Newsletter July 19 2018




Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan admitted an Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion against the BJP-led government in Lok Sabha Wednesday, the very first day of the monsoon session of Parliament, and in the process, ended the standoff that had washed out the Budget session when the BJP appeared reluctant to debate such a motion.

Mahajan said TDP MP Kesineni Srinivas would move the motion as his party was the first to raise the notice.

On Friday, the Lok Sabha will start debating the no-confidence motion, the first in 15 years. Going by the arithmetic in the House which currently has 535 members, the BJP-led NDA is expected to defeat the motion.

The debate, however, allows the Opposition a chance to corner the government on several issues ranging from mob lynching to safety of women, Jammu and Kashmir to alleged dilution of the SC/ST law, plight of farmers to wary investors.

The ruling party too gets an opportunity to build a narrative in the run-up to crucial assembly elections later this year and the 2019 general elections.

In the morning, PM Narendra Modi had made it clear: “If any political party or any member wants a discussion on any issue, the government is ready.” The more extensive the discussion in Parliament, the better it is for the country, he said, adding that good suggestions will help his government in decision-making.

The BJP has 273 members in Lok Sabha and, with its allies, the NDA has 314 minus the Speaker. BJP leaders said the defeat of the no-trust motion will be a morale-boost for the party ahead of the elections.


Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday asked citizens to name the person who bowed only to the powerful and crushed the weakest, a day after the Congress president declared that he stood with the marginalised and the persecuted.

Rahul tweeted: “Pop Quiz: ‘I bow to the most powerful in the line. A person’s strength & power are all that are important to me. I use hatred & fear to maintain the hierarchy of power. I seek out the weakest & crush them. I rank all living beings based on their usefulness to me. Who am I?”

Rahul has often in the past accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of working for his corporate friends and looking the other way when innocent people are lynched on the streets.

The Congress chief tagged a video clip with his tweet that showed Swami Agnivesh being assaulted by suspected BJP supporters in Jharkhand on Tuesday.

Rahul’s tweet on Wednesday was clearly an attempt to juxtapose himself against Modi.

The Congress leader had tweeted on Tuesday: “I stand with the last person in the line. The exploited, marginalised and the persecuted. Their religion, caste or beliefs matter little to me. I seek out those in pain and embrace them. I erase hatred and fear. I love all living beings. I am the Congress.”

As the BJP poked fun at Rahul for describing himself as the Congress, leaders of the Grand Old Party started a #IamtheCongress campaign to counter the charge of identification of the Gandhi family with the party.


Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday raised in the Lok Sabha the attack on his office in Kerala allegedly by BJP workers and linked it to the general atmosphere of intolerance in the country that prompted incidents like lynching.

MP Tharoor said: “I am sorry to raise before this House the attack on my constituency office in Thiruvananthapuram and the death threats that I received from members of the ruling party in response to my criticism of far-Right extremism. “This is a larger attempt by incendiary elements and their digital equivalents to destroy the idea of India as a pluralistic and accepting democracy.”

Tharoor added that the “victims” of these elements in recent months included intellectuals and minorities. “Yesterday, even Swami Agvinesh was attacked. These are people who have expressed dissent against rising intolerance in today’s India and they are being attacked.

“In doing so, they are disregarding the singular principle of our historic democratic consensus, which is that in a diverse democracy like ours, you do not need to agree all the time so long as you will agree on the ground rules of how you will disagree,” Tharoor said.

Tharoor urged the Prime Minister to break his silence “on the behaviour of his own party men and take action against these anti-national elements and anti-Indian elements who seek to abridge the freedom of speech in our democracy”.

Minister Ananth Kumar responded saying: “A very senior member like Shashi Tharoor cannot make unfounded and baseless allegation on political party workers and leaders of parties. If something has happened in Kerala, then he should go for a probe.”


Former foreign secretary S Jaishankar Wednesday said India had spoken to Pakistan during his tenure because the “whole world would keep coming at us” to talk to that country. He said now the message that has gone through “is that if Pakistan behaves well, India’s hand is extended”.

Jaishankar, who retired in January, said this while answering questions after delivering the Jasjit Singh Memorial Lecture on National Security.

“The whole world would keep coming at us that talk to Pakistan… there are risks, you are the bigger neighbour and so on. Till my time in the US as an Ambassador, and I am sure that was the case with the UK as well, they would keep coming and say, do more on that account,” he said, explaining the reasons for Prime Minister Narendra Modi landing suddenly in Lahore, and allowing a Pakistani intelligence team to Pathankot Air Force station after a terror attack, while the bilateral relations deteriorated thereafter.

“Today, one feeling is that if Pakistan behaves well, India’s hand is extended. That message has gone through. Ripples of it internationally have been much to our advantage,” he said, supporting the rationale for sporadic engagement with Pakistan, starting from an invite to then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif for Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2014.








President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he told Russian leader Vladimir Putin during their summit in Helsinki that the United States would not tolerate meddling in US elections.

“I let him know we can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be,” Trump said in an interview with CBS.

Asked if he held Putin personally responsible for interference in the November 2016 presidential vote, Trump replied: “Well, I would, because he’s in charge of the country, just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country.”

Trump has been under bipartisan fire in Washington for failing to publicly confront Putin over the election interference at the press conference that followed their Helsinki talks.

Trump has also appeared on several occasions to question the US intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 vote in a bid to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

He did this in Helsinki, too, and executed a convoluted walkback of those remarks on Tuesday, saying he misspoke in Finland.

Again on Wednesday, he told CBS he agreed with those US findings. “Yeah and I’ve said that before,” he said. “I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that is true, yeah.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trump claimed that no US president has been as “tough” as him on Russia. “We’re doing very well, probably as well as anybody has ever done with Russia,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting at the White House. “Look at what we’ve done. Look at sanctions.

But when asked if Russia was still targeting the United States, Trump clearly appeared to reply “no” — an assertion that would contradict the assessment of US intelligence chief Dan Coats, who said Monday that Russia was involved in “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”

That forced a tortured clarification of his remarks for the second day in a row. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, in the face of repeated questioning from reporters, insisted that Trump was saying “no” to further questions from reporters and not replying to the query about Russia. She said the threat to the US electoral system “still exists, which is why we are taking steps to prevent it.”




British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly survived another crunch Brexit vote in Parliament, as she struggles to unify her divided party around her strategy for leaving the European Union.

The Conservative government yesterday defeated an amendment introduced by its own backbench MPs to a future trade policy bill which would have kept Britain in a customs union with the EU if it fails to agree a free trade deal.

If the amendment had passed it would have thrown May’s Brexit strategy into disarray. Government whips overcame the rebellion by a dozen Tory lawmakers —reportedly issuing last-ditch threats it would prompt a no-confidence vote in the prime minister — and scraped through by six votes, winning by 307 to 301. It was bolstered by the support of four pro-Brexit opposition Labour Party MPs.





Google was hit with a $5.1 billion fine by European antitrust officials on Wednesday for abusing its power in the smartphone market, in the region’s latest move to rein in the clout of American tech companies.

The penalty of 4.34 billion euros was a record, and far larger than the Euro 2.4 billion that the EU levied on Google last year for unfairly favouring its own services in Internet search results.

The decision on Wednesday highlighted how European authorities are aggressively pushing for stronger regulation of the digital economy on issues including antitrust, privacy, taxes, and the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

European officials said Google, which makes the Android mobile operating system used in smartphones, broke antitrust laws by striking deals with handset manufacturers such as HTC, Huawei and Samsung. The agreements required Google’s services, such as its search bar and Chrome browser, to be favoured over rival offerings. European authorities said those moves unfairly boxed out competitors.








Claiming that there has been an undue delay in giving sanction for prosecution a senior railway official accused in the 2005 railways’ hotel-for-land scam, the ruling JD(U) Wednesday alleged the BJP and the RJD of “match-fixing”.

The JD(U) has claimed that the delay in beginning the trial, pending sanction of prosecution against then railway official Bhupendra Kumar Agarwal has only helped RJD chief Lalu Prasad, his wife and former CM Rabri Devi and their son and Leader of Opposition in Assembly Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who are the prime accused in the scam.

“There seems to be match-fixing between BJP and RJD over delay in prosecution sanction that could have started the trial,” JD(U) chief spokesperson Sanjay Singh said yesterday.





Two-term Rajya Sabha MP Chandan Mitra said Wednesday that he had resigned from the BJP. Amid speculation that he may join the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Mitra said he would “not comment before Monday”.

Mitra was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from August 2003 to 2009. In June 2010, BJP got him elected to the upper house from Madhya Pradesh. His term ended in 2016.

Although he was a prominent face of the BJP in Delhi circles and often defended the party on crucial issues, Mitra, considered to be close to party veteran L K Advani, was sidelined under the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah leadership.





Questioning age restrictions on the entry of women at the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, the Supreme Court Wednesday observed that “what applies to a man applies to a woman” as well and said that a “woman’s right to pray was not dependent on any law but it is a Constitutional right”.

The observations were made by a five-judge Constitution Bench while hearing a petition challenging Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 under which the restrictions have been put in place on entry to the famous hill shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra heads the bench which also includes Justices A M Khanwilkar, R F Nariman, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

The arguments however remained incomplete and will continue Thursday.





Secularism and tolerance for individuals’ rights appear to precede economic development worldwide, a 109-country study has suggested, seeking to resolve a decades-old debate whether secularism leads to wealth or the other way around.

Researchers have for the first time analysed the changing levels of secularism, tolerance and the GDP in countries across the 20th century and found that a rise in secularism preceded economic growth. The study also found that a quantified measure of tolerance – such as tolerance of the individual rights of abortion, divorce and sexual orientation, and of women’s rights – was an even better predictor of per capita GDP.

Economics scholars and an IMF paper had earlier indicated that tolerance expands opportunities for economic activity to previously excluded groups.





The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand recounted details of their ordeal on Wednesday, at their first public appearance, during which they waved, smiled and offered traditional “wai” greetings on a national broadcast.

A crowd of media and onlookers was penned behind barricades as the boys arrived in vans from the hospital where they had stayed since last week’s international effort to extricate them from a flooded cave complex in which they had been trapped.

“I told everyone fight on, don’t despair,” said one boy, describing how the group had battled to stay alive during the excruciating days spent in the cave in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai.

The group, which had eaten before going into the caves, took no food on an excursion that had been intended to last only an hour, and had to subsist on water dripping from stalactites in the cave, they said.

The boys, who sported crisp haircuts, had gained 3 kg (6.6 lb) each on average since the rescue, and ran through confidence-building exercises ahead of Wednesday’s event.

“We don’t know what wounds the kids are carrying in their hearts,” said justice ministry official Tawatchai Thaikaew, who asked for the boys’ privacy to be respected, for fear the media attention could affect their mental health. But the moment was bittersweet, as two of the boys held up a framed pencil sketch of Samarn Kunan, 38, the former Thai navy diver who died while he worked underwater, laying oxygen tanks along a potential exit route.





Uttarakhand-born Rishabh Pant has come closer to getting a Test cap after he was picked up for the first three matches of the five-Test series against England, which begins on August 1.

Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who has picked up 14 wickets in five matches during the ongoing tour of the UK, has also been included in India’s 18-man squad for the first three Tests.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Pant will be a back-up for Dinesh Karthik, who himself is in the team due to an injury to Wriddhiman Saha, the regular wicketkeeper.

Rohit Sharma, who made two 100s against England in the T20I and ODI series, was not picked up for the first three Tests against England. Karun Nair, currently leading the India A team in England, has been preferred to Rohit, whose last Test was against South Africa in January.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who aggravated lower-back stiffness during the third and final ODI against England yesterday, will miss the initial part of the series.

Jasprit Bumrah, who suffered a broken thumb on the Ireland leg of the UK tour, has been included in the India squad, though he will be fit only from the second Test onward. Mohammed Shami, who has been dogged by personal problems, has made a comeback into the Test squad. Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur are the other pace bowlers in the squad.


Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur.




MS Dhoni’s future has again become fodder for speculation after the battle-scarred veteran sought a match ball from the umpires at the end of the third ODI against England here on Tuesday. The 37-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman was seen seeking the ball from the umpires as the players left the ground after India lost the match by eight wickets and the series 1-2.

The act was a little unusual for there wasn’t any reason why Dhoni would like to keep a souvenir from the match, unless he had decided that it was his last match. The video of the incident went viral on social media, and in no time cricket fans were speculating if the former skipper had dropped a hint at retirement.

Dhoni, who had retired from Test cricket in the middle of India’s 2014 tour of Australia, has been under the scanner of late for not being able to score as prolifically as in the past. His legendary finishing skills and the ability to accelerate have been on the wane but current skipper Virat Kohli has backed him to the hilt, dismissing any criticism directed at the senior player.





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When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become. – Louis Pasteur


The phone rings at night.

Husband: ” If its for me, then say I am not at home”

Wife (on phone): “He is at home”

Husband in anger : “What the HELL?”


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