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Rahul can wait, Cong open to Mamata, Mayawati as PM in 2019

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New Delhi: The Congress may have pitched for Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but the party gave indications that it is not averse to accepting a nominee for the top post from any Opposition alliance who does not have the backing of the RSS.
Top Congress sources while giving this indication also said that to prevent the BJP from coming back to power in 2019, the Congress will look to cobble up alliances with various parties in states.
On whether Congress president Rahul Gandhi will step aside for a woman candidate from a possible Opposition alliance, the sources said he “is comfortable seeing any prime minister other than an RSS-backed one”.
“Let’s see how the dice rolls,” the sources said.
There is speculation in the Opposition camp that a woman prime ministerial candidate may be projected in the next elections and names of BSP leader Mayawati and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee are doing the rounds.
After the meeting of the Congress Working committee (CWC) on Sunday, the Congress said Rahul Gandhi will be its prime ministerial face for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It also authorised Rahul Gandhi to forge alliances with “like-minded” political parties to take on the ruling BJP.
Also Read: Cong discusses alliance at CWC meet, authorises Rahul to decide on tie-ups
Stating that it’s going to be an “ideological fight”, the sources said the Congress has to bring all the opposition parties together to defeat the BJP.
“India in 2004 is different from 2014. This is beyond our regular political battle. It is for the first time all institutions are attacked,” the sources said and added, “the more the RSS attacks Congress, it will help the party to build.”
The sources further said that the Congress does not believe in “right or left” views but for a liberal and pragmatic space.
According to the sources, the Congress leadership is of the view that the BJP will be decimated without any “anger and disrespect”. The BJP will not get enough seats to win the next general polls as parties like the TDP and the Shiv Sena are not happy with the saffron party, the sources added.
For Narendra Modi to be the Prime Minister again, he has to get seats in the range of 280 and that is not going to happen, they said.
The sources said if grand anti-BJP alliances in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar work out fine, then it will be difficult for PM Modi to retain power.
While Uttar Pradesh has 80 Lok Sabha seats, Bihar has 40 and the two together comprise over 22 per cent of the total strength of Lok Sabha members of 543.
Noting that the Congress is focussing on increasing women’s representation in the party, the sources said women leaders will be appointed in general secretary- level posts after they gain experience at different levels of party functioning.
On women’s reservation bill, they said it will be a “tactical win” if the legislation gets through Parliament. However, the party has to work a lot to ensure more women in politics and that it would work towards creating a positive atmosphere.
The sources further said India needs to be built with new ideas to address the challenges of farm crisis, unemployment among others but the Prime Minister is “running out of ideas” as he is working on the political architecture of the 1990s and the saffron party is allegedly working for few corporates.


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National

SC issues notice to Centre on MHA’s ‘snooping’ order, seeks reply within six weeks

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New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre and sought a response, within six weeks, on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed against the Ministry of Home Affairs’ notification authorising 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any computer system. The top court had earlier denied an early hearing in the case.

The petition, filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, seeks quashing of the government’s December 20 order which empowers the agencies to intercept any computer under the Information Technology (IT) Act. According to the notification, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies and failing to do will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.

The 10 agencies notified under the new order are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police commissioner.

 

The government had come under fire for its order with the Opposition accusing the Centre of running a “police state”. The government, however, later clarified that “no new powers” had been conferred to the agencies and that the same rules were brought in by the UPA government in 2009.

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26/11 plotter Tahawwur Rana, in US jail, may be extradited: report

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Washington/New Delhi: There is a “strong possibility” of Tahawwur Hussain Rana – currently serving a 14-year jail term in the US for plotting the 2008 Mumbai terror attack – being extradited to India, an informed source said.

The Indian government, with “full cooperation” from the Trump administration, is currently working on completing the necessary paperwork to ensure the extradition of the Pakistani-Canadian national before his current jail term ends in December 2021. Rana was arrested in 2009 on the charges of plotting the 26/11 terror attack.

Some 166 people, including US nationals, were killed in the attack carried out by 10 Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists. Nine of the attackers were killed by police while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was captured and hanged after handed down death sentence by an Indian court.

 

In 2013, Rana was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. According to the US officials, he is set to be released in December 2021. “There is a strong possibility of extradition of Rana to India on completion of his jail term here. We (US and India) are working on this,” a source told PTI.

But the “challenge” is to complete the necessary paperwork during this period and overcome the cumbersome bureaucracy of the two countries and the independent judiciary, the source said.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law and Justice and the US’ State Department and the Department of Justice, each of them has their own extradition procedure in place. And they are unwilling to cutdown or speed up their own process when it comes to extradition, it added.

Following a recent visit to the US by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) team, officials from both sides have agreed to cut down on the bureaucratic procedures so that all the necessary paperwork is ready before the current jail term of Rana ends in December 2021.

From now on, the NIA is expected to have direct communication with their US counterparts to cut short the timeframe and bureaucratic formalities.

In case, the US government in co-operation with the Indian government is unable to complete the necessary paperwork before that, officials in Washington said it would become very tough to ensure a smooth extradition of Rana once he is released from the jail in Chicago, where he is currently serving his sentence.

As per the existing US law, Rana, a Pakistan-born Canadian national, would most probably be deported to Canada if India and the US are unable to complete the cumbersome extradition process before his release.

However, people familiar with the matter told PTI, that there is a “desire” so there is an assurance from the highest level in the Trump administration that all necessary steps would be taken in a timely fashion to ensure extradition of Rana before his release.

According to the US officials, the extradition of Rana would help in cementing the relationship between the two countries, boost up the counter-terrorism cooperation and enhance America’s image among Indians.

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Talks of CPI(M)-Cong alliance for LS polls to be ‘initiated at state level’: Yechury

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Kolkata: Any talks of a CPI(M)-Congress adjustment for the parliamentary election have to be “initiated at the state level” as the political situation is different in various states, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has said, virtually ruling out a nationwide tie-up between the two parties.

Yechury’s remarks came at a time a section of the state CPI(M) leadership was keen on an electoral understanding with the Congress to defeat the Trinamool Congress and the BJP in West Bengal.

“We had said the political situation is different in various states. So any sort of talks with the Congress have to be initiated at the state level,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a condolence meeting for former West Bengal industry minister and politburo member Nirupam Sen here on Sunday night.

 

He was replying to question on why the CPI(M) was not initiating talks with the Congress at the national level to put up an anti-BJP front.

Yechury said the alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh was a “positive” development and that a “lot more is yet to happen”. The CPI(M) leader said he is looking forward to an anti-BJP secular and democratic front at the Centre in 2019 in a “post-poll scenario”. Majority of the state Congress leaders are in favour of an informal seat-sharing arrangements with the CPI(M) in West Bengal for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, senior state Congress leaders said.

Some of the top state Congress leaders have already begun “informal talks” with some CPI(M) leaders over the issue of seat adjustment.

However, the state Congress unit maintained that the final call on the decision of state-specific adjustments with the CPI(M) will be taken by party president Rahul Gandhi.

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