified men raised slogans in support of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and pelted stones at the dais during an Aam Aadmi Party rally addressed by Shazia Ilmi here today.

She was addressing the rally in support of AAP candidate from the Mandsaur-Neemuch Lok Sabha seat Paras Saklecha.

As she began criticising Modi, the unidentified men started raising slogans in support of Modi and later pelted stones towards the dais, forcing her to stop her speech.

Later, AAP workers and police chased the men but they managed to flee the spot.

After the rally, Ilmi, along with AAP workers, marched towards Kotwali police station, filed a complaint and demanded registration of a case against BJP workers.

Ilmi told reporters that if they had guts they should come in front and throw stones, and that they should feel ashamed to pelt stones at a woman.

Superintendent of Police (CSP) Pankaj Dixit said that after watching the video recording of the event and CCTV footage, legal action would be taken in the matter.

AAP's district convenor Amit Sharma said anti-social elements of both the BJP and the Congress were involved in the incident. 

Meanwhile, the Aam Admi Party candidate from Nalanda Parliamentary constituency, Pranab Prakash, was allegedly roughed up by a group of people and his car attacked during campaigning.

According to official sources, Prakash was on a campaign trail in Utarphu village under Bind police station of the district, about 20 km from district headquarters, when the incident took place last night.

"I was on my way when I was stopped by around 25 people.

I was dragged out of my mar and they hit me on my head with lathis," Prakash said.

A large number of his supporters later staged protest outside the residences of District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police blaming ruling JD-U men for the ruckus.

Nalanda Lok Sabha seat, which is the native place of CM Nitish Kumar, will go to polls on April 17.

While the JD-U has fielded Kaushlendra Kumar, the Congress has nominated former state police chief Ashish Ranjan Sinha as joint candidate of the party and RJD.

BJP has extended support to LJP which has fielded Satyendra Sharma. — PTI









Fresh FIR against Azam Khan

Bijnor: Another FIR has been lodged against Samajwadi Party leader Mohammad Azam Khan for allegedly making a provocative speech at an election rally in Nehtaur in the district.

The FIR was lodged by Assistant Returning officer Sanjay Kumar Singh yesterday at Nehtaur Police Station, police said on Monday.

Khan has been accused of flaring up communal feelings and trying to divide communities on religious lines by his speech on April 11.

After seeing the video footage, Singh lodged an FIR against Khan and SP candidate Yashvir Singh’s representative Rajvardhan Singh under sections IPC 505 (2)(Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes), and 125 (Representation of the People Act) besides others.

Earlier, a case was registered against Khan in Thana Bhawan police station on Saturday for his remarks at an election rally in Jalalabad area of the district on April 8.

Khan had allegedly attacked BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi saying, “his hands are coloured with blood of innocent people and you should never let any such person rule the country.”

On April 7, Khan had during his party rally in Muslim-dominated Masuri area, said victory against Pakistan during the 1999 Kargil conflict was made possible because of Muslim soldiers and not by Hindus.

One case was registered against Khan for inciting communal passions through his election speech on April 9 in Sambhal district of Uttar Pradesh.

The Election Commission had on April 11 banned Khan from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh and had asked authorities to initiate criminal proceedings against him. — PTI












Deepika Pallikal loses in Texas Open final

Houston (USA): Deepika Pallikal stumbled on the final hurdle against Egyptian teenager Nour El Sherbini in the title clash of the Women’s Champion Fiberglass Texas Open on Monday.

Eyeing maiden major title of her career, world No 12 Deepika faltered against the 18-year-old qualifier 7-11, 11-5, 7-11 to lose in 48 minutes.

The 22-year-old Deepika was celebrating the biggest Tour final of her career, while world junior champion El Sherbini was continuing the form of her life which had seen the youngster reach last month’s WSA World Championship final after upsetting world No 1 Nicol David.

The Chennai girl had earlier packed off eighth-ranked Madeline Perry in the semifinal but failed against the 13th-ranked Egyptian.

The match brought to a climax a sensational week for El Sherbini of Alexandria, who removed three seeds, including Malaysia’s event favourite and world No. 7 Low Wee Wern, en-route to the final of the WSA Gold 50 event at The Downtown Club at the Met.

El Sherbini was quick share her joy with her Facebook fans.

“So happy to win my 4th and my biggest title in my career in the Texas Open — it’s been an amazing week here started from the first round of the qualification,” she posted on her facebook page.— PTI




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