Thursday, April 24, 2014

Narendra Modi in Varanasi: biggest road-show in world's largest election

Varanasi: Narendra Modi is wearing pristine white, but there is no lack of colour as Varanasi turns out in a celebration extraordinaire to cheer the BJP's prime ministerial candidate. (Track LIVE updates)
Narendra Modi in Varanasi: biggest road-show in world's largest election

Thousands of BJP workers and supporters have washed the ancient city in saffron. But there is also the red of rose petals being showered from the terraces and windows of homes as Mr Modi's open truck crawls along the two-km route from Banaras Hindu University or BHU where he landed in a helicopter and the collectorate where he will file his nomination papers. (In pictures: Modi's road show in Varanasi)

His vehicle, draped in the BJP's colours, has covered about 500 metres in the last two hours, so thick is the crowd of cheering people on the roads. 

There are people everywhere in a carnival-like  atmosphere, on terraces, on trees; those who have come in from other states are in traditional attire, holding up hundreds of flags with the BJP's lotus symbol. 

At BHU, Mr Modi garlanded the statue of the university's founder Madan Mohan Malaviya whose grandson, a retired judge is among those who will propose his name. In a programme designed for symbolism, a singer, a weaver and a boatman are the other proposers. 
On the streets are priests and even people dressed as Gods. A 'Hanuman' is waving a wave. The sound of conch shells punctuates the sloganeering.   
Across town, hundreds of prayer ceremonies are being held to bring luck to Mr Modi.
Modi_truck_Top_Shot_caption_360x270.jpgThe BJP leader is garlanding other statues on his way - freedom fighter Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and thinker Swami Vivekananda are leaders he avowedly follows and profusely quotes. Also a BR Ambedkar statue.    
Mr Modi has cannily chosen a polling day to file his papers. His party is backing that with a grand show to ascertain top of the mind recall as votes are cast in 117 constituencies in 11 states. 
His chief opponent in Varanasi is Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, who filed his nomination yesterday. (I have Rs. 500 in my pocket and an old jeep: Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi)
In a blog post, Mr Modi has sought the blessing and support of the city and has promised "a magnificent future for Varanasi" and an end to "a larger decay across UP." 
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lok sabha polls | 6th phase 10 most high profile battles

Mulayam Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Priya Dutt, Milind Deora among those whose fate will be decided today
Voting is underway in 117 Lok Sabha constituencies in round six of the national election that ends on May 12. Of the 117 seats, the Congress holds 37 and the BJP 24 at present.among those whose fate will be decided today. Here's a quick look at the top ten contests:
Mulayam Singh
1) Samajawadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav is contesting from Mainpuri (Uttar Pradesh). Mulayam is facing BJP's' Shatrughan Singh Chauhan and BSP's Dr Sanghamitra Maurya. The BJP candidate has asked the Election Commission to declare the constituency extra-sensitive. The SP chief won this seat in 1996, 2004 and 2009.

Dimple Yadav, the daughter-in-law of Mulayam Singh Yadav and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's wife, is seeking to defend her Kannauj seat that she won in 2012.

2) In Mathura, Jayant Chaudhary, son of Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, is locked in a stiff contest with Bharatiya Janata Party candidate and Bollywood star Hema Malini, whose campaign has been lacklustre, but Narendra Modi was there at a recent rally.

Milind Deora
3) Union minister of state for IT and Communications Milind Deora, seeking a hat-trick win from South Mumbai seat, is locked in a quadrangular fight with Bala Nandgaonkar (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena), Arvind Sawant (Shiv Sena) and Meera Sanyal (Aam Aadmi Party). Sanyal, who polled approximately 10,000 votes in 2009, may draw some Muslim and minority votes due to AAP's relentless posturing against Modi.

4) Social activist turned politician, Medha Patkar recently joined AAP and is the Lok Sabha candidate from North East Mumbai constituency of Maharashtra. She is facing stiff competition from Sanjay Dina Patil of Nationalist Congress Party and BJP's Kirit Somaiya.

Priya Dutt, Congress MP
5) Priya Dutt, the daughter of late Congress leader Sunil Dutt and Poonam Mahajan, the daughter of former Union minister and BJP heavyweight Pramod Mahajan are locked in a tough fight for North-Central Mumbai seat. Samajwadi party's Farhan Azmi is also in the fray. While Priya is a two-time MP from the constituency, Poonam had got a drubbing in the 2009 Maharashtra Assembly  when she fought on a BJP ticket from Ghatkopar West.

6) The Congress faces an acid test in West Bengal as it fought the 2009 Lok Sabha poll as an alliance partner of the Trinamool Congress. President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit and Mamata Banerjee’s bete noire Deepa Dasmunshi (Raiganj) are among the candidates. Abhijit had won the Jangipur seat by a slender margin of 2,536 votes in a 2012 by-election when his father Pranab Mukherjee vacated the seat to become the President of India. Read More article here - Lok sabha polls | 6th phase 10 most high profile battles

Australians to Spend $13,000+ for 2014 Travels, Double Global Average of $5,500

A TripBarometer survey by travel site TripAdvisor among 50,000 people from different countries namedAustralia and Italy as their top dream destinations with the two nations tied for first place.
They were followed by the U.S., France and New Zealand.
But they are merely dream destinations, not based on actual travel intentions of plans, since the survey was premised on money not being a problem in reaching their desired destinations.
The same survey found that Aussies listed Canada and Italy as their dream destinations, but they actually plan to go to the U.S. in the next 12 months. The information shows a shift in preference since in the last year, Thailandwas the favourite destination of Australians.
Australia being a progressive country, it would not be surprising that Aussies plan to spend an average of $13,831 for their 2014 travel, more than double the yearly global average spend of $5,498.
Tourist-oriented establishments would be happy to know that prospects appear bright in the coming months since 90 per cent of the survey respondents plan domestic travel, while 77 per cent plan to go overseas.
Here are the top 10 dream destinations of the respondents:
1. & 2. Australia and Italy
3. U.S.
4. France
5. New Zealand
6. Caribbean
7. Greece
8. Japan
9. Spain
10. Switzerland.  
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Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walk during a reception at the Sydney Opera House April 16, 2014. Prince William and his wife are undertaking a 19-day official visit to New Zealand and Australia with their son, Prince George. REUTERS/Jason Reed (AUSTRALIA - Tags: ROYALS) April 16, 2014
Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walk during a reception at the Sydney Opera House April 16, 2014. Prince William and his wife are undertaking a 19-day official visit to New Zealand and Australia with their son, Prince George. REUTERS/Jason Reed (AUSTRALIA - Tags: ROYALS) April 16, 2014

Women Urged To Stop Britons Fighting In Syria

A sharp rise in the number of people being arrested for travelling to Syria has prompted a new campaign.
Female loved ones of those thinking of heading to the war-torn state are being encourage to stop the men leaving.
Scotland Yard revealed that 40 Syria-related arrests were made in the first three months of this year, up from 25 in the whole of 2013.
The campaign comes after several Britons are thought to have died in Syria in the last few months.
Bashar al Assad's government is fighting a civil war against a group of Western-backed rebels and also an al Qaeda-linked extremist group.
Around 400 Britons are believed to have gone to Syria over the last two years to train in camps or take part in the fighting, with an estimated 20 having died in total.
Senior National Co-ordinator Counter-Terrorism Helen Ball, said: "We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict.
"We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening.
"We want to increase their confidence in the police and partners to encourage them to come forward so that we can intervene and help.
"This is not about criminalising people it is about preventing tragedies."
Exclusive: British jihadists fighting in Syria
Around 400 Britons are thought to have travelled to Syria to train or fight
Other Britons, including orthopaedic surgeon Dr Abbas Khan, have died after going to help with humanitarian relief.

Ukraine crisis: Russia 'to respond if its interests' attacked

Russia will respond if its interests in Ukraine are attacked, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said, drawing a parallel with the 2008 Georgian war.
Speaking to Russian state TV channel RT, Mr Lavrov also accused the US of "running the show" in Ukraine - a claim Washington dismissed as "ludicrous".
Russia's foreign ministry also repeated its call for Kiev to withdraw military units from the east of Ukraine.
Ukraine's government faces an armed revolt there by pro-Russia separatists.
Kiev and the West say Moscow commands gunmen in eastern Ukraine - something Russia denies.
'Aggressive rhetoric'
In recent weeks, pro-Russian militants have seized administrative buildings in at least a dozen towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
They have installed their own officials, in similar tactics to those used to take over the Ukrainian region of Crimea earlier this year.
The US has called on Moscow to ask pro-Russian gunmen to lay down their weapons and leave public buildings. It has also urged Russia to tone down its aggressive rhetoric or face further sanctions.
The Kiev authorities responded to the occupation of official buildings and roadblocks by carrying out an "anti-terror" operation in eastern Ukraine.
The military operation became bogged down and was suspended over the Easter period before resuming on Tuesday.
An armed man in military fatigues stands guard outside the security service (SBU) regional building seized by the separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk on April 23
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Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, 22 April
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Joe Biden, left, talks to Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during a meeting in Kiev, April. 22
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Body of Korean boy who raised ferry alarm believed found

(Reuters) - A South Korean boy whose shaking voice first raised the alarm that an overloaded ferry with hundreds of children on board was sinking has been found drowned in the underwater wreckage of the ship, his parents believe, the coastguard said on Thursday.
The parents had seen his body and clothes and concluded he was their son, but he has not been formally identified with a DNA test.
More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers from the Danwon High School, are dead or missing presumed dead in the April 16 disaster.
The Sewol, weighing almost 7,000 tons, sank on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern holiday island of Jeju. Investigations are focused on human error and mechanical failure.
Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers from the school in Ansan, a gritty suburb on the outskirts of Seoul, who were on an outing to Jeju.
As the ferry began sinking, the crew told the children to stay in their cabins.
Most of those who obeyed died. Many of those who flouted or did not hear the instructions and went out on deck were rescued.
But only 174 people were saved and the remainder are presumed to have drowned.
Classes at the school resumed on Thursday with banks of floral tributes surrounding photos of each of the victims, dressed in their school uniforms. Almost 250 teenagers and teachers at the school have died or are presumed dead.
Fellow students filed past, offering white chrysanthemums in somber tributes.
In the classrooms of the missing, friends posted messages on desks, blackboards and windows, in the days after disaster struck, asking for the safe return of their friends.
"If I see you again, I'll tell you I love you, because I haven't said it to you enough," read one.
The school provided therapy sessions for the children as they returned.
The first distress call from the sinking vessel was made by a boy with a shaking voice, three minutes after the vessel made its fateful last turn, a fire service officer told Reuters.
The boy called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number.
"Save us! We're on a ship and I think it's sinking," Yonhap news agency quoted the boy as saying.
The fire service official asked him to switch the phone to the captain, media said, and the boy replied: "Do you mean teacher?"
Mourners cry after paying tribute in Ansan, at a temporary group memorial altar for victims of capsized passenger ship Sewol, April 24, 2014. REUTERS-Kim Hong-Ji

The pronunciation of the words for "captain" and "teacher" is similar in Korean. Read more - Body of Korean boy who raised ferry alarm believed found

Mumbai St Xavier's principal earns BJP flak for criticising Gujarat

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday filed a complaint against Father Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of one of the Mumbai’s most prestigious educational institutes, St Xavier’s College, according to TV reports.
Mascarenhas has criticised the ‘Gujarat Model of Development’ in a letter, which was uploaded on the college’s website and emailed to all the students of the college.
Father Frazer Mascarenhas misused his position to influence students, BJP said according to TV reports.
The letter asks students to ‘choose wisely’ in the election, and states that “All the Human Development Index indicators and the cultural polarisation of the population show that Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last 10 years,” the letter reads.
The letter, sent to around 3,000 students, asked them not to support leaders who pose a threat to the future of secular democracy.
“The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a real threat to the future of our secular democracy. Support for people who pledge to work to take Human Development Indicators higher and who commit themselves to a pluralistic culture in diverse India – this is the hope for the future,” the letter adds.
Mascarenhas also adds, “Those schools for an ordinary populace show abject neglect with a very high dropout rate in Gujarat in the last 10 years.” The letter acknowledges the Congress’s Food Security and Rojgar Yojana schemes.
“As opposed to this, efforts such as the Rojgar Yojana and the Food Security Act have been called “election sops”. However, some of our best social scientists like Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze have supported these as necessary in the emergency economic situation the country and the world is facing”

When asked why he chose to send out this letter, Mascerhanes said, “At a time when the Gujarat Model is being discussed fervently in the media and public domain, I have given my students a few considerations based on that. I have not mentioned any political party in the letter. I want my students to make an informed decision on April 24,” said the principal. Parents and academicians have expressed shock over the act of a principal using his reach to influence students. “As an educationist, we must not let our personal political views influence students’ electoral choices,” said the principal of a city college.