The Statesman – Adityanath as Chief Minister a step towards Hindu Rashtra: CPI-M

New Delhi, 23 March 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS have taken “the most audacious step” to usher in a Hindu Rashtra by making Yogi Adityanath as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, the CPI-M has said.

“They have put in place, as Chief Minister of the biggest state of India, a person who has openly challenged the very precepts of the Constitution,” said an editorial in the CPI-M journal “People’s Democracy”.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist said his selection “is a clear signal that the BJP-RSS combine wishes to pursue the line of Hindu consolidation as the basis of its future political strategy”.

The editorial said that since becoming a member of the Lok Sabha from Gorakhpur in 1998, Adityanath became notorious for his record of Muslim bashing and direct incitement of communal violence.

It said his Hindu Yuva Vahini “was nothing but an armed vigilante group” and “in his political campaign and in his election speeches henceforth, he has had only one aim – Muslim bashing”.

“The specialty of the Yuva Vahini under Adityanath’s leadership was to intervene and convert any minor dispute or common place quarrel into a communal riot.

“To make such a person the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh can only be a deliberately thought out decision.”

The Statesman – Maneka Gandhi hails passage of Maternity Bill in Parliament

New Delhi, 9 March 2017. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi on Thursday hailed the passage of Maternity Bill, which allows paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, in Parliament, calling it a “historic” decision.

The Lok Sabha passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 today. The Bill had already been passed by the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session. It entitles the women working in the organised sector to paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks.

“I am very, very happy that we have made history today.

This will help thousands of women and produce much healthier children. We have been working on it for a long time,” said Maneka.

She also wrote a message on addressing the women who had petitioned her on the issue.

“This is a historic decision taken by our government. I had requested Honourable Minister for Labour to make these changes in relevant laws and I am grateful to him for taking up my request.

“While congratulating all working women who are planning to have a child, I assure you that we will continue to work for women in the country,” the Minister said.

Maneka also acknowledged that ensuring organisations implement the Bill by providing mothers the mandatory 26 week leave and making provisions for a creche will be an uphill task.

The Minister refrained from commenting on the issue of paternity leave.

She had earlier courted controversy when she remarked that paternity leave will just be a holiday for men.

The Bill also provides for maternity leave of 12 weeks to mothers adopting a child below the age of three months as well as to commissioning mothers.

It also makes it mandatory for every establishment with more than 50 employees to provide creche facilities within a prescribed distance.

The Statesman – Manjeev Singh Puri new Indian envoy to Nepal

Kathmandu, 2 March 2017. India has proposed the name of Manjeev Singh Puri as its next ambassador to Nepal, with the term of senior Indian diplomat Ranjit Rae coming to an end, a media report said.

Puri is the incumbent Indian Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg.

An official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kathmandu confirmed that Puri’s name was sent to MoFA on Tuesday and the process for sending the agreement for his appointment would begin very soon, The Himalayan Times reported.

Outgoing Indian Ambassador Rae, whose term ended on Tuesday, had informed Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ of New Delhi’s decision during his farewell call on Wednesday, the daily said quoting sources.

Chargé d’affaires at the Kathmandu-based Indian Embassy, Vinay Kumar, refused to comment on the issue, the daily said.

I met the Ambassador at an event in Leuven University and had a pleasant conversation with him, but a Modi appointee can of course not be easily trusted

Read his biography at the link below

The Statesman – Modi’s hate-mongering won’t work in UP: Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, 23 February 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is spreading hatred in Uttar Pradesh but the voters of the state will elect the Congress-Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday.

“Modi ji has lost the elections (UP), he can spread hatred as much as he wants but UP won’t pay heed. Congress and SP will form the government here,” Rahul Gandhi said while the addressing the voters of his Lok Sabha constituency of Amethi.

The Gandhi scion went on to quote a few lines of a famous Hindi film song: “I have a message for those spreading hatred, you will neither become a Hindu nor a Muslim, you are a human being’s child and you will become a human being”.

Polling is on for 53 assembly constituencies spread over 12 districts, including the backward Bundelkhand region in the fourth phase of polling in UP.

Assembly segments in Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency are among the seats where the electoral exercise is taking place. However, in a first since 1998, Gandhi gave campaigning a miss in her constituency.

Elections for UP legislative assembly are being held in seven phases, with three more on February 27, March 4 and 8 to follow after today’s polling. Election results will be out on March 11.

The Statesman – Palaniswami takes oath as Tamil Nadu CM

New Delhi, 16 February 2017. Loyalist of jailed AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala, E Palaniswami was on Thursday sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, bringing an end to weeks of political turmoil.

The AIADMK Legislature Party Leader, Palaniswami will retain most of the ministers from outgoing Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s cabinet in his 31-member ministry.

Among others, Palaniswami will hold portfolios of Home and Finance, besides Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports, which he had managed as a minister in the Jayalalithaa and Panneerselvam cabinets, sources said.

Governor C Vidyasagar Rao had invited Palaniswami, 64, earlier elected by AIADMK MLAs backing Sasikala as their legislature party leader, to form a ministry “at the earliest” and win a trust vote within 15 days.

The move came a day after Palaniswami met the Governor and submitted a list of legislators backing him.

The Governor’s invitation set off celebrations in the Sasikala camp even as outgoing acting Chief Minister O Panneerselvam pledged to continue his fight against “one family” taking over the AIADMK.

Panneerselvam said people were angry that a new government was being formed with the support of legislators who, he said, were held for days in captivity at a resort near here.

The Statesman – Punjab Polls: High Court directs EC to ensure safety of EVMs

Shiv Rawal

Chandigarh, 9 February 2017. Taking up a petition moved by the Punjab unit of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Punjab and Haryana High Court here on Thursday directed the Election Commission (EC) to take all possible steps to ensure complete safety and security of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in February 4 polls for the state Assembly.

While disposing of the petition, the Division Bench headed by Justice Mahesh Grover directed that said that security of the EVMs is necessary to instill the confidence of the public and to enhance the credibility of election process so inherent to democracy.

The AAP had submitted that the petition has been necessitated on account of the “lackadaisical and casual approach” of the EC towards the EVMs used in the Punjab Assembly elections and in ensuring apposite protection and proper security arrangements for the safe custody of the EVMs.

It was submitted that the Punjab has been struck with peculiar circumstance in this election in as much as the polling was held on February 4 and he EVMS were transferred in the strong room the same day, however the counting will be held after more than a month on March 11.

It was further alleged in the petition that the EC and the chief electoral officer of Punjab have grossly failed in their duty to security the EVMs.

Through the petition, the AAP Punjab unit has sought that no unauthorized person (including the staff) be allowed in the middle perimeter of the Strong Rooms and in the outer perimeter, only persons with valid identity cards and authorization be allowed to enter.

Further it was sought that to make suitable arrangements for CCTV monitored any entry and exit from the outer perimeter inwards, which should be visible to candidates or their agents.

Suitable arrangements were also requested to enable candidates or their authorized representatives to be stationed within visible distance and straight vision from the seal of the inner perimeter.

The Statesman – Rahul shares ‘dal-sabzi’ meal with Punjab villagers

Chandigarh, 2 February 2017. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday shared a meal of ‘dal-subzi’ with villagers and interacted with them in Sangrur district, on the last day of campaigning for the Punjab Assembly polls.

Dressed in blue denims, white kurta and a half jacket, Gandhi sat on a wooden cot, flanked by the village headman and council members, and interacted with the residents of Baliyan village, 145 km from here.

He later shared a traditional meal with commoners and party leaders at the ‘Sanjha Chulha’ (common kitchen) put up by the villagers.

The Congress Vice President sat on the floor and was served the lentils and vegetables from steel buckets along with rotis (flat bread).

A number of village elders, women, youth, including girls, sat down to share the meal with Gandhi.

As the villagers highlighted the problems they were facing, Gandhi also took the opportunity to urge them to vote for the party to form the next government in the state saying the Congress cared for their needs and problems.

“Do not fall into the trap of parties which are allied with radical elements,” he said.

Campaigning in Punjab ends at 5 pm on Thursday. Polls for the 117 Assembly seats are scheduled for Saturday.

The main contest is among the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The Statesman – ‘BJP doesn’t understand the meaning of womanhood’

New Delhi, 26 January 2017. Hitting out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over its MP Vinay Katiyar’s alleged sexist remarks against Congress star campaigner Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Congress on Thursday said “BJP doesn’t understand the meaning of womanhood in India”.

“Being respectful of women should have been embodied in the DNA of people who talk about Indian culture and ethos. India considers womanhood in the light of Ardhanareshwar, combination of Shiva and Durga.

“If this concept is not embodied in the so-called cultural bodies and organisations, who do not respect women, then there is a serious problem,” said Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan.

“You need to examine them very closely because they are doing all these for the sake of vote. Without learning to respect women, I don’t think anywhere in this country or globally can any political party progress,” he added.

Vadakkan added: “They need to learn and go back to the cultural ethos to understand womanhood which is missing in the present set up of these cultural orgnaisations.”

Katiyar on Wednesday courted controversy for saying that his party had “prettier star campaigners” (than Priyanka), inviting flak from her and the Congress over the comments that she said exposed the “BJP’s mindset”.

Katiyar’s comments attracted condemnation from his own party as well as the Delhi Commission for Women.

The Statesman – Decision on alliance with Congress soon: Akhilesh Yadav

New Delhi, 17 January 2017. A day after bagging the ‘cycle’ symbol, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday said the decision to form an alliance with the Congress party ahead of the state polls will be taken in day or two.

“Decision on alliance (with Congress) will be taken in a day or two,” Akhilesh said adding that ties with his father and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh yadav were “unbreakable”.

“We will take netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) along, ties with him are unbreakable,” he said.

The Election Commission (EC) on Monday recognised the faction led by Akhilesh Yadav as the Samajwadi Party and allotted it the ‘cycle’ symbol.

Leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee, who had expressed sympathy and support for Akhilesh Yadav in the family feud, expressed satisfaction with the development while the Congress spoke of a possible alliance with the state’s ruling party, a sentiment reciprocated by a vocal Samajwadi Party MP.

Meanwhile, Congress’s UP Chief Ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit is willing to step down if an alliance between the two parties is finalised.

The Samajwadi Party formally split on January 1 when Ram Gopal Yadav, as the party’s General Secretary, called the national convention of the party where Akhilesh Yadav was declared the party chief in place of his father Mulayam Singh.

Subsequently, both factions then petitioned the Election Commission to allot it the party symbol.

The Statesman – ‘US challenging India’s solar policy sent message to world’

Washington, 6 January 2017. The US successfully challenged India’s local content conditions in its solar policy which sent a message to the rest of the world that it would not tolerate “new form of protectionism”, outgoing American Trade Representative Mike Froman said on Thursday.

Further, this also helped the US to get India to open up its market worth $1 billion, Froman said in an exit-memo released by the White House on eight years of the outgoing Obama Administration.

USTR, he said, filed as many as 24 cases against other countries before the World Trade Organization.

The US has focused in particular on bringing cases which have broad, systemic benefits, he argued.

“Challenging India’s local content requirements was not just about increasing solar panel exports to India, but was intended to send a message to governments all over the world that the United States would not tolerate this new form of protectionism to exclude our products from their markets, contrary to their WTO commitments,” Froman said.

Similarly challenging China’s use of export restrictions on rare earth materials not only provided important relief to US manufacturers dependent on those materials as inputs, but also provided an opportunity to send a message to China’s government and other governments not to use such restraints in any sector to gain a trade-distortive advantage over US competitors, he said.

Of the 24 enforcement actions, 15 have targeted China’s unfair and WTO-illegal policies, ranging from illegal barriers to auto imports, agricultural subsidies to grain producers, discriminatory taxes, barriers to services trade, and barriers to US exports of high-tech steel, Froman said.

“We also brought economically significant cases against India’s illegal, non-science-based ban on US poultry, European subsidies to civil aviation, and Argentina’s import restrictions,” he said.

“Our trade enforcement successes have positively affected billions of dollars of US exports,” Froman said, adding that the US’ case against China for illegally imposing anti-dumping duties opened up that market to $5 billion of auto and auto parts exports.

“Our case against India’s local content requirements for India opened up an estimated $1 billion market. And our case against China’s illegal duties on US poultry is worth an estimated $1 billion,” Froman wrote in his exit memo.