Congress MPs Azad, Tharoor, Karti attend Modi’s dinner

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shashi Tharoor and son of former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday participated in the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for all the MPs.

Azad, Karti and Tharoor rerached Ashoka Hotel to attend the dinner hosted by the Prime Minister. The dinner has been boycotted by the RJD over the death of 118 children in Bihar due to Acute Enciphilitis Syndrome (AES).

The Trinamool Congress has also boycotted the dinner called by the Prime Minister.

After attending the dinner, Karti told reportyers, “It was a good gesture of the Prime Minister to host all the MPs. Most of us are first timers. It was completely informal.”

Besides Congress MPs, the NDA leaders and Ministers, DMK’s Kanimozhi, AAP MP Sanjay Singh and three out of four Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MPs who joined the BJP earlier in the day also attended the dinner.

The invitation was extended by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi to all members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.



Film, business celebs at Modi’s oath-taking ceremony

The who’s who of business, cinema, politics and sports gathered to be witness of the return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and formation of his new cabinet at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, here on Thursday.

A red carpet was laid out for the guests for the oath-taking ceremony which took place as the sun set in the national capital, where the temperature was well above 40 degrees.

Modi, who led the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to a spectacular victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was administered the oath of office and secrecy in Hindi by President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremony attended by around 8,000 people.

From the business world, there were Lakshmi Mittal, Ratan Tata, Gautam Adani, Mukesh Ambani with Nita and son Anmol, T. S. Kalyanaraman, Tata Group Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Vedanta’s Founder and Chairman Anil Agarwal.

The 1983 World Cup winning team skipper Kapil Dev was also present among the guests.

Spiritual master Sadhguru took a prominent seat at the event, which was also attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former President Pratibha Patil, along with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad seated prominently.

Film celebrities Kangana Ranaut chose a gossamer white sari for the occasion, and veteran singer Asha Bhosle also chose an elegant cream for the event. Also present were Karan Johar, superstar Rajinikanth, besides Anupam Kher, Sushant Singh Rajput, Shahid Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Abhishek Kapoor, Siddharth Roy Kapoor, Boney Kapoor, Madhur Bhandarkar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Aanand L. Rai, Omung Kumar, Rajkumar Hirani, Kapil Sharma, Kailash KherAshoke Pandit and Mahaveer Jain — all were dressed in either formal suits or simple ethnic wear.

Rajinikanth was accompanied by his wife Latha, as was Shahid, who came with Mira.

Ahead of the event, Anil Kapoor wrote on Instagram: “Honoured to be attending one of the most important ceremonies of the year.”

Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra told IANS that he was humbled to be a part of the “historic moment”.

“The question is not what we expect from them. The question is what each Indian will do for their Motherland,” he said.

Kangana, a day before reaching Delhi to be a part of the ceremony, had told the media: “There are a lot of expectations associated with him (Modi)… So all my best wishes for him that whatever goals he has set for himself, he reaches all of them.”



New Delhi, What foreign media said about Modi’s victory

As India gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi a historic mandate with the ruling BJP returning to power in the Lok Sabha, here’s how the foreign media covered Modi’s victory.

The UK’s Guardian in an editorial said that the landslide win for Modi will see “India’s soul lost to a dark politics – one that views almost all 195 million Indian Muslims as second-class citizens”.

“The biggest election in history has just been won by one man: Narendra Modi. In 2014 the Bharatiya Janata party won an absolute majority for the first time in its history… Despite a spluttering economy five years later, Modi seems certain to have expanded his parliamentary majority. This is bad news for India and the world,” the editorial stated.

Though the daily called Modi a “undoubtedly a charismatic campaigner”, it said that “rather than transcend the faultlines of Indian society – religion, caste, region and language – Modi’s style is to throw them into sharp relief”.

“He is a populist who speaks in the name of the people against the elite despite being a seasoned public figure. Modi deployed with terrible effect false claims and partisan facts,” the article said.

Pakistani daily Dawn in an editorial said that “communal politics in India has triumphed in an age that will define the future of the republic”.

“The results are astounding, and depressingly show that religious hatred and sectarian politics can be exploited to lure voters.” The daily said that the “focus must now turn to a practical way forward for sustainable peace in the subcontinent”.

The News International said that Modi won because the Congress allowed him to.

“If Modi has won despite the long history of failures on the economic front, bad governance and the open war on religious minorities, it is because the opposition, especially the Congress, allowed him to.

“If the BJP and Modi have won this election, they perhaps deserved to win. They put in a great deal of hard work and have had the hunger to win.

“While we cannot ignore the epic lies, obfuscation, jingoism and hate that the BJP used against Indian Muslims and Pakistan to win this election, you have to acknowledge that the opposition failed to call Modi’s bluff and expose his failures on every front,” it stated.

Author Pankaj Mishra in a piece for the New York Times said: “Over five years of Modi’s rule, India has suffered variously from his raw wisdom, most gratuitously in November 2016, when his government abruptly withdrew nearly 90 per cent of currency notes from circulation.

“From devastating the Indian economy to risking nuclear Armageddon in South Asia, Modi has confirmed that the leader of the world’s largest democracy is dangerously incompetent.”

“India under Modi’s rule has been marked by continuous explosions of violence in both virtual and real worlds,” the opinion piece said.

“Modi’s appointed task in India is the same as that of many far-right demagogues: To titillate a fearful and angry population with the scapegoating of minorities, refugees, leftists, liberals and others while accelerating predatory forms of capitalism.”

Author Vivan Marwaha, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post said: “Despite a record-high unemployment rate, a slowing economy and widespread agrarian distress, Indians overwhelmingly decided to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party a second chance to put the country back on track.”

“The slowdown in economic growth could still have emerged as a possible flashpoint during the elections. But the February suicide attack on Indian paramilitary forces in Pulwama and the government’s subsequent response – which included ordering air strikes on a terrorist camp in Pakistan – helped marshal vast amounts of support for Modi,” he said.

The BJP targeted the Indian millennials, who have largely grown up with social media, as carefully designed memes praising Modi went viral on Facebook and WhatsApp praising him for the terror strikes.

He said Modi was voted back to power as the “young Indians believed they had no credible alternative”.



Modi’s candidature should be cancelled; Mamata Banerjee

Flaying Prime Minister Narendra Modi for claiming that 40 Trinamool Congress MLAs were in touch with him and will defect to the BJP once the Lok Sabha election results were out, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday demanded that his candidature be cancelled for encouraging horse trading during the polls.

She also accused Modi of saying “unconstitutional things while holding a constitutional position” and said that he had no right to be the Prime Minister of the country.

“Yesterday he (Modi) said 40 of my MLAs are in touch with him. This will fall under the anti-defection law. He is saying unconstitutional things while holding a constitutional position. Doesn’t he have any shame? He is violating the Constitution and has no right to be the Prime Minister,” Banerjee said at an election rally here in Hoogly district.

“His candidature should be cancelled. First save Delhi, then try to buy off MLAs from Bengal. It will be of no use. Even if he buys all the MLAs, our government will not fall,” the Trinamool Congress supremo said.

Addressing a rally in Hoogly district on Monday, Modi had claimed that 40 Trinamool Congress MLAs were in touch with him who will abandon Banerjee once the election results were out on May 23.

The 10th schedule of the Indian Constitution, also known as the Anti-Defection Act, was amended in 1985 to prevent defection and stop politicians from changing parties. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the presiding officer of a legislature based on a petition filed by any other member of the House.

Banerjee also said that no matter what Modi and his party does, the people of Bengal will never vote a party like the BJP to power.

“Don’t expect that people of Bengal will allow the BJP to come to power here. They know that the BJP is a riot mongering force, which wants to divide people,” she said.

Taking a swipe at Modi’s 2014 poll promise of ushering in “acche din” (good days), Banerjee said the over all condition of the country had deteriorated as farmers have committed suicide, people have lost their jobs and prices of gas and fuel have shot up significantly.



Modi’s N-threat highly irresponsible says Amarinder

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder on Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on India’s nuclear arsenal was “highly irresponsible”.

Urging people to support the Congress’ ‘jung’ (war) for protecting the future of the nation, “which the BJP-led government at the Centre had plunged into a state of ruin”, Amarinder said the BJP was misleading the country in the last five years with lies.

“This is a ‘jung’ for the future of the nation. We are fighting a party that made tall promises, but failed to deliver on even a single one of them,” Amarinder said.

Pointing out that unemployment rate was at an all-time high, Amarinder ridiculed Modi’s promise of “achche din”, saying “acche din us din aainge jis din enna da bhog payega” (good days will come only when their rule is brought to an end).

“People are sick and tired of their ‘jumlas’ and lies,” he said, adding that people want jobs and industry. “The people of India will overthrow the Modi government, which has spent the last five years misleading and lying to them,” he added.

Kick-starting the process of filing nominations by Congress candidates in the state from Jalandhar, where he accompanied Punjab Congress candidate Santokh Singh Chaudhary to file nomination papers at the district administrative complex, the Chief Minister said the Congress would provide a strong government at the Centre.

Amarinder was accompanied, among others, by former Jalandhar MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee, whose house he visited before proceeding for Chaudhary’s nomination filing.

Kaypee was sulking for the last few days after being denied the Congress ticket. Kaypee later accompanied Chaudhary and Amarinder for the filing of nomination papers.

“He (Kaypee) is a senior leader, an old Congressman who will be campaigning wholeheartedly for the party,” Amarinder said.



Are hunger, poverty Modi’s nationalism, asks Sidhu

Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he considered the prevailing problems of hunger and poverty in the country as nationalism.

Addressing an election rally here, he said: “People are hungry and they have been asked to do yoga. Make them (Yoga guru) Baba Ramdev. There is no money with people but bank accounts are being opened. Is this nationalism, Narendra Modi?”

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made nationalism the core of its electoral campaign by invoking the Balakot airstrike and other security issues.

A case was lodged against the cricketer-turned-politician on Tuesday for violating the model code of conduct after he made an objectionable appeal to Muslims to vote against the BJP while campaigning in Barsoi in Katihar parliamentary constituency.



Mob lynching is Narendra Modi’s legacy; Asaduddin Owaisi

AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi on Tuesday said mob lynchings were a legacy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He said Modi would be remembered in Indian history for mob lynching as the highest number of incidents occurred during his tenure.

“These incidents will haunt Modi forever because as the Prime Minister he could not stop them,” the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief told the media.

Owaisi, who is seeking re-election from the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency for a fourth consecutive term, condemned the Assam incident in which a Muslim man was allegedly assaulted and forced to eat pork.

“What could be worse than this? In a state where there is no ban on cow slaughter and people eat beef, 68-year-old Shoukat Ali was badly beaten and forced to eat pork,” he said.

Owaisi said he was appealing to people to see the helplessness of the man in the video. He said those assaulting him knew they will be protected as their own party was in power. “Such elements were emboldened after Modi became the Prime Minister,” he said.

Owaisi urged people to vote for those who speak for the weak, marginalized and deprived.

“Modi does not speak for all. He is the chowkidar of those who believe in RSS ideology. Give vote to those who don’t feel they are bigger than India.”




Congress complains to EC against Modi’s remarks on Rahul

The Congress on Friday moved the Election Commission alleging brazen violation of Model Code of Conduct by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his remarks pertaining to candidature of party President Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad in Kerala.

In its petition, the Congress sought urgent and necessary intervention by the poll panel over Modi’s remarks made at a rally in Wardha.

The party also complained to the poll panel against “grave and corrupt practices” by senior BJP leaders in Arunachal Pradesh.

In another petition, the party sought “posting/transfer” of joint commissioner of police Mumbai and review of other officials in Gujarat. It also called for monitoring of polling booths in all constituencies, particularly in tribal areas.

Talking to reporters after meeting EC officials, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party had made fourth request for urgent and necessary intervention by the poll panel over Modi’s remarks.

The party’s complaint said that Modi had made “hateful and divisive” comments at an election rally at Wardha on April 1 and sought to target Rahul Gandhi “in language tailored specifically to create discord between two different religious communities”.

The party said Modi stated that Congress had insulted Hindus and people have decided to punish the party in the election.

“Leaders of that party are now scared of contesting from constituencies dominated by majority (Hindu) population. That is why they are forced to take refuge in places where the majority is a minority,” the complaint quoted Modi as stating.

The party said Modi had also stated that Congress used the term “Hindu terror”. The complaint said that Modi and BJP have for five years “fostered an atmosphere of communal tension for petty political gains”.

“The Election Commission must act now and decisively to ensure that this is checked. The Prime Minister should be held accountable if nothing else to his own standard. The Prime Minister knows, but doesn’t seem to care, that this is a direct violation of Section 123 (3A) of Representation of People Act, 1951,” the Congress said.

The party said the commission had not intervened in the three past complaints of the party. “As a result, the PM’s violations grow ever more brazen,” the party said.

The party said that only available remedy compatible with the principle of zero-tolerance towards allegations of corrupt practices is “disqualification of the candidates who try to create a divide between different classes of the citizens of India”.

“We hope that the ECI treats this situation with the gravity it deserves. This is not a candidate who will be silenced by a simple censure. The integrity of our elections which are the bedrock of our democracy is at stake. We hope that the ECI appreciates the seriousness and on this occasion, intervenes decisively,” the party said.

In its petition pertaining to Arunachal Pradesh, the party alleged “cash-for-votes” conspiracy and sought immediate disqualification or barring of Chief Minister Pema Khandu, his deputy Chowna Mein and state BJP chief Tapir Gao.

It alleged that Rs 1.8 crore were recovered from a convoy of three leaders in a midnight raid.

In another petition, the party said that Deven Bharti, Joint Commissioner of Police has been posted in Mumbai for nearly four years and has not been transferred till date in violation of the poll panel’s guidelines.



Congress seeks Modi’s apology for remarks on Rahul

The Congress party has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s apology for his remarks over party chief Rahul Gandhi choosing to contest also from Wayanad in Kerala as his second seat apparently because the Congress is “scared” that Hindus will punish them for “Hindu terror” remarks and therefore running away to minority-dominated seat.

Talking to reporters here on Monday, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also sought action against him by the Election Commission (EC).

Surjewala said Modi has committed a “corrupt practice” under Section 123 of the Representation of People’s Act besides violating the dignity of the office he holds and every other yardstick that is necessary and impeccable in public life.

“He must apologise to the nation. He has insulted the freedom movement, he has insulted entire southern India, he has insulted the composite culture of India, he has insulted the India that is unified by its multiple cultures as also languages, religions, castes and creeds. The Election Commission must take note of this and take action against Narendra Modi,” Surjewala said.

Party general secretary K.C. Venugopal said that Modi should apologise to the people of Wayanad for his “most condemnable and divisive” statement on candidature of Gandhi.

“By alleging that Rahul Gandhi is contesting form Wayanad on account of residents of a particular religion living there is a disgrace to the high office PM is holding,” Venugopal said in a statement.

He said Wayanad reflects the composite culture of various communities and religions who thrive and live together and was land of “lion of Kerala”, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja who had fought against the British. “Prime Minister was not only disrespecting the people of Wayanad but also insulted the freedom movement,” he said, adding that Modi “insulted the entire Southern India”.

Surjewala said Modi is frustrated at his imminent defeat in the elections.

“Looking at the imminent defeat, a frustrated and flustered Prime Minister has shed all sense of responsibility of the high office he holds, and broken every constitutional norm and every norm of the public life that a person holding such a high office should uphold by alleging that Rahul Gandhi is contesting Wayanad seat as people of a particular religion live there,” Surjewala said.

He said Modi must understand that this country thrives on its all encompassing behaviour.

“The Prime Minister must understand that caste, creed, religion, way of life, culture, language, looks and colour of skin are not considerations in our society to differentiate between men and men or women and women. PM Modi has no sense of history, he has no sense of geography, he also has no knowledge of the struggle of Independence and he does not understand the composite culture of India,” he said.

Surjewala said Modi does not know that Wayanad is famous for struggle for freedom against the British by the ruler of Kottayam Royal Dynasty, who not only fought the Britishers but also waged a guerrilla war defeating the British on multiple occasions till he sacrificed himself for India.

“Does he even know that Wayanad is also known for the temple of ‘Love-Kush’ — the sons of Lord Ram and Sita? Does the Prime Minister even know that in Wayanad, particularly in Vythiri, the glass temple of the Jains is famous? Does the Prime Minister know that Wayanad has a large tribal population of eight different Scheduled Tribes?

“Does the Prime Minister even know that Wayanad has nearly 50 per cent Hindu population besides the population of backwards, Scheduled Tribes, Dalits and of many-many other religions where Christians are about 20-21 per cent and Muslims are about 28 per cent? So, it is an ideal ground of combination of various communities and religions who thrive together and live together,” he said.

Modi had said at an election rally at Wardha in Maharashtra that the Congress is running scared that the Hindus will punish them now with the recent court verdict.

He said the Congress lacks courage to stand in Hindu-dominated constituencies and is running around other minority-dominated seats for elections, in an obvious reference to Gandhi’s plans to contest from Wayanad in Kerala apart from his traditional seat of Amethi.



Vindicated by PM Modi’s statement on dues, says Mallya

Beleaguered liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, who is facing extradition to India to answer charges of fraud and money laundering, on Sunday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement that assets worth much more the amount he owes to banks have been seized “vindicates” his stand that he is a BJP’s “poster boy”.

“I humbly submit that my assertion that I am a poster boy is fully vindicated by the PM’s own statement about me (by name) that his Govt has recovered more than what I allegedly owe the Banks,” Mallya said in a tweet.

“Fact that I have been a UK resident since 1992 ignored. Suits the BJP to say I ran away,” said the businessman who is awaiting the outcome of his appeal against British Home Secretary Sajid Javed’s green signal to his extradition.

In a recent interview to TV channel Republic Bharat, Modi said that his government had confiscated his properties worth Rs 14,000 crore – which was more than the Rs 9,000 crore Mallya owed to a consortium of India banks.



Nirav Modi’s arrest a ‘got-up match’; Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday refused to give any credit to the Narendra Modi-led government for the arrest of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi in London and termed it a “got-up match”.

“This is a ploy of the BJP. The credit must go to the London Telegraph journalist who exposed Nirav Modi. It is a got-up match. No credit goes to the BJP government,” Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat, Nabanna.

Calling the businessman’s arrest a “strike” by the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Trinamool Congress supremo said there will be a number of such “strikes” by the Centre during the general elections.

“You will see many such ‘strikes’ during the time of elections. You have seen a strike on Nirav Modi. There will be two-three similar strikes. All these are made up like a film script. They (Centre) have done this intentionally,” she said.

“You (the Centre) cannot see where he is hiding. Now a journalist is giving you information about where he is staying. Don’t we know what is going on behind the curtains? It has been exposed that the main thief is behind the curtain,” Banerjee said, making a veiled reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Banerjee said the BJP government’s ploys would not yield much benefit as its “expiry date” was already over.

“This government has no credibility. I have said before that its expiry date is already over. We do not need their ‘medicines’. We do not consume medicines that have passed their expiry dates,” she said.

“I do not give them any credit. There is another man. I do not want to mention his name. He is also there. They are not Indian citizens now. There are so many people with a lot of property,” she alleged.

Taking a swipe at Modi for calling himself the “chowkidar” (watchman) of the country, Banerjee said it was more important to be loyal to the nation and maintain peace than turning oneself from a “chai-wala to chowkidar”.

Fourteen months after he fled India, Nirav Modi was on Wednesday arrested in London on charges of defrauding on a huge loan taken from the Punjab National Bank (PNB), official sources said.

The police made the arrest seven days after the London Westminster Court issued an arrest warrant against the businessman, who left India days before the scam came to light in January 2018.



One Modi giving away crores to other Modis; Rahul

Kickstarting Congress’ Lok Sabha campaign in Uttarakhand, party President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday upped the ante against Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioning why all the “Modis were getting money” from the one Modi at the helm.

“Why is it that all thieves have their last name as Modi only? Why one Modi is giving all the money to other Modis,” said Gandhi amid thunderous applause and loud sloganeering “Chowkidar Chor Hai”.

To buttress his claim, Gandhi took the names of Nirav Modi, the key accused in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank scam, and Lalit Modi, who was involved in irregularities in the Indian Premiere League.

Gandhi told the crowd at the Parade Ground rally here that “all these Modis” have been absconding taking crores of rupees with them.

He claimed the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre gave lakhs and crores of rupees to just 15-20 people and did nothing for the welfare of farmers and the unemployed youths.

Gandhi also claimed that lands were being given to top business houses such as the Adanis in Uttarakhand in an apparent reference to the new MSME policy of the state according to which it has relaxed the tough norms in Land Acts.

Gandhi promised to form a Congress government at the Centre and provide financial security to the poorest of poor.

“This will be a historic step. The money will go directly to your bank accounts,” he said. “We just have to draw a line for the poor people who will be entitled for such doles.”



China veto on Masood, no J&K polls Modi’s failures; Omar

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Thursday said that China’s veto against JeM chief Masood Azhar being declared a global terrorist and not holding Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir were “big failures” of the Modi government.

Abdullah tweeted: “China places a ‘technical hold’ on Masood Azhar in the UN again! Pakistan gets its way once again.”

The former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister described the China move and the inability of the central government to hold Assembly elections in the state as failures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“PM Modi surrendered to China on Azhar and surrendered to Pakistan & its proxies by delaying elections in J&K. How can the BJP claim to have been tough on internal security and tough against terror?”

He also took a dig at Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for his comment that Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s statement following China’s move on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief would become headlines in Pakistan.

“Mantrijee, your government gave Pakistan a small victory when you postponed the Anantnag by-poll in 2017 and a big victory now that you have failed to conduct Assembly elections. If anyone is giving Pakistan a reason to celebrate, it isn’t @RahulGandhi. Look closer to home Sir.”



PNB scam; Nirav Modi’s wife Ami named in ED chargesheet

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has named fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi’s wife Ami Modi in a supplementary chargesheet in connection with its ongoing probe into over Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan fraud case, said informed sources.

The agency filed the chargeseet in a special Mumbai court charging Ami, a US national, for being the beneficiary of alleged purchase of two apartments at Central Park in New York using $30 million laundered money, which her husband had obtained fraudulently from PNB through Letters of Undertaking (LoU) and Foreign Letters of Credit (FLCs).

The chargesheet was filed on February 28, he said.

It is alleged that the amount was routed through Ami’s HSBC Bank accounts traced by the agency, according to reports.

These apartments are part of Nirav Modi’s worth Rs 637 crore foreign properties the ED had seized in October last year.

According to agency officials, the apartments were purchased in the name of The Ithaca Trust. One of the properties in Central Park South, New York, was in the name of Central Park Real Estate LLC, a Firestar Group company. In 2018, it was transferred to the Trust.

The alleged beneficiary of The Ithaca Trust is Ami and her children and the settler of the said trust was Nirav Modi’s sister Purvi Modi, a Belgian national.

The move is seen as a step to tighten noose around Nirav Modi, who has now surfaced in London where he is believed to be living for several months now.

The agency is also reportedly looking to issue a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against Ami. Interpol has already issued an RCN against Nirav Modi, his brother Neeshal, Purvi and his executive Subhash Parab.

Nirav Modi fled India in January 2018 days before the PNB scam broke. The businessman’s whereabouts have remained a mystery since he has been “seen” in New York, Hong Kong and other parts of the world. He, along with his uncle Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Group, left the country before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) started investigating the PNB scam.

The ED had on May 24 and 26 last year filed chargesheets against both. Non-bailable warrants have also been issued against them.



Nirav Modi’s beach bungalow blown-up with controlled blast

Authorities here on Friday carried out a controlled blast to raze the luxurious beach bungalow of absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi, one of the prime accused in the Punjab National Bank scam, official sources said.

Over 100 dynamite sticks were strategically placed within and outside the 33,000 sq. feet bungalow near the Kihim Beach, and the first of the blast took place at 11.15 a.m. amidst tight security.

Few days ago, detonators were fixed at various points on the bungalow to carry out the controlled-blast and bring it down in a single-shot.

On January 25, the collectorate had initiated the demolition process using traditional methods of bulldozers, excavators and other such manually-operated equipment, but it proved to be a slow and tedious process.



Congress key meet vs Modi’s video conference on Thursday

As the Congress braces for a meeting of its key working committee and a massive rally here on Thursday where Priyanka Gandhi will deliver her first public address after being anointed party’s General Secretary, the BJP prepares to match this effort the same day with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national video conference with lakhs of party workers.

Briefing the media here on Monday, Congress’s Gujarat unit chief Amit Chavda said they had requested party president Rahul Gandhi to convene a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, in Gujarat and he had agreed.

Rahul Gandhi, his mother and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and newly-inducted General Secretary for East Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi and AICC treasurer Ahmed Patel will be present at the meeting.

The meet will be followed by a Jan Sankalp Rally, where Priyanka Gandhi is expected to deliver her maiden public address after being inducted full time into the party affairs. Chief Ministers of all Congress-ruled states would also converge at this mega show of the party.

Determined to ensure the Opposition party does not hog the complete limelight in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s prized home state, the BJP will have Modi addressing lakhs of party workers through video-conferencing across 450 centres in Gujarat under its “Mera Booth Sabse Majboot” programme. Nationally the address will cover 15,000 places.

This will be preceded by the launch of a mass contact programme on Tuesday where 50,000 BJP workers will fan out across areas covered under 50,000 polling booths to propagate the central government’s public welfare schemes.

Announcing this here on Monday, State BJP Spokesman Bharat Pandya said on the same evening “Kamal Deep” event would be held where a lamp would be lighted across 47 lakh homes of party workers and beneficiaries of Central schemes.

The party’s entire top brass in the state would oversee this with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani being stationed at Dehgam and president Jitubhai Vaghani at his home district Bhavnagar. “Similarly, all top leaders have been assigned various locations, ” Pandya said.

Meanwhile, the party’s national general secretary in charge of Gujarat for Lok Sabha elections Om Mathur would arrive here on Tuesday for a four-day visit up to March 1.

While Prime Minister Modi’s national video conference would begin at 12.30 pm on Thursday, Chavda informed that Congress’s Sankalp Rally at Trimandir in Adalaj, located between Gujarat’s political capital Gandhinagar and commercial capital Ahmedabad, would start from 3 pm after the all-importamt CWC meeting.



PMO has ‘no record’ of Modi’s media interactions; RTI

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) apparently has no records of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s media interactions for over four years, an RTI query revealed here on Friday.

Mumbai-based RTI activist Anil Galgali had posed the query on December 8, 2018, seeking full details of Modi’s media interactions, live interviews and press conferences since he came to power in 2014.

Galgali also asked for details of how many media representatives or media houses had requested for interviews or meetings, and those who were permitted to conduct live or recorded interviews.

“On January 7, a PMO Under Secretary Pravin Kumar gave a reply, promising to reply soon. But, for 68 days there was no response, so I filed the first appeal under RTI,” Galgali told IANS.

This time, Kumar promptly replied stating that Modi’s interactions with press representatives were “both structured and unstructured” and therefore, the information sought was not available on record, the RTI activist said.

“This is strange. The PMO is expected to reply immediately, but it adopted time consuming information to deliberately delay providing the required details. Even the information made available after the first appeal appears to be misleading and partial,” Galgali said.

“The PMO could have simply clarified whether a press conference was organized or not, instead of delaying the replies.”

According to the activist, the PMO has indirectly placed Modi in an embarrassing position by refusing to part with the information.



Congress questions Modi’s move to personally receive Saudi Prince

The Congress on Wednesday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to personally receive Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who praised Pakistans “anti-terror” efforts and asked if it was Modis way of honouring the CRPF troopers killed by a suicide bomber in Kashmir.

Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala also asked if Modi will show courage to ask Saudi Arabia to undo their Joint Statement with Pakistan that has “virtually rejected” India’s demand for designating Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”.

“National interests versus Modiji’s ‘hugplomacy’ breaking protocol, grand welcome to those who pledged $20 billion to Pakistan and praised Pakistan’s ‘anti-terror’ efforts. Is it your way of remembering martyrs of Pulwama?” Surjewala said in a series of tweets.

Congress questions Modi's move to personally receive Saudi Prince



Modi’s farm income scheme a whimper, not a trump card

Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram calls it a “whimper” instead of being a trump card that leaves out an overwhelming majority of the poor and benefits only the land-owner class.

He also rejects criticism of Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s announcement of loan waivers to farmers across the nation if his party comes to power, saying it was necessary to revive the agriculture sector “which is in the ICU” as a one-time measure.

The former Finance Minister defended the Congress’s announcement of ensuring a minimum income guarantee for the poor if it is voted to power as “an implementable scheme” saying the Congress manifesto will explain the contours of the scheme justifying how it will be implemented.

“It (government’s farmer relief scheme) is a whimper. It’s not a trump card, to say that I will give you Rs 6,000 per family. Who will get these Rs 6,000? The land owner gets it. The land owner could be an owner-cultivator. But in many cases, it is an absentee landlord sitting in some capital city of the state,” Chidambaram told IANS in an interview coinciding with the release of his book “Undaunted – Saving the Idea of India”.

“The tenant farmer does not get the money. The farm worker does not get the money. The non-farm poor – goldsmith, carpenter, blacksmith, shopkeeper, tailor – in rural areas does not get the money. And no urban poor gets the money,” he said.

The Congress leader said if the government was talking about helping the poor, it was leaving the overwhelming majority of the poor and giving it only to the land-owner class, “among whom there may be poor land owners, but there are also absentee land-owners”.

“So this does not benefit the poor. It has already become a whimper,” he said.

Rejecting criticism of loan waivers, including by Chief Economic Adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian who called it “a moral hazard”, Chidambaram said it was the duty of the government to help those in extreme debt.

“I laugh at the criticism that loan waivers are immoral. Then what do you call haircuts taken by banks for industrialists? So let’s keep the morality argument out of it and look at the simple economics and the human problem behind agriculture,” he said.

He said the average debt of agricultural families was Rs 90,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

“How can an indebted farmer ever repay Rs 90,000 to Rs 1 lakh? He is in the ICU. You have to first save his life, revive him. This is what loan waiver does… If people are deep in debt due to drought or flood or some other reason, how can a government say I won’t relieve you of your debt?

“But I agree this is not a complete solution. After that, you have to ensure there is an increase in productivity, increase in production and the farmer gets fair price. If you fail to do that, 10 years later you will face the same problem,” the Congress leader said.

He also defended Rahul Gandhi’s announcement of a minimum income guarantee scheme for the poor as implementable and said liberal economists like Arvind Subramanian to right-wing conservative economists like Surjit Bhalla had said it was implementable.

“We have consulted a large number of economists of international repute. They say it’s implementable provided it is carefully-designed, progressively rolled out. And it will be progressively rolled out,” he said.

Chidambaram said while the contours of the scheme will be revealed in the party manifesto, the details would be fleshed out only if and when the Congress is voted to power.

Asked how much of an amount it was looking at, considering it called Rs 6,000 support to farmers – which translates to around Rs 17 a day – a “cruel joke”, he said: “Obviously it has to be a minimum income into which every family will be brought so that the family can afford food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education.”

He also attacked the government on lack of jobs and said Congress knew how to create jobs and would show it if it comes to power.

“Congress knows how to create jobs. We know which are the job-creating sectors. Our manifesto will spell out how jobs can be created through the well-known job-creating sectors.

“Had we not created jobs (during UPA government), there would have been a huge outcry. Have you ever seen an outcry in earlier period equal to the outcry you hear today? People don’t cry out for the sake of crying out. They cry out because of their anguish, their suffering,” he said.

Asked how the Congress planned to create jobs, he said: “I believe that high growth will create jobs. And since we had high growth for the first seven years of the UPA government, I believe that a large number of jobs were created.”

Chidambaram, however, admitted that while the UPA did create jobs, they were not enough to take care of the number that was entering the labour force.

Modi's farm income scheme a whimper, not a trump card: Chidambaram



Andhra CM calls for protests during Modi’s visit

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Saturday asked members and cadres of his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to stage protests during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state on Sunday.

Naidu, who is also the TDP President, told the cadres and party members during a teleconference calls that the protests, against the Centre’s “betrayal” to the state, should be organised on a scale that the whole country should take note of it.

Modi is scheduled to address a rally in Guntur. This will be his first visit to Andhra Pradesh after TDP snapped ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last year.

The TDP chief, who will be holding a day-long protest in New Delhi on Monday, said protests should be organised with the spirit shown by Mahatma Gandhi.

The TDP chief alleged that Modi was coming to the state to see the destruction following the bifurcation in 2014.

“Is he coming here to see whether people are still alive?” Naidu had earlier remarked on Modi’s visit.

Naidu said there was a conspiracy to destabilise the state government.