- All India Congress Committee meeting today to fine tune strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
- BJP's National Executive and Council to meet in New Delhi to discuss next general elections.
- Supreme Court reserves order on scrapping of around 200 coal block allocation.
- Government unveils new policy guidelines for major ports in the country.
- Seventh Jaipur Literature Festival begins today.
- Kidambi Srikanth reaches quarter-finals of the Men's Singles.
The Congress has convened an All India Congress Committee, AICC meeting in New Delhi today to fine tune its strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Party's performance in the recently held assembly elections, need to confront the growth of communal forces and fighting corruption are the main issues which are likely to be discussed in the day long meeting.
Earlier, the Congress announced that party Vice President Rahul Gandhi will lead the party campaign in the Lok Sabha polls and that it will not declare its Prime Ministerial candidate before the elections. A decision in this regard was taken at the Congress Working Committee, CWC meeting held in New Delhi yesterday. Briefing reporters after the meeting, party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that Congress President Sonia Gandhi told the CWC that there is no tradition of the party anointing a Prime Ministerial the candidate before polls.
"When Rahul Gandhi's candidature was discussed, the Congress President said, there is no such precedence in the Party. If any party has declared its Prime Ministerial candidate, it is not mandatory for us to do the same."
Mr. Dwivedi said that Rahul Gandhi is the party's future leader. In the meeting Rahul Gandhi said he is a dedicated worker of the party, and whatever responsibility party gives him, he will shoulder it. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior party leaders including A K Antony, P Chidambaram and Sushilkumar Shinde also attended the CWC meeting. Reacting to the decision, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Congress knows that it will not come to power and therefore the party has not declared Rahul Gandhi as its Prime Ministerial candidate. Party MP Maneka Gandhi said, Rahul Gandhi is no match for the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
The Bhartiya Janta Party 's three-day brainstorming National executive and council meeting begins today in New Delhi. The meeting will pass two resolutions on political and economic fronts and brush up its strategy for the next general elections. It will also discuss issues related to social, political and economic affairs and internal security.
Ahead of the meeting, the BJP said it will focus on winning 272 plus seats in the next Lok Sabha elections. Briefing reporters about the National office bearers meeting which was held in Delhi yesterday, party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said that in the meeting BJP President Rajnath Singh announced that party workers like MPs and MLAs, who get salaries, will contribute one month's salary to Modi-for-PM fund. Senior leaders of the Party including L. K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi and Chief Ministers of BJP ruled states attended the meet.
The Resumed Winter session of Parliament will be held from the 5th to the 21st of next month. This was stated by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath in New Delhi yesterday. Our correspondent reports that the session will be a continuation of the Winter session as both Houses were not prorogued.
The Supreme Court has reserved its verdict on scrapping of around 200 coal block allocation after holding marathon arguments spanning 16 months. A three-judge bench headed by Justice R M Lodha, yesterday wrapped up the proceedings which witnessed the Centre itself putting in motion the process of deallocating some coal blocks. The bench had agreed to look into the alleged irregularities in coal block allocation on September 14, 2012.
The apex court also directed the Enforcement Directorate to file the status report by February 8 on its probe into the coal scam for suspected money laundering and foreign exchange rules violations. Meanwhile, the government has decided to deallocate all the captive coal blocks which have not obtained environment and in-principle forest clearances and has issued show-cause notice to allotees of 61 such blocks.
Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi has said that the police is competent enough to ensure the safety of people of the national capital. Mr Bassi said this yesterday while interacting with reporters on the controversy that the Delhi Police had refused to carry out the order of the Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti and Women and Child Welfare Minister Rakhi Birla on two separate occasions. Mr Bassi said, he will look into the matter. He said, Delhi is in safe hands and that the police is doing everything to ensure the safety of Delhiites.
"Delhi police is capable enough to provide security to Delhi. I want to assure every citizen of Delhi that Police is taking every measure to keep them safe."
Mr Bassi also said that there is no conflict between the Delhi Police and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Earlier, Mr. Kejriwal had demanded suspension of the two police officers, who allegedly did not listen to the Delhi Government Ministers.
The Union Shipping Ministry has unveiled new policy guidelines for major ports. The move is aimed at helping them leverage their land resources for commercial advantage. Participating in the 'Ports In India' annual conference in Mumbai yesterday, Shipping Secretary Vishwapati Trivedi said the new guidelines will enable ports to carry out leasing and licensing of port land in a transparent manner. This will provide the necessary regulatory framework for land allotment by major ports. The Union Shipping Ministry has also cleared 20 port projects involving an investment of 6,000 crore rupees, envisaging 102 million tonnes in capacity in the first nine months of the fiscal.
The American Embassy school in New Delhi is under the scanner for suspected violations of tax laws and the visa status of some of its staff which the Indian government views as institutionalised fraud. The school, located next to the US Embassy on American government-owned land, has about 1500 students on its rolls, nearly 500 of whom are from the US. The remaining students are from several other countries, including some locals. External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said that an internal e-mail sent by the American school to its teachers, asking them to be economical with the truth about their visa status, is a serious issue relating to visa and tax matters. He further said that the Government is examining these issues carefully.
India has announced its support to a liberalized regional visa regime and more than doubling of the number of business visa from the current level of 200 to 500 in the SAARC region. Inaugurating the 5th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave in New Delhi yesterday, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma emphasized the need for activating and concluding the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services. Our correspondent reports that the two day Conclave, which began in New Delhi last evening, is being attended by the Ministers of Commerce and Industry and business leaders representing the region.
In Egypt, voters have overwhelmingly approved the new constitution in the nationwide referendum held on Tuesday and Wednesday. The voter turnout across the region has been around 37 percent with more than 97 percent voters giving a nod to the new constitution. Formal results would be announced by the Higher Election Commission after the total counting. More from our West Asia Correspondent:
"The new constitution provides equal rights for men and women and has banned political activity based on religion. It has also given more powers to the army by giving it the priority to name the defence minister over the next two presidential terms. Analysts say that the response to the constitutional referendum was along the expected lines after the boycott by Islamists led by Muslim Brotherhood. The results would clear the way for Presidential and parliamentary elections in the country after two months putting Egypt en route to democracy. Interim President Adly Mansour is expected to announce holding the Presidential elections first followed by the elections for the new parliament. Atul Tiwary, AIR News."
The seventh Jaipur Literature Festival begins from today. Over 200 writers from various countries will participate in the 5 day literary event. Our correspondent reports that the festival will formally start with the keynote address of Amartya Sen.
"Writers, critics, historians, film stars, poets and musicians from all around the world will be present in Jaipur Literature festival. This event has now emerged as a platform for interaction between writers and their readers. During next 5 days different sessions on society, literature and contemporary writing will be organized at 6 venues. Special sessions on the themes of Crime and Punishment, Democracy Dialogues, Women Uninterrupted and Endangered Languages will also be organised during the festival. Anurag Vajpeyi AIR News Jaipur."
Indian Shuttler Kidambi Srikanth has reached the quarter-finals of the men's singles in the Malaysia Super Series Premier badminton. He defeated Korea's Ven Ho Sone 11-21, 21-19, 21-19 in a pre-quarter final match in Kualalumpur yesterday. However another top Indian shuttler Parupalli Kashyap suffered a straight game defeat at the hands of third seen Jan Jorgensen of Denmark.
- The Congress leadership deciding that Rahul Gandhi will not be projected as the party's prime ministerial candidate - but instead, lead the party as its Campaign Committee Chief - is highlighted by news papers. The Times of India top headline reads, "Rahul Congress PM pick - in all but name, will lead Lok Sabha campaign".
- "Power Ministry to amend Tariff Policy, Electricity Act" - is a headline in the Indian Express. Minister of State for Power, Jyotiraditya Scindia said that for infusing fresh reforms, his ministry is proposing changes to the Electricity Act, to segregate the "carriage and content" function in the power distribution sector.
- The Economic Times writes that the Aam Aadmi Party is putting the finishing touches to its first official paper on Economic Policy, being prepared with help from experts, including one former RBI governor.
- Hindustan Times reports that in an attempt to save its marines, the Italian govt is making smart moves by mobilizing popular opinion, the EU and even the catholic church - on the death penalty issue, with the EU threatening to suspend Free Trade Talks with India if it slaps the death penalty on the two marines.
- Asian Age informs us that Uttar Pradesh has turned into a land of statues. In the past 22 years, across multiple regimes, Uttar Pradesh has erected 294 statues in parks, road crossing and various institutions, at an estimated cost of Rs. 6.4 crores. The maximum number of statues are those of Dr, B. R. Ambedkar.
- Times of India writes that Chinese doctors have used a 22 year old student's toe to create a new finger, after he lost his ring finger as a child. Doctors said it is not easy to tell the difference and they believe it could even be fully functional within three months.