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TMC lacks honest intentions as anti-BJP force: West Bengal Congress chief

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West Bengal Congress

Kolkata | West Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra has said that it would be better for his party to go it alone in the state in the next Lok Sabha election as the ruling TMC “lacks honest intentions” as an anti-BJP force.

Majority of the state Congress leaders are in favour of going solo in the polls even if it meant failure of the party to win even a single seat in Bengal, he said when asked about a possible alignment with the TMC or the Left for the general election.

Mitra, a veteran Congressman who had moved to the TMC, returned to his parent party and took over the presidentship of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) after a gap of two decades. The Congress should prepare itself to fight alone against the BJP as well as the TMC in the state, he asserted.

“If you look at the past events, you will see that the TMC lacks honest intentions as an anti-BJP force. At the national level, whenever Congress called for any massive anti-BJP campaign, the TMC either evaded it or has sent one MP to register its attendance,” Mitra told PTI in an interview.

The TMC raised a hue and cry over demonetisation, but “mellowed down” after its two MPs were arrested by CBI in the chit fund scam, he alleged. The ruling party has also “maintained silence” on the Rafale jet deal, too, Mitra noted.

“We have told our party president Rahul Gandhi that we are in favour of fighting alone. He has said that we should work to improve our strength. But the final decision will be taken by the AICC and we will accept it,” the state Congress president clarified. Talking about the possibility of an alliance with the Left Front, he said it wouldn’t be a “wise option”.

“The CPI(M) had unilaterally walked out of the alliance after the 2016 Assembly election. Also, the Left allies are not in favour of an adjustment with the Congress.”  Currently, the Congress has four Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal. The party, he said, has suffered “badly” due to alliances with the TMC in 2001, 2009 and 2011, and with the CPI(M) in 2016.

“We could then neither offer seats to our leaders nor could we put up our symbols in certain constituencies. That has badly damaged our organisation,” he claimed. Mitra also blamed the TMC’s policy of “poaching” elected representatives of the Congress for decrease in the party’s strength in Bengal and the growth of “communal forces”.

Noting there was a Congress government in Bengal till 1977, he said “Did you ever see Congress chief minister’s fanning fundamentalism or communalism in Bengal like the present (TMC) government is doing? The TMC is solely responsible for growth of divisive forces”. Had TMC not taken the path of minority appeasement, Bengal would never have witnessed the rise of “majority communalism”, Mitra said.

To questions about targets set by the TMC and the BJP for the election, Mitra said his party will not follow suit. “I am not an astrologer,” he quipped. The TMC has set a target of winning all 42 Lok Sabha sets in Bengal, and the saffron party is eyeing 22 seats.

On strengthening Congress organisation in Bengal, Mitra said he was trying to bring back MLAs and the elected representatives who switched over to the TMC. “Right now, I am trying to strengthen the booth- and block-level organization. Once that is done, we can easily expand our base in the state,” he said. He, however, acknowledged that a “daunting task” awaits him.

“We (PCC) are presently assessing the ground situation – there are several booths and blocks where we don’t have any presence. We are trying to fix these issues by making personal connections with our party workers and old timers,” Mitra added.

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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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Agusta Westland case: CBI Special Court extends Christian Michel’s custody

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Christian Michel

New Delhi | The CBI special court on Monday extended Agusta Westland Middleman Christian Michel’s custody for an additional 5 days.

The Central Beaureu of Investigation (CBI) had demanded a custody of further 9 days claiming that Michel was uncooperative and evasive during the custody. The agency further claimed that Michel didn’t co-operate with the Italian investigation in the case.

Opposing the custody Michel’s lawyer Aljo Joseph argued that Police custody is not required anymore as there is no incriminating evidence against Michel. CBI further informed the court that the British Council has approached it for consular access to Michel.

Earlier the CBI special court on December 5 sent Christian Michel to a 5 days CBI custody in a case related to the 3,600 crore AugustaWestland case. Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in politically-sensitive Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, was brought to India on late December 4 night following his extradition by the UAE. Earlier, the UAE Ambassador Ahmed Albana had said that the decision of the extradition of Christian Michel- a British citizen should be left on the judicial system of the United Arab Emirates.

Michel has been accused of influencing politicians, officials and journalists using monetary incentives to procure 12 VVIP helicopters, to be used for the Indian Prime Minister, the President and other important personalities. The deal signed in 2007, was scrapped in 2013 following the bribery allegations.

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Develop Gorakhpur as city of knowledge: President Ram Nath Kovind

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Gorakhpur (UP) | President Ram Nath Kovind said Monday that Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh should be developed as a city of knowledge in the next 15 years as the state has the largest human resource in the country.

Addressing the founder’s week celebration of Maharana Pratap Shiksha Parishad, Kovind said Gorakhpur, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath‘s political home turf, should be developed as a knowledge city by 2032 — the centenary year of the Parishad, which works in the field of education and capacity building. He said Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of youths in the country and the new policies of the state government should help them become “job creators”.

The president said the objective of education is to develop a good human being, but stressed that quality of education is as important for a country’s development. Recalling the great men from the region — such as Paramhans of the Nath sect, Sufi saint Roshan Ali Shah, Baba Raghav Das, Munshi Premchand, Ram Prasad Bismil and Firaq Gorakhpoori, the president asked students to follow the path of Maharana Pratap, a Rajput warrior from the Mewar region of Rajasthan.

He also praised the contribution of saints from the Nath sect in the field of education and contribution towards society and during the freedom struggle. He said he has visited the Gorakhnath temple several times when Mahant Avaidyanath, the mentor of Adityanath, was its head.

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