QBullet: Shah Speaks on Delhi Rout; J&K Local Body Polls in March

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Amit Shah breaks silence on Delhi Elections.

1. Provocative Slogans May Have Hurt BJP, but Not Sure: Shah

In his first public address after the Delhi elections, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday, 13 February, said BJP may have suffered because of controversial statements like “goli maaro” and “India-Pakistan match”, but added that there was no way to really know why “people pressed which button” inside a polling booth.

Speaking at the Times Now Summit, Shah termed the controversial remarks “unfortunate” and said those should not have been made. He also said the party had distanced itself from those comments immediately. The minister, who was responding to a question, did not rule out the possibility of the provocative utterances contributing to the setback. “BJP may have suffered but there was no precise way to figure out people pressed which button inside the polling booth,” he said.

Shah, who spearheaded BJP’s campaign and had predicted a win, conceded that his assessment of the party’s prospects turned out to be wrong.

(Source: The Times Of India)

2. SC to Parties: Criminal Records Must Go Online

Noting an “alarming increase of criminals in politics”, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled on Thursday, 13 February, that all political parties must publicise, on their respective party websites, social media handles, and in newspapers, the details of candidates with criminal backgrounds who have been fielded to contest elections within a specified time period. It also said that parties must explain the reasons for selecting the candidate, and why someone without a criminal record had not been selected instead.

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress welcomed the verdict, and said it will help deal with the criminalisation of politics.

The SC order was passed in response to contempt petitions, which, among other things, pointed out that despite directions given by court in an order on 25 September 2018, for decriminalisation of politics, the government and the Election Commission of India (EC) failed to take concrete steps on the issue.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

3. Wall on Trump Route to Mask Slum: Civic Body to Reduce Height

After The Indian Express reported that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is building a six-feet-high wall, ostensibly to mask a slum area, on the route that US President Donald Trump and PM Narendra Modi would take on 24 February, the AMC has decided to reduce the structure’s height “so that the view is not obstructed”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra said: “We are clear that the wall’s height will be four feet. Inadvertently, the height in the first part had been kept at six feet in the design by zonal engineers. When this was brought to our notice by the Express report, we instructed that the height should be kept at four feet so that the view is not obstructed from the road to the slum. Some six-feet-high columns have already been built, which will be cut down to four feet.”

(Source: The Indian Express)

4. Pulwama Terror Attack: Even After a Year, NIA Unable to Trace Source of Explosives

A year after the Pulwama terror attack where 40 CRPF personnel were killed, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has not been able to trace the source of high grade explosives used by the car-borne suicide bomber.

A senior government official said the explosives could not have been purchased off the shelf as it was “warfare ammunition generally found in military stores.” A forensic report said that around 25 kg of plastic explosives were used.

The NIA probe has hit hurdles and it could not file a charge sheet as none of the key suspects are alive. Two main suspects-Mudasir Ahmed Khan and Sajjad Bhat, were killed in an encounter with security forces last year in March and June respectively.

On 14 February 2019, Adil Ahmad Dar, a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist rammed a vehicle into a CRPF bus on the Jammu-Srinagar highway near Pulwama in south Kashmir, killing 40 CRPF personnel. Jaish is a Pakistan based terrorist outfit and is headed by UN designated global terrorist Masood Azhar.

(Source: The Hindu)

5. 7 Months After Article 370 Move, Local Polls to Be Held in J&K

Byelections to over 12,500 panchayat seats in Jammu & Kashmir will be held in eight phases from 5 March as part of the second such electoral exercise since the region was stripped of its special status with the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370 and the incarceration of hundreds of politicians and activists in August.

Jammu & Kashmir’s chief electoral officer Shailendra Kumar said the polling would conclude on 20 March and that paper ballots would be used for the polling. “Ballot boxes would be used during these elections,” said Kumar. Paper ballots were used during the 2018 local elections too.

The polling dates were announced a week after two former chief ministers, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti, were booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows for detention without trial for up to two years. Another former chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, was booked under the PSA in September.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

6. Trump’s India Visit: Four Senators Write to Mike Pompeo on Kashmir, CAA and NRC

Days before US President Donald Trump’s visit to India, four Senators, who have described themselves as “longtime friends of India”, have written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking for an assessment of the situation in Kashmir as well as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizenship (NRC).

The letter dated 12 February is co-signed by Democrats Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Illinois) and Republicans Todd Young (Indiana) and Trump ally Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

“We write as longtime friends of India regarding some of the troubling actions taken by the current government,” the Senators write. “India has now imposed the longest-ever internet shut down by a democracy, disrupting access to medical care, business, and education for seven million people. Hundreds of Kashmiris remain in ‘preventative detention’, including key political figures.”

The letter asks for an assessment in 30 days of the number of individuals detained in connection with Article 370 and “whether detainees endure torture or other forms of mistreatment”.

(Source: The Hindu)

7. Pachauri, Head of UN Climate Body When It Got Nobel, Dies

R K Pachauri, 79, founder director of New Delhi-based think tank The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) and former chairman of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, died on Thursday, 13 February.

He was battling cardiac ailments and was put on life support at a Delhi hospital on Tuesday. He had undergone open heart surgery after suffering a stroke in Mexico last July.

He led IPCC when it got the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with former US vice-president Al Gore. The prize recognised IPCC for its “efforts to build greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and lay the foundations for measures to counteract such change.” He headed IPCC from 2002 to 2015.

(Source: The Times Of India)

8. ‘Nehru Didn’t Want Patel in Govt’: Jaishankar, Guha Spar

Foreign minister S Jaishankar and historian Ramachandra Guha engaged in a war of tweets, spread out over two days, on whether Jawaharlal Nehru had included the name of Vallabhbhai Patel in his initial Cabinet list. Both asked the other to read books on the subject.

On Wednesday, 12 February, the minister had released a biography of V P Menon, a civil servant who worked closely with Lord Mountbatten and Patel. He later tweeted in the evening, “Learnt from the book that Nehru did not want Patel in the Cabinet in 1947 and omitted him from the initial Cabinet list. Clearly, a subject for much debate.” In another tweet, he wrote,“Exercise of writing history for politics in the past needs honest treatment.”

“When Sardar died, a deliberate campaign was begun to efface his memory. I know this, because I have seen it, and at times, I fell victim to it myself,” he wrote while quoting Menon from the biography.

(Source: The Times Of India)

9. Davinder Singh Case: NIA Arrests LoC Trade Body Chief

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested the president of Cross-LoC Trade Association in connection with its probe against suspended J&K police officer Davinder Singh. The agency arrested Tanvir Ahmed Wani in Delhi on Wednesday, 12 February and has now taken him to Jammu where it is probing the Davinder case.

Sources said as LoC trade association chief, Wani had allegedly provided funds to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen operative Naveed Mushtaq alias Babu. Mushtaq had been arrested along with Davinder, a Deputy Superintendent, by J&K Police in Kulgam while he was travelling in Davinder’s car to Jammu.

Wani is suspected to have played the role of a middleman between entities in Pakistan and operatives of the Hizb and Lashkar-e-Taiba for transfer of funds.

This is the sixth arrest NIA has made in the case.

(Source: The Indian Express)

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