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Rahul Gandhi did not take stand against corruption when it mattered in Bihar: Nitish

Press Trust of India

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Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Tuesday attributed his sudden exit from the opposition alliance to Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s “inability” to take a stand on corruption charges against his former deputy and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.

Kumar, who also heads the JD(U), claimed that his party was instrumental in the Congress getting 40 seats to contest in the 2015 assembly polls.

The chief minister said he had felt let down by Gandhi, then the party’s vice-president, when he “did not come up with even a statement that could have made me have second thoughts (about leaving the alliance)”.

 

Kumar had quit the alliance, comprising the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress, in July 2017 after the CBI lodged an FIR against Yadav on corruption charges and the following strife between him and the RJD.

“It has been always my line that there will be no compromise on crime, corruption and communalism. Their (RJD’s) style of functioning was such that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to work. There was interference at all levels. Their people would telephone police stations with their own decrees,” Kumar claimed.

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“Rahul Gandhi had famously tore that ordinance. It was the JD(U) which insisted that it (Congress) be given 40 seats and they ended up winning 28. The RJD, despite its old association with it, was never ready to give it that much weightage,” Kumar said.

In 2003, Gandhi had torn an ordinance brought by the Manmohan Singh government with a provision to protect convicted politicians against disqualification.

Stating that he resigned as he had no other choice, Kumar said his resignation was immediately followed by an offer of support from the BJP. “So I took the decision (to join hands with the BJP) in the interests of Bihar,” he said.

“We have our differences on issues like Ayodhya, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code since the 1990s. My association with the BJP predates the NDA’s formation in 1999. But we have always worked amicably. Even now, we are getting full cooperation from the Narendra Modi government,” he said.

Kumar had snapped ties with the BJP in 2013 following differences over projection of Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister, as the prime ministerial candidate.

On a query about the RSS, he said, “I may not agree with their thoughts but I cannot help admiring their consistency and commitment towards organisation building, something those adhering to our socialist ideology never excelled at.”

Recalling the stupendous performances by the JD(U)-BJP combine in 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the assembly elections a year later, Kumar said, “Now we have an important leader like Ram Vilas Paswanwith us. So there is no reason why we should not do even better in the upcoming LS polls.”

On the opposition ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance), which comprises the RJD, the Congress, the RLSP, the HAM and some smaller parties, he said, “Even the term mahagathbandhan that they keep flaunting was given by me. After the exit of JD(U), it is just a gathbandhan (alliance)”.


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70 killed as massive fire breaks out in chemical warehouses in Dhaka

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Dhaka: At least 70 people were killed as a massive fire on Wednesday night ripped through several buildings also used as chemical and plastic warehouses in an old part of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

The fire broke out at a chemical warehouse on the ground floor of a four-storey building named Hazi Wahed Mansion behind a mosque in Old Dhaka’s Chawkbazar area and the flames then quickly spread through four other buildings nearby, including a community centre, fire officials said.

At least 70 people had been killed in the massive blaze, fire officials said, adding that the death toll could rise further as dozens of people were trapped in the buildings and the firefighters were yet to enter into the main spot where the fire broke out.

 

“Most of the bodies were retrieved from the houses around that building while firefighters now prepare to enter into the five-storey building, the main spot in search of more bodies,” a police official at the scene said.

Witnesses said the victims also included passersby, some people who were eating food at a nearby restaurant and some members of a wedding party.

Fire officials said the second, third and fourth floors of the building were used as warehouses and plastic factories and there were some residential flats also.

Over 50 wounded people were being treated at Dhaka’s two major state-run facilities–Dhaka Medical College Hospital’s burns unit and Sir Salimullah Medical College.

Many people were injured after they jumped off the building that housed several families.

The officials earlier said 37 firefighting units were moved to the scene but narrow lanes made it difficult for fire engines to reach the spot forcing the firefighters to use long hose pipes to set off the blaze.

A nearly identical incident of fire in 2010 in an old Dhaka building, which was also used as a chemical warehouse, had killed more than 120 people in one of the worst fire tragedies in Bangladesh.

It had sparked a public outcry, demanding the relocation of chemical warehouses and stores from the area, but little has been done in the last nine years. PTI

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SC agrees to hear plea seeking review of Rafale verdict

Agencies

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a plea seeking review of its verdict in the Rafale case. Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan had earlier moved the apex court, seeking review of its December 14 judgment on the Rafale fighter jet deal. The petitioners alleged that the court relied upon “incorrect claims” made by the Centre.

When Prashant Bhushan requested the bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to hear the petition on Rafale Deal, Ranjan Gogoi said, “Will do something for the listing of the case as a bench is to be constituted for it.”

The bench of CJI Gogoi, Justices SK Kaul and K M Joseph had earlier dismissed all four petitions seeking a court-monitored probe, saying it found “no occasion to really doubt the process” of decision making, pricing and selection of offset partners.

 

Declining to interfere in the Rafale deal, the bench said the perception of individuals cannot be the basis for a roving enquiry in matters of sensitive nature.

The judges said, “We do not find any substantial material on record to show that this is a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian government, as the option to choose the IOP (Indian Offset Partner) does not rest with the Indian government”.

One of the issues raised by the petitioners was the choice of Reliance Aerostructure Ltd as an offset partner by Dassault Aviation Ltd, which manufactures the Rafale.

They alleged that the deal was tweaked to favour the Anil Ambani-owned company.

Earlier this month, a CAG report on Capital Acquisitions in Indian Air Force, which was tabled in Rajya Sabha, noted that the Rafale deal negotiated by the NDA government was 2.86 per cent lower than the previous one from UPA-era.

Compared to the earlier deal in which 126 Rafale jets were to be purchased, according to the CAG report, the country has saved 17.08 per cent in costs towards the India Specific Enhancements to be fitted in the 36 Rafale jets under the new deal. The CAG also noted that there was an improvement of only one month in the delivery schedule of the 2016 contract in comparison to the 2007 offer.

After the apex court’s verdict on Rafale, a controversy erupted over a paragraph in its 29-page ruling. On Page 21, in Para 25 of the judgment, the bench stated that the pricing details of the Rafale was shared with the CAG which, in turn, shared its report with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

But Mallikarjun Kharge, who chairs the PAC, says no such report has come to him yet and “neither does the CAG know about it”

A day after the Rafale judgment, the Centre had moved an application in the Supreme Court for carrying out a correction in the paragraph. The Centre pointed out that “misinterpretation” of its note has “resulted in a controversy in the public domain”. In the application, the Centre said the two sentences in paragraph 25 of the judgment appeared to have been based on the note submitted by it along with the pricing details in a sealed cover, but indicated the words used by the court lent a different meaning.

Clarifying its position, the Centre said it did not say that the CAG report was examined by PAC or a redacted portion was placed before Parliament.

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Cong attacks PM over India-Saudi statement, says he ‘forgot’ to write Pak’s name

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi: The Congress on Thursday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the joint statement issued after his talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying the PM “forgot” to write the name of Pakistan in the document.

The statement, issued hours after the Modi-Crown Prince talks, said the two leaders condemned the Pulwama attack in the strongest possible terms and called on all countries to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy. However, it did not name Pakistan in this context.

“Modiji on February 18 said ‘the time for talks with Pakistan is over, and now action will be taken’,” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted.

 

“Modiji on February 20 saying –India and Pakistan will talk as Modiji has been trying for since May 2014,” he said, referring to a paragraph in the document that talked about the Indian and the Saudi sides agreeing onthe need for creation of conditions necessary for resumption of comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The prime minister “forgot” to write the name of Pakistan in the joint statement, Surjewala said.

The Crown Prince “appreciated consistent efforts made by Prime Minister Modi since May 2014 including Prime Minister’s personal initiatives to have friendly relations with Pakistan,” the joint statement said.

“In this context, both sides agreed on the need for creation of conditions necessary for resumption of comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan,” it said.

The talks between the prime minister and the Saudi Crown Prince came days after the February 14 attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that killed 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

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