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Congress’ charge against Arun Jaitley very motivated: Nirmala Sitharaman

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Mallya

New Delhi | BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman Thursday termed as “motivated” the Congress’s demand of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s resignation over his meeting with Vijay Mallya, saying it is a strategy to deflect attention from the UPA government’s “cronyism and favouritism”.

The defence minister told PTI that a brief conversation which Mallya had with Jaitley in a corridor of Parliament is being “played up” and asserted that responses to the issue have “reinforced” the fact it was not a conversation of any merit.

Jaitley, she noted, had already explained as to how Mallya misused his privilege as a member of Parliament to speak to him.

To a question about Congress MP P L Punia’s claim that he had seen Jaitley sitting with Mallya in Parliament’s Central Hall and there would be CCTV footage to corroborate it, Sitharaman shot back, asking if the footage would also have an audio recording.

“It already seems a very motivated allegation,” she said of the Congress’ charge against Jaitley.

Hitting out at the Congress, she said letters were written to the Reserve Bank of India and State Bank of India during the UPA’s rule to help Mallya.

“They are in tour face. How favouritism naming that one company has been made… Whose period made it sick? Whose period had favouritism and cronyism entering in to suggest to the central bank and written instructions given to banks to lend to this defaulter,” she asked.

Look at the strategy with which Congress would want to deflect it, she asked wryly if that “minutes’ conversation” helped him to go away or all the lending happened (during the UPA rule) because of it.

Multiple loans were given to bogus accounts which did not have creditworthiness, she said.

The BJP leader said the Modi government had brought in a law through which defaulters’ property can be confiscated.

The UPA government passed some laws but never made rules, she said.

Mallya had Wednesday claimed in London that he had met the finance minister before leaving for the UK, drawing a rebuttal from Jaitley who said he never gave him any appointment but the businessman used his privilege as an MP to accost him in Parliament.

Immediately after Jaitley’s sharp rebuttal Wednesday, Mallya appeared to tone down the seriousness of his comments, saying it was “not fair” to create a controversy over this issue as it was not a “formal meeting” and he only “happened to meet” the finance minister.

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India focusing on promoting domestic defence production: Nirmala Sitharaman

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Chennai | Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said the Government was focusing on promoting domestic defence production to build capacities for catering to the need of the armed forces.

In this direction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came up with the idea of two defence corridors–one each in Tamil Nadu and the other in Uttar Pradesh, she said.

Sitharaman said at present there are several manufacturers who send their components to various big vectors and platforms manufactured outside

“Why is it that we won’t be able to produce those very vectors and platforms in India? And that is one of the reasons– that by announcing the corridor, we have invited quite a lot of manufacturers from abroad to come, choose the location where they want to establish their unit and start producing defence equipment,” she added.

Sitharaman, who was addressing the Tamil Nadu government’s second Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) here, recalled that holding of the Defence Expo last year in Tamil Nadu marked the first time the event was held in the state.

Following that, a lot of industries evinced interest in undertaking defence related manufacturing in the state, she added.

She also assured the Centre’s full cooperation to realise Tamil Nadu’s aspirations for greater industrialisation.

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Priyanka very capable, happy that she will help me: Rahul Gandhi

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Rahul Gandhi

Amethi (Uttar Pradesh) | Welcoming his sister’s entry into active politics, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said he was “very happy” that Priyanka will assist him in the Lok Sabha polls.

“I am very happy that my sister Priyanka will assist me in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha polls, she is very capable,” Rahul said.

He also said that Jyotiraditya Scindia is a dynamic youth leader.

His comments came hours after Priyanka became AICC general secretary and was made in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, and Scindia was given the charge of western Uttar Pradesh.

To a question, Rahul said, “We won’t play on the backfoot, we will play on the frontfoot, be it Gujarat or Uttar Pradesh.”

On being kept out of the SP-BSP alliance, he said, “SP, BSP have formed alliance in Uttar Pradesh to defeat the BJP. I have no animosity against them. I have to take forward Congress ideology.”

His remarks assume significance in the light of the Congress party’s decision to go it alone in the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Rahul, however, said that he was ready to “cooperate” with these parties to defeat the BJP.

The Congress president arrived here in the morning on a two-day tour of his parliamentary constituency.

He would meet and discuss issues with people in his home constituency.

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Jayalalithaa cannot be termed a convict in assets case: Madras High Court

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J Jayalalithaa

Chennai | The Madras High Court on Wednesday held that former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa cannot be termed a convict in a disproportionate assets case and dismissed a petition challenging the construction of a memorial to her on the ground that she was one.

A division bench of justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam made the observation and dismissed the petition by M L Ravi, president of Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi, seeking a direction to restrain the Tamil Nadu government from spending money from the public exchequer for construction of the memorial.

The petitioner also said that steps should be taken to recover money if it was spent by the government from her property citing that she was convicted in the disproportionate wealth case.

The bench observed that before the orders could be passed by the Supreme Court on the appeals filed against the Karnataka High Court order, Jayalalithaa breathed her last and therefore, the appeal against her acquittal came to be dismissed as abated.

“It is to be remembered at this juncture that the said person had already had the benefit of acquittal operating in her favour and in the light of the judgement of HC the stigma of conviction against her got erased, which has not been set aside by the apex court on merits for the reason that before the orders could be pronounced, she died.

“Therefore, it cannot be said that Jayalalithaa was a convicted person and as such, there is stigma of conviction attached to her,” the judges said.

Suggesting that the money could be spent on construction of hospitals, educational institutions, for developmental projects and provision of basic facilities to citizens, the court said it was for the state government to take a call and it cannot issue any positive direction to do so.

It declined to accept the main contention of the petitioner that the order of acquittal passed by the Karnataka High Court had been reversed by the Supreme Court in criminal appeals, and Jayalalithaa who was the first respondent in the said appeals became a convict and as such, a memorial in honour of a convicted person cannot be built.

Referring to the money spent from public exchequer for construction of the memorial, the bench said, “The petitioner did not make a challenge to the sanction of funds and the clearances accorded for construction of the said memorial and even otherwise; this Court is of the considered view that the grounds urged by the petitioner lack merit for the above cited reasons.”

The apex court had in 2017 abated the charges against Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate wealth case while sentencing her close aide V K Sasikala and two others to imprisonment.

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