Jaitley Cites Health To Opt Out Of Cabinet

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday opted out the new cabinet citing his health condition. The new cabinet will be sworn in on Thursday evening.

“I am writing to you to formally request you that I should be allowed a reasonable time for myself, my treatment and my health and, therefore, not be a part of any responsibility, for the present, in the new government,” Jaitley wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister who is working on his new cabinet to be sworn-in tomorrow.

The 66-year-old BJP leader, who was absent from Friday’s Union Cabinet meeting, said he would “undertake any work informally to support the government or the party”.

The BJP leader further wrote, “During the last 18 months, I have had some serious health challenges. My doctors have enabled me to emerge out of most of them. After the campaign had concluded and you were leaving for Kedarnath, I had orally informed you that even though I was able to discharge the responsibilities assigned to me during the campaign, I would in future, for some time, like to keep away from any responsibility.”

Jaitley, owing to his health, was not seen at the victory celebrations at the BJP headquarters after the party stormed to power with a massive victory on 303 seats.

He has not been seen in public in the last few days, however, Jaitley did take a meeting of top Finance Ministry officials at his residence recently.

“Hon’ble Prime Minister, It was a great honour and a learning experience for me to have been a part of the Government led by you for the past five years. Even earlier, the Party had blessed me with responsibilities in the first NDA Government, in the Party organisation and also while we were in the Opposition. I could not have asked for more,” his letter to the Prime Minister read.

He continued: “This will enable me to concentrate on my treatment and health. The BJP and the NDA, under your leadership, have secured a spectacular win.”

Jaitley was given the Finance portfolio despite being defeated by Congress’ Captain Amarinder Singh in Amritsar in 2014 national elections.

In February this year, owing to his ill health and ongoing treatment in the US, the portfolio was given to Piyush Goyal, who presented the interim budget announcing tax rebate for income up to Rs 5 lakh.


Naveen Sworn In As Orissa CM For 5th Term

Chief minister-designate Naveen Patnaik took oath on Wednesday as the chief minister of Odisha, for the fifth consecutive time. Along with him, a 20-member Council of Ministers will also be sworn in.

Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal had on Sunday invited Chief Minister and BJD president Patnaik to form the next government in the state. The Governor appointed 11 Cabinet ministers and nine Ministers of State on the recommendation of the chief minister.

The 72-year-old BJD supremo Patnaik, one of the longest-serving chief ministers, managed to retain the state for the fifth consecutive term in the recently concluded Lok Sabha election in the state.

The swearing-in ceremony was held at the Exhibition Ground in Bhubaneswar, the Governor’s office said in a press statement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other political leaders were invited to the ceremony.

The Cabinet Ministers who took oath are Ranendra Pratap Swain, Bikram Keshari Arukha, Naba Kishore Das, Pratap Jena, Prafulla Kumar Mallick, Niranjan Pujari, Sudam Marndi, Susanta Singh, Tukuni Sahu, Arun Kumar Sahoo and Padmanav Behera

The state ministers include Ashok Chandra Panda, Samir Ranjan Dash, Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi, Dibya Shankar Mishra, Premananda Nayak, Raghunandan Das, Padmini Dian, Tusharkanti Behera and Jagannath Saraka.

Elections for the 147 seats in the Odisha Legislative Assembly and 21 Lok Sabha seats were held simultaneously in the state.

Patnaik won from two Assembly segments, his home turf Hinjili under the Aska Lok Sabha seat in southern Odisha and Bijapur in the Bargarh Lok Sabha seat in western Odisha.

BJD retained 12 of the 21 parliamentary seats in the state. The party secured 112 seats in the 147-member Odisha Assembly. BJP won 23 seats and Congress managed to win nine seats. An independent and CPI(M) won one seat each.

Patnaik, the son of former chief minister Biju Patnaik formed the BJD after quitting the Janata Dal in 1997. He became the chief minister for the first time in the year 2000 and his party had been in alliance with the BJP till 2009.

Kailash Vijayvargiya Mukul Roy

2 TMC MLAs, 50 Councillors Join BJP

In a major setback to the Trinamool Congress (TMC), two MLAs, including BJP leader Mukul Roy’s son Subhrangshu, and over 50 councillors from West Bengal joined the BJP here on Tuesday.

An MLA from CPM also joined the party.

Senior party leaders, including West Bengal party in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy, were present at the party headquarters for the occasion.

“Like the elections were held in seven phases in West Bengal, joinings in BJP will also happen in seven phases. Today was just the first phase,” Vijayvargiya asserted.

Before the announcement, he had said that “such joinings will continue in future as well”.

Earlier in the day Mukul Roy, once a confidant of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said that the people of West Bengal have made their minds to support the BJP.

Roy’s son Subhrangshu, the MLA from Bijpur constituency, was suspended from the TMC for six years for anti-party activities.

The development comes days after BJP broke into the TMC citadel winning 18 seats, 16 seats more than it bagged in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. TMC bagged 22 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Congress managed to win just two seats, while the Left parties drew a blank.



Rahul Not Yielding On Resignation Offer

By Syed Mojiz Imam And Siddarth Sharma

Two days after his resignation offer, Congress President Rahul Gandhi is said to be sticking to his decision and is keen that a new person could be chosen for the post to guide it in the challenging times ahead.

Gandhi had offered to step down from his post at the CWC meeting on Saturday taking moral responsibility for the dismal performance in the polls. But it was unanimously rejected by the CWC.

Sources said that despite senior leaders making serious attempts to convince him to rethink on his decision, Gandhi is said to be unfazed.

Earlier in the day, he offered tributes to India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru at Shanti Van on the occasion of his death anniversary. When some Congress leaders urged him there to continue as the president, he just smiled and went away.

Party Treasurer Ahmed Patel and Organisational General Secretary K C Venugopal met with Gandhi at his residence here and urged him to continue to lead the party.

Party leaders, sources said, maintained that Congress cannot afford to have a new leader at the helm for rebuilding the organisation at this juncture and that the responsibility for the defeat is collective and not individual.

A CWC member said that an honest postmortem is the need of the hour.

However, Congress has termed the developments as speculation and rumour.

“The Congress party expects everyone including the media to respect the sanctity of a closed-door meeting of the CWC. Various conjectures, speculations, insinuations, assumptions, gossip and rumour mongering in a section of the media is uncalled for and unwarranted,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said on Twitter.


Ashok Gehlot Sachin Pilot

Bickering In Rajasthan Cong Over Debacle

After suffering a humiliating drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections, internal bickering has begun haunting Rajasthan Congress with top state leaders facing the ire of party rank and file.

Many party leaders have asked for ‘change in leadership’ and ‘resignation’ of those responsible for the party’s worst ever electoral show in the state.

The Congress party failed to win even a single seat in the state in the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP and its ally won all 25 seats.

After the ‘purported resignation’ letter of Minister Lalchand Kataria went viral on social media, Ramesh Chanda Meena called for introspection in the party.

Senior party leader and Cabinet Minister Udaylal Anjana has questioned the ticket distribution.

“Defeat is a cause of concern but why should I resign from the post of the minister which I have got with such a difficulty,” he asked.

It is learnt Congress party Rahul Gandhi at the recently held Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting accused three senior Congress leaders including Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of putting their sons above the party’s interests in the Lok Sabha polls.

The party had fielded Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot from Jodhpur but he lost to BJP’s Gajendra Shekhawat by 2.7 lakh votes.

The BJP, however, is enjoying rumblings within the Congress party.

“We have always said the Congress party practices dynasty politics. So far as the formation of government in the state is concerned, everything is possible in politics,” said BJP’s state unit president Madan Lal Saini. (ANI)


Guru Nanak Palace Damaged In Pakistan

A historical four-storied building named ‘Guru Nanak Palace’ was partially demolished by locals in Narowal. According to Dawn, the doors, windows, ventilators and pillars gathered from the demolished site were sold.

The report said that the handful that allegedly committed the vandalised act were supported by auqaf department officials. 

“This old building is called the Palace of Baba Guru Nanak and we have named it Mahalan. A number of Sikhs from across the world, including India, used to visit this building,” a local named Muhammad Aslam told Dawn.

He went on to talk about a six-member Canadian delegation that had come to visit the site a few years ago, and were overjoyed at coming to the site, as if “they had found a treasure.”

“The auqaf department was informed about the demolition of the building by some influential persons, but no officer or official took any action or even reached here,” said another native Muhammad Ashraf.

“Three storeys of the building have already been demolished and new houses constructed. The influentials have demolished the building with the connivance of the auqaf department and sold its costly windows, doors, ventilators and wood,” he added.

The ownership of the building is not known. Dawn reported that a family, which lived inside the building, has asserted ownership. Furthermore, Muhammad Anwar, a member of the family, has claimed responsibility for the demolition.

“I do not know whose property this building is as we have been living here for generations. We demolished it because it was in a dangerous, dilapidated condition,” he said. His family settled there after partition.

The centuries-old structure is situated in village Bathanwala, which is 20 kilometres from Narowal. The structure had 16 large rooms, each of which had at least three beautiful doors and four ventilators.

The three-foot-wide wall surrounding the structure was intricately painted with pictures of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev, along with murals of Hindu rulers and princes.

The main structure was built with old bricks, sand, clay and limestone.

The rooms were constructed with large broad walls which had cupboards in them. The cupboards were ornately carved with flowers. The walls, meanwhile, had small lamp enclosures. The beams were made of Diyar wood, which easily costs thousands of rupees per foot.

“There is no mention of this building in the revenue record. As it seemed to be historical, we are checking the municipal committee’s record,” said Narowal Deputy Commissioner Waheed Asghar, who stopped the demolition. He is in charge of the record of all properties in the region.

Meanwhile, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Sialkot zone Rent Collector Rana Waheed said, “Our team is investigating the Guru Nanak Mahal Bathanwala. If this palace was the property of Evacuee Trust Property Board, legal action will be taken against those responsible.”

Locals have demanded Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to take immediate cognisance of the incident and initiate action against the perpetrators.


Punjab Chief Minister

The Captain Who Sailed Against Modi Tide

The Congress performance in Punjab has not only strengthened Captain Amarinder Singh’s hold in the state, it has also made party high command look at him with renewed respect

Four years ago, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh was appointed president of the Congress party’s state unit but only after he fought hard to get this position which put him in line for the CM’s post.

It was only after he threatened to revolt that the Congress leadership reluctantly relented and brought him back as party chief though the high command was not happy at being browbeaten into taking a decision.

Singh could afford to exert pressure on the party as he had more than proved himself when he defeated Bharatiya Janata Party’s senior leader Arun Jaitley in the 2014 Lok Sabha election to win the prestigious Amritsar seat in spite of a Modi wave.

Amarinder Singh stood vindicated yet again when he went on to oust the ten-year-led Shiromani Akali Dal government in 2017 to form a Congress government in Punjab.

And today, Singh is truly the king as he has successfully fended off the Modi upsurge once again by winning eight of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, a gain of five seats from the last general election. This is despite the fact that Singh has been in power for nearly two years after which one would expect a sitting chief minister to face some anti-incumbency.

In fact, Singh is the only chief minister who has delivered for the party while Kamal Nath, Bhupesh Baghel and Ashok Gehlot, his counterparts in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan, failed miserably in keeping the BJP at bay.

The Congress performance has strengthened Amarinder Singh’s hold over the party in Punjab while the Congress is looking at him with renewed respect with some even suggesting that he deserved to be made party president.

As in the case of 2014, Punjab bucked the national trend once again in this election and chose to vote differently from the rest of the country. The state remained impervious to Modi’s charms even though in neighboring Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, it was Modi, Modi all the way.

ALSO READ: Capt Visits Punjab Border Areas

While the Congress bettered its score this time, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party, which had stunned everyone by bagging four seats in the last Lok Sabha election has been reduced to one this time and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine won four seats between them. For the Akalis, it was a second shock after its humiliating defeat in the 2017 assembly poll as it could only ensure the victory of its party president Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife Harsimrat Singh Badal while the remaining ten party candidates fell by the wayside.

For his part, Amarinder Singh did not allow the poll campaign to become Modi-centric. He successfully used the BJP’s high-pitch campaign on nationalism post-Pulwama to his advantage by lending unequivocal support to the government’s action in Balakot. He made a thundering speech in the assembly, sent out a chilling warning to Pakistan, and urged Modi to see that the killing of Indian soldiers and citizens was avenged. Singh’s move to present himself as a true nationalist carried credibility as he has served in the Indian Army. Besides, warmongering does not go down well in Punjab as the people point out that as a border state, they are the first to be hit in case of military action.

Singh pushed the Akalis on the defensive by successfully playing the Panthic card in the election. He constantly attacked the Badals by periodically referring to the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 and subsequent police firing at protesters as well as the pardon granted to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram in a blasphemy case. Singh set up a commission to inquire into the sacrilege issue which held that the Badal administration was complicit in shielding those responsible for committing the unholy act. Finding themselves on the backfoot, the Badal family offered an apology at the Golden Temple. Though the Badals won their seats, the issue continues to haunt the party.

Amarinder Singh was also helped in his campaign by the fact that his opponents were unable to put up an effective fight as both the Shromani Akali Dal and the Aam Admi Party have been wracked by internal divisions. The Badals found themselves in the dock after the party’s rout in the 2017 assembly polls when several old timers walked out to set up shop on their own. The Lok Sabha result shows that the party has yet to recover from its last defeat.

ALSO READ: Kejriwal Apology To Majithia Irks State AAP

The virtual unraveling of the Aam Admi Party also made Singh’s job easier. The newbie party had caught the imagination of the people of Punjab in 2014 when it won four Lok Sabha seats. Though the party did not fare as well as it was expected to do in the last assembly election, it did manage to beat the Akalis to emerge as the principal opposition party. But since then, the party has witnessed several departures with its state chief Sukhpal Singh Khaira setting up his own party and two of its MLAs joining the Congress.

Consequently, the party which was seen as a rising star in Punjab, has lost all credibility. It managed to bag only one Lok Sabha seat with Gurudas Mann retaining Sangrur.  The Congress snatched the remaining three seats from the Aam Admi Party.