Rafale Deal: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley slams Rahul Gandhi, Congress

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi and said mere allegations against the Modi government don’t prove anything.

Replying to the accusations of wrongdoings, Jaitley said the Rafale deal is clean and there is no question of cancelling it.

Jaitley indicated in an exclusive interview with ANI that there could be a linkage between Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s charges on the NDA government and Hollande’s statement on Rafale deal.

Linking the September 21 statement made by former French President Hollande on Rafale in which he said the French side was asked by the Indian government to go with Reliance as an Offset partner, and a tweet by Rahul Gandhi on August 30 warning of impending news “in the next couple of weeks”, Jaitley said that the two statements may have been `orchestrated’ as they are in perfect rhythm with each other.

Jaitley said that he sees a perfect coincidence in the rhythm between Gandhi’s tweet on August 30 and what happens when a statement is made which is found to be inaccurate and, therefore, the next day itself, Hollande goes and starts backtracking it.”

Rahul Gandhi had on August 30 tweeted: “Globalised corruption. This #Rafaleaircraft really does fly far and fast! It’s also going to drop some big bunker buster bombs in the next couple of weeks. Modi Ji please tell Anil, there is a big problem in France.”

Days later, on September 21 Francois Hollande told French Journal Mediapart in an interview that the Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was chosen as the offset partner by Dassault because the Indian government had “proposed” its name.

However, Dassault Aviation, clarified that the pact for Offset clause between Dassault and Reliance Defence was a private agreement between two companies and neither the French nor the Indian government were involved in it.

Jammu and Kashmir: Militant killed in an encounter with Security forces in Pulwama

A militant was killed in an encounter between the security forces and militants on Sunday in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Upon receiving a tip off about the presence of militants, security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Aripal village in the Tral area of south Kashmir district.

The Search operation turned into encounter after militants fired upon the forces.

“As the cordon was tightened, the militants fired at the security forces triggering encounter,” the police said.

“Cordon and Search Operation which was launched at Dar Ganie Gund, Aribal, Tral has turned into an encounter. Details are being collected,” Jammu and Kashmir Police tweeted.

Further details are awaited.

Rajasthan: BJP MLA Manvendra Singh Quits BJP

Veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son BJP MLA from Sheo constituency in Rajasthan, Manvendra Singh on Saturday quit the party while addressing a rally in poll-bound Rajasthan. 

“Kamal ka phool humari badi bhool (the lotus flower was my mistake),” Manvendra Singh said while addressing a mammoth “Swabhimaan Rally” in Pachpadra of Barmer district.

The differences between Manvendra and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) surfaced in 2014 when his father Jaswant Singh was denied Lok Sabha ticket from Barmer.

In the same year, Manvendra Singh was suspended by the party’s primary membership for campaigning for his father (who contested as an independent) as against the party’s official candidate.

Singh said that he had been maintaining silence for the last four-and-a-half years obeying senior leaders of the party. But, now he has lost all his patience.

Manvendra Singh, however has not yet disclosed the course his political career will take from here on but announced that he will contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The speculations are rife that he might join the Congress party soon.

Rajasthan is scheduled to go for polls later this year.

Himachal Pradesh: Thirteen killed in Shimla road accident

Thirteen people, died on Saturday, after a vehicle they were travelling in veered off a road and fell into a deep gorge in Himachal Pradesh’s Shimla district.

The accident took place at Snail, three kilometres from Kuddu on Tiyuni Road.

Ten people, including four women died on the spot while three injured, including a child succumbed to their injuries at Rohru hospital, police said.

A police team led by Jubbal Station House Officer and Swara police post in-charge reached the accident site shortly after getting information about the accident. The team rescued three injured people and sent them to Rohru hospital, but they died during treatment, police added.

On August 23, at least 11 people were killed when a private vehicle fell into a 200-feet deep gorge in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu. The accident took place near Rohtang at Rani Nallah in Kullu district of the hill state.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to visit India in October

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres will arrive in India for a three-day official visit on October 1.

The main highlights of his three-day visit will be the inauguration of the UN House in New Delhi. 

Guterres will participate in the closing ceremony of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention scheduled to be held at the Rashtrapati Cultural Centre in New Delhi on October 2, the spokesperson for the Secretary General confirmed.

Guterres will also meet with Speaker of the Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan before giving an address at the India Habitat Centre on Global Affairs on the theme ‘Global challenges, global solutions’. The same evening, Antonio Guterres will take part in the General Assembly of the International Solar Alliance.

The UN Chief will be meeting President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj during his India visit.

Guterres will also visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar and will return to New York on October 4.

Jammu and Kashmir: Massive search on by security forces in Pulwama

The security forces on Saturday started a massive search operation covering over a dozen villages in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Troops of the counter-insurgency Rashtriya Rifles, para commandos of the Army and state police cordoned off Batnur, Alaipura, Achan, Lassipora, Hajdarpora and other villages and began a door-to-door searches.

This comes a day after a dramatic escalation in militancy, as three policemen were reportedly abducted and killed by terrorists on Friday in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir after Hizbul Mujahideen via video threatened to kill security personnel unless they resign from their posts. 

Rafale Deal: Dassault Aviation clarifies after Hollande remarks

In a recent development, French defence manufacturing giant Dassault Aviation has refuted the claims made by former French President Francois Hollande and said that it was Dassault who selected Ambani’s Reliance Defence and not the Indian government.

On Friday, the controversy over Rafale fighter jet deal took a new twist following former French President Francois Hollande’s reported claim that the Indian government recommended Reliance Defence for the offset clause in the Rafale fighter jet deal.

However, the Defence Ministry continued to maintain that neither the government of India nor French government had any say in the commercial decision.

Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, had chosen Reliance Defence as its partner to fulfil offset obligations of the deal. However, Modi government said earlier it did not have any role in selection of the offset partner.

The French media report quoted Hollande as saying “we did not have a say in this…the Indian government proposed this service group and Dassault negotiated with Ambani group. We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us.”

The Congress and other Opposition parties slammed the Modi government for hiding fact on the deal.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi thanked François Hollande for disclosing the facts and said, “The PM personally negotiated & changed the #Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani. The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonoured the blood of our soldiers.”

Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tweeted, “In the NDA negotiated Rafale aircraft deal, we have got no aircraft, we have got only lies. What is the new lie that the government will put out in response to Mr Hollande?”

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “By hiding crucial facts on Rafale deal, is Modi govt not endangering national security? Former French President’s statement directly contradicts what Modi govt had been saying so far. Can the country be taken for a ride any further?”

“Prime Minister, speak the truth. The nation wants to know the truth, whole truth. Every day, government of India’s statements are being proven untrue. People have started suspecting by now that something is not right (in Rafale deal), else why would the government lie day after day,” Kejriwal added.

The deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was announced by Narendra Modi in 2015 and signed in 2016.

Modi government has repeatedly said it was Dassault that chose its India partner for offsets and that the government had no say in the deal.

Kerala: Bishop Franco Mulakkal arrested after Third day of Questioning

Franco Mulakkal, the Catholic priest accused of raping a nun, was arrested on Friday after the third straight day of questioning by the police.

The investigating officer in the nun rape case, Kottayam Superintendent of Police Hari Sankar told journalists, “On basis of the evidence collected so far we found that the bishop has committed the crime. He was taken for a medical examination after his arrest and subsequent investigation will continue and he’ll be produced before a magistrate court.”

The Kottayam SP said, “We cannot disclose the evidences at this stage because the matter is under investigation and it has to go through a trial process, but we reached a reasonable conclusion that there is evidence in this case and we have decided to arrest him.”

Senior Kerala Minister E P Jayarajan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that “Investigation is going in the right direction and the government has full support with the nuns staging the protest. Definitely, the government will take all necessary steps to identify the culprits.”

Franco Mulakkal on Thursday was divested of his pastoral responsibilities as the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Missionaries of Jesus by the Vatican.

The senior Catholic priest was accused of raping the nun between 2014 and 2016. He however, denied the allegations of repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting a nun of his own congregation.

PM Modi to visit Odisha, Chhattisgarh on Sept 22 to launch several projects

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Odisha and poll-bound Chhattisgarh on September 22 and will launch several projects in the states, his office has said.

PM Modi during his one day visit to Odisha is slated to launch a slew of projects, including a fertilizer plant at Talcher and inauguration of a new airport in Jharsugada.

Statement said, in addition to fertilizer, the plant will produce natural gas, which will contribute to the country’s energy requirements.

The inauguration of the airport in Jharsugada will bring western Odisha on the country’s aviation map, and facilitate regional air connectivity through the government’s UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) scheme.

During his visit PM will also dedicate the Garjanbahal coal mines and the Jharsuguda-Barapali-Sardega rail link to the nation. He will also unveil a plaque to mark the commencement of coal production and transportation from Dulanga coal mines.

PM Modi will then arrive in Chhattisgarh’s Janjgir-Champa District and will visit an exhibition on traditional handloom and agriculture. He will lay the foundation stone for national highway projects and the Pendra-Anuppur third railway line in the state.

The statement reveals he will also address a gathering in Chhattisgarh.

India calls off meeting with Pakistan at UNGA

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on September 21 said that India called off a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi that was to be held in New York on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

India on September 20 accepted Pakistan’s proposal for Foreign Ministers’ meet on the sidelines of the UNGA session in New York. India accepted the proposal sent in written by Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan to PM Narendra Modi seeking resumption of talks.

MEA press release says, “Since yesterday’s announcement of a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York later this month, two deeply disturbing developments have taken place. The latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism confirm that Pakistan will not mend its ways.”

MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar added, “Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless. In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York.”

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