Newsletter May 5, 2018










As the electoral heat reaches its peak in Karnataka, both BJP and Congress heightened the campaigning across the state. While Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressed a series of public meetings targeting the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the saffron party released its poll manifesto, making a plethora of promises to farmers.

Addressing a rally in Kalaburagi, Rahul Gandhi tried to corner PM Modi on issues of atrocities against Dalits. “PM Modi will never forget to mention Dalits in his public meetings. However, he will remain silent when a Dalit is actually attacked by his own party men,” said Gandhi, adding “the BJP-RSS is assaulting Dalits across the nation.”

Terming it a battle between two ideologies, Gandhi said, “On one side it’s the ideology of Congress, Basavanna and Karnataka, while on the other is the ideology of BJP and RSS which wants to impose a singular thinking that does not respect the culture, food, and heritage of Karnataka.” PM Modi neither understands nor follows Basavanna’s teachings, his words are hollow, added Gandhi at a public meeting in Gajendragarh.

The BJP, meanwhile, promised a host of new initiatives for farmers, including farm loan waivers and other sops, freebies like laptops for students and smartphones for BPL women to a commission for cow protection in its manifesto.

Rahul Gandhi, however, termed the manifesto a “poorly crafted fiction”. “The BJP Karnataka Manifesto, inspired by Narendra Modi, is a poorly crafted fantasy built around a weak plot, that has nothing unique to offer voters. If you’ve read the Congress Manifesto, don’t waste your time on this one.”

Modi was also slammed by Siddaramaiah for ridiculing those who participated in the candlelight protest in support of the Kathua and Unnao rape victims. Siddaramaiah said Modi was only ‘pretending’ to discuss women empowerment ahead of the elections. “Tokenism Modi ji. Yesterday, you ridiculed a candle-light march taken out to protest supporters of child rapists in Kathua, and today you pretend to talk about Nari Shakti.”

“Bengaluru, the city you ridiculed yesterday, leads the nation with 25 per cent women’s participation in the workforce. In Delhi, the city you live in, the rate is 10 per cent. We must be doing something right,” he said.

Modi, on Thursday, had said that within five years the Congress government had turned Bengaluru, which was known as the country’s ‘Silicon Valley’, into ‘a valley of sin’, and the ‘garden city’ to ‘garbage city’.

Meanwhile, UP CM Yogi Adityanath who had been campaigning in the Karnataka for the BJP had to cut short his trip and return to UP following the death of over 70 people in the dust-storm that engulfed parts of the state a couple of days ago. Incumbent CM Siddaramaiah had taunted Adityanath on his absence from the state and said, “I am sorry your CM is needed here in Karnataka. I am sure he will return soon & attend to his work there.”

The state is set to go to the polls on May 12 while counting is scheduled for May 15.





Following the first informal summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, Chinese Ambassador Lou Zhaouhui has underlined “implementation, transmission and action” as the way forward from Wuhan.

At a seminar co-hosted with the Institute for Chinese Studies (ICS), Lou exchanged ideas with Indian and Chinese academics, scholars and journalists on “Wuhan Summit: Sino-India Relations and Its Way Forward”.

The envoy underlined that broad domestic and foreign policy principles were shared between the two top leaders in their first-of-its-kind strategic dialogue in “a fruitful, constructive manner”.

The nuts and bolts would now need finalising even as PM Modi and President Xi will find at least three occasions to meet this year. This includes the upcoming SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) summit in Qingdao, BRICS summit in Johannesburg and G20 in Argentina.

“Incremental moves will help in resolving disputes. We are talking of decades of developments. Some problems come from reality and some come from history. Putting aside disputes doesn’t mean neglecting them. Mutual accommodation will help,” said Lou.

Stressing that disputes cannot be resolved overnight, Lou, however, added that connectivity can build confidence.

Without referring to OBOR (One Belt, One Road) and India’s objections, the envoy said “China is using some new terms and names to replace old existing economic corridors” like the maritime silk route.

“During the preparations for the summit, it was decided that the leaders could talk about anything and not just about disputes,” he said , adding the boundary dispute would eventually need to be resolved.





There is a sense of disquiet in Rashtrapati Bhavan after the unprecedented public spectacle of around 50 award-winners boycotting the National Film Awards because they were told last-minute they would not get the award from President Ram Nath Kovind but from I&B Minister Smriti Irani and her colleague Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.

Rashtrapati Bhavan is reportedly upset because the President’s Secretariat was in touch with the Ministry over the event and, as early as March, had let it be known that the President would spend only an hour at the event and, therefore, not give away all the awards.

Said Ashok Malik, press secretary to the President: “I have already said earlier that the Ministry was informed well in advance that the President would not spend more than an hour. This has been the case from the beginning of this Presidency and has been conveyed to all ministries, institutions etc that invite him. I&B ministry was informed several weeks ago.”





The tussle between the government and the judiciary over judicial appointments played out in the Supreme Court on Friday, with each accusing the other of not discharging its functions to fill a huge number of vacancies.

As a Bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur charged the government with sitting over recommendations for appointment of judges in high courts, Attorney General KK Venugopal countered it, accusing the collegium of recommending just a few names for high courts with a larger number of vacancies.

The development came on a day when Justice RK Agrawal of the Supreme Court retired, taking the vacancies in the top court to seven. The sanctioned strength is 31. With five more judges due to retire this year, the vacancy situation was likely to deteriorate further.

Interestingly, there was no recommendation for appointment in the Supreme Court pending with the government after it returned the name of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph for reconsideration.

“The collegium will have to see the broad picture and recommend more names… Some HCs have 40 vacancies and recommendation of the collegium is only for three. And the government is being told that we are tardy in filling up the vacancy. If there is no collegium recommendation, nothing can be done,” Venugopal told the Bench.

“Non-recommendation does not give you (government) liberty to sit over names sent to you long back,” said the Bench, which also included Justice Deepak Gupta, reminding the government that it had to make the appointments.

“Tell us, how many names are pending with you?” the Bench asked Venugopal, who said, “I will have to find out.”

The judges took offence to it, saying, “This is the problem with you (government). When it comes to attacking the judiciary, you have all the data. But when it comes to the government, you say you don’t have the figures.”









President Donald Trump indicated he would try to replicate the conciliatory mood on the Korean Peninsula by toning down his own pointed rhetoric, which helped escalate tensions between the US and North Korea last year.

“We’re really doing well with North Korea,” Trump said at a National Rifle Association convention on Friday. “Now I’m trying to calm it down a bit.”

“Look, for years they’ve had this problem and everybody has said, ‘oh, don’t talk, don’t talk, please don’t talk,'” Trump said. “The last administration had a policy of silence. Don’t talk! You may make them and him angry!”

Trump announced that the venue and date for his meeting with Kim has been finalized, but he did not disclose details, except for a timeline of sometime in late May or early June.

US and South Korean officials have maintained contact ahead of the Trump-Kim meeting, and President Moon is headed to the White House on May 22 to discuss related matters.





Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party avoided a wipeout in London local elections and eked out gains in Brexit-supporting regions elsewhere, results on Friday showed, denting the opposition Labour Party’s hopes of a big win.

The elections are a gauge of public support for May as she faces a possible revolt in parliament over her strategy for leaving the European Union.

With almost all results declared, May had avoided the widespread losses that would have weakened her authority over Conservative lawmakers ahead of tests of her plans to take Britain out of the EU customs union as it quits the bloc.

Against a backdrop of heightened expectations for Labour, Thursday’s ballot also hinted at the limitations of its recent resurgence under veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn.





For the first time in almost 70 years there will be no Nobel Literature Prize this year, as the Swedish Academy that selects the laureate finds itself in turmoil over links to a man accused of sex crimes amid the #MeToo campaign.

“We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced,” the Academy’s interim permanent secretary Anders Olsson said in a statement Friday, adding two prizes would be announced in 2019.

The body has been plunged in crisis since November, in the wake of the global #MeToo campaign, when Swedish newspaper of reference Dagens Nyheter published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Jean-Claude Arnault, an influential figure on the Swedish culture scene. Arnault, the French husband of Academy member and poet Katarina Frostenson, has denied the allegations.

“The active members of the Swedish Academy are of course fully aware that the present crisis of confidence places high demands on a long-term and robust work for change,” Olsson said.

Seen as bearers of high culture, the Academy, founded in 1786, is traditionally known for its integrity and discretion, with its meetings and decisions shrouded in secrecy.

But the row has turned into a titillating public spectacle, with Academy members dealing ugly blows to each other in the media.









Internet services have been suspended in Aligarh district amid unrest in the Aligarh Muslim University over the Muhammad Ali Jinnah ‘s portrait row. “There will be no internet services from 2 pm today to 12 midnight tomorrow,” district magistrate Chandra Bhushan Singh said yesterday. This has been done to prevent rumour mongering, he said.

It had come to the administration’s notice that some anti-social elements could vitiate communal harmony by spreading rumours through videos, using internet services, his order said.

Violence broke out at the university campus on Wednesday after outsiders barged into the campus, shouting slogans demanding the removal of the portrait of Jinnah from students’ union office. “The situation in Aligarh is under control. We are watchful and will not let any untoward incident take place,” said Om Prakash Singh, the Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP).

The AMU students alleged that the protesters were from right-wing Hindu Yuva Vahini, and were allowed to leave a police station even after being initially detained.

The row started after Lok Sabha MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam wrote to the vice-chancellor questioning the presence of a portrait of Jinnah in the university students’ union office.





Amid the ongoing criticism of the ruling party’s Dalit outreach programme, a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, Anupama Jaiswal, on Friday defended the BJP leaders visiting homes of Dalits, saying they brave “mosquito bites the whole night”, but still go to the villages to make the community aware of the welfare schemes for their benefit.

However, the minister later clarified on her remark. “I was asked if we use ACs, coolers to keep away mosquitoes and order food from outside during our visit. I said it’s not true and we live in same conditions as them even if mosquitoes bite us,” she told ANI.

A BJP Lok Sabha member has accused her party’s leaders of “ridiculing and insulting” Dalits by carrying pre-cooked meals to their homes and eating there “in the name of breaking the caste barrier”. “Leaders are taking meals cooked in five-star hotels to the doors of the Scheduled Castes and eating there. They are ridiculing and insulting the Scheduled Castes,” Savitri Bai Phoole told reporters in Bahraich, her constituency, on Friday.

She seemed to also imply that these BJP leaders were practising untouchability. “They hire caterers, rent utensils and deploy their own people to serve the meal,” she said.

Earlier in the day, minister Suresh Rana, whose dinner at a Dalit’s house triggered controversy, said that “Dalit tourism” is not in the BJP’s tradition. He also asserted that the food he had at the Dalit man’s house on Monday was cooked by the villagers and was not ordered from outside.

Phoole suggested her party leaders should visit Dalit homes “without prior information and eat whatever has been cooked in their kitchen, even if it is just roti and salt or rice and dal”. Her comments come at a time Modi has asked BJP politicians to spend time in Dalit localities and instil confidence in them about the BJP.





The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed Karnataka mining baron G Janardhan Reddy’s plea seeking permission to visit state’s Bellary district for two days for campaigning ahead of the assembly elections to be held on May 12. Janardhan’s elder brother and son of late chief minister S Bangarappa, G Somashekhara Reddy, is contesting on a BJP ticket.

The top court has barred Janardhan Reddy from entering the Bellari region on account of charges against him.

The Reddy brothers are at the core of an alleged illegal mining racket between 2008 and 2013, when the BJP was in power in Karnataka.





The GST Council on Friday approved converting the GST Network — the IT backbone company — into a wholly government-owned company and simplified return filing mechanism with a single monthly return.

After the 27th meeting of the GST Council held through video conference, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Council considered the issue of ownership structure of GSTN and decided that 51% equity held by private entities will be acquired by the Centre and state governments which will eventually hold 50% each in the company.

The GST Council felt that GSTN be converted into be a fully owned government company considering the nature of “state” function performed by GSTN as it is handling large-scale invoice level data of lakhs of business entities, including data relating to exports and imports.

Jaitley said the Council also approved a new model of return filing mechanism in which a single monthly return will be filed except by those under the composition scheme and those filing nil returns with no transactions who would continue to file quarterly returns. This will be put in place after six months.

Return filing dates shall be staggered based on the turnover of the registered person to manage load on the IT system.





Having taken another step towards the sporting rapprochement of North and South Korea, the unified Korean women’s table tennis team was soundly beaten by Japan at the World Championships in Sweden yesterday. The two Koreas on Thursday opted against playing each other, deciding instead to field a joint women’s team for the semi-finals.

Despite the defeat, the combined Korean team were all smiles as they were applauded off the court by the spectators and the respective ambassadors of the two countries.

The united team is the latest sporting proof of the thaw in relations between the two rival Koreas that began at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February when they marched together at the opening ceremony and fielded a joint women’s hockey team.





Rohit Sharma and Krunal Pandya delivered in desperate times as Mumbai Indians stayed alive in the IPL with a tense six-wicket win over Kings XI Punjab here on Friday. Captain Sharma (24* off 15) and Pandya (31* off 12) shared a match-winning 56-run stand off just 21 balls as Mumbai Indians reached the 175-run target in 19 overs. The three-time champions needed 75 runs off the last seven overs, which they got rather comfortably, thanks to the Sharma-Pandya stand.

Mumbai’s thrilling chase came after the heroics of Chris Gayle, who continued his explosive run in the IPL with a 50 off 40 balls to propel Kings XI Punjab to 174/6.

The much-needed victory pushed Mumbai up to fifth from the bottom position in the points table, while KXIP remained in fourth spot with five wins from eight games.

Mumbai, who have now won three out of their nine games, are tied on six points with RCB, Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals.





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Diamonds are only lumps of coal that stuck at it no matter how much heat or pressure they faced. – Jeffrey Fry





A woman and her lover were wrapped in a passionate embrace when the door opened and in stormed her husband.

“Oh God,” the lady groaned, “Here’s big mouth. Now it will be all over town.”



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