Newsletter 24th May, 2018



A pantheon of Opposition leaders in the country graced the swearing-in ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister of the JD(S)-Congress alliance in Bengaluru on Wednesday, raising hopes of a united anti-BJP front to take on PM Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

At an impressive function on the grand steps of Vidhana Soudha, initially threatened by an hour long hailstorm, Congress’ Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, TMC’s Mamata Banerjee, BSP’s Mayawati, SP’s Akhilesh Yadav, TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja and RJD’s Tejaswi Yadav were among those on the stage, sharing bonhomie.

Kumaraswamy and G Parameshwara of the Congress, who took oath as Deputy CM, were the only two to be sworn-in, as Cabinet formation has been put off till the new CM passes the vote of confidence on Friday.

The JD(S)-Congress alliance has 118 members, including one from the BSP and two independents. The two partners have agreed that apart from Dy CM, the Congress will get 21 and the JD(S) 11 berths in the ministry. Congress’ KR Ramesh Kumar is expected to be Speaker and JD(S)’ AT Ramaswamy Deputy Speaker.

Kumaraswamy will have a tough job as he will have to accommodate the lone BSP legislator N Mahesh and two Independents in the ministry. The Congress has told him that he would have to fill those berths from the JD(S) quota.

Deve Gowda is keen that his elder son HD Revanna is given at least two or three important portfolios. Former CM Siddaramaiah, who has been elected as Leader of the Congress Legislature Party, is being projected by the Congress as head of the coordination committee. The Gowda family is strongly resisting it, given the animosity they share with each other.


The BJP on Wednesday slammed the Congress-JD(S) alliance in Karnataka as “corrupt, anti-poor, opportunistic” coming together of “betrayers” of people.

Dismissing the show of Opposition unity in Bengaluru, BJP leaders said people knew better and would re-enforce support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a bigger majority in 2019.

While the Congress said it would “expose” the Modi government over its alleged failure on various fronts in the past four years by observing May 26 as “Vishwasghat Divas” (Betrayal Day), BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra retaliated by describing HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony as “celebration of corruption”.

“All ‘bhrashtcharis’ (corrupt) got together in Bengaluru and the Congress is saying that the BJP has done ‘vishwasghat’ (betrayal) with people? Betrayal is what you (Congress) have done to people of Karnataka. You are celebrating betrayal of Karnataka,” Patra said, recounting corruption charges against several Opposition leaders present at the Bengaluru event.




Tension escalated along the entire 198-km International Border — from Paharpur to Akhnoor — on Wednesday as five villagers were killed and 40, including three BSF personnel, injured in fresh shelling by Pakistan troops from across the border.

It was the sixth consecutive day of heavy shelling in three districts of Jammu region. The targeting of civilian areas by Pakistan Rangers has forced  90,000 border residents to flee homes and take shelter in relief camps and other  places. More than 100 border villages have been affected.

While 80 BSF posts have been targeted, officers claimed they were giving a “befitting reply” to the unprovoked shelling. Reports suggest Pakistan Rangers are being assisted by its army to target civilian areas on the Indian side.

Expressing concern over the situation, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called for immediate cessation of hostilities to safeguard the lives and properties of the people.

She called for a ceasefire on the border on the lines of the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Central Government in the state, saying the “onus is also on Pakistan to respond positively” in the larger interest of peace and stability in the region.



Kerala Health Minister K K Shylaja on Wednesday assured the government has taken necessary precautions to control the spread of the deadly Nipah virus. The virus has claimed 11 lives in Kozhikode, while 19 people with similar symptoms have been admitted to various hospitals in Kozhikode.

In an advisory issued to travellers, the government said travelling to any part of the state was safe. “However, if travellers wish to be extra conscious, they may avoid the districts of Kozhikode, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur,” Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said in the advisory.

Shylaja said 2,000 Ribavirin tablets, anti-viral medicines, have been brought from Malaysia for treatment of patients with symptoms of Nipah virus infection. “A team of doctors from the AIIMS is training doctors in Kerala to tackle the situation,” the minister said.

The state health department paid tribute to nurse Puthussery Lini, who died while treating a virus-infected patient. In a function held in Thiruvananthapuram, Minister K K Shylaja said the memories of Lini would always remain alive in the state’s health sector. Kerala cabinet has offered a Government job to her husband and Rs 10 lakh each to her two sons.





Pressing for a Constitutional amendment to conduct simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, the Law Commission has decided to seek the opinion of all stakeholders, including political parties, on the issue.

The move comes two months after President Ram Nath Kovind endorsed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to hold simultaneous elections.

The Commission’s “Draft working paper — Simultaneous Elections — Constitution and Legal Perspectives”, which has been sent to the Union Law Ministry, states: “Simultaneous elections may be restored in the nation by amending the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951 and Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and those of the State Legislative Assemblies.”

As a “possible recommendation”, the Commission, chaired by Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan, has also stated that a definition of “simultaneous elections” may be added to Section 2 of the 1951 Act.

In its draft report, the Commission recommended that “statutory limit of six months for the issuance of notification of general elections be appropriately extended by the way of amendments to section 14 and 15 of the 1951 Act.” “This would provide the flexibility required to position states either in one group or the other, as (a) one-time measure,” the draft states.

“Analogous to the election of Speaker of the House of People by consensus, Leader of the majority party – that is, the prime minister/chief minister may be elected to lead the Lok Sabha/Assembly, by full house like electing the speaker of the Lok Sabha. This will potentially provide stability to the government and in turn to the Lok Sabha/Assembly,” the recommendation states.

The draft recommends amendment of Article 83, which deals with duration of both Houses, and Article 172, which is related to the duration of state legislatures. “Article 83 and 172 of the Constitution along with sections 14 and 15 of the 1951 Act, appropriately amended to incorporate the provision regarding the remainder of the term – that is, post mid-term elections, the new Lok Sabha and/or Assembly so constituted shall be only for the remainder of the term of the previous Lok Sabha or Assembly and not for a fresh term of five years,” it states.

“In order to prevent stalemate in the Lok Sabha/Assembly in the case of Hung Parliament / Assembly, the rigour of ‘Anti-defection Law’ laid down under paragraph 2(1) (b) of the Tenth Schedule be removed as an exception,” the draft states.








President Trump opened the door on Tuesday to a phased dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, backing away from his demand that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, completely abandon his arsenal without any reciprocal American concessions.

The President’s hint of flexibility came after North Korea declared last week that it would never agree to unilaterally surrender its weapons, even threatening to cancel the much-anticipated summit meeting between Kim and Trump scheduled for next month in Singapore.

Trump’s statement seemed less a policy shift than an effort to preserve his date with Kim. But while the gesture may avoid a swift rejection by Kim, it shows that Trump is willing to give up what for months has been his bedrock position in dealing with the North.

And it demonstrates that three weeks before the June 12 meeting, the White House is still groping for a strategy to negotiate with a reclusive, suspicious nuclear-weapons state.

The scale of North Korea’s programme, Trump said, would make it difficult to dismantle it in a single step. “It would certainly be better if it were all in one,” he said. “Does it have to be? I don’t think I want to totally commit myself.”




Rohingya militants massacred around 100 Hindu villagers during last year’s uprising in Myanmar’s Rakhine, Amnesty International has said in a report that sheds fresh light on the complex ethnic rivalries in the state.

The killings took place on August 25, 2017, the report said, the same day that the Rohingya insurgents staged coordinated deadly raids on police posts that tipped the state into crisis. Myanmar’s military responded to the insurgent raids with harsh reprisals that forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the mainly Buddhist country where they have faced persecution for years. The militants, known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), had denied responsibility for killing the Hindus. “Accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine state,” said Tirana Hassan, crisis response director at Amnesty International.

“The killers fled to Bangladesh, there are many witnesses but we have not had any justice,” Hindu community leader Ni Maul told AFP from Rakhine state. “People have less interest in these killings,” he added, compared to reporting on the atrocities against the Rohingya.”

David Mathieson, an independent analyst, said the report should strengthen argument for Myanmar to allow independent probe into the crisis.






Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin town was on the boil again on Wednesday, with a man shot dead in police firing following fresh clashes between security personnel and locals, who are demanding closure of a copper factory over pollution concerns.

Enraged over the killings on Tuesday, protesters took to the streets this morning, attacking policemen with stones, setting two government vehicles afire and trying to storm into a hospital where the injured were admitted, prompting security personnel to baton-charge them and open fire.

In the line of Opposition fire, the state government constituted a commission  headed by retired Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagadeesan to probe the violence, and shunted out the Tuticorin Collector and Superintendent of Police.

The Union Home Ministry has, meanwhile, sought a report from the Tamil Nadu Government on the circumstances leading to the police firing on protesters.

Taking cognisance of the large-scale violence, the National Human Rights Commission issued notices to Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary and DGP, asking them to submit a report in two weeks, while the Madras High Court stayed the proposed expansion of the plant.




Former finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday questioned the BJP government’s proposal to amend rules for allocation of services and cadres to civil servants by factoring in a 15-week foundation course. In a blog, Chidambaram said the proposed change appeared to be “unconstitutional” as it was violative of the Article 320 of the Constitution.

Claiming that the proposed change would affect anonymity and objectivity, he said, “Preference of the executive government and subjectivity will play a role in the allotment of service and cadre. Neither factor is desirable. There is a clear and present danger. Is the central government planning another disruption? And if yes, why?” he asked.

At present, a probationer is allotted the IAS, IPS or IFS and other central services, based on their rank in the civil services examination conducted by the UPSC. The Prime Minister’s Office, however, has recently proposed to alter the process and allot services and cadres to candidates only after taking into account how they fare in the foundation course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration.

“Who conducts the foundation course? Who sets the question paper(s) for the examination at the end of the foundation course? Who marks the examination paper(s) of the candidates in the foundation course? It is officers appointed by the executive government and answerable to the executive government. The UPSC has absolutely no role to play,” Chidambaram said.





Amid ongoing bloodshed along the border, voices in Delhi on Wednesday sought engagement with Islamabad and its “deep state”, signifying Pakistan army and intelligence agencies that dictate the country’s foreign policy instead of the elected civilian government.

At the launch of a first of its kind book “Spy Chronicles — Raw, ISI and the Illusion Of Peace”, penned jointly by former spymasters AS Dulat of India’s RAW, Gen Assad Durrani of Pakistan’s ISI and journalist Aditya Sinha, the larger message was for the need for India-Pakistan dialogue to stop rising casualties on both sides. “I have suggested engage with deep state since most of our frustration comes from deep state. So we might as well take it on,” said the RAW ex-chief who worked closely on Kashmir during the Vajpayee years.

Former Vice President Hamid Ansari, ex-PM Manmohan Singh, Farooq Abdullah, Kapil Sibal, Yashwant Sinha, ex-Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon were among those present. Gen Durrani who was not allowed a visa by India, joked in a pre-recorded video: “It saved me from wrath of the hawks. If Kashmir has caused so much of heartburn, turn it into a test case of cooperation.”

Yashwant Sinha stressed need to build trust with Kashmiris and hold backchannel talks involving spymasters as well. “A muscular policy is bound to be a brainless policy because muscles do not have brains,” remarked Sinha.




In a move that may instil faith back in homebuyers and lift the fledging real estate sector, the Union Government on Wednesday approved the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the insolvency law so as to treat home buyers as “financial creditors” on a par with lenders to help them quickly get refunds from defaulting companies in the insolvency process.

The move is aimed at classifying homebuyers in such a way that they can participate equitably in the insolvency resolution process under the 16-month-old Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

The ordinance, once approved by President Ramnath Kovind and promulgated, will provide relief to home buyers facing hardship due to incomplete real estate projects.

Under the code, “financial creditor” implies any person to whom a financial debt is owed. The financial debt can include money borrowed for interest.




At the very prime of his form, AB de Villiers stunned the cricketing world yesterday by announcing his retirement from all international cricket. What is surprising is that he’s retired from ODI cricket as well — after all, his declared goal for a long time has been winning the 50-over World Cup for South Africa. Yet, with the World Cup a year away, de Villiers is gone.

Last year, de Villiers vowed: “For now the most important thing is the 2019 World Cup. I want to make sure we lift that trophy (World Cup).” He said he wanted to be at his best, and for that reason he had taken a break from Test cricket.

But that was last year — yesterday he said that he’s simply run out of gas. “I have decided to retire from all international cricket with immediate effect,” he said in a video statement on Wednesday. “After 114 Test matches, 228 ODIs and 78 T20 Internationals, it is time for others to take over. I have had my turn, and to be honest, I am tired.”


Skipper Dinesh Karthik’s rearguard half-century and astute marshalling of his bowlers helped Kolkata Knight Riders eliminate inaugural winners Rajasthan Royals by 25 runs in a see-saw contest on Wednesday.

Needing 170 to win, Rajasthan got off to a strong start but the wheels came off their chase once skipper Ajinkya Rahane (46) and No. 3 Sanju Samson (50) fell. After 10 overs, they were on 87/1 and seemed well poised to win. But all they could manage was 144/4 in 20 overs.

Two-time champions Kolkata will face Sunrisers Hyderabad in the second qualifier on Friday for a place in Sunday’s final against two-time champions Chennai Super Kings.

The Rahane-Samson duo added a match-high 62 runs but Rajasthan sorely missed Jos Buttler, back in England for national duty, whose five fifties were crucial to their playoff qualification.

Kolkata’s spin twins — Kuldeep Yadav (1/18) and Piyush Chawla (2/24) — were outstanding with the ball, conceding only 42 runs in their eight overs to choke Rajasthan at the Eden Gardens.

Earlier, Karthik led from the front with a fluent 52 and Andre Russell muscled 49 not out to help the hosts overcome a top-order collapse and post a competitive 169/7. They were at one stage 51/4 in eight overs.


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Trying to become virtuous merely by excluding vice is as unrealistic as trying to cultivate roses simply by eliminating weeds. – Gary Ryan Blair


Our friend found the neatest way to make his wife a more careful and defensive driver. He pointed out that if she’s ever in an accident, the paper’s going to print her real age.

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