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PIO Gopi Thotakura To Become First Indian To Travel To Space As A Tourist

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Image credits: Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has revealed a six-person crew flying on the 7th human flight of its reusable suborbital rocket/spacecraft New Shepard

Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight company Blue Origin is preparing to send its crewed reusable suborbital rocket/spacecraft New Shepard on its 25th flight on a date to be decided soon, and one of the six space tourists being taken on it to an altitude of up to 100 km (62 miles) above sea level is an Indian origin entrepreneur, pilot and aviator.

Gopi Thotakura, co-founder of Preserve Life Corp, a global center for holistic wellness and applied health, located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Georgia state, United States, is set to become the first Indian to venture into space as a tourist.

The 30 years old, born in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh, is a graduate of the prestigious Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. In addition to flying jets commercially, he has also piloted aerobatic and seaplanes, as well as gliders and hot air balloons. He has served as an international medical jet pilot too. A lifelong traveler, his most recent adventure took him to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in East African country of Tanzania.

Blue Origin recently revealed the six-person crew flying on its NS-25 mission. Besides Gopi Thotakura, the crew includes Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, and a former US Air Force Captain Ed Dwight.

Dwight was selected by US President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as the nation’s first Black astronaut candidate but was never granted the opportunity to fly to space.

This mission will be the seventh human flight for the New Shepard program and the 25th in its history. To date, the program has flown 31 humans above the Kármán line, the point above sea level that marks the start of space. Jeff Bezos himself, his brother Mark Bezos and two other private persons were part of the history creating first human flight of the New Shepard reusable rocket/spacecraft on July 20, 2021.

Since then, at 90 years of age, actor William Shatner, who played the stellar role as Captain James Kirk on the epic first Star Trek television series, has been the oldest person to fly to space on the New Shepard rocket/spacecraft.

One of the stated goals of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is to create a future where people live and work in space to benefit Earth. It seeks to preserve Earth by identifying additional material and energy resources, as well as relocating to space the industries that are likely to harm Earth. The company is developing reusable rocket engines and launch vehicles designed to significantly lower the cost and increase the accessibility of space travel.

Blue Origin’s Club For The Future

https://www.clubforfuture.org/

Ending Speculation, Congress Bets On Manish Tewari From Chandigarh LS Seat; Pawan Bansal Loses Age War

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Finally, the Indian National Congress has bet its money on a younger candidate for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections 2024 from Chandigarh constituency, apparently to counter BJP’s recent decision to make a generational shift in naming its nominee.

Manish Tewari, sitting Congress member of Parliament from adjoining Anandpur Sahib constituency in Punjab and former Union minister, found his name on top of a fresh list of 16 party candidates for the Lok Sabha elections from Chandigarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha released by the party on Saturday, 13.04.2024.

Those named from Himachal Pradesh are state cabinet minister and former Congress stalwart late Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh from Mandi and Vinod Sultanpuri from Shimla (SC).

Manish Tewari, who hails from Chandigarh, has got the party ticket at the expense of another former Union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who has represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha four times since 1991, but lost the last two elections consecutively in 2014 and 2019 to star candidate Kirron Kher, the sitting MP, who has for the last few years been under treatment for cancer. She is now 71 years old.

Despite these two reverses,  Pawan Kumar Bansal (75) was widely believed to be the party’s top choice once again, considering his seniority and local popularity. He is also learnt to have been the choice of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is supporting the Congress in the Chandigarh elections as part of a pact which saw the Congress supporting AAP’s successful mayoral election bid in the Municipal Corporation Chandigarh.

But Manish Tewari’s persistent lobbying to get the party ticket from Chandigarh which he had been indulging in for years, and the BJP declaring a younger candidate and former state party president for 10 years Sanjay Tandon (60) as its candidate, appear to have weighed on the party high command while taking the final decision.

Two years younger to Tandon, Manish Tewari has been a two time MP – from Ludhiana (2009-2014) and Anandpur Sahib (2019-2024) – and Union Minister of State (Independent charge) Ministry of Information & Broadcasting from 2012-2014.

Playing an active role in students’ politics from a young age, Tewari remained president of the then Congress (I) affiliated students’ body National Students Union of India (NSUI) from 1988-1993 and then president of Indian Youth Congress (I) from 1998-2000 under the patronage of Rajiv Gandhi.

Having done his schooling from St John’s High School, Sector 26, Chandigarh and Govt. Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 16, Chandigarh, he graduated in Arts from DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh. He later did his Bachelors of Laws from University of Delhi and is a practicing lawyer in the Supreme Court of India.

He has authored several books, including the last one titled ’10 Flash Points: 20 years – National Security Situations That Impacted India’.

His father VN Tewari, an author and professor of Punjab language at Panjab University, Chandigarh, was killed by militants in 1984 while on a walk in Sector 24 of Chandigarh. His mother late Dr Amrit Tewari retired as Professor and head of Department of Dentistry at the prestigious Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.

Cautious Shiromani Akali Dal Does Not Name Star Candidate Harsimrat Kaur Badal In First List  For LS 2024 In Punjab

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File photo of Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra (right) and Dr Daljit Singh Cheema.

 

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), contesting the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab for the first time without its traditional alliance partner BJP since 1996 and missing its widely popular patriarch Prakash Singh Badal, appears to be unsure of its ground. Its most successful face in the last three elections has not found a place in the first list of seven candidates announced by the party on the auspicious occasion of Baisakhi.

In the first list, the party has not named a candidate from Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency from where former Union minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal has been proving its trump card in the last three elections since 2009.

The list was posted on X by senior party leader and former cabinet minister Daljit Singh Cheema, who himself is going to contest for the first time from the border constituency of Gurdaspur in which his native village Cheema falls.

The others named are:

  • Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra from Anandpur Sahib
  • NK Sharma from Patiala
  • Anil Joshi from Amritsar
  • Bikramjit Singh Khalsa from Fatehgarh Sahib
  • Rajwinder Singh (grandson of late senior leader Gurdev Singh Badal) from Faridkot
  • Iqbal Singh Jhoonda from Sangrur

The party has fielded candidates from the border constituencies of Amritsar and Gurdaspur, which have traditionally been reserved for the saffron party as part of the alliance.

From Amritsar constituency, the grand old Sikh panthic party is trying to play the Hindu card, by giving the ticket to former BJP cabinet minister in the alliance Anil Joshi, who had been expelled by the saffron party for demanding the repeal of the three controversial farm laws in defiance of the party’s then strong stand in favour of the new legislations.

He had later joined the SAD and is currently a member of the party’s core committee and incharge of Amritsar Lok Sabha. In his candidature, the party also appears to be seeking to woo the agitating farmers, in whose favour Joshi had defied his then party line.

He will face up to ruling AAP candidate Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, a minister in the Bhagwant Singh Mann cabinet, and former Indian Ambassador to the USA Taranjeet Singh Sandhu, who has been fielded by the BJP.

Former cabinet minister and an MBBS doctor by training, Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, nominated by the party from Gurdaspur, is learnt to have been keen on contesting from Anandpur Sahib constituency, in which he represented the Rupnagar assembly seat from 2012-2017. He remained Education Minister in the Prakash Singh Badal cabinet during this period.

When he was Political Advisor (in the rank of cabinet minister) to Prakash Singh Badal in his earlier tenure as Chief Minister from 2007-2012, he had unsuccessfully contested the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat in 2009, losing to first time Congress candidate Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of assassinated Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.

The only other candidate fielded by any of the other major parties for the seat so far is Dinesh Singh ‘Babbu’ of the BJP.

Another party bigwig Prem Singh Chandumajra is again the party pick from Anandpur Sahib, from where the former cabinet minister and three-time MP had lost the 2019 lok sabha elections to Congress candidate and former Union minister Manish Tewari. He had represented the constituency in the previous lok sabha term from 2014-2019 after defeating Congress stalwart and former Union minister Ambika Soni.

His first and second short-lived terms in the lok sabha were from Patiala constituency which he represented from 1996-1998 and again from 1998-1999 during years of political turmoil in the country necessitating repeated elections.

Other major political parties are yet to name their nominees from this seat.

Well known realtor, two-time MLA from Dera Bassi and former Chief Parliamentary Secretary Narinder Kumar Sharma is the party candidate from Patiala Lok Sabha constituency. He faces an uphill task, being up against Congress turned BJP four-time MP and former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s wife Preneet Kaur and ruling AAP candidate and Punjab health minister Dr Balbir Singh. The Congress is yet to field a candidate from the constituency but the name of former AAP MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who recently joined the Congress, is doing the rounds.

PM Promises Early Statehood, Elections In J&K

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an election rally in Udhampur, Jammu & Kashmir, on 12.04.2024 in favour of BJP candidate and Union minister Dr Jitendra Singh, who is seeking a third straight term from the constituency.
Dares Congress To Declare It Will Restore Art 370

Prime Minister Narendra Modi while promising early restoration of statehood in Jammu & Kashmir and elections to the state assembly has dared the political parties opposed to the abrogation of Article 370, especially the Congress, to declare that they will restore it, and see that the people of the country will not like to see their face.

BJP candidate from Udhampur and Union minister Dr Jitendra Singh having a word with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the election rally in Udhampur.

Addressing a largely attended election rally under tight security arrangements at Udhampur’s Batal Ballian area in favour of Union minister Dr Jitendra Singh, who is seeking a third successive term as Lok Sabha member from the constituency, Modi thundered that the Congress, National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had created a dilution in the minds of the people of the state that their lives and existence was dependent on the continuation of Article 370 and created a fear psychosis in the country that its abrogation will set the country on fire and the country will lose the state for good .

Udhampur goes to the polls in the first phase of the Lok Sabha 2024 elections on April 19.

The Prime Minister asserted that the people of the state, and the youth especially, have proved them wrong. With the demolition of the wall that Article 370 was, which for six decades differentiated Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of the country, all sections of the people in the state are now happily benefitting from their rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. The state has since then witnessed a transformational change with the return of peace and tranquility and the engine of development reaching to all parts of the territory.

The transformation, he maintained has been so stark that terrorism, separatism, stone-pelting, bandhs, hartals and cross-border firing have ceased to be poll issues in these elections. Mothers in the Kashmir valley are once again enjoying a peaceful sleep, feeling assured that terrorist and separatist forces are no longer able to misguide their sons.

Till 10 years ago there were serious security concerns around organising the Vaishno Devi and Amarnath yatras, which is no longer the case now, he stressed.

Modi reminded the gathering that successive “weak” Congress governments at the Centre had been keeping the construction of the Shahpur Kandi dam project on the Ravi river on the J&K-Punjab border pending, allowing the excess waters of the river flow wastefully into Pakistan. By completing the dam his government has ensured that thousands of farmers in the Kathua and Samba areas will be benefitted by irrigation facilities accruing from the dam, besides providing additional electricity to the territory.

Advocating a strong government at the Centre, he said only a strong government can ensure stability and rapid development in the country. Promising that the next five years will be dedicated to taking development and prosperity in the state to new heights with heavy investment being attracted in setting up industries, development projects and promoting tourism, he cautioned the people against being carried away by the rhetoric of the family-ruled political parties which were bent upon taking the state back to its dark days to perpetuate their personal political interests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAD Leader Maluka’s Kin Join BJP, IAS ‘Bahu’ Could Contest From Bathinda

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Parampal Kaur Sidhu, Punjab IAS officer and daughter-in-law of senior Akali leader Sikandar Singh Maluka, formally being welcomed into the BJP party fold in New Delhi on 11.04.2024. Maluka's son Gurpreet Singh (extreme left in the background) also joined the party.

CM Mann adds twist, says resignation not accepted, mocks ‘biba’ saying first learn to understand proper procedure

For the first time since 1996, the Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP are not contesting the elections in Punjab as alliance partners. So what does the lesser partner in the state politics do, it not only starts to poach on other major political parties, but also does not flinch from engineering defections from its senior ex-alliance partner.

After days of speculation, senior SAD leader and ex-cabinet minister Sikandar Singh Maluka’s zila parishad chairman son Gupreeet Singh Maluka and daughter-in-law Parampal Kaur Sidhu, who recently submitted her resignation as IAS officer to the Punjab government, officially joined the BJP in a ceremony in New Delhi on Thursday.

Though Sikandar Singh Maluka, a two time SAD MLA from Rampura Phul in Bathinda district and ex-cabinet minister in the SAD-BJP alliance government, himself continues to remain in the panthic party, the joinings by his family members has clearly sent out signals about his intentions.

Parampal Singh Sidhu is tipped to get the BJP ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections 2024, polling for which is slated to be held in the state on June 1, from Bathinda constituency, the stronghold of three consecutive times MP from the seat and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s wife, Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Though SAD is yet to announce its candidates from any of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, Harsimrat Kaur Badal looks certain to be retained the party candidate from the constituency. The ruling party in the state, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has already entered one of its senior ministers Gurmeet Singh Khudian in the arena anticipating that Harsimrat would be the natural SAD choice from the party’s stronghold.

Soon after the news broke about Parampal Kaur Sidhu formally joining the BJP, in anticipation of her resignation being accepted by the state government, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann added a twist to the story.

He took to ‘X’ and strangely posted on his personal handle informing that “Parampal Kaur’s resignation as IAS officer has not been accepted by the Punjab government.” Literally mocking her he said “the way you were in a hurry to become IAS .. there are certain procedures for leaving it .. please understand the way to submit the resignation .. lest all the life’s earnings get into peril..”

Interestingly, less than a week ago, SAD had included Sikandar Singh Maluka in a 15-member manifesto committee of the party for the parliamentary elections headed by Balwinder Singh Bhundar. Ironically, he is also chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of SAD and is known to have been campaigning for Harsimrat Kaur Badal in Bathinda constituency till a day previous to the joinings in the BJP by his son and daughter-in-law.

The father and son are learnt to have been upset with the SAD high command’s decision to deny their claim for Gurpreet Singh Maluka to be fielded from his father’s constituency Rampura Phul and Sikandar Singh Maluka be allowed to contest from adjoining constituency of Maur in the last 2022 state assembly elections. Finally, only the father was granted the party ticket from his traditional seat Rampura Phul. He was swept away in the AAP wave in the state and lost to AAP candidate and Punjabi singer Balkar Singh Sidhu by over 10,000 votes.

Sikandar Singh Maluka first won from Rampura Phul in 1997, and then again in 2012. He lost in 2002 and 2007, and again in 2017 to Congress candidate Gurpreet Singh Kangar. Despite having lost the last two assembly elections – in 2017 and 2022 – Maluka exerts a significant influence in Bathinda constituency as a whole. His son Gupreet Singh Maluka was unanimously elected zila Parishad Bathinda chairman in 2023. He is also vice president of Punjab Olympic Association (POA) and president of the Punjab Kabaddi Association.

His daughter-in-law Parampal Singh Sidhu, a promotee IAS officer inducted into the 2011 batch of the all India service, was managing director of the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC) at the time of submitting her resignation.

According to a report in Indian Express, Sidhu, a philosophy and zoology postgraduate, became the first woman block development panchayat officer (BDPO) in Punjab in the early 1990s. Some of her appointments were mired in controversies because these happened in departments oversee by her father-in-law as minister.

In 2013, during the SAD-BJP government, an attempt was made to induct her as a Punjab Civil Service (PCS) officer through the nomination route, but the file was returned by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). During that time, she served as an additional project director in the office of the director general of school education during the tenure of her father-in-law as education minister.

After a cabinet reshuffle, Maluka was assigned the rural development and panchayat department portfolio, leading to Parampal’s appointment as the district development panchayat officer (DDPO) in Bathinda in 2015. On December 1, 2015, she was promoted to deputy director in the panchayat department, and shortly after her case was forwarded to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for induction as an IAS officer through the nomination route.

Joining as a non-state civil services IAS officer on January 15, 2016, during the SAD-BJP rule, her initial posting was as additional deputy commissioner (general) in Bathinda. Despite joining in January 2016, she was given the 2011 batch of IAS considering her prior service length.

Kejriwal’s Woes Increase, Dalit Minister Raaj Kumar Anand Resigns From Party

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Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal’s woes appear to be piling on. A day after he failed to get relief from the Delhi High Court in the alleged liquor policy scam case in which had been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate and subsequently sent to judicial custody, a dalit minister in his cabinet, who is himself under investigation by the ED in an unrelated money laundering case, on Wednesday announced his resignation from the primary membership of the party.

Addressing a press conference at his residence after tendering his resignation to party general secretary Sandeep Pathak, the MLA representing Patel Nagar constituency, said, “I had entered politics when Kejriwal had said that if its politics changes, the country will change. But today, I say with much regret, that politics did not change but political leaders did. The AAP was born out of a movement against corruption, but today this party is mired in the same quicksand of graft.”

On being confronted on the timing of his resignation, he maintained that he is not contemplating joining any other party.

Raaj Kumar Anand, who held the portfolio of social welfare besides many others, further accused the party of not giving due respect to Dalits and backward communities. “They (AAP) put Babasaheb (Ambedkar)’s picture in each press conference, each government office but forget when it comes to following his ideals. Reservation is mandated by law but when it comes to actual representation, not even a single one of our 13 MPs (all Rajya Sabha members) is a Dalit or someone from the backward communities,” Anand said.

A post-graduate in political science, Raaj Kumar Anand was a member of the AAP’s national council and has been with Kejriwal’s movement since 2011.

According to Indian Express, Anand is under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate and DRI in an alleged money laundering case relating to unaccounted business investments in hawala payments sent to China in 2023.

In November last year, after conducting searches at 13 places, including Anand’s premises, the ED alleged that evidence relating to unaccounted business investments and hawala payments sent to China in 2023 was recovered from some of his key employees. This, according to the agency, was apart from Rs 74 lakh in cash along with various incriminating documents/digital records that were also recovered.

Reacting swiftly to Anand’s resignation, AAP leaders Sanjay Singh and Saurabh Bharadwaj said this is another proof of how the BJP is misusing the agencies in an effort to break-up the party and topple its state governments in Delhi and Punjab.

After Years Of Wait, Sanjay Tandon Finally Gets BJP’s Nod To Contest Chandigarh LS Seat

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He had been patiently waiting in the wings for over a decade to get a shot at the Lok Sabha elections from Chandigarh as the BJP candidate. The wait is finally over for former Chandigarh BJP president for nearly a decade Sanjay Tandon as he has received the national party leadership’s nod to contest the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat in the polls slated for June 1, 2024.

His name found a place in the list of nine party candidates from Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal released on Wednesday.

He is the first candidate from a prominent political party to be named for the Chandigarh seat and will be up against a Congress candidate supported by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as per a pact between the two parties. Sanjay Tandon replaces two time party MP Kirron Kher (2014-2024), who has been under treatment for cancer these past few years and was increasingly becoming unpopular because of her long absence from Chandigarh.

Son of former Punjab BJP stalwart and founding member of the Jan Sangh (late) Balramji Dass Tandon, who remained a deputy CM/minister in successive SAD-Jan Sangh/BJP coalition governments, six time MLA and governor of Chhattisgarh, the 60 years old Sanjay Tandon,  besides being a seasoned politician is a chartered accountant and cost accountant by profession. He is also member of the National Council of the BJP and co-incharge of party affairs in Himachal Pradesh.

Tandon became active in Chandigarh BJP in 1995 when he was made member of its executive committee. In 2007, he took over as the General Secretary of BJP Chandigarh. He was made incharge of the Chandigarh Lok Sabha elections during 2009 when Satya Pal Jain contested as the party candidate. Thereafter, he was elected Chandigarh BJP president in 2010 and re-elected in 2013, a post he held till 2019.

Over a span of over three decades Sanjay Tandon has built the Competent Group which is into several verticals like accounting, auditing, consulting, stock broking, commodity broking, software products, and co-working spaces. His family is known to conduct various social service activities through two NGOs Competent Foundation and Balramji Dass Tandon Charitable Foundation.

Sanjay Tandon is also deeply into cricket administration and is currently the president of the UT Cricket Association, Chandigarh, which is an associate member of the national cricket body, the BCCI.

At various times, he has also remained director of State Bank of Hyderabad, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and Gail India Limited.

He is married to Priya, daughter of former Chief Justice of India (late) Justice MM Punchhi, and they have three sons.

Cong Steps Back, Paving Way For MVA Seat Sharing Pact In Maha

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MVA leaders at the press conference in Mumbai on 09.04.2024 to announce their seat-sharing pact for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections

 

The eagerly awaited seat sharing deal for the 2024 general elections between the constituents of the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in Maharashtra, which sends the second highest (48) members to the Lower House of Parliament, Lok Sabha, after Uttar Pradesh, was announced in a joint press conference in Mumbai by NCP (SP) chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray and state Congress president Nana Patole on Tuesday after weeks of tough negotiations. The announcement incidentally was made on the day of ‘Gudi Padwa’, which marks the beginning of Marathi new year.

As per the deal, struck after the Congress stepped back and conceded the contentious Sangli and Mumbai South Central seats to the Sena (UBT) and Bhiwandi seat to the NCP (SP), the highest number of Lok Sabha seats from the state 21 will be contested by Shiv Sena (UBT), followed by the Congress (17) with the NCP (SP) contesting 10 seats.

Without waiting for the seat sharing pact to be struck, the Shiv Sena (UBT) had unilaterally declared candidates for Sangli and Mumbai South Central seats, and the NCP (SP) its nominee for Bhiwandi, from where the Congress had been hopeful of giving a good performance. The Congress eventually gave in after the other two alliance partners refused to budge.

Addressing the media at ‘Shivalaya’, the Shiv Sena (UBT) office in south Mumbai, party head and former state chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said in an alliance, winning is important and defeating the BJP is the goal.

“When victory against the BJP is the larger goal, we have to set aside certain differences,” he said when asked about the Shiv Sena (UBT) refusing to give Sangli seat to the Congress.

Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole claimed that his party has decided to be “large-hearted” to achieve the final goal of defeating PM Modi and the BJP. The Congress workers will fight the BJP and ensure victory of the MVA candidates in Sangli, Mumbai South Central and Bhiwandi, he said. While acknowledging that there will be some heartburn among the party workers over this decision, he shared that “We have resolved all the issues and our workers should also accept the decision.”

As part of the deal, apart from Sangli, the Shiv Sena (UBT) is dominating the Mumbai landscape contesting on Mumbai South, Mumbai South Central, Mumbai North West and Mumbai North East seats.

Besides other seats, the Congress has got Mumbai North Central and Mumbai North seats.

The NCP (SP) will contest Bhiwandi, Satara, Ahmednagar South and Beed seats, among others.

Lok Sabha elections 2024 in Maharashtra will be held in five phases on April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13, and May 20.

In the 2019 elections, the BJP emerged as the largest party with 23 seats, followed by the Shiv Sena (undivided) with 18 seats.

Hindustan Times has reported that the Congress has been given seven of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the Vidarbha region, three seats each in Marathwada and Western Maharashtra, and two seats each in North Maharashtra and Mumbai Metropolitan Region (both the seats are in Mumbai).

It is for the first time that Congress will contest only two of the six Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai where it was founded in 1885. They are Mumbai North and Mumbai North Central constituencies.

The Congress hasn’t been allocated a single seat in the Konkan region.

The NCP (SP), on the other hand, has been given five Lok Sabha seats from Western Maharashtra, two from North Maharashtra and one each from Vidarbha, Marathwada and Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

The three parties have not left any seats for their smaller allies in the MVA.

Thackeray shared that the MVA wanted Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar to be part of the alliance but unfortunately he chose a different path.

 

 

 

AAP Names 2 More Candidates From Punjab for LS Elections 2024

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Raj Kumar Chhabewal
Import from Congress Dr Raj Kumar Chhabewal from Hoshiarpur (SC) and Malvinder Singh Kang from Anandpur Sahib

The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has announced its second list of two more candidates from Punjab for the June 1 Lok Sabha polls in the state, fielding former deputy legislative party leader of the Congress in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Dr Raj Kumar Chhabewal, who recently quit the grand old party and joined AAP, from Hoshiarpur (SC) constituency, and party’s state chief spokesman Malvinder Singh Kang from Anandpur Sahib.

With this the party now has candidates in places to nine of the 13 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. In its first list for Punjab, the party had named eight candidates, including five ministers in the Bhagwant Singh Mann led Punjab government, but the repeat nominee from Jalandhar (SC) Sushil Kumar ‘Rinku’ had ditched  the party to join the BJP. He is now the saffron party’s pick from the same seat.

The party is left to find a replacement for him for Jalandhar (SC), as well as finalise candidates for the remaining three constituencies – Gurdaspur, Ludhiana and Ferozepur.

Dr Raj Kumar Chhabewal, a medical practitioner and two time Congress MLA from Chhabewal (SC) assembly constituency (2017-2024) had also contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Hoshiarpur (SC) as a Congress candidate but lost to current Union minister of state Som Parkash of the BJP by over 48,500 votes.

Malvinder Singh Kang

For Malvinder Singh Kang, a former president of the Panjab University Chandigarh’s Students Council (2002-2004), this will be his first major elections outside of students’ politics. He had recently taken over as party incharge for the same constituency from which he will now be contesting as the party candidate.

BJP has also released its first list of six party candidates from Punjab.

The two other principal political parties, the Indian National Congress (INC) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which have by turns ruled the state before AAP turned the tables on them with a massive-massive win in 2022, are apparently unsure of their ground in an atmosphere charged with intense speculations over leaders switching sides.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh Bailed Out, After Kejriwal Jailed In Liquor Policy Case

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File photo of Sanjay Singh being escorted to the court by ED
ED chooses not to oppose bail application after Apex court bench expresses inclination to accept bail application under Section 45 of PMLA

The embattled Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) received a first respite in the infamous Delhi liquor policy (now scrapped) case when the Supreme Court on 02.04.2024 granted bail to senior party leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh.

The bail was granted after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) chose not to oppose the bail application following the bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna, Dipankar Datta, and Prasanna B Varale indicating that it was inclined to accept the bail application under Section 45 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and that the agency should consider the repercussions of the court’s observations on the trail in such eventuality.

Sanjay Singh’s bail comes days after the ED arrested Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the case. Before him, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha was arrested in the case. Former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and AAP communications in-charge Vijay Nair are the other leaders who have been arrested by ED. All of them are currently in judicial custody in Tihar jail.

The news website barandbench.com, quoted Justice Dipankar Datta in the forenoon session as telling Additional Solicitor General of India SV Raju: “Mr. Raju, please keep in mind we have to, as per Section 45, observe in favor of the petitioner, please understand the implications of that during the trial. So get instructions on whether you need further custody.”

When the bench reassembled in the afternoon, Raju placed on record that through the ED has an “arguable case”, without going into merits, it has no objection in case the appellant Sanjay Singh is released on bail during pendency of the proceedings in the case. Following this the bench passed the order that Sanjay Singh be released on bail on terms and conditions to be fixed by the trial court, clarifying that nothing was being expressed on merits of the case.

According to another news website livelaw.com, the order was passed by the bench, while orally commenting that Sanjay Singh would be entitled to indulge in political activities during the period of bail, but he is not supposed to make any public statement regarding the case.

The court dismissed a second petition filed by Sanjay Singh, challenging his arrest and remand, as infructuous, the website added.

Sanjay Singh, arrested by ED in October 2023, had been in judicial custody for the last six months.

Section 45 of PMLA

Section 45 of the PMLA lays down the conditions for granting bail and states that no accused person shall be granted bail unless “the Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offense and that he is not likely to commit any offense while on bail.”

The case

The case against Sanjay Singh and other AAP leaders is rooted in a 2022 complaint filed by Delhi’s Lieutenant Govrenor VK Saxena alleging irregularities in the framing of the Delhi Excise Policy for 2021-22.

The complaint alleged that a criminal conspiracy had been hatched by leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAM), including former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and other unidentified and unnamed private persons/ entities at the stage of the excise policy’s formulation.

The conspiracy, it was alleged, involved loopholes “intentionally” left or created in the policy. These loopholes were allegedly meant to benefit certain liquor manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers after the tender process.

Here are a few more links to browse through more details of the case:

https://www.barandbench.com/news/supreme-court-grants-bail-aaps-sanjay-singh-ed-no-objection

https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-grants-bail-to-aap-mp-sanjay-singh-in-pmla-case-after-eds-concession-254013

https://www.livemint.com/news/india/sanjay-singh-bail-delhi-liquor-policy-case-pmla-ed-supreme-court-arvind-kejriwal-manish-sisodia-sv-raju-11712056334533.html