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Amarinder Singh & Navjot Singh Sidhu bury hatchet, reminiscence old times, hint at bigger battles

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Extending support to the protesting farmers who have been staging protests at Delhi borders for over 250 days against the three contentious farm laws enacted by the central government, Punjab Congress President Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday said the real issue was theirs.

In his maiden speech after assuming charge here, Sidhu, who shared the stage with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh after a long break, also extended an olive branch to the protesting doctors, nurses, teachers and bus conductors, who have been on roads for their demands.

“My fights are not the issue, the farmers sitting in Delhi, the protesting TET qualified teachers, the problems of doctors and nurses and bus conductors are the real issues,” Sidhu said.

Reiterating his commitment to provide the electricity to the consumers in the state at the highly subsidized rates, Sidhu, donning his trademark maroon Pathani suit with a scarf, asked his government that why the electricity was being purchased for Rs 12 per unit.

He also talked about costly power purchase pacts signed by the previous SAD-BJP government and still continuing in the Congress government.

“Choran di chori pakdi jaani chahidi ae (the thieves would be put behind the bars),” he said.

For quite some time, Sidhu has been targeting the Amarinder Singh-led government in the state by saying the state must do more for domestic and industrial consumer by giving power at Rs 3-5 per unit instead of surcharge inflated Rs 10-12 per unit, along 24-hour supply with no power cuts and free power up to 300 units to all.

Sidhu said there have been all sorts of speculations about him, but “positions are not the issue”.

“Today every Congress worker has become the president, no difference between leader and workers,” he said.

Remembering his ties with Sidhu’s family, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in his speech said they would work together for the state.

“I was commissioned in the Army, the year Sidhu was born. When my mother asked me to enter politics, his (Sidhu) father helped me. I used to go to his house when he was about six years old,” said Amarinder Singh.

Ending speculations of differences between him and Sidhu, Amarinder Singh said, “We (Sidhu and Amarinder Singh) will work together for Punjab. Not just for Punjab, but for India. We share a long border with Pakistan…Pakistan, China and now with America’s departure, Taliban in Afghanistan, all of them are going to come and sit at Kashmir’s border, Punjab’s border,” the Chief Minister said.

Before Sidhu assumed the charge as the state President at the party office, Sidhu met the Chief Minister at the Punjab Bhawan here for the tea meeting.

The meeting between Sidhu and Singh, who had been at loggerheads, was cordial.

According to a video from the event, Sidhu greeted Amarinder Singh with folded hands and broke the ice by saying: “How are you, sir? Such a pleasure.”

Amarinder Singh had invited all Congress MLAs and MPs for breakfast an hour before the new team to take charge, comprising four working presidents — Kuljit Singh Nagra, Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, and Pawan Goel.

Maharashtra

Mumbai’s COVID-19 Cases Further Drop To 5,008 and 12 Die

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Mumbai on Friday reported 5,008 new coronavirus cases, 700 less than the previous day, and 12 fresh fatalities linked to the infection, the city civic body said.

With this, the city’s COVID-19 tally rose to 10,28,715, while the death toll jumped to 16,512, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) bulletin said.

This was the third day in a row when daily COVID-19 cases have dropped in the financial capital.

On Thursday, 5,708 COVID-19 cases and 12 fatalities were reported in the city.

With 12,913 more patients discharged during the day, the number of recovered cases jumped to 9,95,338, said the bulletin.

Mumbai’s coronavirus recovery rate has increased to 97 per cent, while the case doubling rate has improved to 72 days, the BMC said.

As many as 50,032 new coronavirus tests were conducted in the metropolis as compared to 53,203 on Thursday. 

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Maharashtra

Parrikar’s son to quit BJP, contest Goa polls as independent candidate

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Rejecting the BJP’s efforts to arrive at a compromise, former Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar’s son Utpal Parrikar said on Friday that he would resign from the saffron party and contest as an Independent candidate for the February 14 polls from the Panaji Assembly constituency, which was formerly represented by his father.

Addressing a press conference here, Utpal Parrikar also said that his candidature was rejected by the party during the 2019 Panaji bypolls — facilitated after his father’s death — despite support from his constituents, adding that the BJP no longer looks like the party of which his father was a part.

“People of Panaji did not vote for Manohar Parrikar just because he was an MP. They voted for him because he stood for some values. The time has come for me to also stand for those values,” Utpal Parrikar said, adding that he would be resigning from the party and contesting as an Independent candidate.

“Last time, the organisation rejected my candidature despite popular support due to some special reasons. People know the circumstances… Now it does not look like a decision of Parrikar’s party,” Utpal said.

Manohar Parrikar’s elder son’s candidature has been rejected twice by the BJP, in the 2019 bypolls and now in 2022. In the express instance, the BJP has offered a ticket to sitting MLA Atanasio Monserrate.

When Monserrate had contested the 2019 bypolls as a Congress candidate, BJP leaders had slammed him citing the list of criminal offences registered against him, which included a rape charge of a minor girl, extortion and leading a mob attack on a city police station.

Monserrate had won the polls on the Congress ticket, but had joined the BJP soon after.

“I feel embarrassed to talk about the candidate put up by the party. In Panaji, where the party has grown over 30 years, (the party) has given a ticket to someone who joined just two years ago. I have no choice now. I have to go to the people,” he said.

“As far as a political party is concerned, the only party available to me is the BJP. The other platform is Independent, my own platform which I had to do unfortunately in these circumstances for the values I believe in,” he said, adding that he would not be joining any other political outfit.

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National News

NCP actor-MP’s ‘Nathuram Godse’ role divides MVA allies

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A major row has erupted in Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance after an actor-turned-MP played the role of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse.

MVA constituent, Nationalist Congress Party’s Shirur MP and actor Dr Amol Kolhe donned the garb and grabbed the gun of Godse in the upcoming film, “Why I killed Gandhi”.

The film is due for release on an OTT platform on January 30 – the 74th anniversary of Gandhiji’s assassination – and just six months before the Platinum of Indian Independence.

While the Congress has strongly opposed the upcoming web film, there is a mixed reaction within the NCP, while the Shiv Sena has adopted a neutral stance so far.

State Congress President Nana Patole hit out at what he terms “attempts to support the assassination of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and to exalt the act” by certain sections of society.

“Dr Kolhe is an artiste but he is now a MP and is expected to behave more responsibly. It is unfortunate that he is abusing his freedom as an artiste to willy-nilly support the assassination of Gandhiji,” he said.

Patole warned that the Congress would not permit the release of the film as it would send a wrong message to the masses.

NCP President Sharad Pawar has backed Kolhe, saying he had informed the party about this role before he joined and has never supported the ideology of Godse.

“Dr Kolhe’s role should be seen as an actor only – If a person plays the role of Ravana in a cinema, he does not become Ravana himself,” the NCP supremo said, chiding protests from various quarters, both inhouse and outside.

Maintaining a neutral stance, Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari said it is unfortunate that a controversy has been sparked now over a film role essayed in 2017, besides creating tensions among the MVA allies.

NCP national spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik pointed out that Kolhe had played the role five years ago, long before he joined the NCP in February 2019, and has never propagated Godse’s ideology.

However, his senior party colleague and Housing Minister Dr Jitendra Awhad has raised cudgels against Kolhe’s portrayal as Godse and said the film must be boycotted.

Congress Minister Balasaheb Thorat said artistes must be given the freedom of creative choices but they must ensure that they unwittingly don’t end up glorifying a certain ideology through their roles.

On his part, Kolhe has made it clear in several media statements that he treated the role professionally, and he doesn’t support Godse or hate Gandhiji.

Kolhe is best known for his role as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the teleserial “Raja Shivchhatrapati” and also as Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj in the television series “Swarajyarakshak Sambhaji”.

Awhad added that he had opposed all “anti-Gandhi” films on ideological grounds.

“When an actor plays a particular character then he gets into the mind of that character and becomes the character without which he cannot be an actor,” he claimed.

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party state President Chandrakant Patil dismissed the MVA bickerings saying there’s nothing wrong if Kolhe has played the role of Godse.

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