Newsletter 26th May,2018




The three-day-old Kumaraswamy govt in Karnataka on Friday won a vote of confidence without a contest, with the BJP MLAs walking out of the Assembly before the floor test, in an unexciting end to the 10-day high-voltage political drama after the polls yielded a hung House.

It turned out to be a smooth sailing for the 58-year-old H D Kumaraswamy, as BJP members trooped out of the House after Leader of the Opposition B S Yeddyurappa’s blistering attack on the “unholy” JD(S)-Congress coalition.

Kumaraswamy’s motion seeking the confidence vote was declared passed by voice vote by Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar in the absence of the BJP MLAs. Kumaraswamy described the BJP walkout as “escapism”.

The first signs of the BJP conceding defeat in the numbers game were visible when it pulled out its candidate Suresh Kumar from the race for the Speaker’s post, saying it had decided to honour the parliamentary tradition that the presiding officer should be chosen unanimously.

Congress’s Ramesh Kumar was elected the Speaker unopposed.

Seeking the trust vote, Kumaraswamy asserted the Congress-JD(S) coalition govt would complete its five-year term, while maintaining he was conscious that his party JD(S) does not have a majority on its own. “I am pained that people have not placed their trust in me,” he said, as he moved the motion seeking the vote of confidence of the Assembly in his govt.

He, however, said the coalition govt will be “stable for five years”.

The JD(S) leader’s real challenge will now be the expansion of his ministry, with leaders in the alliance already jockeying for Cabinet berths and plum portfolios.



Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged India on Friday to lean on Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees who are camped in her country in the tens of thousands.

Hasina met her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during the start of her trip to Kolkata. “I seek your support to build pressure on Myanmar in taking back their citizens,” Hasina said.

Nearly 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar since August to escape a military crackdown, launched in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks. Refugees have reported murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops.

“We have given them (Rohingya) food and shelter as we could not drive them out on humanitarian ground,” Hasina said.

About 40,000 Rohingya from Myanmar have settled in India in recent years.

The Modi government has taken a tough stance on them since coming to power in 2014, calling them a security threat and saying they should be deported.




Kerala BJP president Kummanam Rajasekharan was on Friday appointed as the new governor of Mizoram. He will be replacing Lieutenant General (retd) Nirbhay Sharma who is completing his tenure on May 28. He has been the president of Kerala BJP since December 18, 2015.

His appointment as Mizoram governor comes at a time when BJP is heading for a crucial by-election in Chengannur in Kerala slated to be held on Monday. Mizoram will be going to polls this year.

Under his leadership, the party opened its account in Kerala by winning the Nemom seat in 2016. The BJP had then come second in seven constituencies. Rajasekharan had himself contested from Vattiyoorkavu constituency but ended up second.

Also, Professor Ganeshi Lal, from Haryana, has been appointed as the Governor of Odisha. He would be replace Satya Pal Malik who holds additional charge of the state, besides being governor of Bihar.




BSP chief and former chief minister Mayawati on Friday claimed that the UP government had erroneously asked her to vacate Bungalow 13A on Mall Avenue, a memorial as per a 2011 government order.

In a letter to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Mayawati claimed that the property was marked as “Manyavar Shri Kansihram Yaadgaar Vishram Sthal” in 2011 by the UP Estate Department.

The same department had recently ordered her and other former chief ministers to vacate their government bungalows in line with a May 7 Supreme Court order that quashed a state law that allowed the same.

Three days ago, however, the nameboard “Manyavar Shri Kansihram Yaadgaar Vishram Sthal” appeared outside Bungalow 13A.

“… Bungalow number 13A Mall Avenue was allotted to me erroneously by the Estate Officer… the order to open Bungalow 13A Mall Avenue to the public as ‘Manyawar Shri Kanshiram Yaadgar Vishram Sthal’ was already passed on January 13, 2011. I even informed the Estate Officer about the mistake through a letter on January 9, 2017. It was requested that the mistake be rectified,” she wrote.






US President Donald Trump welcomed North Korea’s statement on Friday that it was still open to talks with the United States after Trump called off a summit with leader Kim Jong Un, saying he still held out hopes for peace.

“Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea,” Trump wrote. “We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!” Trump said on Twitter.

Trump pulled out of what would have been the first meeting between a serving US President and a North Korean leader, citing North Korea’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a letter to Kim on Thursday.

His decision came after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out of the June 12 summit in Singapore over what it saw as confrontational remarks by American officials.

North Korean vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said that North Korea’s recent criticisms of certain US officials had been a reaction to unbridled American rhetoric and that the current antagonism showed” the urgent necessity” for the summit.




Malaysian police on Friday said that they seized cash amounting to almost USD 30 million and over 400 handbags in raids on luxury apartments as they probed corruption allegations swirling around ousted leader Najib Razak.

The money and a vast trove of handbags, as well as watches and jewellery, were found in two condominiums in Kuala Lumpur.

A total of 12 locations, including the ex-leader’s home, were searched by the police last week as a part of an investigation into the scandal surrounding a sovereign wealth fund.

Najib’s defeated party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO),  insisted the seized cash was party funds, which the ousted leader had intended to return to the party. “Political funding is allowed under our laws,” said a party statement.



Irish voters headed to the polls on Friday to vote in a landmark referendum on whether the traditionally Catholic country should liberalise some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

The campaign has dominated public debate in Ireland over recent months and has forced its nearly 3.5 million voters to decide if the constitutional ban on abortion should stay or go.

Opinion polls have suggested the result could be close, as  large numbers of voters were undecided.

The law was tweaked in 2013 to allow terminations if the mother’s life is at risk, following the death of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant woman originally from India, who was refused an abortion.

The Irish government has proposed that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, abortion will be allowed up to 12 weeks and between 12 and 24 weeks in some exceptional cases.






With the Congress-JD(S) alliance winning the trust vote in Karnataka Friday, the Centre has dropped the state’s demand for a separate flag and minority status for Lingayats, saying the proposals were made by the previous government. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy will now be required to send a fresh request, it is learnt.

The proposals for a separate state flag and minority tag for Lingayats were made by the Congress government under Siddaramaiah just weeks before the assembly election was announced.

Siddaramaiah had unveiled the proposed official flag, in the hues of yellow, white and red, and with an emblem of ‘Gandaberunda’, a two-headed mythological bird, before the election. The move was seen as part of the Congress strategy to tap into local Kannada pride.



Social media, one of the factors credited with helping Narendra Modi achieve critical mass in 2014, is turning out to be a ruthless blade that cuts both ways.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, displaying her usual digital alertness, tweeted about a blast in a restaurant named Bombay Bhel in Ontario in Canada on Friday. Over a dozen people were injured, three of them critically.

“There is a blast in Indian restaurant Bombay Bhel in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. I am in constant touch with our consul-general in Toronto and (the) Indian high commissioner in Canada,” Sushma tweeted on Friday morning. “Our missions will work round the clock. The emergency number is: +1-647-668-4108. Please RT.”

Sushma may have been sticking to her brief, which is foreign affairs, but such nuances are usually not acknowledged in the take-no-prisoners world of social media.

Some Twitter users instantly called out her silence on the Tuticorin police firing that killed 13 people this week.

“There was mass shooting at our own citizens at Tuticorin… no tweets, no condolence, no help for them…. PM is busy in fitness challenge…. First save/feel sad for people living in your own country,” one Twitter user told the minister.



The army Friday ordered a Court of Inquiry against Major Leetul Gogoi, two days after he was questioned by police over an altercation at a Srinagar hotel where he had shown up with a young woman and a man.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat, who was in Pahalgam, said exemplary punishment would be given to Major Gogoi if he was found guilty of “any offence” and “the punishment will set an example”.

An Army officer said: “A Court of Inquiry has been ordered (into the Major Gogoi incident) and appropriate action will be taken after the inquiry is finalised.” The officer did not share the terms of reference and date of submission of the inquiry.

Major Gogoi, who tied a civilian to a Jeep and drove through several villages of Budgam last year, has been at the centre of a new row since Wednesday. He and a young woman and one Sameer Ahmed, who police sources said was also in the Army, were questioned at a police station in Srinagar following an altercation at the Hotel Grand Mamta after the staff refused to let the woman in.

On Thursday, the mother of the young woman claimed Gogoi had “raided” their house at night twice in the past and, on both occasions, was accompanied by Sameer Ahmed. “He raided our house twice. On one occasion, I fainted when I saw the Army. On both occasions, he (Gogoi) was accompanied by Sameer. He warned us not to tell anyone about the raid,” she claimed.

The Army chief had supported Major Gogoi last year after his act of tying a civilian to Jeep as a “human shield” led to a row. The officer was even awarded a Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card for his action.




Nearly two months after Cobrapost first reported how some media houses were prepared to strike business deals to promote the Hindutva agenda and help polarise voters in the run up to the 2019 elections, the website has released a second batch of video recordings shot surreptitiously by an undercover reporter that shows managers and owners of some of the largest newspapers and TV channels succumbing to the same package of Hindutva advertorials.

Cobrapost said on Friday that the recordings it made showed how some two dozen news organisations were willing to “not only cause communal disharmony among the citizens but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party” for a price.

The only two media houses whose representatives refused the undercover reporter’s proposals were the Bengali newspapers Bartaman and Dainik Sambad.

In what is likely to alarm the finance ministry and the income tax department, several of the media houses – including, in some cases, proprietors like Vineet Jain of the Times Group – have been recorded discussing ways in which proposed transactions running into hundreds of crores of rupees could be conducted using cash, i.e. black money.

Cobrapost sent an undercover journalist, Pushp Sharma, to pose as “Acharya Atal”, a man who identified himself as a representative of an unnamed “sangathan”, or organisation, but who gave the impression that he was a member of or close to the Nagpur-basedRSS. In the recordings the website put up on YouTube on Friday afternoon, Acharya Atal can be heard trying to strike deals with media house executives involving the promotion of a Hindutva agenda through advertorials – paid-for content – that would run on their newspapers, radio stations, TV channels and websites.

Apart from the Times of India and India Today groups, the undercover investigation covered Hindustan Times, Dainik Bhaskar, Zee News, Star India, ABP, Dainik Jagran, Radio One, Suvarna News, Red FM, Lokmat, ABN, Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Big FM, Prabhat Khabar, K News, India Voice, the New Indian Express, MVTV and OPEN magazine.

Cobrapost was forced to withhold the recordings and communications it had from its interaction with the Dainik Bhaskar group after the latter managed to obtain an ex-parte injunction from the Dehi high court. The website has said it will challenge the injunction.

Another big media house, the Hindustan Times, also found the undercover reporter’s proposal attractive with the group’s executives offering “editorial support” to ‘Acharya Atal’ for his activities as part of an advertising package. In a meeting with Avneesh Bansal, associate vice president of HT Media Ltd, ‘Acharya Atal’ is told that money spent on advertorials will produce editorial dividends too.



Capital market regulator Sebi has served a notice on ICICI Bank and its managing director & CEO Chanda Kochhar in connection with a Rs 3,250 crore-loan to the Videocon group.

The market regulator issued the notice on Thursday.

Controversy broke out after a shareholder, Arvind Gupta, made allegations of quid pro quo in loans worth Rs 3,250 crore given by ICICI Bank to the Videocon group in 2012. He alleged Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon had formed a joint venture, NuPower Renewables, with Deepak Kochhar, the husband of Chanda Kochhar.

Chanda Kochhar was on the credit committee that approved the loan to Videocon. There have also been allegations that Deepak Kochhar’s brother Rajiv was assigned the task to restructure the loans of ICICI Bank’s errant corporate borrowers.

ICICI has denied any wrongdoing in the loan, saying it was part of a consortium of lenders that extended the facility to Videocon.




The move to rescind work authorisation to certain categories of H-4 visa holders is in final stages, the Trump administration has told a US court, a decision that could hit tens of thousands of Indians.

H-4 visas are issued to the spouses of H-1B visa holders, a significantly large number of whom are high-skilled professionals from India.

The Trump administration is planning to end the Obama-era rule allowing spouses of H1-B visa holders to work legally in the US, a move that could have a devastating impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders who have work permits.

The proposed rule is currently in final clearance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told a federal court in a status update.




Wonder man from Afghanistan Rashid Khan produced an all-round effort to guide Sunrisers Hyderabad to a 14-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders in the second qualifier and take the visitors to the final of the Indian Premier League season 11 in Kolkata on Friday.

Rashid (34 not out off 10) first played a late cameo with the bat to help Sunrisers overcome a wobbly start and post a challenging 174 for seven and then returned with a 3/19 spell from his four overs to guide his side to their second IPL final appearance.

Besides his exploits with the bat and ball, Rashid grabbed two important catches at deep mid-wicket in the final over of the innings to emerge as the stand-out performer. He also affected a  brilliant run out.

Sunrisers will now take on two-time champions Chennai Super Kings in the summit clash in Mumbai on Sunday.

In their pursuit of 175, KKR were off to a scintillating start scoring 68/1 in power play. But then they lost their way, to end up making 160/9 in their 20 overs,.



Pakistan patiently advanced to 350/8 against a toothless England attack to take control of the first Test on the second day at Lord’s on Friday. Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam and Shadab Khan made half-centuries in a solid batting display which left the touring side 166 runs ahead and in a strong position to go 1-0 up in the two-match series.

England, bowled out for 184, toiled on another overcast day at the home of cricket, dropping several catches in a sloppy performance.

The ICC has warned players to stop wearing smartwatches during play to avoid allegations of match-fixing. Some Pakistan players were seen sporting the devices during the opening day and were cautioned by an ICC anti-corruption officer.


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To admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate. – William Arthur Ward


An anthropologist was cataloguing South American native remedies with the assistance of a tribal elder who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation.

When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the elder looked him in the eye and said, “Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don’t need enemas.”

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