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Once ridiculed as 'part-time' politician, Pawan Kalyan takes centre stage in Andhra politics

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Amaravati, June 20 (IANS) From being ridiculed by his critics as a “non-serious” and “part-time” politician till a couple of years ago to now Deputy Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, it’s quite an achievement for actor-politician Konidela Pawan Kalyan.

The Jana Sena leader, who assumed office on Wednesday, has come a long way since floating the party a decade ago despite the political disaster experienced by his more famous elder brother Chiranjeevi.

Though he made a modest beginning as a campaigner for the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and its ally Bharatiya Jana Party (BJP) in 2014 and had a disastrous electoral debut five years later, Pawan Kalyan stayed the course, determined to carve a niche for himself.

He, however, had to face bitter attacks from YSRCP leaders on his personal life. YSRCP President and former Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, at every public meeting, targeted the actor-politician over his three marriages, always referred to him as the “foster son” of TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu and called him a “non-resident politician” and a “package star”.

“Power star”, as Pawan Kalyan is popularly known in film circles, has finally tasted victory and power. After succeeding in his mission to end the “destructive rule” of the YSRCP, he appears set to play a big role in the changed political environment.

As the number two in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, the actor-politician is expected to have a major say in the decision-making. He has been entrusted with key portfolios like Panchayati Raj, Rural Development & Rural Water Supply, Environment and Forest, and Science and Technology.

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Over the last decade, he has shown keen interest in subjects like rural development and the environment.

As Chandrababu Naidu’s deputy, Pawan Kalyan will not only be looking for an active role in government but may also capitalise on this to strengthen his party, which put up an incredible show in recent elections to win all 21 Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats it contested. After the 2019 disaster when he lost both the seats he contested, Pawan Kalyan was elected from the Pithapuram constituency in Kakinada.

His Jana Sena, which has three ministers in the Cabinet including him, is the second biggest party in the 175-member Assembly after the TDP, which won a whopping 135 seats.

Many from his party had criticised Pawan Kalyan for not bargaining for more seats. He, however, was realistic and admitted the limited bargaining power of his party. “If we had a few seats in the Assembly, we could have bargained,” was his response.

In 2019, the Jana Sena had won a single seat and the lone MLA had also deserted the party. Pawan Kalyan also sacrificed a few more seats to bring the BJP on board in a grand alliance to ensure that anti-incumbency votes are not divided. His initiative to ally with the TDP and later convince the BJP leadership to join them proved a game changer as the YSRCP, which had 151 seats in the previous Assembly, bit the dust.

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As the YSRCP’s tally dropped to just 11 in the Assembly, the Jana Sena will be looking to expand in areas beyond certain pockets of south coastal Andhra.

Political analysts say Pawan Kalyan has got a platform from where he can build his party into a major force.

“His achievement is phenomenal. Perhaps there is no other party which achieved a 100 per cent success rate while contesting more than 20 seats,” said analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

He believes that going forward, Pawan Kalyan’s role will be significant. He may use his good offices with the BJP leadership to take up state-specific pending issues with the Centre. He, however, said it would be too early to predict if he would expand the party beyond the limited pockets where Kapus (the community to which Pawan Kalyan belongs) are in sizable numbers.

“Any serious attempt to expand the Jana Sena in other parts of the state may put him in direct conflict with Chandrababu Naidu’s son Lokesh whom the TDP considers as the future Chief Minister,” he said.

Lokesh is the TDP General Secretary and a key minister in Naidu’s Cabinet. Naidu, who is already 74, will be looking to groom his son as his successor.

Unlike elder brother Chiranjeevi who wound up his Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) within a couple of years of its launch, Pawan Kalyan never feared defeat. Though he began his political career as the leader of the PRP’s youth wing in 2008, he was not happy with the party’s merger with Congress in 2011. After launching the Jana Sena Party in March 2014, he supported the NDA in the elections held the same year as he was angry with Congress for bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, and shared the dais with then Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu.

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Pawan Kalyan later distanced himself from both the BJP and the TDP for going back on the promise to accord special category status. In 2019, he had an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Left parties. However, the Jana Sena could win just one Assembly seat and drew a blank in Lok Sabha polls. After the disaster of 2019, he re-joined hands with the BJP and in September last year, announced an alliance with the TDP. Aware of his strengths and weaknesses, the 52-year-old was cautious not to repeat past mistakes and this was the reason he did not bargain hard for seats. Seen as a youth icon, he crafted the image of a fighter. In tune with his screen image of an angry young man, Pawan Kalyan displayed aggression during the showdown with the Jagan government on a few occasions while taking up people’s issues.

–IANS

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Amid row, Assam's Tinsukia promises to reinstall Mahatma statue

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Guwahati, July 14 (IANS) Amidst huge controversy after the removal of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi for the construction of a clock tower in Assam’s Doomdooma town in Tinsukia, the district administration decided that a new seven-feet tall statue of the father of the nation would be installed in the town.

The controversy began after a social media post last week by Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi.

Tagging a newspaper clipping, Tushar Gandhi in his post on the X said: “Not surprising that the BJP government in Assam decided to replace Bapu’s statue with a clock tower. Their slavish colonial hangover persists.”

Earlier, the Tinsukia district administration said that the statue was removed as part of the Doom Doom’s makeover project which included building a clock tower and replacing the old statue with another statue.

Congress leaders and workers led by former Doomdooma MLA and party leader Durga Bhumij strongly protested the move.

When the contractor of the project began the work recently, Bhumij along with party workers arrived at the site and strongly opposed the removal of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

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“The BJP never paid due respect to Gandhiji. Instead, it always gave respect to Nathuram Godse,” the Congress leader had said.

“At a time when Gandhiji’s statue was set up in as many as 80 countries around the world, the Board is going to build a clock tower by removing the statue of the Father of the Nation,” the Congress leader had told the media.

An official of the Tinsukia district administration on Sunday said that the Mahatma Gandhi statue was installed at Gandhi chowk in Doomdooma town around the year 1958.

“Since 1958, the statue had undergone a lot of wear and tear and damage. However, it appears that no scheme was undertaken for its restoration or replacement. Owing to this, a plan was undertaken to replace the existing 5 feet 8-inch Mahatma Gandhi statue with a new 7 feet tall statue under the scheme Installation of a new Mahatma Gandhi statue at Gandhi Chowk, Doomdooma’ under the 15th Finance Commission Grant of Doomdooma Municipal Board,” the official told the media.

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He said on February 15, a public meeting involving various organisations of Doomdooma town was held and the details of the two schemes mentioned and discussed with the public clearly and transparently and members present in the meeting agreed to the implementation of the two schemes.

After the huge controversy, Doomdooma BJP MLA Rupesh Gowala assured them that a new and taller statue of Mahatma Gandhi would be erected at the same site.

“The old statue was in a dilapidated condition and the new one would be installed within six months, along with beautification of the site,” Gowala had told the media.

Lakhimpur MP Pradan Baruah laid the foundation for Doom Doom’s development project on March 7.

District administration officials said that the site of construction was cleared on July 3 and the existing statue of Mahatma Gandhi was lifted on July 5 to prevent any damage due to the construction work.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, reacting to a post of Tushar Gandhi, on Friday said on X: “I am not aware of this decision taken by the district administration. Let me verify the facts. Assam owes much to Mahatma Gandhi.”

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“He stood firmly with Bharat Ratna Gopinath Bordoloi when the Congress party led by Nehru wanted to include Assam in Pakistan under the Grouping Plan,” Sarma had said.

–IANS

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Kiren Rijiju attends Muharram Majlis in Kargil, calls for peace & harmony

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New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Minority Affairs Kiren Rijiju, on Sunday, expressed his sentiments as he attended Muharram Majlis at Kargil.

Taking to X, he said: “I’m deeply touched by my account of the Muharram Majlis at Kargil during my visit.”

“The eternal peace and harmony experienced, along with the profound message of Karbala shared by Hazrat Imam Hussain 1,300 years ago, are a testament to the enduring power of faith and sacrifice,” he added.

Stressing the significance of unity and understanding within community, Rijiju said further: “Meeting with esteemed leaders like President JUIAK Ladakh, Sheikh Nazir Mehdi Mohammadi and Chairman IKMT Kargil Sheikh Sadiq Rajai, as well as other religious scholars, reinforces the importance of unity and understanding within our community.”

“Let us continue to be inspired by the timeless teachings of Hazrat Imam Hussain and strive for peace and harmony in our lives,” he concluded.

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Muharram Majlis refers to the ceremonial narration of stories of Karbala and recitation of mourning prayers that often move the congregation to tears out of devotion. The occasion is observed by Shia Muslims.

–IANS

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Delhi court restrains sale of book on Yes Bank's Rana Kapoor

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New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) A Delhi court has passed a stay order restraining the sale and distribution of a book about Yes Bank’s former MD and CEO Rana Kapoor.

Judge Naresh Kumar Laka of Tis Hazari Court was hearing a suit filed by Kapoor, a co-founder of Yes Bank, seeking a mandatory injunction on the publication of the book “Yes Man: The Untold Story of Rana Kapoor”.

Kapoor contended that the book in question mentioned various defamatory remarks violating his fundamental rights protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.

His plea added that the media trial should not hamper a fair investigation by the investigating agency and should not prejudice the right of defence of the accused in any manner as it would amount to a travesty of justice.

In response, the defendant-publisher argued that Article 19 of the Constitution grants a right to publish an article or a book and it contained no objectionable or defamatory content against Kapoor.

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After assessing the content of the book, the court, in its judgment, said that plaintiff Kapoor established a prima facie case in his favour against the publisher and author for harming his reputation without completely based on true fact.

It said: “The balance of convenience will also lie in favour of the plaintiff because the reputation of the plaintiff once defamed in the eyes of readers, it cannot be reversed back, if the plaintiff finally succeeds in the present case whereas the defendant will have only monetary loss only which is not greater than the reputation of the plaintiff.”

The CBI had registered the case in connection with alleged suspicious loans granted by Yes Bank and the quid pro quo between its co-promoter Rana Kapoor and the Wadhawan brothers.

The investigation agencies have alleged that Rs 3,700 crore was invested by Yes Bank in short-term non-convertible debentures of DHFL between April and June 2018.

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Allegedly, Rana Kapoor received kick-back over bogus loans extended by YES Bank to DHFL company, which was owned by Kapil Wadhwan and Dheeraj Wadhwan and to its Group companies and those kick-back amounts were misused by Kapoor for purchasing properties in the name of his family members.

–IANS

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Eyeing Assembly poll, Ajit Pawar discusses seat-sharing with HM Shah

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Mumbai, July 14 (IANS) Buoyed by the victory of its two candidates in the biennial election to the Maharashtra Legislative Council held on Friday, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Saturday met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and discussed a range of issues including crucial seat-sharing among the MahaYuti partners for the upcoming assembly election, a road map to further strengthen the alliance to take on the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the crop loan waiver for farmers.

Confirming Pawar’s meeting with Shah, sources from NCP on Sunday said, “It is very clear that MahaYuti will together contest the ensuing assembly election in Maharashtra with full force and strength with a sole objective of retaining the power. Shah has ruled out the possibility of the BJP going solo or severing links with the NCP or with Shiv Sena. A veteran BJP leader and Union home minister also clarified that the BJP will give due justice to the allies including Shiv Sena and NCP in the seat-sharing with winnability as the leading criteria.”

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The sources added that MahaYuti’s victory over nine seats in the state council election has boosted the morale of its party workers, especially after the dismal performance in the Lok Sabha elections.

The timing of Pawar’s meeting is crucial as Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had reportedly held a similar meeting with Shah a fortnight ago. Shinde, who will lead the MahaYuti in the upcoming assembly election, has been calling the shots after he won seven of the 15 seats fought in the Lok Sabha elections.

Shinde is believed to have conveyed to the BJP that Shiv Sena is keen to contest 100 seats in the Assembly election. Shinde’s proposal came after pressures mounted on the BJP from the cadres to not contest less than 150 seats considering its victory on 106 seats in the 2009 assembly elections.

Against this backdrop, Pawar’s meeting was all the more significant as the NCP has been repeatedly reminding the BJP that it was promised 90 Assembly seats when it joined MahaYuti in July 2022. If BJP is staking claim over 150 seats and Shinde on 100 seats then NCP will be left with 38 seats which will be unacceptable for it.

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As per the sources, Shah has reiterated that MahaYuti will remain intact.

Pawar, who as the state finance minister has proposed a slew of freebies and sops to farmers, women, youth, industry and varied sections in the budget, has also made a strong case for the waiver in crop loan in a bid to give much-needed relief to farmers who are in distress due to damage to their crops in the wake of natural calamities and market variations in the prices of agricultural produces.

The deputy CM brought to Shah’s notice that the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government had implemented a crop loan waiver scheme but MahaYuti covered and gave benefits to the farmers who were repaying their loans regularly. Pawar’s suggestion is important as during 2023-24, agriculture and allied sectors are expected to grow by a paltry 1.9 per cent against 4.5 per cent in 2022-23.

–IANS

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Manipur: CRPF trooper killed, 3 cops injured after militants ambush joint patrol party

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Imphal, July 14 (IANS) A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawan was killed and three other security personnel got injured when suspected militants ambushed a joint patrol party with the state police in Manipur’s Jiribam district on Sunday, police said.

The three injured include a CRPF jawan and two Manipur police personnel.

A police official in Imphal said that the joint patrol party came under heavy fire from the hilltop by suspected militants at Morbung village of Jiribam district bordering Assam.

The CRPF troopers were inside a patrol SUV when the suspected insurgents opened fire, the police official said, adding that the vehicle was later found with bullet holes and its windshield shattered.

The security personnel retaliated and the militants took shelter in the forest of the mountainous terrain.

A combing operation is now going on and additional forces have rushed to the areas.

The injured security personnel were quickly evacuated and are currently under medical treatment in the government hospital.

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Sunday’s incident was the second militant attack on the security forces in Manipur in five weeks.

On June 10, suspected militants attacked the advance security convoy of Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh in the state’s Kangpokpi district and a security personnel was injured in the attack.

The advance security convoy was on its way to the trouble-torn Jiribam district on June 10 ahead of the Chief Minister’s scheduled visit to the state’s bordering district with Assam which recently witnessed violence.

The advance convoy was attacked near Kotlen village on the Imphal-Jiribam National Highway (NH-37).

Jiribam witnessed a wave of violence after the killing of 59-year-old farmer Soibam Saratkumar Singh on June 6.

The Jiribam violence led to around 900 tribals belonging to the Kuki and Hmar communities taking shelter at the homes of relatives and friends in two villages in the Cachar district of southern Assam, while around 1,000 people, mostly belonging to the Meitei community, are now sheltered in seven relief camps in Jiribam.

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–IANS

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