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Tuesday,28-September-2021

National News

Suspension of Pinarayi Vijayan’s ex-principal secy extended

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The suspension of one of Kerala’s most powerful IAS officers, M. Sivasankar, who was Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s principal secretary, has been extended.

On July 17 last year, the state government suspended the bureaucrat after his alleged links with the prime accused in the now-infamous gold smuggling case came to light.

Soon after his suspension, came his arrest after several rounds of questioning by the NIA, Customs and the Enforcement Directorate.

For several months Sivasankar was cooling his heels in a Kochi jail before he got bail. He now stays put at his residence in the state capital.

According to the rules, the State Government had to take a call on revoking Sivasankar’s suspension, for it has been a year since the decision was taken. After extending the suspension, the state government communicated its decision to the Centre.

Customs officials had arrested P.S. Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, on July 5 last year for allegedly smuggling gold in a diplomatic bag that had been sent to the Consulate. Another former Consulate staffer, Swapna Suresh, and her associate, Sandip Nair, were arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Bengaluru.

Chief Minister Vijayan removed Sivasankar first as his Principal Secretary and then as IT Secretary after it surfaced that Swapna and Sivasankar were close friends.

The accused in the gold smuggling case have also been linked to alleged corruption in the Life Mission project, which is Vijayan’s pet scheme of getting homes built for the using sponsorship money.

It is alleged that a fat sum of Rs 9 crore out of the total project cost of Rs 20 crore was paid out as illegal commissions.

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Navjot Sidhu reigns as Punjab Congress chief

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 Unhappy over the first expansion of Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s cabinet, state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday resigned from his post. But he said he would continue in the party.

He announced his resignation on his Twitter handle in just an hour after Channi announced allocation of portfolios to his Cabinet colleagues.

In a letter to party President Sonia Gandhi, he wrote, “The collapse of a man’s character stems from the compromise corner, I can never compromise on Punjab’s future and the agenda for the welfare of Punjab.”

“Therefore, I hereby resign as the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. Will continue to serve the Congress,” he added.

It is learnt that Sidhu was upset over the non-inclusion of the MLAs of his choice in the expanded Cabinet and the appointment of new Advocate General, A.P.S. Deol.

On Sidhu’s resignation, former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh tweeted, “I told you so… he is not a stable man and not fit for the border state of Punjab.”

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‘Upset’ Amarinder likely to meet Shah, his office denies

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 Less than a fortnight after he was ‘unceremoniously’ asked to quit as the Punjab Chief Minister in the run-up to the Assembly polls, Congress veteran Amarinder Singh is likely to meet Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah in Delhi late Tuesday evening.

The former Chief Minister is also likely to meet Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President J.P. Nadda, sources said.

However, Amarinder Singh’s media advisor denied his meeting with the BJP leaders, saying he’s on a personal visit to Delhi to meet some friends.

“Too much being read into @capt_amarinder’s visit to Delhi. He’s on a personal visit, during which he’ll meet some friends and also vacate Kapurthala house for the new CM. No need for any unnecessary speculation,” Thukral informed in a tweet.

The proposed meeting seems crucial as Amarinder Singh has been saying that he stepped down as he felt ‘humiliated’.

At the same time, he said the “future politics option is always there” and he will use that option.

Speculations are rife that Amarinder Singh is likely to join the BJP.

After his resignation, Amarinder Singh said he had offered his resignation to party President Sonia Gandhi three weeks earlier but she had asked him to continue. “If she had just called me and asked me to step down, I would have,” he said, adding that “as a soldier, I know how to do my task and leave once I am called back”.

He had said he had even told Sonia Gandhi that he was ready to hang his boots and allow someone else to take over as the Chief Minister after leading the Congress to another sweeping win in Punjab. “But that did not happen, so I will fight,” he asserted, taking strong exception to being subjected to humiliation by calling a Congress Legislative Party meeting in a secretive manner, without taking him into confidence.

“I would not have taken MLAs on a flight to Goa or some place. That is not how I operate. I don’t do gimmicks, and the Gandhi siblings know that is not my way,” he had said, adding, “Priyanka and Rahul (Gandhi siblings) are like my children, this should not have ended like this. I am hurt.”

He said the Gandhi children were quite inexperienced and their advisors were clearly misguiding them.

Indicating that he was still keeping his political options open, the former Chief Minister had said he was talking to his friends before deciding on his future course of action.

After his resignation and political tussle, Charanjit Singh Channi, a Scheduled Caste Sikh, took oath of office on September 20 along with his two deputies — one a Jat Sikh and another belonging to the Hindu community.

Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and O.P. Soni, both ministers in previous Council of Ministers led by Amarinder Singh, took oath for the posts of the Deputy Chief Ministers.

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PM should think of problems being faced by farmers: Congress

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 Amid the Bharat Bandh, the Congress, which has extended its support to the agitating farmers, has said the Prime Minister should think about the problems being faced by the farmers, especially now when the input costs have increased, and not about the ‘billionaire friends for whom the farm laws were brought.

Pawan Khera, while addressing a press conference on Monday said, “The government has tried to deligitimise the farmers and made all efforts to demean the farmers and every citizen should come out and support them.”

The Congress alleged that ‘the Prime Minister was using diversionary tactics in elections, and he doesn’t have time to talk to farmers’.

Former Chief Minister of Haryana Bhupinder Singh Hooda demanded that the government should talk to the farmers without any conditions.

Rahul Gandhi in a tweet in Hindi said, “The farmers non violent satyagraha is intact today but the exploitive government doesn’t like this and that is why #Bharat is Bandh #IStandWithFarmers.”

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted in Hindi, “Farm of the farmer, hard work of the farmer, crop of the farmer. However, the BJP government is eager to let its billionaire friends capture them. Take back the black laws.”

Farmers on the call of Samyukt Kisan Morcha on Monday observed a shutdown. They blocked major highways, including National Highway 1 linking Delhi with parts of Haryana and Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and railway tracks in some states.

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