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As CBI knocks on ‘Life Mission’, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan announces probe



Pinarayi Vijayan. (File Photo: IANS)

Finally, after close to two months, the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala on Wednesday decided to order a Vigilance probe into the ‘Life Mission’ project.

For Vijayan, the Life Mission project has been a pet one ever since he assumed office in 2016. It was floated to build houses for the homeless and landless using funds from sponsorships, and the role of the state government was to provide the land only.

The project, however, ran into trouble when Anil Akkara — the Congress Legislator from Wadakkanchery in Thrissur — first raised questions about the wrong doings in a building project in his constituency, which was cleared with funds from a UAE based charity organisation — the Red Crescent.

Vijayan all along, since Akkara raised this case, has been defending that the state government apart from handing over the land, had no role in the project.

But, after the now infamous Kerala gold smuggling surfaced with prime accused Swapna Suresh being arrested by the NIA from Bengaluru in July, following recovery of Rs one crore from one of her lockers, things started to change. Suspicions were also raised after Bineesh Kodiyeri, son of the powerful CPI-M state secretary was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate –whether there was more than what was being heard in the case.

This particular project was routed through the UAE Consulate, here, where Swapna and another arrested — P. S.Sarith both worked. It turned murkier, when news surfaced that the son of state Industries Minister E. P.Jayarajan was also close to Swapna.

Vijayan, for the past one month has been beating around the bush whenever the media put questions about the Life Mission project. He even vented out his ire at a woman journalist representing the Congress backed TV channel — ‘Jaihind’, when she asked why he was not handing over the documents of the Life Mission to Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, despite several requests from him.

Speaking to the media, Akkara said it was he who had first raised this fraud and he approached Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan seeking justice.

“Vijayan has been silent for long and despite repeated requests from the Congress side for a probe, I first approached the Governor. Then, I wrote to the CBI and today Vijayan has ordered a Vigilance probe because it’s now come to light that the CBI is all set to probe this case. There is no point in the Vigilance probe, as it is headed by Vijayan himself,” said Akkara.

Presently the Customs, NIA, ED and the Income Tax are probing the gold smuggling, drug and the Life Mission case. But, since in the Life Mission project funds have come from the UAE, the appropriate agency to probe that is the CBI and in all likelihood, it will also be roped in, thus leaving Vijayan in a tight spot.

Vijayan’s powerful secretary and top IAS official M. Sivasankar and Vijayan’s IT key person Arun Balachandran, have all been removed from their posts for their closeness to Swapna.

Already state BJP president K.Surendran has demanded a probe into the dealings of Vijayan’s daughter — Veena Vijayan.

The coming days for Vijayan are crucial, as NIA has started another round of questioning of Swapna and is expected to counter her with all the digital evidence which they have recovered from her WhatsApp and Telegram accounts.

Both the Congress and the BJP are up in arms and for the past eight days they are out in the streets demanding the resignation of Vijayan.

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Another cabinet reshuffle in Raj on the cards, hints Gehlot





 Rajasthan may see another cabinet reshuffle in the coming months. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has indicated this possibility in a meeting of the party at its headquarters, said Congress sources.

The meeting was held on Tuesday.

The Rajasthan CM said that many MLAs, who have stood by the Congress during tough times, could not be accommodated in the recent cabinet expansion and reshuffle carried out in November. “However, we will ensure that work should not face any hindrance in their constituencies. They will be accommodated in the cabinet during another reshuffle if party high command allows,” said CM in the meeting, which was confirmed by party sources.

The CM was addressing party workers during a meeting to discuss the protest to be staged in Delhi against rising inflation on December 12.

On this occasion, state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra and Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken were also present.

It needs to be mentioned here that five out of the six BSP MLAs, who had joined Congress, and 13 independents, who supported the Congress during the rebellion could not be accommodated in the cabinet reshuffle.

Rajendra Guda, one of the six former BSP MLAs had already expressed his displeasure on five of his team members being left unattended. Similarly, Ramkesh Meena, another independent also went vocal over the same issue. He has been appointed as advisor to the CM. But, the advisor posts would not hold cabinet rank, Gehlot clarified recently.

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President, PM lead nation in greeting Nagaland on statehood day




 President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday led the political brass of the country in greeting people of Nagaland on the state’s formation day.

President Kovind said: “Greetings to the people of Nagaland on statehood day. The rich culture and traditions of Naga tribes enrich our ‘Unity in Diversity’. I fondly recall the warmth of the people during my visit in 2017. My best wishes for a bright future of the people and the State.”

In a tweet, Prime Minister Modi said that the people of Nagaland are making rich contributions to India’s growth.

“On the special occasion of Nagaland’s Statehood Day, greetings to the wonderful people of the state. Naga culture personifies valour and humane values. The people of Nagaland are making rich contributions to India’s growth. I pray for Nagaland’s progress in the years to come,” Modi said.

Greeting people, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “My greetings to the people of Nagaland on their state formation day. Recently, I visited Nagaland and was captivated by its pristine beauty, vibrant culture and the deep connection of its people with nature. My best wishes for the all-round growth & prosperity of #Nagaland.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said: “I extend my warm greetings to our sisters and brothers of Nagaland on their Statehood Day. This beautiful state is known for its rich traditions and cultural diversity. May Nagaland scale new heights of progress in the coming years.”

Wishing people of the state, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, “Best wishes to the wonderful people of Nagaland on their Statehood Day. The state is known for its natural beauty and vibrant culture. Praying for Nagaland’s continuous growth and development.”

BJP chief J P Nadda said: “Warm greetings to the sisters and brothers of Nagaland on their Statehood Day. The state of Nagaland is blessed with immense natural beauty and unique culture. I pray for continuous development and prosperity of the people of this beautiful state.

Union Civil Aviation Minisetr Jyotiraditya Scindia said: “Warm wishes to the people of Nagaland on the State’s Foundation Day. May it continue to move rapidly on the path of prosperity and growth.”

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Stalin govt mulls declaring ‘Pongal’ as Tamil New Year day





 The DMK government is planning to make the first day of the Tamil month, ‘Thai’ as the Tamil New Year day. First day of ‘Thai’ is ‘Pongal’ and the state government, according to sources, is contemplating announcing ‘Pongal’ as the first day of Tamil New Year.

Pongal falls on January 14. If the announcement is made, then the state will go back to an order of 2008 wherein the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, late M. Karunanidhi, who is the father of the present Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, announced ‘Pongal’ as the Tamil New Year day. He had announced in the state Assembly then that the Tamil scholars were in full agreement to make ‘Pongal’ or the first day of the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ as the Tamil New Year day.

‘Kalaignar’ Karunanidhi had in 2008 also moved a legislation in the state Assembly announcing ‘Pongal’ as the Tamil New Year day.

However, after the AIADMK under J. Jayalalithaa came to power in 2011, she introduced a Bill in the state Assembly that the first day of the Tamil month ‘Chithirai’ was celebrated as the Tamil New Year day and that there was no need to change it to the first day of ‘Thai’. She moved the legislation in the state Assembly and nullified the changes made by the previous government.

However, ten years after the DMK government assumed office, it is being seriously discussed that the Stalin government would revert to the stand taken by the Karunanidhi government in 2008.

Speculations on this gained currency after the bags, that were meant to distribute gift hampers, were printed with the message of the Chief Minister stating, ‘Iniya Thamiz Puthaandu, Pongal Nallavazhthukal’ (Tamil New Year, Pongal Greetings). This has gone viral and the Civil Service department officials when contacted by IANS were tight-lipped on the same.

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