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87 killed, over 100 injured in MP twin blasts

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source: reuters
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Madhya-pradesh-blastby Newsgram staff writer

Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh): It was around 8:30 am on this fateful Saturday in the tribal belt of Jhabua (300 km from Bhopal), when a gas cylinder exploded at a local tea stall. This blast in the Petlavad area near the New Bus stand, where a large number of labourers were milling around, was quickly followed by a much bigger explosion bringing down the adjoining building.

Eighty-seven people are dead, and the bodies of 60 of them have been identified,” said Inspector ML Gaur of the Jhabua police control room.

The roar of the explosion was heard for kilometres.

“I heard the blasts and ran towards the spot. Dust hung over the area. Bodies were scattered all over the place. A girl was crying and she was rescued,” said a witness, Babu Lal.

Another local said the damage from the explosion at the tea stall was comparatively lesser than the severity of the destruction caused by the second blast. Eyewitnesses spoke of people tossed into the air with the force of the explosion.

The deafening blasts reduced buildings to rubble and left many bloodied and wounded. Dazed locals scrambled amongst strewn body parts to help the wounded. Some shrieked in pain while others died on the spot.

source: ANI
source: ANI

TV visuals showed the enormity of the blasts, with nearby buildings suffering extensive damage. People could be seen sifting through the rubble to extricate those who were buried.

Over 100 are injured, 20 seriously, said police.

“Post mortems of all the bodies has been completed. There are eight women and three children among the dead,” Inspector Gaur added.

Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babulal Gaur said: “The blast took place due to gas cylinder explosion.”

Unconfirmed reports speak of gelatin sticks, or mining detonators, stored in the building as illegal mining takes place in the area.

On whether there were explosives in the building, Gaur said: “The matter needs to be probed and an order in this regard has been given.”

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expressed grief but declined to comment on the cause for the blasts. He has ordered a probe and has stated that Chief Secretary Antony DeSa has been asked to look into the matter.

According to an Indian Express report, DGP Surendra Singh said the police were treating the incident as an accident and ruled out foul play.

Jhabua-Blast-LPG-PTI
Arun Yadav, Congress president
of the Madhya Pradesh unit, said: “Had it not been for the explosives, an incident on such a huge scale would not have occurred and resulted in so many deaths.”

Yadav also alleged that the head of the BJP’s business cell, Rajendra Kasawa stocked the explosive materials used for mining purposes in this region.

When local residents recently complained to the sub-divisional magistrate on learning about explosives being stored in the residential locality, the administration did not act, said the report by Indian Express.

Police said gelatin sticks kept in the house of one Rajendra Kumar Kaswa exploded. They maintained that the house owner had a licence but could not say whether he had permission to store them in his house.

The chief minister has also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured.

A team of experts from Indore reached Jhabua following the blasts and the injured were rushed to hospitals in Ratlam, Indore and Jhabua. Rescue work continued till late in the evening to make sure all trapped under debris are recovered. Home Minister Babulal Gaur flew to the spot along with Chief Secretary Anthony d’ Sa and other bureaucrats.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressed his condolences, according to a statement from the Russian embassy.

(With inputs from IANS and Indian Express)

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

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Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS