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Centre had no hand in disinvite of Chandy from SNDP event: Rajnath Singh

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New Delhi: The government had no hand in taking back the invite to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy from an event organized by Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday.

Congress members in the Lok Sabha alleged that the chief minister’s name was deleted from the list of invitees to the function in Kollam in Kerala being organized by the SNDP.

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma alleged that there was pressure from the central government against the invitation to Chandy.

The function will see Modi unveiling a statue of late R. Sankar, who was a Congress chief minister of Kerala and a leader of the SNDP.

“The allegation is completely baseless,” Rajnath Singh said, referring to the charge that the government was responsible for the development.

The SNDP must have invited the chief minister also for the function, but later, after some controversy erupted among its members, it decided not to call him for the same,

He said the SNDP was a social organization and it was its decision to invite or not invite somebody to the function.

Our government does not want any confrontation with any state government. In fact, it is taking steps to strengthen federalism, he added.

Congress members, however, kept shouting that this was done intentionally to humiliate the chief minister and the people of Kerala and walked out of the house after the minister’s statement.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, also refuted the Congress charge that the PMO was involved in having Chandy “disinvited” from the function.

He said Chandy himself wrote to the program organizers citing his unavailability for the function. He read out the letter.

Earlier, the Lok Sabha witnessed uproar during question hour and was adjourned till noon.

The row erupted after the SNDP, an organization of backwards Ezhava community, allegedly decided to exclude Chandy from the function — after initially inviting him.

Anand Sharma later said the SNDP general secretary conveyed to Chandy that there was pressure about his presiding over the function. “Clearly the pressure was from here,” Sharma said.

Oommen Chandy confirmed that he has been spoken to and he will not come for the function,

He said the chief minister was called by the officer on special duty to the prime minister and was asked if he could confirm the information that he was recusing himself and will not preside over the function.

What has been said subsequently by the BJP, I have been told, that there is a letter which they have released? This letter is subsequent to that conversation. The conversation was started by the PMO,

Sharma said there have been complaints about chief ministers of Bihar and Delhi not being invited to important events related to the central government and alleged that the Modi government was not showing proper respect for constitutional framework while dealing with the states. (IANS)

(Picture Courtesy:www.topnews.in)

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Indian priest and nun in Aden attack still missing, Sushma Swaraj assures aid

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Sushma Swaraj
Image source: www.newsmobile.in

Thiruvananthapuram: Following Friday’s attack on a care home for the elderly in Yemen’s Aden, the missing Catholic priest from Kerala taken away by unidentified gunmen has not been traced till now. However, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has assured all help.

An Indian nun was among the four nuns killed in the attack on the home run by the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

Speaking to reporters, Chandy said that he just now spoke to Sushma Swaraj and it was she who told that a nun, who belongs to Chhattisgarh, has also gone missing from the care home in Aden.

“I spoke to her about the reports of a missing Kerala priest and sought help to locate him. She said the Indian embassy has now been closed down and also expressed doubts about the efficacy of the government there, but she has assured that the centre will do its best,” he said.

Earlier, an aide of Chandy, who is keeping in touch with Keralites in Yemen, told reporters that the mother superior of the home, Sister Sally, had a narrow escape when the gunmen opened fire at the care home.

“The priest Tom Kuzhuvennal, who hails from Kottayam district, has been taken away by these unidentified gunmen who opened fire while Sally was moved to a safe place in the convent by the local people there after hearing the gunshots,” said the official.

“We are in close touch with our people in Yemen who are closely following the developments there,” added the official.

In the gunfire, four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, including one from India, were killed. The Indian nun has been identified as Sister M Anseleme, 57, from Jharkhand. Of the other three nuns, two were from Rwanda and another from Kenya.

The home, set up by Mother Teresa in 1992, houses 61 elderly destitute and the Kerala priest had come to the home from an insecure place in Yemen.

News reports indicate that these unidentified gunmen belonged to the Yemen-based affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group. (IANS)

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Bar Scam: Excise Minister takes back resignation

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Thiruvananthapuram: K Babu, Kerala’s Excise Minister, who had resigned, took back his resignation on Sunday. A court had ordered a case against him for allegedly accepting a Rs 50 lakh bribe to permit bars to continue to function.

The opposition CPI-M termed it a “perfectly scripted act” by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Babu got a reprieve on Thursday when the Kerala High Courtput on hold the lower court directive.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership also asked former Finance Minister K M Mani, who quit in November last year over an allegation that he took a bribe from bar owners to reopen closed bars, to return as he too got a favourable order from the High Court.

However, Mani said he was “in no hurry to return”.

Talking to reporters in Kochi, Babu said “I became an MLA on a Congress ticket and then became a Minister in the UDF government headed by Oommen Chandyin 2011.

“As soon as my name surfaced in the Thrissur vigilance court about a baseless bribery allegation, without even waiting to read the judgment, I put in my papers and vacated my official residence and returned my official car.

“I also attended a farewell given to me by my staff, but today (Saturday), my party and the UDF said the situation that prevailed during my resignation no longer exists, hence I am taking back my resignation, because that’s what my party and the UDF wants,” Babu said.

Babu resigned on January 23, soon after the vigilance court ordered a case to be registered against him after the vigilance department asked for a month’s time to submit a verification report.

Whistleblower bar owner Biju Ramesh had earlier filed a complaint that he gave Babu Rs 50 lakh as bribe to permit bars to continue to function.

Earlier this week, on Babu’s petition, the High Court not only suspended the Thrissur vigilance court order for two months but also pointed out that the lower court appeared to be in a hurry, as the case was also being heard in the High Court.

Babu was forced to reconsider his decision at a leadership meeting of the UDF held at Chandy’s official residence on Saturday.

The UDF leadership meeting also asked Mani to return, but he refused.

“I am thankful to the UDF for reposing absolute faith in me, but at the moment, I am in no hurry to return. I will discuss this new request in my party,” Mani told reporters in Kottayam.

CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said what people were seeing was a “perfectly scripted act” by Chandy.

“He knows that he (Chandy) is tainted, so he wants Babu to return. The High Court has not exonerated either of them, it has only stayed the lower court’s order for two months,” said Balakrishnan.

The bar scam first surfaced in October 2014 when Ramesh alleged that the then Finance Minister Mani was given Rs 1 crore as bribe by Kerala’s bar owners to facilitate reopening of the 418 closed bars in the state. Later, he alleged Babu too had taken a bribe.(IANS)

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Court orders FIR against Oommen Chandy

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Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s ruling Congress UDF party was shocked when a court ordered an FIR against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy following the solar panel scam, who claimed innocence and rejected to resign.

And even as Saritha Nair, one of the main accused in the scandal and who hurled bribery allegations against the Chief Minister on Wednesday, threatened on Thursday to prove that Chandy was very much guilty, the UDF lost an RSP legislator, who said he was disgusted with Chandy’s government.

A court in Thrissur told Kerala’s vigilance department to file a First Information Report (FIR) against Chandy on corruption charges in what has come to be known as the “solar scam”.

The Thrissur Vigilance Court also directed an FIR to be registered against Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed.

This followed a petition by activist P D Joseph after Saritha Nair told a judicial commission that she gave Rs 1.90 crore in bribes to Chandy in two instalments.

The developments have come at a time when the United Democratic Front faces assembly elections only months away. The opposition Left immediately asked Chandy to resign.

CPI-M leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said, “The court has made its intentions clear through the FIR, and Chandy has only one way now to go forward and that is to quit at the earliest.”

In New Delhi, BJP leader and Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “The charges against the Chief Minister and the Power Minister are of very serious nature and we demand their resignations.”

Chandy maintained in Malappuram that he had a clear conscience.

“I have done no wrong. I will face the probe and cooperate with it,” he said. Asked if would resign, Chandy shot back “For what?”

The scam erupted in 2013 when a company, Team Solar, allegedly used two women to weave political contacts and duped several influential people of large sums of money by offering to make them business partners or by setting up solar panels.

Saritha Nair said on Wednesday that the money she paid to Chandy was part of the Rs 7 crore demanded by him. She said she also gave Rs 40 lakh to Minister Mohammed.

Even as Chandy said he had done no wrong, she said the truth was otherwise.

“After the unbearable tension of carrying all this on my head for the past more than three years, now I feel very relaxed as I am speaking the truth. I will prove through evidence that Chandy is wrong and I am right.”

Nair and her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan were arrested in the scandal in 2013 on charges of cheating numerous investors, who paid money for solar panels. While Saritha Nair is out on bail, Radhakrishnan is in jail after being accused of murdering his first wife.

In Thiruvananthapuram, RSP’s Kovoor Kunjumon quit the Kerala assembly, saying he was disgusted with the UDF government, and pledged to rejoin the Left.

The Revolutionary Socialist Party has three legislators. With Kunjumon leaving, the strength of the house has come down to 138 and Chandy now has the support of 72 legislators. The Left commands 66 legislators in the 140-seat house.

Kunjumon said “For seven months, I am unable to show my face to cashew factory workers (in my constituency) as all the factories are closed.

“Others may not know their feelings, but I know it because I am the son of a cashew factory worker. Along with our supporters, we will form the real RSP and will align with the Left,” he said.

Kunjumon was elected to the assembly in 2001, 2006 and 2011 when his party was with the Left. Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he joined the UDF.(IANS)