If speaking on UCC, opposing Muslim quota religion-based campaign, then BJP will continue doing it: Amit Shah

News Network
May 26, 2024

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New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asserted that the BJP will get a bigger win in opposition-ruled states due to a 'positive mandate' for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls, as he slammed the opposition's criticism of the Election Commission as a ploy to cover up for its impending loss.

In an interview with PTI, Shah claimed that his party has not resorted to any religion-based campaign but insisted that if canvassing against reservation for Muslims, and reaching out to voters on the abolition of Article 370 and implementing a Uniform Civil Code is religion-based campaign, then the BJP has done it and will continue doing so.

He dismissed the opposition's criticism of the Election Commission for its handling of poll data and the issue of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), saying that similar protocols and practices have been followed in previous assembly polls, including Telangana, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh where the BJP lost.

"If those elections were fair, then this election is also fair. When you see defeat, you start crying in advance and try to find excuses to go abroad. This can't go on and on. They want to go on vacation on June 6. So, they are telling something or the other," he said.

The Congress's questions about the polling process is aimed at covering up Rahul Gandhi's failure, he said.

Shah said the opposition party had not offered any such suggestion at the customary all-party meeting called by the poll watchdog before the elections. "Whenever the opposition loses an election, they raise some questions. There is zero possibility of rigging in EVMs and they want an election which can be rigged."

With six phases of the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls over, the BJP's key strategist said the party's assertion that its alliance will cross the 400-seat mark when the poll results are out on June 4 is not merely a poll slogan but a well thought-out goal.

He said, "We will surely cross 400 seats. We will also form governments in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh."

Assembly polls in the three states have been held alongside the Lok Sabha elections.

"If we get 399 seats and you say we have not crossed 400, then it is your wisdom. But the '400 paar' slogan is based on calculation and considered opinion," Shah said in his characteristic combative and sure-footed manner.

Asked if the party was overly dependent on Modi and if a relatively weak opposition was benefitting from its alliance, he said it was not a negative but a positive vote which the ruling alliance is receiving.

"This is not a negative vote. Please accept one thing. This is a positive vote. We will get people's support where (in states) we are in power. And mark my words...where we are not, we will be getting a bigger mandate. So this is a positive mandate for the work of the central government," he said.

As Modi has brought to fruition the BJP's core ideological plans, be it the poor's welfare, a secure country, abrogation of Article 370, a uniform law (UCC) across the country, women's reservation and Ram temple, his popularity naturally becomes the strength of the BJP, he added. "He is our biggest leader."

He accused the main opposition party of misleading people on the issue of Muslim reservation, insisting that its accusation that the BJP has been telling a lie rings hollow as it has already implemented such a religious quota in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

"If they divide the truth in pieces to mislead people, then isn't it our duty to put these pieces together and inform people," he said, defending Modi's intense attack on the Congress over the religious quota and the issue of redistribution of wealth.

"You might have heard and understood Rahul Gandhi's X-ray speech. So you want X-ray of what? And if you want to distribute it equally, then who will you distribute to? Manmohan Singh Ji said minorities are their priority. What do you make of this," he asked when questioned about the Congress's allegations against Modi.

To a question about the Congress's promise of giving Rs 1 lakh to women in poor households, he said the party has a history of making populist assurances to come to power but never fulfilling them.

Shah said, "They are in power in two-three states. They should at least fulfil this promise there. At least start giving Rs 1,500 which you promised (in Himachal Pradesh). You are talking about Rs 1 lakh, at least start giving Rs 1,500. Who will trust them."

Making his projection for the BJP in the states where the ruling party is eying major gains, he said it will anywhere between 24 to 30 seats in West Bengal and 16-17 in Odisha. Its alliance will bag nearly 17 seats in Andhra Pradesh. The three states have 42, 21 and 25 Lok Sabha seats, respectively.

Shah claimed that the BJP is set for a maiden majority in the Odisha assembly and expects to win 75 seats in the 147-member House. Its alliance will storm to power in Andhra too, he said.

People are angry with the Mamata Banerjee-led government over issues of corruption, cow and coal smuggling and infiltration, and the Sandeshkhali issue has exposed as to what extent she can stoop in her appeasement politics, he said.

With Modi spearheading the BJP's push in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, two states where the party has been so far unable to make much headway, in these polls, Shah said the party will certainly increase its vote share in the Dravidian state.

He said, "It is a very tight contest. We have a new team. I will not make an estimate with figures. But our seats and vote share will increase and we will certainly lay a strong foundation in Tamil Nadu. We can open our account in Kerala. We are in a good position in three seats."

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News Network
June 13,2024

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Kuwaiti authorities have identified the bodies of 45 Indians and three Filipino nationals killed in the tragic fire incident in a building housing foreign workers in the Gulf Kingdom, a top official said on Thursday. Sheikh Fahad Al-Yousuf Al-Sabah was quoted as saying by Arab Times that efforts are still underway to determine the identity of one remaining body.

According to the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs of State of Kerala, the number of people from Kerala who died in the Kuwait fire tragedy has risen to 24. 

The blaze, which started in the kitchen, erupted around 4 am on Wednesday while most of the 195 migrant workers were asleep. The fire incident in southern Kuwait’s Mangaf area claimed 49 lives and injured 50 others.

Meanwhile, an Indian Air Force aircraft is on standby to bring back the mortal remains of Indians killed in the incident. Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya assured full support to the Indians affected in the fire and vowed to promptly investigate the tragedy, hours after meeting Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh.

Kerala govt to provide Rs 5 lakh

The Kerala government said it will provide Rs 5 lakh financial assistance to the families of the people from the state who died in the Kuwait fire tragedy that claimed 49 lives and left 50 others injured.
The decision was taken at an emergency Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the morning, a statement issued by his office said. The cabinet also decided to provide Rs 1 lakh financial assistance to those injured in the incident, it said.
The statement also said prominent businessmen M A Yusuff Ali and Ravi Pillai have informed the CM that they will provide Rs 5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh, respectively, to each of the families of the Keralites who died in the fire.

Probe ordered

Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has ordered a probe into the fire incident at the apartment building, which housed foreign workers with mostly Indians. At least 49 people have died, and the Emir has instructed the officials to investigate the cause of the fire and hold those responsible in the incident as accountable for it.

PM holds meeting

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the fire incident as "saddening" and held a meeting with external affairs minister S Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, and Principal Secretary to the PM PK Mishra to review the situation. 

The fire in the Al-Mangaf building was reported to authorities in Al-Ahmadi governorate at 4:30 am yesterday, with most of the deaths attributed to smoke inhalation. Kuwaiti media reported that the fire started in a kitchen. Kuwait's interior ministry confirmed that the death toll had reached 49.

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News Network
June 10,2024

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New Delhi: The 71 Union ministers who were sworn in alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday include 10 Dalits, 27 from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 21 from the ‘upper’ castes, five from tribal groups and five representing religious minorities. However, there are no Muslims. 

In the previous term of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was the minority affairs minister, but he resigned in 2022 after his term in the Rajya Sabha came to an end and was replaced by Smriti Irani. This time, no Muslim minister has been sworn in. No Muslim MPs from the NDA were elected to the Lok Sabha this time.

The five ministers from minority communities in the Modi Government 3.0 include Hardeep Singh Puri, Ravneet Singh Bittu, George Kurian, Kiren Rijiju and Ramdas Athawale. While Puri and Athawale are Rajya Sabha MPs and Rijiju won the Lok Sabha elections from Arunachal Pradesh, Bittu lost the elections from Punjab and Kurian, a Kerala BJP general secretary, did not contest.

After the 2019 general election, 57 ministers were sworn in, of whom 32 were from ‘upper’ castes, 13 from OBCs, six from Scheduled Castes and four from Scheduled Tribes. However, the Council of Ministers was subsequently expanded in 2021 and included 27 OBCs, 12 SCs, eight STs and 30 from the ‘upper’ castes. 

The share of representatives of the ‘upper’ castes is down after many ‘upper-caste’ candidates lost in Uttar Pradesh.

Dalit and tribal groups

In Modi’s second term, the late Ram Vilas Paswan, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Virendra Kumar were among the Dalit ministers. Kumar, who had succeeded Gehlot as the minister for social justice and empowerment, has made it to the cabinet this time, too, after winning his eighth Lok Sabha election from Madhya Pradesh. 

Besides him, Paswan’s son and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan, and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, are among the new Dalit cabinet ministers.

Arjun Ram Meghwal from Rajasthan, who was serving as the law minister in the previous term, has been inducted this time as minister of state (independent charge). In addition, Athawale, S.P. Singh Baghel, L. Murugan and Kamlesh Paswan will be ministers of state.

 A senior BJP leader said, “More Dalit ministers have been added this time, which was necessary since the party lost a significant chunk of Dalit votes. Not just that, religious minorities ranging from Sikhs to Christians have been given representation.” 

There are also five ministers from tribal groups, same as the 2019-2024 term. Jual Oram from Odisha, who had also served as a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet and has won the Lok Sabha elections six times, has been elevated to the position of a cabinet minister. Arjun Munda, another prominent tribal leader from the party, lost the election this time.

Sarbananda Sonowal, Savitri Thakur and Durga Das Uikey are other ministers from tribal groups.

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News Network
June 7,2024

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Moscow: Four Indian medical students drowned in a river near St Petersburg in Russia and the Indian missions in the country were coordinating with Russian authorities to send their bodies to their relatives as soon as possible.

The four students—two boys and two girls aged 18-20—were studying at the nearby Novgorod State University in Veliky Novgorod city.

Local media reports said that a female Indian student, who waded out from the beach on the river Volkhov, got into trouble and four of her companions tried to save her.

In their attempt to save her, three others also drowned in the river.

A third boy was pulled to safety by local people.

"We are working to send the bodies to the relatives as soon as possible. Proper treatment is also being provided to the student whose life has been saved," the Embassy of India in Moscow said on X.

The Consulate General of India in St Petersburg said these students were pursuing medical education at Veliky Novgorod State University.

"Sincere condolences to the bereaved families," it posted on X.

The Consulate General said it was working together with the local authorities of Veliky Novgorod to send the mortal remains to the relatives as soon as possible.

"The bereaved families have been contacted and assured of all the possible help," it said.

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