Release Of Biopic ‘PM Narendra Modi’ Delays, Likely To Get April 12 Date

The release date of the biopic ‘PM Narendra Modi’ has been delayed as the clearance from the Central Board of Film Certification is awaited. The film was earlier given a release date of April 5, prior to the Lok Sabha Polls. 

Following the Election Commission’s decision on Wednesday to not impose a ban on the release of ‘PM Narendra Modi’ biopic and rather refer it to the CBFC, the fate of the movie now lay at the hands of the Censor board. The EC had said that the CBFC is the competent authority to decide on the matter.

Sources claimed that the film will now be released on April 12, a day after the first phase of the elections. 

The Opposition has been demanding that the release of the film be deferred till after the election, accusing the government of using cinema as propaganda. However, the BJP said that the matter is within the purview of the constitutional right to freedom of expression and any kind of prohibition will infringe upon the basic fundamental right. Besides, the party has nothing to do with the film or its makers, said the BJP.

The BJP told the Election Commission that it supported the scheduled release of the ‘PM Narendra Modi’ biopic and a ban on it will only curtail the fundamental right. “Independent artists, influenced by the lifestyle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, created the film but the BJP is in no way involved in it. There is no content related to the election which can be banned under the model code of conduct” the saffron party stated. 

The EC had also sought a response from the makers of the film but they insisted that the timing of PM Narendra Modi and the Lok Sabha election, the first phase of which kicks off six days after the release of the film, is ‘purely coincidental’. 

BSNL To Sack 54,000 Employees After Lok Sabha Polls

BSNL is likely to dismiss around 54,000 of its employees soon, says a Deccan Hrald report. The state- owned telecom services company is said to have given the green signal and a final decision will be taken after the Lok Sabha elections are done with.

The Deccan Herald report quoted a source, “Announcing the VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) package or job cuts and shutting down businesses of the telecom firm would have huge implications on employees and ongoing elections. DoT decided to wait and watch.

The report also stated that the proposed job cuts at BSNL represent about 31 per cent of its 174,312 ageing workforce. The board has also okayed the recommendation to reduce the retirement age from 60 to 58 years and to give Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) to all employees aged 50 and above, in addition to expediting the allocation of 4G spectrum to to BSNL.

The proposed retirement scheme will help BSNL to save a total of Rs 13,895 crore over the next six years on the wage bill. (The average age of BSNL employees is 55 years.)

BSNL has been incurring losses consecutively over the past five years or so. It reported a loss of around Rs 8,000 crores for FY18, compared to Rs 4,786 crore in FY17. For FY19 also, the loss is expected to be higher than Rs 8,000 crores.

At least 1.76 lakh employees of BSNL were earlier reported to have not been given their salary for the month of February.

The employees had also written to Telecom minister Manoj Sinha asking the government to release funds to the company so that they are paid their salaries and the company is revived.

BSNL s 55 per cent revenue goes toward payment of wages and the company s wage bill reportedly increases by 8 per cent annually but the revenues are stagnant.

The financial crisis being faced by the telecom operator is being attributed to the pricing of Reliance Jio. A letter by All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) read, Financial crisis is being faced by other operators also but they are managing the situation by infusing huge amounts.

AIMIM To Contest Aurangabad Lok Sabha Seat

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) party decided tpday to contest Maharashtra’s Aurangabad Lok Sabha Seat in alliance with Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi led by Prakash Ambedkar.

Party president Asaduddin Owaisi has picked Imtiaz Jaleel, a member of Maharashtra Assembly, as the party candidate.

Mr Owaisi took the decision after consultation with the party from Maharashtra.

“Will be contesting MP seat from Aurangabad on Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and MIM ticket. It’s time for my city to change. It’s not about me. From here on it’s always going to be ‘We’. Let’s all vote for Aurangabad,” tweeted Mr Jaleel.

A former journalist, Mr Jaleel was elected from Aurangabad Central Assembly constituency on a AIMIM ticket in 2014. The party also won Byculla seat in Mumbai.

Aurangabad will be the third Lok Sabha seat to be contested by the Hyderabad-headquartered party. Mr Owaisi is seeking re-election from Hyderabad for a fourth consecutive term.

Mr Owaisi had said earlier in March that the discussions were also on to contest a Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh.

Lok Sabha Polls: Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik To Contest From Two Seats In The State

Odisha CM and Biju Janta Dal (BJD) President Naveen Patnaik will contest from two seats in Lok Sabha Assembly Polls, one being Bijepur and the other his home turf Hinjili.

Patnaik on Monday announced the first list of BJD candidates for nine of the 21 Lok Sabha and 54 of the 147 assembly seats in the state.

The chief minister said he will contest the state polls from Hinjili in Ganjam district and Bijepur in west Odisha’s Bargarh district.

Simultaneous polling will be held in Odisha for the 21 Lok Sabha seats and the 147 assembly constituencies in four phases on April 11, 18, 23 and 29.

Elections in Hinjili and Bijepur will be held in the second phase of polling on April 18.

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief’s announcement came a day after he had hinted at contesting the upcoming assembly election also from a constituency in west Odisha.

“Leaders as well as farmers, women and students from western Odisha have requested that I stand from an assembly constituency in western Odisha .. I am considering the proposal very seriously,” Patnaik had said on Sunday.

Patnaik’s move assumes significance in the backdrop of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 

(BJP) impressive performance in western Odisha in the 2017 panchayat elections.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s back-to-back visits to the region in a bid to bolster his party’s poll prospects has further mounted pressure on the ruling BJD.

Patnaik represents the Hinjili assembly seat in south Odisha and has been winning successive assembly elections since 2000.

While four Lok Sabha and 28 assembly segments are going to polls on April 11, voting will be held for five parliamentary and 35 assembly seats in the second phase on April 18.

Opposition Moves SC Over 50% VVPAT Count

Twenty one politicians led by Andhra Pradesh CM and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu have moved the Supreme Court in order to seek direction to the Election Commission to count VVPAT slips of at least 50% of EVMs in the Lok Sabha polls 2019 

Though these politicians have not been able to stitch a coalition ahead of the polls, it appears they have been brought together by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi for a joint push.

A bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi will hear the petition on Friday. 

The petition said these parties, despite their differences, were unanimous and had come before the SC to seek free and fair elections. 

The other petitioners are Sharad Pawar (NCP), K C Venugopal (Congress), Derek O’Brien (TMC), Sharad Yadav (Loktantrik Janata Dal), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), M K Stalin (DMK), T K Rangarajan (CPM), S Sudhakar Reddy (CPI), Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD), Arvind Kejriwal (AAP chief), Farooq Abdullah (NC), K Danish Ali (JDS), Ajit Singh (RLD), M Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF), Jitan Ram Manjhi (Hindustani Awam Morcha), Ashok Kumar Singh (JVM), Khorrum Anis Omer (Indian Union Muslim League), K G Kenye (Naga Peoples Front) and Prof Kodandaram (Telangana Jana Samiti).

They challenged the EC’s guidelines which make it mandatory for counting of VVPATs from only one random polling station per assembly constituency. “This translates to an actual check on less than 0.44% of EVMs in the country,” they said. Interestingly, the politicians cited the SC’s 2017 judgment in BJP’s Subramanian Swamy’s petition, in which the EC was directed to attach VVPAT with 100% of EVMs. 

The petitioners said the EC guidelines defeated the entire purpose of introducing VVPAT. For some months, EVMs have been at the centre of a controversy with Congress leading the opposition’s assault on their integrity and tamper-proof quality. The petitioners claimed their parties together represented 75% of India’s population. Interestingly, while other parties were represented by their top leaders, Congress decided to field K C Venugopal.

Congress May Include ‘Right To Healthcare’ In 2019 Manifesto

Congress may promise “right to healthcare” in its upcoming Lok Sabha pills manifesto. This is likely to be another big populist move to win the voters after Rahul Gandhi had announced the “right to minimum income”. 

Sources said the Lok Sabha poll manifesto is likely to go with “right to healthcare” which may aim to create a system whereby a person can walk into any hospital for treatment. While details are still being worked out, the commitment would mean that it would add to the schemes presently available to citizens.

It would be another addition to the “rights based regime” erected by UPA during its decade in power, having enacted “right to education”, “right to food”, “MGNREGA” and “right to information”. Seeking to influence voters with “welfarism”, Congress strategists believe the way to neutralise the post-Pulwama “diversionary campaign” of BJP is a strong commitment to pro-poor agenda. 

In what set the poll campaign abuzz early, Rahul Gandhi announced in January-end that a future Congress government would provide an assured income to the poor. It would be the highlight of the manifesto to be released after Holi.

For “right to healthcare”, Congress may promise that its government would ensure high budgetary allocation to the health ministry which would take care of the treatment sought as a matter of right. Sources said the details were being worked out and would figure in the manifesto. 

The manifesto would also form the core of any “vision document” or “common minimum programme” that the opposition parties plan to release jointly. Congress may also try its own “upper caste” initiative to match BJP’s 10% quota move by promising a clutch of scholarships/fellowships for meritorious students from “economically weaker sections”.

India Seeks Saudi Arabia’s Investments In Strategic Oil Storage

India is asking for investments from 

Saudi Arabia for building wmergency crude reserves that would act as a buffer against volatility in oil prices and supply disruptions for the third-largest oil consumer.

Saudi’s participation in the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve program was discussed at a meeting between the kingdom’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and his Indian counterpart Dharmendra Pradhan in New Delhi on Saturday, according to a government statement on Sunday. They also discussed expediting a proposed $44-billion oil refinery project on India’s west coast with investment from Saudi Arabian National Oil Co., it said.

India, which imports four out of every five barrels of oil it consumes, is expanding its strategic reserves to shield from perennial political risk in the Middle East and Africa that account for the bulk of its purchases. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has opened some of the underground caverns for commercial storage to lessen the strain on state finances. It has already leased out tanks to Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.

India has already built 5.33 million tons of underground reserves in three locations, which can meet 9.5 days of the country’s oil needs. It now plans two new reserves with a combined capacity of 6.5 million tons, sufficient to cover an additional 12 days.

Saudi Arabia is a key oil supplier to India and exported 36.8 million tons of crude to Indian refiners in the year ended March 2018, accounting for 16.7 percent of their total purchases, according to the statement.

Election Commission To Keep An Eye Social Media Campaigns Of Parties, Candidates

The Election Commission will closely monitor the social media campaigns of political parties and candidates in the upcoming election for any faulty content regarding the electoral process or aiming to disturb peace, tranquility and harmony. 

It is for the first time that social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google have willingly confirmed to work with the EC. 

The three US-based companies had made a written commitment to EC during consultations with the latter’s committee that reviewed Section 126 of Representation of the People Act last year, to help the poll panel regulate political campaigns on their platforms that are objectionable or in violation of the model code of conduct and laws of the country. 

As per the commitment, the details of which are to be worked out by Internet and Mobile Association of India, social media companies or “intermediaries” have already started awareness campaigns for their users, highlighting the activities of EC in this regard. These campaigns cover unlawful conduct during election, particularly during the 48-hour silence period prior to conclusion of polling.

 

All the social media platforms have agreed to establish priority channels for EC for quick response. They have taken specific measures to appoint grievance officers for the upcoming election. The EC, through the media certification and monitoring committee, will work with the social media companies to flag objectionable content to their grievance officers, who will then pull them down within a given timeline. 

The platforms will also deploy appropriate fact checkers to scan fake news and abuse on their timeline.

The social media companies, incidentally, are already taking actions against fake accounts, spam etc. 

Political advertising on social media will be made more transparent, with advertisement being clearly labelled as so. Besides, each of these platforms has created a mechanism to accept only pre-certified political advertisements during the elections and will share the expenditure incurred on this account with the election authorities for the purposes of accounting. 

EC as part its guidelines on use of social media by parties and candidates, requires candidates to furnish details of their social media accounts. Also, social media being part of electronic media, it needs to have all political advertisements pre-certified by the media certification and monitoring committee. 

Candidates need to account for expenditure on social media advertising. Besides all provisions of model code of conduct apply to content posted on social media. 

TMC Chief, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee To Launch Lok Sabha Election Campaign On Women’s Day

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will start the Trinamool Congress’s (TMC) campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections on Friday on the ocadsion of International Women’s Day, said a party leader. 

Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to participate in a rally convened by the party’s women’s wing from Shraddhananda Park to Esplanade area in Kolkata on Friday to celebrate the International Women’s Day.

“Although election dates are yet to be announced, but our campaign for the Lok Sabha elections will begin on March 8. During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and 2016 Assembly polls also, Mamata di had started her poll campaign on Women’s Day,” a senior leader of the TMC’s women’s wing said.

The purpose of this rally is to create a “new India, united India and strong India”, the posters of the rally read.

“She (Mamata Banerjee) will give her message for the Lok Sabha polls. And after the dates are announced, a full-fledged campaign will begin,” the TMC leader said.

Several rallies and marches will be held in various parts of the state to celebrate the day and kick off the poll campaign in the state, TMC sources said.

Ms Banerjee, who has been the prime mover of an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) front, had organised a mega Opposition rally in Kolkata on January 19, during which she had given a call to oust the Modi government.

The TMC, which is vying to play a major role in the formation of the next government at the centre, has vowed to win all the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The party had won 34 seats in the 2014 general election.

However, the BJP state leadership mocked TMC’s decision to kick start its poll campaign on International Women”s day.

“It”s an irony that TMC is kick starting its poll campaign from March 8 when Bengal under TMC regime in last seven years has seen steep rise in atrocities against women,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.

Meanwhile, the BJP’s women wing too has scheduled several rallies in the state to mark the occasion.