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Grand alliance of opposition a sentiment of people: Rahul Gandhi

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Mumbai | A “mahagathbandhan” (grand alliance) of the opposition to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and the RSS is the sentiment of the people and not just political parties, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said today.

Lashing out at Modi and the ruling party, Gandhi alleged that the prime minister and the BJP were attacking the Constitution and other institutions of the nation.

“It is the sentiment of the people and not just political parties which are opposed to the BJP, to have a ‘mahagathbandhan’ that can take on the BJP, the RSS and Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Gandhi told reporters here.

However, he remained silent when asked who would lead the grand alliance of the opposition parties.

“Prime Minister Modi and the BJP are attacking the Constitution and institutions of the nation,” he alleged, saying the question faced by the people was how to stop this.

The Congress is trying to join together these voices and the work is going on, Gandhi said.

The 47-year-old Congress leader is on a two-day visit to Maharashtra since yesterday.

He said the opposition has been asking Modi to bring prices of petrol and diesel under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to provide relief to the common man, but “he is not interested.”

“There was an attack on Mumbai (through demonetisation). There are small industries, traders here…

the leather industry and the cloth industry are all here. They were attacked by the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ (implying the GST by drawing a reference to the celluloid bandit Gabbar Singh),” Gandhi said.

“The whole country is sad, small businessmen are sad because of demonetisation and we are fighting for them,” he said.

Gandhi said during the UPA government’s rule, the crude price was USD 130 a barrel that has now come down to USD 70 a barrel.

“However, the benefit has not been passed on to the common man. Where does this money go? In the pockets of a handful of 15 to 20 rich people,” he alleged.

Gandhi had yesterday accused the Modi government of creating hatred and division in the society and betraying farmers as well as youth in the country.

Addressing a convention of Mumbai booth-level Congress workers here last evening, he alleged that Modi was a “chowkidar” only for a handful of industrialists and not the common man.

He had also accused Modi of “humiliating” BJP veterans Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani and Jaswant Singh and their families, and alleged that it was his “way of protecting Indian culture”.

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Probe cyber expert’s EVM claims, Munde’s death, says Goa Congress

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Panaji | Goa Congress on Tuesday demanded an investigation into the death of former Union minister and senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde after a cyber expert alleged that it was because the former was “aware” of Electronic Voting Machine manipulation.

On Monday, a cyber expert, identified as Syed Shuja, addressing a press conference in London via Skype, had alleged that EVMs were hacked during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and claimed Munde was “killed” because he was aware of the EVM hacking.

Munde died in a road accident in New Delhi weeks after the BJP won the 2014 elections.

Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar, addressing a press conference here Tuesday, said, “The revelation indicates how elections can be manipulated.

The names of many BJP leaders and ministers are being discussed in the plot. We need to know who is the actual brain behind all this.”

“This is a setback to the democratic set up of the country,” he added.

The Election Commission of India has denied the cyber expert’s claim and the latter himself gave no proof of his allegations.

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BSF hands over 31 stranded Rohingyas to Tripura Police

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Agartala/New Delhi | The BSF on Tuesday handed over the 31 Rohingya Muslims, who were stranded on the India-Bangladesh border since January 18, to the Tripura police, after the paramilitary force and its counterpart, the BGB, failed to reach a decision during talks on the issue, officials said.

The Rohingyas were stuck in no-man’s land, beyond the barbed wire fence along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Tripura since last Friday. The situation led to a blame game between the Border Security Force (BSF) and its counterpart — Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) — with the two sides accusing each other of pushing them into their territories.

Deputy Inspector General of the BSF Brijesh Kumar said, “The Rohingyas were behind the barbed wire fence since January 18. We took up the matter with the BGB and requested them to take them back to Bangladesh. They denied. Several rounds of talks with the BGB had failed. So, we handed them over to police.”

A battalion commander-level meeting was held at the Zero Line on Sunday, the officials said.

Officials in New Delhi said the BSF informed the Home Ministry about the final result of the talks and gave the situation report.

After receiving the ministry’s nod, the BSF signed the papers and handed over the 31 Rohingyas to the staff of the Amtoli police station in West Tripura district police at 11 am, ending the standoff with their Bangladeshi counterparts.

Pranab Sengupta, officer-in-charge of the Amtali police station, said the Rohingyas were sent to the Tripura Medical College for a check-up and will be produced before a local court later.

“During medical check-up, they were found to be alright,” Sengupta told PTI.

He said the BSF provided them food, water and other essentials on humanitarian grounds.

The 31 Rohingyas include six men, nine women and 16 children. They were detained at Rayermura, about 15 km from Agartala, in West Tripura district, according to the officials.

While the BGB claimed they had come from India, the BSF said they had not as there was no tell-tale sign of breach of the barbed wire fence on the Indian side.

In 2017, 12 Rohingyas were apprehended in Tripura and 62 more were detained in different parts of the state the next year.

In October 2017, the Home Ministry had urged all states to take immediate steps to identify and monitor Rohingya refugees.

It had said that the government viewed infiltration of Rohingyas from Rakhaine state of Myanmar into the Indian territory as a burden on the country’s limited resources and it aggravated security challenges.

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Goa government may recommend dissolution of Assembly, fears Congress

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Panaji | The Congress in Goa on Tuesday expressed fear that the BJP-led state government might recommend dissolution of the Legislative Assembly after the passage of the vote-on-account during the upcoming session scheduled to be held next week.

Congress Legislative Party (CLP) members, who met at Porvorim near, expressed concerns over the shortness of the assembly session, saying there would be no time to discuss important issues.

The three-day-long Assembly session will begin on January 29 with the address of Governor Mridula Sinha.

“The government is holding only vote-on-account. We are worried…this might indicate that they want to dissolve the assembly,” Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar told reporters in the presence of Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief Girish Chodankar.

He said the state government had opted for “immature dissolution” of the Assembly in the past and called for fresh polls.

Kavlekar said the three-day-long session was not enough to discuss various issues plaguing the state.

He said during the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting held on Monday, he had raised the issue of this “curtailed” session.

According to the Congress leader, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had assured that this session would be a lengthier one.

“We have asked the CM to specify the dates for the next session. We can’t just go by his words,” he said.

“The current session is of three days but would be curtailed to two days, as there will be no business taken up after the Governor’s speech on the first day. There will be no time for discussion. I had also pointed out that last year the session was held only for 16 days,” he said.

“I have demanded that the assembly sessions should be lengthier. The CM told us that he will call for next session immediately. We will be writing to the CM, asking him for the dates of next Assembly,” Kavlekar stated.

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