Former Delhi Congress president Arvinder Singh Lovely, who had switched over to the BJP in April last year, rejoined the Congress party on Saturday in the presence of the party’s Delhi in-charge P.C. Chacko and the present chief of Delhi Congress Ajay Maken Before the photo opportunity at the 24 Akbar Road headquarters of the Congress party, Mr. Lovely met party president Rahul Gandhi at his residence. He told the media that “he had left the party in pain”. I was an ideological misfitThough he didn’t elaborate, it was well known that he left because of his differences with Mr. Maken, who had replaced him [Mr. Lovely] as the party’s Delhi unit chief. “I was an ideological misfit in the BJP,” said Mr. Lovely during the brief interaction with the media after his re-induction into the Congress. His one time mentor and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said that she is happy at Mr. Lovely’s homecoming.The development comes barely a couple of days after Mr. Maken and Ms. Dikshit addressed a joint press conference against the AAP government’s third anniversary in Delhi in an effort to show a picture of unity.The Delhi unit of the Congress has witnessed factionalism with both Ms. Dikshit and Mr. Maken openly blaming each other for the party’s debacle in the 2015 Assembly election where it didn’t win a single seat.
The Congress government in Rajasthan has identified a whopping 10 lakh farmers for grant of loans through cooperative banks during the next crop cycle, amid allegations by the Opposition BJP that its “populist measure” of farm-loan waiver had failed to extend the benefit to the eligible agriculturists and led to scams in several districts. State Cooperative Minister Udai Lal Anjana said here on Saturday that the cooperative debt structure was being strengthened for the benefit of farmers who would get the loans without mortgaging their land. Farmers getting themselves biometrically registered under the scheme would be given preference in the loan disbursement, he said. The farm loans will be disbursed in two stages during the next crop cycle of kharif season from April 1 to August 31 and rabi season from September 1 to March 31. Mr. Anjana said the loan recipients would also get the benefit of other schemes operated by the Cooperative Department. The BJP has alleged that the loan waiver scheme, announced by the State government without the Cabinet’s approval, was not clear about the eligible farmers and the process of implementation. BJP State president Madal Lal Saini said the “loan scams” had come to light in several districts, where the loans were picked up in the name of farmers who had never received the amount. The Congress government had announced loan waiver for farmers up to Rs.2 lakh each, resulting in the burden of an estimated Rs.18,000 crore on the Exchequer, on December 19, 2018, two days after being sworn in. The Congress had promised to tackle agrarian distress during its campaign for the 2018 State Assembly election. The entire short-term loans taken by small and medium farmers from cooperative and land development banks without any monetary ceiling and the debts up to Rs.2 lakh due on November 30, 2018, for the defaulter farmers who had obtained loans from nationalised, commercial and rural banks was to be waived in the scheme’s first phase. Registrar of Cooperative Societies Niraj K. Pawan said the farmers who had become members of village cooperative societies several years ago would be among the beneficiaries selected for the crop loan disbursement scheme.
For a city with a centuries-old history of mining coal and producing steel, a gate at the entrance to Asansol, describing it as the “City of Brotherhood”, was scarcely noticed by residents and passers-by until a few years ago. However, after March 2018, the message put up by the city’s civic body is not only hard to miss but also presents the paradox the city is grappling with.In March 2018, Asansol burnt in hatred. Over 26 years after the city witnessed a divide along communal lines post-Babri Masjid demolition, the city appeared to be divided again. People were killed and prohibitory orders remained imposed for weeks as riots broke out over processions during Ram Navami. As the constituency gears up for polls on April 29, 2019, the fault lines of the communal divide seem more pronounced.Days before the polls, Trinamool Congress nominee Sreemati Dev Varma (Moon Moon Sen) had several events lined up earlier this week on Monday. At a crossing on the Domohani Road in Ward No. 31 of the Asansol Municipal Corporation, the 65-year-old actor made a brief speech to a crowd of a few hundred, largely comprising women and children.“The sound of azan from your mosque is the same as that of shlokas from the Gita,” she began. “Will you vote for those who want to divide us,” she asked in an apparent reference to the BJP.Ms. Sen, who represented Bankura Lok Sabha seat in 2014, had no hesitation in telling the audience that she is not familiar with Asansol and was contesting as per the wishes of her party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Her speech was replete with references to her mother, Bengali screen legend Suchitra Sen. Asked about her chances here, Ms. Sen’s reply reflected the wit of a politician: “Ask me what are the chances of Mamata Banerjee becoming Prime Minister and I will tell you its cent per cent.”Challenges galore The arithmetic of the last Assembly polls, held three years ago, may be with the TMC — it had won five of the seven seats in the Asansol LS constituency. But there are other challenges for the party. A TMC MP from Kolkata admitted that prime among them was of keeping the party’s flock together. This was one of the reasons why an outsider was given the ticket.Defending the seat is Union Minister of State Babul Supriyo. The singer-turned-politician’s greatest weapon this election is a song that has already courted a lot of controversy. Beyond the open coal mines of Raniganj where people can be seen carrying coal — mostly smuggled from the mines — on bicycles and their heads under the scorching sun, Mr. Supriyo is in the midst of a very busy campaign. As his convoy passes through Pandabeshwar, his supporters distribute booklets on the work he has done in the past five years, with his song playing in the background. Refuting the Election Commission’s reservations about the song, Mr. Supriyo expressed happiness at the over one lakh views it had notched on the Internet. “Why will you vote for Moon Moon Sen who is asking for votes in the name of her dead mother? What about the living and their problems?” he told a small gathering. While reminding people to play his song, the MP also raised slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ during his campaign.Corruption from coal and freedom to allow religious processions found echoes in the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he addressed the public meeting at Polo Grounds in Asansol the very next day (Tuesday). Just on the other side of the railway tracks, where the Prime Minister addressed the public meeting, Noorani Masjid and its adjoining areas still bear the scars of last year’s violence. “There was an unfortunate incident last year. What happened then should not recur any time in the future,” said Maulana Imdadullah Rashidi, referring to the riots. The cleric’s 16-year-old son was killed in the riots but he defused the situation with love, threatening to leave the city if members of the community targeted others.Another flare-upEarlier this month, a communal flare-up was also reported at Barakat in Asansol over a Ram Navami procession when authorities had to intervene, make arrests and suspend Internet services in the area. Imam Rashidi tried to downplay the incident. “There were some rumours in Barakat. Everything is quiet now. Elections will come and go. Asansol needs to, and will return to, where it was before 2018,” he said, his voice reflecting the same sanity and reason he had put forth a year ago.For Imam Rashidi, Asansol is really the city of brotherhood. “We are brothers living together here for centuries. Those who are used to hate will never realise what brotherhood means,” he said.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday said they will badly miss “street-smart” Praveen Kumar in the upcoming World Cup as the pacer has been ruled out of cricket’s showpiece event due to an elbow injury.Praveen, who has been a vital cog in India’s ODI scheme of things for a little over three years and was certain in India’s seam attack in the World Cup, was ruled out on Monday after failing to recover from an elbow injury which he sustained during the South Africa tour.”It is very unfortunate that Praveen had to miss the World Cup. He featured consistently in the ODIs for us. He is a street-smart cricketer and he will miss him a lot,” Dhoni said during a pre-tournament press conference in Bangalore.”But you can’t really restrict injuries from happening to players,” he added.Without mentioning the names, he also indicated that Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar all have recovered from their injuries and will be totally fit by the time India play their tournament-opener against Bangladesh in Dhaka on February 19.”A few players are suffering from slight niggles, which is always there but nothing serious. Hopefully, nothing major happens to any player,” the skipper said.The World Cup has come in for its share of criticism from some quarters for its length which spans around 45 days, but Dhoni reiterated that a perfect scheduling is always difficult to churn out and the rest period between matches will help the players to recover from their niggles.advertisement”As I have said earlier it is very difficult to form a perfect schedule and format. A tournament schedule will be either too long or too short but I am quite happy with the schedule. It will give us time to recover from small niggles,” he insisted.Dhoni also reiterated that pressure for his side is added responsibility and will not be a deterrent in their World Cup quest after 28 long years.”It (pressure) is an added responsibility. Whenever you play for India there is always pressure. But the good thing is that we have a very experienced team. Most of the guys have been there for 5-7 years and know how to handle pressure. We have some talented youngsters who can change the course of any game,” he said.Asked about the heavy burden of responsibility on his own shoulders in the tournament, the wicket-keeper batsman said, “I have been doing it for the last four-and-a-half, five years.”He refused to give importance to the fact that the World Cup is being held at home after 15 years and said the event is just any other tournament for the Indian team.”There is a lot of hype and expectation around the World Cup. But every series we have played so far there is always lot of expectation. Expectations will always be there but we need to consider it just as a big tournament,” Dhoni said.The Indian skipper said to taste success in the World Cup what India need is right strategies and not worry about other factors. Sachin TendulkarAsked whether the team had special feeling for the tournament, which expectedly is coach Gary Kirsten’s last assignment with the Indian cricket team and also swansong World Cup for batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, the skipper replied in the negative.”Feel is the same irrespective of what is the position. We are concentrating on our preparation rather than thinking about other things. We are quite good at distracting ourselves from all issues,” Dhoni said.He also said that as of now all the 12 countries have equal chances but as the tournament progresses the sub-continent teams will have an edge because of the climatic conditions.”It is cooler now but as we come to the middle of the tournament it will be hotter,” he added.With four formidable and three not-so-strong teams featuring in both the pools, many are of the view that the real excitement and competitiveness in the World Cup will start only from the quarterfinals but the India captain feels otherwise.”For us the World Cup will start from game one and not quarter-finals. Many are saying that group matches will be boring but these small (teams) surprised in the 2007 World Cup. So wait and watch what they can do,” Dhoni said.Asked about potential threat for India, he refused to pinpoint any country and said all the teams will approach tournament with a positive frame of mind.”All the teams are dangerous. As a team it is always better to back your strength. I think most of the teams will go with a strong bowling attack,” Dhoni said.advertisementTerming himself a big fan of ODI cricket, Dhoni said powerplay is a thing to watch out for in the World Cup.”I am a big fan of 50-over cricket. It is a mix of Test cricket and T20. You see glimpses of both Test and T20 in ODIs. I love ODIs but it doesn’t mean I don’t like Test or T20.”With PTI inputs
India captain couldn’t have asked for a better result against Pakistan in the World Cup semi-final in Mohali on Wednesday.India beat Pakistan by 29 runs and will play Sri Lanka in the final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday.But, it was the good start that helped India get there and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni felt that way. “We got off to a fantastic start through Sehwag and Sachin,” said Dhoni after the match.Giving out the details of the match, he said, “As the game progressed the wicket got slower, and in the middle overs it was difficult to score.””Shahid bowled really well, and it was important to just play the bowling with respect. 260 was a good score for this pitch. It was turning, we read the wicket wrong and that’s why we went with three seamers, but in the end the seamers bowled really well too,” Dhoni added.Praising Zaheer Khan, the skipper said, “Zaheer did really well. Over the years with experience he’s become smart. We’ve struggled at times in this tournament, but that’s the beauty of this game.”Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar, who won the Man-of-the-Match for his persistent 85, acknowledged the crowd support.”I would like to thank everyone here for terrific support, without that this wouldn’t have been possible, and not to forget the team’s efforts. We just had to make sure we got to a decent, fighting total,” he added.India offie, who finished with 2-43, said, “This was almost like a final, whenever India and Pakistan play each other the pressure is always doubled.” advertisement