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Rahul-Priyanka combine game changer for Congress in Lok Sabha polls; country needs young team: Sam Pitroda

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New Delhi | Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will complement Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s efforts in winning over young voters and the brother-sister combine will be a game changer for the party in the Lok Sabha polls as the country needs a young team, technocrat-turned-politician Sam Pitroda said on Sunday.

He said the Rahul-Priyanka duo will make a “great team” along with many other young leaders active in the party, including Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora, as people who can take the country forward, rather than keeping it hung up on history and religion.

Pitroda, the Indian Overseas Congress chief and a long-time friend of the Gandhi family, also said Rahul Gandhi has learnt a lot from the 2014 elections and is much more “mature, stronger, wiser”, and ready to take on the job of Prime Minister.

In an interview with PTI from Chicago, he said India needs a young person with a new inclusive vision of the future, focus on employment, and new opportunities for all, to lead. “India today needs somebody who believes in teamwork, collaboration and cooperation as opposed to a centralised power centre. India today really needs someone who believes in truth rather than lies, who believes in trust and not mistrust, who believes in inclusion and not exclusion. Rahul is at the right age to lead India,” Pitroda said.

Asked about Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into active politics as AICC general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East, he said she will be a “great asset and a good politician”. “She will complement her brother’s efforts. She will join him in getting young people excited, especially women. They are both young, they represent a large young team in the party, they are modern, they are tech-savvy with a healthy respect for history and new vision for the future. “I am confident that they will attract more young people in the mainstream and that is what a young India needs,” Pitroda said.

Pitroda, who divides his time between the US and India, is seen as a key adviser of the Gandhis. Asked if the Rahul-Priyanka team will be a game changer for the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, expected in April-May, he said: “I think it will be. People will see the benefit of a younger team with a modern outlook. The country needs to look forward rather than backwards, and not get hung up on history and religion.”

“But it is not just the Rahul-Priyanka combine. The party has many other young people like Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, to name just a few,” he said. Pitroda said he is hopeful that Priyanka Gandhi’s coming into active politics will have a big impact on the polls.

Priyanka Gandhi (47) and Scindia (48) took charge as AICC general secretary UP east and UP west respectively last week. Pilot, 41, was made deputy CM of Rajasthan in December 2018 after the Congress wrested power from BJP. He as well as Deora (42) and Scindia had served as Union ministers in the last UPA government at the Centre.

Rahul Gandhi (48) took charge as Congress chief in December 2017. However, the party has had several presidents who took charge at a younger age, including his father Rajiv Gandhi, grandmother Indira Gandhi, and maternal great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, as also Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

On the BJP’s charge that the Congress was promoting dynastic politics, Pitroda said dynasty is in every business, but ultimately the performance matters. If you don’t perform dynasty cannot help, he said.

Rahul Gandhi’s popularity has increased exponentially after becoming Congress president because once he took over, he has had a free hand, Pitroda said. “He could do things that he wanted to do. Earlier, he was constrained in some ways. After becoming Congress president, he had to leave his mark, bring in a young team, respect the old guards, and realise that going forward, he would need new thinking and new blood, and that is what he is trying to do,” said Pitroda, who headed the Knowledge Commission during the tenure of Manmohan Singh.

He said Gandhi has the qualities to make a good PM because his heart is in the right place and he is keen on working for India and its people. “He (Gandhi) is not driven by personal and vested interests. He is driven by the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. He is driven by opportunities for the young. He is driven by the welfare of farmers. He is driven by the idea of inclusion…he believes in the idea of India that our founding fathers had,” Pitroda said.

Asked whether Rahul Gandhi’s NRI events in foreign countries were similar to the ones PM Narendra Modi has had, he said it was not so and the idea behind the trips was not just to have big events with NRIs, but to meet local political and business leaders, interact with students, with members of the Indian Overseas Congress, and then have a big event to be able to meet them. “He (Gandhi) interacts with students wherever he goes. So it’s a different format.”

Pitroda, who has worked closely with both Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, said they cannot be compared as there is big difference between the India 35 years back and the India now, but added they were open to new ideas.

On the EVM issue, he said no one has used electronic voting technology the way India has. “It deserves a lot more attention than we are willing to give. You can’t just brush it aside.”

Pitroda led the telecom revolution under Rajiv Gandhi when he set up the C-DOT. He worked on the Knowledge Commission and also founded National Innovation Council during the UPA rule.

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Pulwama attack: Shiv Sena MLC wants boycott of tourism in Jammu and Kashmir

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Mumbai | Against the backdrop of the Pulwama terrorist attack that claimed lives of 40 CRPF personnel, a Shiv Sena MLC wants people from other parts of India to boycott tourism in Jammu and Kashmir for two years.

Sena legislator and spokesperson Manisha Kayande said boycotting tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, “where youth, women and children pelt stones on security forces”, would hurt the economic resources of the northern state. “The need of the hour is to counter the mentality of keeping the state on tenterhooks by targeting Indian jawans,” she said in a statement issued on Saturday.

Noting that Jammu and Kashmir is a beautiful state that attracts visitors from across the globe, Kayande said, “Tourism benefits the local people. If these resources earned are used against the country and the security forces, Indians should boycott tourism in the state for next two years.”

“Whenever there is an encounter between militants and security agencies, locals pelt stones on jawans to help militants get away,” she claimed. The Sena leader also demanded boycott of all Chinese goods, saying that country was supportive of Pakistan, which has been fomenting trouble in India.

China on Friday condemned the Pulwama terror attack carried out by a Jaish suicide bomber but declined to back India’s appeal to list the Pakistan-based terror group’s chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN.

At least 40 CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

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Rajinikanth and his party won’t contest 2019 Lok Sabha polls

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Chennai | Actor turned politician Rajinikanth has announced that he along with his party Rajni Makkal Mandram won’t be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

In an issued Press release Rajinikanth stated that his party Rajni Makkal Mandram (RMM) will not support any party and added that its focus will on next assembly elections. The Tamil actor also appealed to his supporters to that he wants them to vote for a party which will solve Tamil Nadu’s water issues.

Rajinikanth further mentioned that his photo or party symbol should strictly not be used for any propaganda. On 31 December 2017 Rajinikanth had announced his entry into politics with the intention to contest in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections in all 234 constituencies.

Out of the 2014 Lok Sabha election held on the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK won 37 seats while PMK and BJP managed to win 1 seat each. DMK and Congress failed to win even a single seat in Tamil Nadu.

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Lok Sabha polls: Mumbai Congress promises jobs, unemployment allowance

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Mumbai | The Mumbai Congress is set to roll out a campaign aimed at providing employment to youth in the megacity and a monthly allowance to unemployed people if the party is voted to power in the Lok Sabha polls.

The campaign, titled ‘Chalo Ward Abhiyaan’, taken up in view of the “rising unemployment in the country”, will commence from Monday, Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam said in a statement. The city Congress unit has already started working on the plan and printed around six lakh forms, he said.

The Youth Congress workers will be visiting every house in all the Assembly segments in Mumbai to ensure that every youngster fills these forms, Nirupam said. “Those who fill the forms will be given allowance cards. If we are voted to power, the allowance card holders will be given preference in employment, or else they will provided unemployment allowance,” he said.

Nirupam said people between 18 and 40 years of age would be eligible for the unemployment allowance. The new Congress-led governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have already announced unemployment allowances of Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,000 per month respectively, he noted.

Nirupam also said that unlike the ruling BJP, the Congress will “actually walk the talk”, if it is voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections.

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