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IT raids on AAP minister: Kejriwal asks PM to apologise

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New Delhi | Hours after the Income Tax Department raids on premises linked to his minister Kailash Gahlot, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday sought an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to people for “constantly troubling” the AAP government.

The ruling Aam Aadmi Party accused the Modi government of trying to “intimidate” the AAP dispensation by getting its leaders and ministers raided by central agencies.

The party also termed the raid as “political vendetta”.

The Income Tax Department (ITD) Wednesday conducted searches on multiple premises linked to Gahlot, the Delhi Transport Minister, in connection with an alleged tax evasion case, officials said.

“Friendship with Nirav Modi and Mallya and raid on us? Modiji you conducted raids on me Satyendra and Manish what happened to those (raids). Nothing was found.

“So before you go with another raid at least apologise to Delhi people for troubling their elected government,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.

The Najafgarh MLA holds charge of several departments in the Kejriwal government.

They include Law and Administrative Reforms department that are handling the matter of disqualification of 20 AAP legislators for holding posts of parliamentary secretary, and the doorstep delivery of services scheme, respectively.

“It’s clear why Kailash Gahlot is facing Income Tax raids. Modi and (Amit) Shah want illegal and unconstitutional disqualification of 20 MLAs whose legal battle was being led by Gahlot.

“He also oversaw the successful implementation of doorstep delivery scheme despite efforts to derail it by the BJP,” said AAP leader Atishi.

AAP supports investigation of allegations, but why to single out only party’s leaders and ministers, she questioned.

“No matter which agency Modi and Shah send after us, we will not be intimidated and continue to serve people in Delhi,” she said in a press briefing.

Another AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj said the central agencies including the CBI, the ED and the ITD should disclose if it found anything related to “corruption” during their raids on AAP leaders and ministers.

“Many such raids happened in the past but nothing substantial came out and nor any charge sheet was filed,” he said.

The searches were conducted as part of a tax evasion probe against two construction firms linked to the minister and others, the officials said.

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Winter Session: PM Modi urges political parties to take up issues of public interest

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New Delhi | Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged all parties to utilize the Winter Session of Parliament for public interest rather than political interests. Speaking outside Parliament before the start of the session, the prime minister asked leaders of various political parties to participate in debates, discuss issues of public interest and work towards resolving them.

Modi hoped that the session would be constructive and members would participate in debates on key issues concerning the public, even if sharper. He hoped the winter session would function more than its stipulated time.

“I am confident that political parties will keep public interest in mind and make use of this session to utilize it for furthering public interests and not parties interests,” he told reporters.

Modi said this Winter Session of Parliament is important and everyone should participate in the discussion.

“There should be a debate, discussion, and dialogue,” he said.

The Winter Session of Parliament starts Tuesday and will end on January 8.

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Arch rivals AAP, Congress attend joint opposition meet to take on BJP

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Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi | Delhi’s ruling AAP joined bitter rival Congress and other opposition parties for a joint meeting to forge a united anti-BJP front for 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attended the meeting with his party MP Sanjay Singh.

The meeting assumes significance because the Congress has snubbed the AAP in the past. The grand old party has also resisted moves by others, like the TMC, to bring the AAP under the umbrella of a joint opposition. A senior leader who attended the meeting claimed that the Congress dropped a “crucial hint” that it will remain “flexible” to pave way for opposition unity before the parliamentary elections next year.

“This could be a sign of a thaw in AAP and Congress relations as the two sides are learned to be angling for some sort of alliance in Delhi, although they have publicly denied it,” he said. Any agreement over seat sharing between the AAP and the Congress in Delhi will pose a tough challenge to the BJP which currently holds all the seven Lok Sabha seats in the national capital.

Kejriwal also met Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President M K Stalin, who was accompanied by party leaders Kanimozhi and A Raja. In February this year, at the launch of Kamal Haasan’s political party, Kejriwal had appealed to the people to vote for the actor-politician and had termed the DMK and the AIADMK as corrupt parties. Stalin had asked Kejriwal to drop his “resistance” against the Congress and come together to strengthen opposition unity to dislodge the BJP-led government at the Centre, sources said.

The meeting was also attended by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar. Earlier, the NCP too was averse to having the AAP on board.

An anti-graft movement was led by social activist Anna Hazare against the previous Congress-led UPA government at the Centre and in Delhi. Kejriwal was a leading figure of the movement.

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UDF disrupts Kerala Assembly for 6th day, proceedings adjourned in 32 minutes

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Thiruvananthapuram | Sloganeering and a banner protest by the opposition Congress-led UDF legislators over the Sabarimala issue marred proceedings of the Kerala Assembly for the sixth consecutive day Monday.

As opposition members, armed with placards and banner, trooped to the well of the House and continued sloganeering, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan scrapped the question hour and zero hour and rushed through the listed business of the day before adjourning the House in 32 minutes.

Public Works Minister G Sudhakaran started replying to questions but the UDF MLAs stood in front of the speaker’s podium demanding lifting of prohibitory orders in Sabarimala, which was further extended by the government till December 12. The Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government’s alleged lukewarm response towards the ‘satyagraha’, staged by three UDF MLAs at the portals of the House since last week demanding removal of curbs at the hill shrine, also irked opposition members.

They raised slogans expressing solidarity with fellow lawmakers-V S Sivakumar (Congress), Parakkal Abdullah (Indian Union Muslim League) and N Jayaraj (Kerala Congress-Mani)- who had launched the indefinite ‘satyagraha’ on December 3. Some of the opposition members even tried to attract the Speaker’s attention by blocking his view by the banner.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala later told reporters that the CPI(M)-led LDF government was extending prohibitory orders “intentionally” as UDF MLAs were staging protest. He, however, said the opposition would go ahead with the protest and would not buckle under pressure of the Left government and the chief minister. As soon as the House proceedings began, the lone BJP MLA O Rajagopal and independent Legislator, P C George staged a walkout.

They said the walkout was a mark of protest against the LDF government’s decision to continue prohibitory orders in Sabarimala and to express solidarity with the BJP leader A N Radhakrishnan, who has been on a fast for the last eight days in front of the Secretariat here demanding lifting of curbs at the hill shrine. The hill shrine had been witnessing protests by devotees and right wing groups against the government’s decision to implement the September 28 Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups to offer prayers at the temple.

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