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‘Koi nahi bike’, Modi’s jibe at Congress as NDA wins RS Deputy Chairperson poll

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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday took a jibe at the Congress-led opposition soon after the NDA won the elections for the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson. Commenting on the election, the PM said: “This time, both sides in this election had a ‘hari’ (Harivansh Narayan and BK Hariprasad) but one had a BK, koi nahi bike,” he said.
In a closely fought election, NDA candidate and JDU member Harivansh Narayan Singh was elected as the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson, defeating opposition’s BK Hariprasad. As the voice vote remained inconclusive, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu called for the division of votes in the House.
After the voting, Harivansh Narayan Singh emerged as a winner with 125 votes, while Hariprasad got 105 votes polled in his favour.
Soon after the announcement, PM Modi went to Harivansh Narayan Singh to congratulate him on the win. “I congratulate Harivansh ji on behalf of the whole house. He has been blessed with the talent of writing. He was also a favourite of former PM Chandra Shekhar ji,” PM Modi said.
Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad also congratulated Singh and expressed hope that as a Deputy Chairperson, he will pay heed to the objections raised by the Opposition and won’t be partial towards the NDA government.
The post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman had been lying vacant since the retirement of PJ Kurien on July 1.


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Centre declares Kerala floods a ‘calamity of severe nature’

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Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi: The Union government declared the devastating floods in Kerala a “calamity of severe nature”, paving the way for higher Central monetary help, as the state braced for the gigantic task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of lakhs of people rendered homeless.
The death toll in the current spell of monsoon fury that began on August 8 has risen to 223, officials said. “Keeping in view the intensity and magnitude of the floods and landslides in Kerala, this is a calamity of a severe nature for all practical purposes,” a home ministry official said in New Delhi.
This categorisation will enable the state get greater monetary and other assistance from the Centre.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, “Over 10.78 lakh displaced people, including 2.12 lakh women and one lakh children below 12 years of age, have been sheltered in 3,200 relief camps. Today, 602 persons were rescued from various places as the rains receded.”
Mr Vijayan said there has been demands from various quarters to declare the floods as a national calamity.
“Our demand is also the same. But the Centre is pointing out certain technical difficulties to make such an announcement. What we need now is to evaluate the total loss and get an equivalent assistance from the Centre,” he said.
“As per preliminary estimates, the state has so far suffered a loss of nearly Rs 20,000 crore. The Union government has so far rendered all help to the state. Kerala received Rs 210 crore towards the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund and a promise of Rs 160 crore,” he said.
With flood water level receding in many places, people have started returning to their homes and begun cleaning operations. The state government has also decided to distribute cleaning kits to them, Mr Vijayan said.
Commercial flight operations from the naval airport at Kochi commenced on Monday with the first Air India flight from Bengaluru arriving this morning. Small aircraft are being operated from the naval airport.
Relief material, including provisions, water and fuel have started arriving at the Kochi port from different parts of the country, official sources said.

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Sidhu hits out at those criticising him for hugging Pak Army chief

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Chandigarh:Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday hit out at those who had criticised him for hugging Pakistan Army chief General Bajwa in Islamabad.
Addressing a press conference here, Sidhu said Gen Bajwa warmly met him barely for a minute before the swearing-in started and he did not meet him later.
The minister said he got emotional for a moment. He said his seat was changed at the last minute and he did not know who sat next to him.
He said Prime minister Narendra Modi was also welcomed in Pakistan when he went there to meet Nawaz Sharif.
He said his visit was a tribute to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee who wanted peace between the two nations.
Sidhu said he received a lot of love and affection in Pakistan and was disappointed by some of the reactions.
The former cricketer said he would not speak against Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who had disapproved of the act.
Sidhu said he repeatedly received the invitation from Imran Khan and sought permission from the government. Two days after Pakistan gave him the visa, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called him and said that he had been given the permission, he added.

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Congress ‘misinformed, misdirected and misled’: Ambani to Rahul on Rafale deal

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New Delhi: Reliance Group today said its Chairman Anil Ambani has written to Congress president Rahul Gandhi on the Rafale fighter jet deal saying his party has been “misinformed, misdirected and misled” by “malicious vested interests and corporate rivals” on the issue.
Ambani, who had first written to Gandhi on the issue in December, last week again wrote to him saying not a single component worth a single rupee is to be manufactured by his group for the 36 Rafale jets India is buying from France, the company said in a statement here.
Gandhi has been attacking the government for inking the deal at a much higher price than the one the previous UPA regime had negotiated. While he has accused the government of changing the deal to benefit “one businessman”, his party has demanded a JPC probe into the deal.
“Allegations of Reliance benefitting by thousands of crores is a figment of imagination, promoted by vested interests,” the company statement said, quoting from Ambani’s letter. “Simply put, no contract exists with the Government of India.”
French company Dassault, which is supplying the fighter jets, has entered into a joint venture with Reliance Group to meet its offset requirement of the contract.
Under defence offset, a foreign supplier of equipment agrees to manufacture a given percent of his product (in terms of value) in the buying country. Sometimes this may take place with technology transfer.
While direct offsets are linked to the original defence contact where companies often agree to transfer relevant technological know-how or use local suppliers to build the equipment they are selling to the government, indirect offsets have nothing to do with the deal and can include the company making up investments in local industries.
In case of Rafale deal, which will give new comer Reliance Group a foothold in the defence industry, the companies have not specified what components will they manufacturer in India.
Ambani in the letter expressed “deep anguish over continued personal attacks by Rahul Gandhi on him”, the statement said. He termed all allegations as “baseless, ill-informed and unfortunate”
Explaining the role of Reliance in offset exports/ work share with Dassault, he said: “The Congress has been misinformed, misdirected and misled by malicious vested interests and corporate rivals.”
He said Rafale fighter jets are not being manufactured by Reliance of the Dassault Reliance joint venture. “All 36 planes are to be 100 per cent manufactured in France, and exported from France to India.”
“There is no contract from the Ministry of Defence to any Reliance Group company related to 36 Rafale aircraft,” the statement said.
Ambani said his group’s “role is limited to offset/ export obligations. More than 100 medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) will participate in this, along with public sector undertakings like BEL and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
“This role strengthens Indian manufacturing capabilities, and is in pursuance of the Offsets Policy introduced by the Congress-led UPA government itself from 2005 onwards.”
He said Reliance Group announced its decision to enter the defence manufacturing sector in December 2014-January 2015, “months before the intention for the purchase of Rafale aircraft”.

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