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LS polls: Congress under pressure to field a Muslim candidate from Mumbai

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Mumbai, April 29 (IANS) Amid finger-pointing and an eyeball-to-eyeball row unfolding, pressure is now building on the top Congress leadership to field a Muslim candidate from Mumbai for the upcoming May 20 Lok Sabha elections, sources said here on Monday.

The development came a day after Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge — without taking names — indicated in Assam that the Maha Vikas Aghadi allies in Maharashtra could probably have reservations about fielding a Muslim candidate in the state or Mumbai.

Taking umbrage, Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut painstakingly cleared the air to say that any such impression conveyed to the Congress leadership was misleading and erroneous.

“We have never said to the Congress to field this candidate or not nominate some other contender… it is the party’s internal matter. We shall welcome any candidate they decide and work wholeheartedly to ensure their victory,” asserted Raut.

Apprehensive of a possible backlash, senior Congress leaders like Chandrakant Handore, MP, ex-Minister Suresh Shetty, MLC Bhai Jagtap and MPCC treasurer Amarjit Manhas held a meeting to soothe state Congress Working President M. Arif Naseem Khan, besides assuring that they would take up the matter with the party top levels.

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A senior source said that a letter had been sent to the central party leadership to reconsider Prof. Gaikwad’s nomination and accommodate Khan in Mumbai North Central since he is a prominent local leader.

The leaders have also urged the party to field Prof. Gaikwad from Mumbai North constituency which has a fair sprinkling of Dalit, minorities and OBC voters, and expressed optimism that this could resolve the problem amicably plus save the Muslim support base of the MVA.

Raut declared that Khan is a senior and respected Muslim community leader, an ex-Minister with good credentials and has excellent rapport with the SS (UBT) President and ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray and other leaders.

“We have absolutely no objections if the Congress fields Khan ‘saheb’ from anywhere, we shall support wholeheartedly to ensure his victory,” said Raut, as Congress leaders heaved a sigh of relief.

Last week, Khan stoked a major row after he quit as the party’s Star Campaigner and the poll campaign panel to protest against the failure of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) to field a single Muslim nominee for the 48 LS seats in Maharashtra.

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A peeved Khan dropped dark hints that the blunder could prove costly and the MVA nominees may forfeit the Muslim and other minority votes in the states, particularly where the minorities dominate, amid speculation that the SS (UBT) reportedly was reluctant to support a Muslim candidate.

Assuring that he was “not a rebel”, Khan, an ex-Minister, made his displeasure public after the Congress named city party President Prof. Varsha Gaikwad as the Mumbai North Central constituency candidate but did not oppose her nomination.

“Now, it is up to the Central leadership in Delhi to take a call on Khan for Mumbai North Central, which he was very keen to contest, and nominate Prof. Gaikwad from Mumbai North,” said a state party leader.

Incidentally, around 35 years ago, there was a precedent when the Congress had nominated late ex-Minster Celine D’Silva from Mumbai North East, but following an uproar had replaced her with the late ex-Union Minister Gurudas Kamat, in the 1989 LS polls, he added.

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(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in )

–IANS

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War of words hots up between TDP, YSRCP over 'illegal’ party offices

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Amaravati, June 23 (IANS) The war of words between the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) intensified on Sunday after demolition of the latter’s central office in Guntur District and notices to two more offices in Visakhapatnam.

While YSRCP has termed the action of the NDA government-led by TDP as political vendetta, the latter defended its action on the ground that the party offices were being built ‘illegally’.

Launching a fresh attack on YSRCP, state minister and TDP General Secretary, Nara Lokesh on Sunday posted on his ‘X’ handle pictures of YSRCP offices being built at various places in Andhra Pradesh and alleged that the previous government led by former Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy allotted 42 acres in 26 districts for 33 years for a nominal lease of Rs.1,000 per acre.

“Jagan, is Andhra Pradesh your grandfather Raja Reddy’s property,” asked Lokesh, who is son of Chief Minister and TDP President, N Chandrababu Naidu.

Lokesh alleged that Jagan was constructing ‘palaces’ with Rs.500 crore ‘looted’ from the people.

“On these 42 acres worth more than Rs. 600 crore, grabbed for your land thirst, 4,200 poor can be given house sites. With Rs.500 crore being spent on your luxurious palaces, houses can be constructed for 25,000 poor,” posted Lokesh.

“What is this madness for palaces? Is there no end to your thirst for money,” asked Lokesh.

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The TDP alleged that Jagan Mohan Reddy built ‘palaces’ for himself in nine cities including Hyderabad and Bengaluru and he was now building ‘palaces’ for his party offices with public money and without approvals from authorities concerned.

It alleged that 42.24 acres of government land in 26 districts was allotted for YSRCP’s offices for a 33-year lease at a nominal cost of Rs.1,000 per acre.

“The value of the 42.24 acres land is Rs.688 crore while more than Rs.500 crore of public money is being spent to build these palaces,” it said.

The TDP claimed that permissions were not taken for YSRCP offices, except in Prakasam District.

The YSRCP has hit back at the ruling party, reminding it that between 2014 and 2019, the TDP government had allotted government lands in 10 districts on lease for 33 to 99 years for Rs.1,000 per acre.

“If you do it, it’s politics and if we do, it’s land grabbing,” reads a post on YSRCP’s official handle on ‘X’.

“Have you not issued a GO and built TDP offices across the state,” the Opposition party asked.

It claimed that the land for NTR Bhavan (TDP office) in Hyderabad was also allotted in the same way.

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Alleging that its central office, which was nearing completion, was demolished in an act of political vendetta, YSRCP said if its government had resorted to a similar act, no TDP office would have remained in the state.

The under-construction office building of YSRCP at Seethanagaram of Tadepalli Mandal in Guntur District was demolished by the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) and Mangalagiri Tadepalli Municipal Corporation (MTMC) authorities in the early hours of Saturday.

The APCRDA had issued a notice on June 10 to the YSRCP for taking up construction on the ‘illegally occupied’ land of 870.40 square meters within the boat yard compound of the irrigation department.

The APCRDA stated that the previous government leased the two acres of land, which was a boat yard and water body, to the YSRCP on lease at Rs 1,000 per acre, per annum for 33 years for their party office.

It was also alleged that the party undertook construction without getting approvals from the irrigation department and the MTMC.

The YSRCP had filed a writ petition in the High Court, seeking orders to the CRDA and MTMC not to take any coercive action against the building structure, until hearing was completed.

Claiming that the High Court had ordered a halt on any demolition activity, the Opposition party has slammed the government for violating the court’s order.

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YSRCP plans to approach the court on Monday, seeking criminal action against those who carried out the demolition.

YSRCP leaders termed it a ‘destructive’ vendetta of the TDP-led NDA government.

Jagan Mohan Reddy alleged that Chandrababu Naidu had taken vendetta politics to another level. He interpreted the demolition as a signal of the government’s aggressive stance for the next five years.

Even as a war of words erupted over the demolition, the Town Planning wing of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) issued show-cause notices to YSRCP seeking an explanation over ‘unauthorised construction’ of the party offices at Yendada and Anakapalli.

It was alleged that YSRCP proceeded with the construction of G+1 building over a stretch of two acres at Yendada without permission from the authorities concerned.

Similarly, construction of the YSRCP office at Anakapalli was taken up allegedly without approvals.

YSRCP leader and former minister Gudivada Amarnath removed the notice pasted on the office at Yedanda.

He claimed that the land was allotted in 2022 and the construction work began in March 2023.

He also stated that around Rs. 13 lakh and Rs. 30 lakh were paid to the government as taxes for plan approvals for the party offices at Yendada and Anakapalli respectively.

–IANS

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SC to hear issue of tree felling in Delhi's Ridge area

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) Supreme Court (SC) will hear the issue of tree felling in Delhi’s Ridge area where a suo moto notice of criminal contempt was issued to the Vice Chairperson of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

As per the causelist published on the website of the apex court, a special vacation bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan will hear the matter on June 24.

In the previous hearing, the top court had asked the DDA Vice Chairperson why he should not be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court for wilful breach of its orders prohibiting the felling of trees.

“We are not prepared to believe that the contractor entrusted with the work of widening the road has indulged in cutting trees of his own volition. Obviously, it has to be on the basis of the instructions from the officers of the DDA,” it had said.

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Further, the Supreme Court had said that the DDA Vice Chairperson misled the Lt Governor, who is the ex-officio Chairperson, by forwarding a proposal to set up a committee of experts to minimise the trees felled.

“We hope and trust that the Hon’ble Lt. Governor will take this issue very seriously, not only in his capacity as the Lt. Governor of Delhi but also in his capacity as the Chairman of the DDA,” it had added.

The top court was of the view that apart from the statutory requirement of compulsory afforestation, 100 new trees per every tree felled must be planted by the DDA.

It was dealing with contempt pleas alleging that a large number of trees in the ridge had been felled there by the DDA to construct an approach road between the Chhattarpur Road and the SAARC University near Maidan Garhi.

In an earlier order, the SC had said that other areas having morphological ridges were required to be protected and no permission for construction should be given there.

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–IANS

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Goa CM seeks Rs 700 cr from Centre for water augmentation projects

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Panaji, June 23 (IANS) Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has demanded a grant of Rs 700 crore from the Centre for Goa to construct dams and to enhance the capacity of existing dams as well as to prevent soil erosion.

Sawant on Saturday attended the pre-budget meeting chaired by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and placed the demands.

He said that there is a need to strengthen the water reservoirs and also protect coastal areas from soil erosion.

“I have demanded Rs 700 crore for water augmentation projects and for taking measures to stop soil erosion,” he said.

Sources informed that the Water Resources Department is planning to construct new dams in the coastal state.

The Chief Minister said that these initiatives are essential for Goa’s development, and expressed certainty that they will be included in the upcoming Union Budget 2024-2025.

Sawant had recently urged locals to take bamboo production to protect coastal areas from soil erosion.

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“We have focused on bamboo plantation. Wherever there are rivers and beaches, soil erosion is taking place on a large scale. We can stop this by planting bamboo,” Sawant said.

According to the Environment and Climate Change department, the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) in the Beach Carrying Capacity Report has observed that overall for a coastal stretch of about 105 km, 35 per cent of the coast is rocky terrain, 20 per cent of the coast is stable, 27 per cent is under erosion and 17 per cent of the coasts experiences accretion.

MLAs from the coastal areas of the state had complained about the soil erosion taking place on beaches, which is affecting the tourism business.

–IANS

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Vegetable prices skyrocket in Kolkata after scanty rainfall

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Kolkata, June 23 (IANS) Vegetable prices in Kolkata have skyrocketed following scanty rainfall in South Bengal.

Some of the staple vegetable items whose prices have skyrocketed include eggplant, bitter gourd, green chilly, cucumber, tomato, capsicum, beans, cauliflower and cabbage.

While eggplant price ranges from between Rs 120 and Rs 150 a kilogram, the same for bitter gourd is between Rs 100 and Rs 120. The price of green chilli, a must in cooking for any average Bengali family, is between Rs 150 to Rs 200 a kilogram. Cucumber, an essential salad item, is selling between Rs 100 and Rs 120 a kilogram.

Tomatoes are priced between Rs 100 and Rs 120 kilograms while capsicum being priced at around Rs 200 a kilogram has become a matter of luxury now. Cauliflower at Rs 50 a piece and cabbage at Rs 60 a piece are selling at a comparatively higher price.

A member of the task force constituted by the state government to keep the price of essential commodities in the retail markets of the state under control said that they have done a review of the situation and found that the lack of supply of vegetables as per demand is resulting in the current high price of the products.

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“We interacted with the vegetable vendors at different retail markets in the city. They claimed that because of the insufficient rainfall, there had been a hit in the production at the vegetable hubs of the state. So the supply is much less compared to the demand. As claimed by the retailers, since they are also purchasing the same vegetables at higher prices from the wholesale markets, they are charging more to maintain their profit margin thus pushing up the price of vegetables in the retail markets,” the member of the task force said.

However, he added, the task force members are not ruling out the possibility of a section of the vegetable traders taking advantage of the prevailing situation and resorting to hoarding.

He said that we expect the vegetable prices in the retail markets to stabilise with the arrival of a full-fledged monsoon.

–IANS

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Man from Andhra among 4 killed in US shooting

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Amaravati, June 23 (IANS) A 32-year-old man from Andhra Pradesh was among four persons killed in firing at a grocery store in Arkansas in the United States.

The victim from Andhra Pradesh was identified as Dasari Gopikrishna, a native of Bapatla district who had gone to the US only eight months ago.

He was working at the Mad Butcher grocery store at Fordyce, a small town in Arkansas, where a gunman opened fire on June 21.

Gopikrishna, who was at the billing counter, sustained critical injuries. He succumbed at a hospital the next day. His family in Yajali in Karlapalem mandal of Bapatla district was shattered on receiving the news.

Gopikrishna is survived by a wife and a son.

Four persons were killed and nine injured when the gunman opened fire inside the store and at the parking lot.

Meanwhile, CCTV footage of the assailant entering the store and opening fire on the man at the counter has emerged. As the victim collapsed on the ground, the gunman jumped over the counter and escaped after lifting something from the shelf.

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–IANS

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