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New Delhi: With the West Bengal assembly election a few months away, Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee is showing signs of weakening – which may ultimately tell upon her grand concept of a federal front at the national level.
Several factors, the most important of them being the CBI’s suddenly speeded up an investigation into the Saradha chit fund case, have led to an uncomfortable situation where names of either some TMC functionaries or some other personalities known to be close to the party are now coming to the fore.
It must, however, be admitted that investigations are going on under orders from the Supreme Court and it is not the time for making any comment on the case. But the CBI’s recent cross-examination of Shankudev Panda, one of the general secretaries of the TMC, did result in knee-jerk reactions from the party. Within a very short time after Shankudev’s deposition, he was removed from all the positions he held in the party and the rank and file has been asked not to maintain any contact with him. The media in Kolkata is speculating that Shankudev has taken names of some big wigs in his deposition to the CBI.
The TMC has however advanced this argument: Shankudev has been removed to facilitate investigations. Then why didn’t the party remove Madan Mitra, a TMC bigwig, from the position of a minister when he was sent to jail? No answer is forthcoming.
It is, however, reliably learnt that except for Kunal Ghosh, a jailed MP, no other person has taken Banerjee’s name as a beneficiary of the Saradha scam. But the alleged involvement of some of her partymen have certainly weakened Mamata’s so long unquestioned hold over her party. Recently she took the initiative to patch up with Mukul Roy, an estranged general secretary, who still enjoys some amount of influence in the party. From Banerjee’s side, there was no urgent need for this. Both the BJP and the Congress had publicly expressed their reservations about admitting Roy into their fold.
Then there is the case of Subhendu Adhikary, the party MP who had organized the opposition to the CPI-M led administration in Nandigram. Adhikari was known to be extremely peeved as Banerjee had taken away the responsibility of TMC’s youth wing from him and handed it over to her nephew Abhishek Banerjee. Banerjee was so unnerved about Adhikary that she has recently been forced to declare that the latter would become a minister in the event of a Trinamul victory in the coming election.
Sources point out that Banerjee has become a bit shaky although she is confident of victory in the coming poll. But there is a murmur of disapproval within some influential MPs of the Trinamool Congress about Banerjee’s overdrive for forming a federal front at the national level. Interestingly Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is being uniformly favoured by almost all sections of the TMC as an ally at the national level while the least acceptance remains for Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav. Some TMC bigwigs are still not prepared to forget Mulayam Singh Yadav’s somersault at the time of the last presidential election. It is also being generally felt in the TMC that Banerjee is still not mature enough for making political moves at the national level.
In her own estimation Mamata is prepared to write off the BJP’s prospects in the next election, an appraisal many of her party members are now not (rpt not) prepared to share. In the 2014 parliamentary election, the BJP had got nearly 17 percent votes and though its fortunes mostly plummeted in subsequent local body elections. Yet, two factors might infuse fresh vigour into it: selection of a hard core organizational man named Dilip Ghosh as the state party president and making Rupa Ganguly of “Draupadi” fame in-charge the state BJP’s women’s wing. Already, the BJP has started various agitational programmes.
The Congress, with its shrinking electoral base, may not pose any problems for the TMC. But the proceedings of the CPI-M plenum will be of interest to Banerjee. Party sources aver that her recent decision to meet Sonia Gandhi at Delhi was primarily meant to forestall any possibility of the Congress and the Left bloc coming close to each other.(Amitava Mukherjee,IANS)
NEW DELHI - India Navy sending four ships for exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, its navy said Wednesday, as China's maritime power grows in the area.
The Indian ships will spend more than two months in the region, the navy said in a statement.
Commander Vivek Madhwal, the Indian navy spokesman, said four ships will take part.
The ships will also participate in a multilateral exercise, MALABAR-21, along with the Japanese, Australian and U.S. navies, the statement said.
It said the exercises will enhance coordination with friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and a commitment to freedom of navigation.
"Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations," the statement said.
The U.S., India, Japan and Australia are part of the Quad regional alliance created in response to China's growing economic and military strength. Washington has long viewed New Delhi as a key partner in efforts to blunt increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India is also in a continuing standoff with China over their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region. The countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along their de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control.
Last year, 20 Indian troops died in a clash with Chinese soldiers involving clubs, stones and fists in a portion of the disputed border. China said it lost four soldiers.(VOA/HP)
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.