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It is Congress which can challenge and defeat BJP: Sachin Pilot

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Jaipur | It is the Congress which can challenge and defeat BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha election, Rajasthan’s deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot said on Monday while exuding confidence that the UPA, led by his party, will form the next government at the Centre.

He said national and regional parties need to work together to fight powers “destroying” democratic institutions of the country. “The NDA has weakened as its key constituents have left, whereas the parties in the UPA have expressed their faith in the leadership of Congress president Rahul Gandhi,” Pilot told reporters here. “UPA will form the government in 2019 in Congress leadership,” he said.

Responding to a question on the Congress being left out of the SP-BSP pre-poll tie-up in Uttar Pradesh, Pilot said his party should not be considered weak. “It is the Congress which can challenge and defeat the BJP. The party has won three states which gave new energy to our workers. We will now form the government at the Centre,” the Rajasthan deputy chief minister said.

Left out of the SP-BSP pre-poll tie-up in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress on Sunday announced it would go it alone on all 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the upcoming general election. Congress general secretary in-charge of UP Ghulam Nabi Azad, however, has said his party would accommodate any secular force capable of taking on the ruling BJP in the Lok Sabha election.

About preparations for the Lok sabha elections, Pilot said the Congress will hold week-long meetings with the representatives of each Lok Sabha seat for finalising the candidates. He said that the party will give ticket to winnable candidates and youths would be on focus.

When asked about Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav, who is in the race for getting ticket for the Lok sabha polls, he said that preliminary talks have been held and the party will give ticket to winnable candidates.

“Vaibhav Gehlot has been active in the party for a long time. He might not have got the opportunity due to some reasons in the past but it will be our endeavour that candidates like him get a chance to come forward. Party focus is on youths and there will be an effort to give a chance to them,” Pilot said.

Pilot, who has completed five years as the president of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, said the journey was challenging but the party won all elections in the state, be it panchayat, assembly and Lok Sabha bypolls and the recently held Assembly elections.

“We worked together and won elections with the support and strength of our lakhs of workers in the state,” he said.

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Ensure justice to two Hindu girls: Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan

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New Delhi | External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday asked Pakistan to ensure immediate release of the two Hindu girls who were allegedly kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam in Sindh province last week.

“Justice demands that both these girls should be restored to their family immediately,” she tweeted.

Reena and Raveena, hailing from village Hafiz Salman near the town of Daharki in Sindh, were allegedly kidnapped and forced to convert from Hinduism to Islam on March 20, before being married to Muslim men.

“Forced conversion of Hindu girls in Pakistan: The age of the girls is not disputed. Raveena is only 13 and Reena is 15 years old,” Swaraj said.

“Even the Prime Minister on Naya Pakistan will not believe that girls of this tender age can voluntarily decide about their conversion to another religion and marriage,” she said.


A Pakistani high court on Tuesday ordered official protection for the two girls due to concern about their safety as authorities widened a probe to ascertain if the teenage sisters were abducted, forcibly converted and married.

On Sunday, Swaraj tweeted that she asked the Indian envoy in Islamabad to send a report on the incident.

Hours later, India issued a note verbale to Pakistan on the issue, sharing its concerns over the incident and called for suitable remedial action to protect and promote safety, security and welfare of people from the minority communities.

Subsequently, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an investigation into the incident.

The Islamabad High Court issued the order on Tuesday after the petition was filed by the girls and their husbands to seek protection from adverse action.

On March 20, the girls’ family lodged a First Information Report against their alleged forced conversion to Islam.

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Implementation of Cong’s minimum income scheme may not be an easy task: Experts

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New Delhi | Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s minimum income scheme, aiming to lift five crore families or 25 crore people out of poverty, reflects a commitment to social security, but financing it may be an uphill task, said several leading economists and social scientists.

Gandhi on Monday, announced that under ‘Nyay’ — an acronym for Nyuntam Aay Yojana, Rs 72,000 will be given to the poorest families every year if his party returns to power while calling it a final assault on poverty.

Nyay would require run up an annual bill of Rs 3.60 lakh crore, or around 1.7 per cent of GDP, which, for 2019-20, is pegged at 210 lakh crore. The Congress is yet to spell out how resources will be generated to implement the scheme amid concerns that its implementation may not be fiscally prudent.

“NYAY reflects a welcome commitment to social security. The soundness of this proposal, however, depends on how it is to be financed and how the poorest 20 per cent are to be identified. Hopefully, the proposal will improve even as the commitment remains,” Development Economist Jean Dreze told PTI.

Under the scheme, any family having a monthly income less than Rs 12,000 would receive Rs 6,000 monthly.

Syeda Hameed, former member of Planning Commission gave a thumbs up to the scheme though she admitted that it could result in a “fiscal burden” on the exchequer.

“It can change the face of India. It will be a fiscal burden, but there is enough ill gotten money with billionaires which can be put to use by a leader who is honest and who cares,” she said.

Abhijit Sen, a retired JNU professor who was also a member of the erstwhile Planning Commission said, “It is going to cost a lot of money. And it is going to be an implementation issue.”

Right to food activist Harsh Mander said he welcomed the scheme because it brought the real issues of the poor at the centre of the political discourse and also recognised the inequality prevailing in the country.

“India’s tax to GDP ratio is among the lowest in the world. We are just not taxing the super rich. Our subsidies to the rich and middle class is at least three times as much as we give to the poor, so we need to reorganise our subsidies to include the poor.

“If we have a fully functioning employment guarantee programme, both for urban and rural areas, and if we have an effective pension programme for poor and person with disabilities, then those who still fall through the cracks would be covered by this program,” he said.

Economist Sen suggested that while implementing the scheme, the obvious thing that the Congress can do is to link it to something such as NREGA.

“You don’t identify; people come to work. So, if you can increase the number of days on which the people are eligible to work, that would serve the purpose as far for those who can work.

“For the old and the disabled you just transfer cash transfer. To transfer cash to the working age population, which is a large population, you will need to know their incomes and all that. That is a very difficult thing to do,” he said. PTI DSP ASG MPB

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Happy that women will benefit under NYAY scheme: Priyanka Gandhi

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New Delhi | Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday said she’s happy that women will receive Rs 72,000 per year directly into their bank accounts under the minimum income guarantee scheme announced by party chief Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi on Monday announced that Rs 72,000 per year will be given as minimum income to poor families, benefiting around 25 crore people, if his party is voted to power in Lok Sabha polls, and asserted it will be the final assault on poverty.

“So happy that under the NYAY scheme, women will be the ones who receive the annual amount of Rs. 72,000 directly into their accounts. ‘Empower a woman, empower a family’,” Priyanka Gandhi wrote on Twitter.

She said 20 per cent or 5 crore families belonging to the poorest category with monthly income less than Rs 12,000 will benefit under the scheme.

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