Congress subs SP-TMC on President, says no to spare Manmohan as well

Miffed over the disclosure of its candidate for the Presidential race, the Congress has rejected the names suggested by Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav


New Delhi: The Congress, main party in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) while rebuffing Samajwadi Party (SP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC), has ruled out sparing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the Presidential post. The Congress also rejected three names proposed by its two allies, sending signals that it was not in a mood to bow before them, reports PTI.

"We cannot afford to spare Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The other two names, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Somnath Chatterjee are not acceptable," Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.

"During UPA-II (election of leader), we have already said he (Singh) will remain the Prime Minister till 2014. Congress does not take such a step (of changing its leader) in between," he said.

His forthright assertion came after ruling Congress party President Sonia Gandhi held parleys with senior party leaders Pranab Mukherjee, AK Antony and P Chidambaram at her residence in the wake of TMC and SP stunning the party by proposing the names of Manmohan Singh, Dr Kalam and Chatterjee as a counter to candidature of Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari.

Virtually disapproving of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee's action of disclosing the names of Mukherjee and Ansari as first and second choices of Congress, Dwivedi said the process of consultation was still on and Sonia Gandhi had not finalised any name. She is in the process of consulting even single-member parties and in the course of it two names have come up. "If Congress had decided on the name, two names would not have come up," he said.

"There is a dignity to the process. When such talks are held, names are not discussed outside," the Congress leader said, apparently referring to Banerjee disclosing the names to the media immediately after meeting Gandhi at her residence yesterday.

The Congress Core Group, headed by Gandhi and including the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet ministers, will meet this evening to devise further strategy on the President's election.

Earlier in the day, Mukherjee drove to the 10, Janpath residence of Gandhi and was with her for about 30 minutes. Senior Congress leaders Antony and Chidambaram also met her.

Gandhi also held discussions with other UPA allies like Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

DMK Parliamentary leader TR Baalu met her and said Gandhi will be announcing the name of the UPA Presidential candidate anytime later this week.

"Keeping in view the political stature and seniority in public life, my leader Karunanidhi was consulted by Madam last month through Antony. My leader had suggested a name. The name has been communicated by Antony to Madam. Madam at any point of time, will be announcing the decision," Baalu told reporters.

He said the name of the person cannot be divulged as of now and parried questions on whether the candidate is among the five persons whose names have been made public.

"Madam will announce it shortly. Not today... At any point within this week," he said.

When asked if DMK was fine with Mukherjee's candidature, he said, "it is between the two higher ups. My leader has communicated the matter long back. We stand by it."


Chidambaram effect: Government asks UIDAI to accept data from RGI

UIDAI have allegedly refused to accept data collected by the Registrar General, which made the home minister to raise the issue at the highest level

New Delhi: Faced with strong protests from Home Minister P Chidambaram, the Union government on Thursday directed the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to accept the biometric data collected by Registrar-General of India (RGI) under the Home Ministry (MHA) to give unique ID number to every citizen, reports PTI.

The decision was taken by the Union Cabinet here, a top government source told PTI.

The move came a week after Chidambaram wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh complaining that RGI's National Population Register (NPR) project is "almost at a standstill" due to the refusal of Nandan Nilekani-led UIDAI to accept the NPR data for de-duplication and generation of Aadhaar numbers.

This was for the second time that Chidambaram took up at the highest level the issue of capturing the biometric data of the population by UIADI and its alleged non- cooperation with the RGI project.

The UIDAI comes under the nodal authority of the Planning Commission.

In January last, the Planning Commission and the Home Ministry had been locked in a tussle over the unique identification number project and both of them have taken the issue to the Prime Minister for a solution, which led to a temporary truce under which UIDAI had promised to accept the NPR data.

"Despite directions from the government, the UIDAI is objecting to the conduct of the NPR camps in certain states and is also refusing to accept the biometric data of NPR for de-duplication and generation of Aadhaar numbers," Chidambaram wrote in his latest letter to the Prime Minister.

The Home Minister said he had taken up the issue with UIDAI chairman Nilekani and Home Secretary RK Singh took up the issue with Director General and Mission Director, UIDAI.

"However, despite our best efforts the issues remain unresolved....the MHA is keen to complete the NPR project in two years as announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget speech. This would be possible only if there is complete cooperation from all stakeholders, especially the UIDAI and the state governments," he said.

Government had taken a number of important decisions concerning internal security after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. One of these was that the NPR project would be taken up in selected coastal villages on a priority basis and then rolled out in a phased manner in all coastal villages and towns as part of the measures to enforce coastal security.

Subsequently, the government decided to implement this project across the country.

The status of the project as on date is that the coastal NPR project has been completed to a large extent and the data required for the rest of the country has been collected along with Census 2011 and digitization of the same is proceeding at a rapid pace.

"However, regrettably the collection of photographs and biometrics has been facing hurdles at every step on account of the approach of the UIDAI which, it seems, has failed to appreciate the core purpose of NPR," Chidambaram said.

The UIDAI had initially been given the mandate to cover 10 crore population. This was subsequently raised to 20 crore.

When the matter of extending the mandate to covering the entire country had come up, the Home Ministry raised serious concerns about various aspects regarding the unsuitability of the UIDAI data from internal security point of view.

Considering the concerns, the government took a number of important decisions on 27th January this year regarding the implementation of the NPR and UIDAI projects.

The crux of the decision was that as the purpose of UIDAI and NPR are different, the two projects should proceed simultaneously and that each project would accept the biometric data collected by the other, without duplication.


Government, Congress defends Chidambaram

Media reports are giving an impression that the case of P Chidambaram's election is a criminal trial, alleges Congress. Earlier, the Madras High Court declined to dismiss a petition challenging the home minister's election to Lok Sabha

New Delhi: The UPA Government and Congress on Thursday came in defence of Home Minister P Chidambaram rejecting opposition demands for his resignation in the wake of the Madras High Court order that declined to dismiss a petition challenging his election to Lok Sabha in 2009, reports PTI.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid ridiculed the BJP for demanding Chidambaram's resignation over the issue.
"Should the Home Minister get a resignation printed because they demand it on a daily basis or should he give it on the internet? BJP wakes up in the morning and says that the Home Minister should resign.

"God knows how many times the Home Minister would have resigned had he accepted whatever BJP said," he told reporters on the sidelines of a conference.

Party General Secretary Digvijay Singh also backed the Home Minister on the issue.

"What case he (Chidambaram) has lost? It's an election petition. He has not lost a case, which has anything to do with his working as the Home Minister," Singh said.

On AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa's statement that Chidambaram should quit as his continuance will be a "blot on democracy", the AICC leader said, "As far as Jayalalithaa is concerned, it is a political issue. The Election Commission has declared Chidambaram as elected and that is it."

Noting that elections can only be challenged through an election petition, Khurshid said that media reports were giving an impression of it being a criminal trial, which is not the case.

He said that it is only through an election petition that it can be probed whether there is any flaw or wrong-doing in an election, any violation of the election law.

"Issues are raised in an election petition, trial happens and then a decision is taken after evidence. Then an appeal is made. Even an appeal can be filed in the Supreme Court on this order. Even if any decision comes, anybody can file an appeal against it," Khurshid said.

He said, "Some mistake is being made when the word trial is being used."

"Somehow an impression is being given that it is a criminal trial. It is not that. It's an election petition trial. Just like there is a civil trial, there is an election petition trial and some order has been passed in that regard," Khurshid said.

The reactions came as the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court today declined to dismiss a petition challenging the election Chidambaram to Lok Sabha in 2009 but struck down two charges of malpractices against him.

Disposing of a plea by Chidambaram seeking dismissal of the petition filed by AIADMK's Raja Kannappan, who lost to him from Sivaganga constituency by a margin of 3,354 votes, Justice K Venkatraman ordered removal of two of the 29 charges.

The two charges pertain to alleged use of bank officials and banks in relation to Chidambaram's election.


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