The Congress-led Opposition enjoys clear superiority in the Upper House and it was expected that the amorphous ‘front’ will put aside all differences and take the battle to the NDA, which was visibly short on numbers.
Instead, the NDA won in a canter to usher in the first non-Congress candidate in that post in nearly four decades. NDA nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh, a first-time Rajya Sabha member from Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), received 125 votes while Congress’s BK Hariprasad received 105 votes.
In the 244-members Upper House, the NDA had 90 votes, 32 less than the halfway mark of 122. The anti-NDA front including Congress, TMC, TDP, BSP, SP, RJD, DMK, Left parties and others made for 112 votes. But NDA garnered enough votes to even attain the halfway mark of a full House.
The first blow was dealt by the Aam Aadmi Party, which refused to back the Congress candidate ostensibly because Arvind Kejriwal was feeling ‘let down’ by Rahul Gandhi’s “attitude”. AAP MP Sanjay Singh tweeted: “If Rahul Gandhi can hug Narendra Modi, why can’t he ask Arvind Kejriwal for support for his party’s candidate?”
With AAP, Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and YSR Congress’ abstention, the majority mark came down from 122 to 119. Mufti appeared to go back on her words of backing a Congress candidate while YSR Congress’ abstention was tactical. By abstaining, Jaganmohan Reddy seemed to be keeping open his options in case the polity throws up opportunities in 2019 post-poll scenario.
These abstentions were cause enough for Congress to be worried, but what decided the game in government’s favour was the role played by BJD’s Naveen Patnaik. The Odisha chief minister’s decision to back the NDA candidate turned the game on its head and from an advantageous position, the Opposition were thrown into the deep end. To the nine swing votes from BJD, which swelled the NDA ranks, were added 13 more from AIADMK which has veered towards becoming an “unofficial BJP ally” since the death of J Jayalalithaa.
K Chandrasekhar Rao’s decision to ask six Telangana Rashtra Samithi MPs to back the NDA candidate was certainly a surprise, and it goes to show how Modi and Shah’s decision to field a JD(U) candidate reaped dividend.
Ahead of 2019, BJP’s decision to let a key ally get a constitutional post could be construed as a signal to partners such as Shiv Sena, Akali Dal or potential partners such as TRS, YSRCP or even JD(S) that BJP’s hegemonic position won’t come in the way of a quid pro quo in terms of power sharing in 2019.
Conceding one of the main demands of Opposition parties to ringfence the proposed law on instant triple talaq against misuse, the Union Cabinet Thursday approved inclusion of provisions that the complaint in such a case can only be filed by the victim (wife) or blood relations, and that a magistrate can grant bail with terms and conditions.
Under the amendments cleared, a magistrate will have powers to grant bail. The woman can approach the magistrate to seek subsistence allowance for herself and her minor children, and can also seek custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the matter.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, introduced after the landmark 3-2 verdict of the Supreme Court which set aside the centuries-old practice of talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq in which Muslim men divorce their wives by uttering talaq three times in quick succession, has cleared Lok Sabha and is pending in Rajya Sabha where the government lacks numbers.
The government will bring the amendments to Rajya Sabha today, the last day of the monsoon session.
When the winter session of Parliament drew to a close in January this year, the fate of the Bill hung in the balance. The matter of ringfencing penal provisions in the Bill emerged as the central issue for some give-and-take to break the stalemate between the ruling BJP and the Opposition over the Bill.
After the session concluded, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, offered to agree to the penal provisions in the Bill, provided it was insulated from outside interference and had a mechanism for subsistence allowance.
Announcing the changes approved Thursday by the Cabinet, Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government did not want “anyone to misuse the law while ensuring that justice is done”. Maintaining that the government did not make the changes under pressure from anyone, he said the decisions were taken in the interest of the people.
The Supreme Court on Thursday donned the garb of “conscience-keeper” to nudge Parliament to amend the law on keeping criminals out of politics, while hearing petitions seeking an election bar on people facing serious criminal charges and not just those convicted.
“We have to remind Parliament about the serious situation. Parliament has a constitutional obligation to amend Article 102 (relating to disqualification of MPs) of the Constitution,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who headed a five-judge constitution bench, observed.
“We say this as conscious-keepers of the Constitution. It is the cry of the citizenry. It is a collective need, collective cry of society. It is a national thinking today and this can’t be ignored by the legislature… to inject purity into elections.”
Attorney-general K.K. Venugopal conceded that a “stage has come for Parliament to review the situation” – a possible hint that the government may be open to some kind of legislation.
The petitioners – the Public Interest Foundation, Bharatiya Matdata Sangathan and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay – have furnished data claiming nearly 34 per cent of the present MPs face serious criminal charges.
The US on Thursday said it would impose tough new sanctions on Russia after determining that Moscow used a deadly military-grade nerve agent to kill a former Russian double agent and his daughter in the UK.
Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter Yulia Skripal were hospitalised and treated for a nerve agent attack in March. While Yulia was discharged from a British hospital in April, her father recovered and left the hospital in May.
Russia has rejected allegations levelled by the UK that it was behind the deadly nerve-agent attack in the English city of Salisbury.
The US, on August 6, determined that the Russian government “has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. The statement said following a 15-day Congressional notification period, these sanctions will take effect around August 22.
Meanwhile, Russia condemned the new round of US sanctions as illegal after news of the measures sent the rouble tumbling to two-year lows and sparked a wider asset sell-off over fears that Moscow was locked in a spiral of never-ending curbs by the West.
In an early reaction, the Kremlin said the sanctions were illegal and unfriendly and that the US move was at odds with the “constructive atmosphere” of Trump and Putin’s encounter in Helsinki. The Kremlin said the new sanctions were “illegal and do not correspond to international law.”
Saudi Arabia’s oil supplies to Canada will not be impacted by a dispute between the two countries, the kingdom’s energy minister said on Thursday, reassuring customers after Riyadh froze new trade with Canada and ruled out mediation efforts.
The world’s largest oil exporter has a “firm and long-standing policy” that petroleum supplies are not influenced by political considerations, Khalid al-Falih said in a statement.
“The current diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada will not, in any way, impact Saudi Aramco’s relations with its customers in Canada.”
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir ruled out any mediation efforts and called on Ottawa on Wednesday to “fix its big mistake,” saying the kingdom was considering implementing more measures against Canada for interfering in Saudi Arabia’s domestic affairs.
As many as 28 independent winning candidates of the National Assembly yesterday notified the Election Commission of joining the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, giving a major boost to Imran Khan’s party which can now claim more seats reserved for women and minorities.
The ECP had earlier said that those elected as independents can join a party of their choice by August 9 or continue to maintain their independent position. The political parties will be allotted 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for minorities on the basis of their final tally of elected members.
With 28 independents joining Khan’s party, the tally of elected members of his party has risen to 144.
Yesterday was the last day for independents to officially join parties. Imran, 65, is set to become Pakistan’s new prime minister next week.
Twenty-two people were killed and several others went missing in different incidents of landslides and flood triggered by the latest bout of monsoon, which has left a trail of destruction in central and northern districts of Kerala since Wednesday.
As many as 24 reservoirs, including the largest one in Idukki, were opened, flooding several parts of the state. Even after lifting the shutters, water levels continued to rise in Idukki and Edamalayar dams in central Kerala. As many as 8,000 people have been shifted to relief camps in the worst-affected districts of Ernakulam, Idukki, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Malappuram.
After reviewing the situation, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that the government has sought the help of Army, Navy and Air Force for rescue operations in the state, which is facing an unprecedented monsoon fury in recent history.
Around noon on Thursday, the Kochi international airport partially suspended its arrival operations for three hours after water level in a tributary of Periyar, flowing near the runway, rose alarmingly. Several low-lying areas of Aluva in Ernakulam, which is feared to face the brunt of flood water from Idukki and Edamalayar dams, were already inundated on Thursday.
The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) Thursday arrested Neeraj Singal, former promoter and managing director of Bhushan Steel Ltd, for allegedly siphoning over Rs 2,000 crore from bank loans using more than 80 associate companies.
Singal was sent to judicial custody until August 14. Bhushan Steel has been acquired by a Tata Group company under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. It was among 12 large stressed assets the RBI had referred to the National Company Law Tribunal for resolution last year.
Singhal was arrested under Section 447 of the Companies Act, 2013 which deals with punishment for fraud. Under this law, any person found to be guilty of fraud can be jailed for a minimum of six months to a maximum of ten years, and liable to fine equal to minimum of the amount involved in the fraud, but which may extend to three times the amount involved in the fraud. In case fraud involves public interest, minimum imprisonment is three years.
The Supreme Court Thursday ordered closure of 27 resorts allegedly encroaching upon elephant corridors in the Nilgiris biosphere in Tamil Nadu. The court also gave 48 hours to 12 other resorts located there to prove approvals, failing which they too will be sealed.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta expressed concern about the encroachment of elephant corridors, observing that elephants are national heritage.
During the hearing, the court remarked that it was “extremely unfortunate” that many of the states had not responded to the Centre’s communications to check incidents of human-animal conflict and reduce animal fatalities.
Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal has apologised to shareholders for the losses they suffered because of the sharp erosion in the airline’s share price.
Shares of India’s second-largest domestic airline hit a 52-week low of Rs 286.95 in intra-day trade on Thursday — it closed at Rs 301.7. On a year-to-date basis, the stock has tanked 63.7 per cent, highest fall among aviation stocks. IndiGo and SpiceJet stocks, meanwhile, were down 11.7 and 38.6 per cent, respectively, during the same period.
“A lot of shareholders have lost money. I felt guilty and embarrassed,” Goyal told shareholders after listing out measures for growth and corporate governance at the annual general meeting here on Thursday.
Jet launched an IPO in 2005 with an offer price of Rs 1,100 and the stock has been trading below the listing price for the past 12 years.
Could artificial intelligence (AI) write sonnets as good as the Bard? A poetry writing algorithm developed by scientists was able to fool people trying to distinguish between human- and bot-written verses nearly 50 per cent of the time. However, experts could still easily identify machine-generated poetry, and AI may have a long way to go before it can outdo Shakespeare, researchers said. In some ways, the computer’s verses were better than Shakespeare’s. The rhymes and metre in the machine-generated poetry were more precise than in human-written poems.
A Mumbai court has sentenced three young men, including television actor Shyam Sharma, to clean a railway station for three days as punishment for performing a dangerous stunt involving a running train as part of the viral “Kiki challenge”.
Shyam, 24, Nishant Shah, 20, and Dhruv Shah, 23, had posted a five-minute video showing one of them get off a train and dance to Canadian rapper Audrey Drake Graham’s song, In My Feelings, while another hangs from the door of the moving train, filming him.
On Wednesday, they were sentenced to visit Vasai station between 11am and 2pm and between 3pm and 5pm from Thursday to Saturday, cleaning the station in the first half and running an awareness campaign against dangerous stunts in the second.
The Kiki challenge had gone viral after YouTube star and Internet comedian Shiggy posted a video of him dancing to In My Feelings on June 30.
Many videos have been posted on social media showing people get out of moving cars and dance to the track on the streets as the driver films them, attracting warnings from authorities in several countries.
Benchmark Sensex broke past the 38,000-barrier for the first time, while the NSE Nifty extended its record run for the fifth day on Thursday as optimism surrounding the India growth story continued to override global trade concerns.
Uninterrupted foreign and domestic fund inflows amid robust corporate earnings shows that investor sentiment remains skewed towards equities, brokers said.
Foreign markets were mixed after China announced retaliatory tariffs on US imports.
However, Dalal Street shrugged off the latest escalation in the trade showdown between Washington and Beijing, and continued its march upwards.
On a net basis, foreign portfolio investors bought shares worth Rs 568.63 crore, while domestic institutional investors bought equities to the tune of Rs 30.25 crore yesterday, provisional data showed.
The Supreme Court on Thursday approved the much-awaited draft constitution of the BCCI with certain changes, giving a go-by to “one state, one vote” principle and diluting cooling-off period norm recommended by the Justice RM Lodha committee.
The verdict pronounced by a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra restored full memberships to cricket associations of Saurashtra and Vadodara in Gujarat, Mumbai and Vidarbha in Maharashtra, Railways, Services and Association of Indian Universities in view of their contribution to cricket in India. Now, Gujarat and Maharashtra will have three associations each having full membership of the BCCI.
“These associations have a long and abiding history of nurturing talent for the game of cricket in India. History is replete with their contribution to the cause of cricket. These associations have produced players who have brought laurels to their states and the nation,” said the Bench that also included Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud.
The Bench also diluted the cooling-off norm. It said the cooling-off period would not start after every three-year term of an office-bearer. Instead, it would be imposed after two consecutive terms in the BCCI or a state cricket association or both, which effectively comes to six years.
The Bench also increased the number of selectors from three (recommended by the Lodha panel) to five. The verdict dilutes many recommendations of the Lodha panel that were imposed on the BCCI by judicial orders. A compliance report will have to be filed with the Supreme Court Registrar General within four weeks.
Frustrating the two teams, incessant rain washed out the entire day one of the second Test between India and England at Lord’s, on Thursday. The play was called off at 4.50 pm local time without a single ball being bowled.
England did name a first 12 on Wednesday, with 20-year-old Olliver Pope waiting to make his Test debut. India have not announced their playing XI.
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Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A teen-aged boy with spiked hair, nose ring, and baggy clothes was overheard telling a friend, “I don’t really like to dress like this, but it keeps my parents from dragging me everywhere with them.”
Newsletter 10 Aug, 2018
August 10, 2018