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Tirupati: Where Protector Of Three Worlds Needs Protection

The furore and outrage surrounding the decision of the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams (TTD) trust to auction and dispose of 23 of its immovable land-assets located in neighbouring Tamil Nadu is neither new nor surprising. It is but another chapter in the long history of loot, misappropriation and attempts to desecrate one of the most sacred kshetras of Southern India. The board headed by YV Subba Reddy, uncle of Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy defended the decision, calling the lands “unviable and unmaintainable” and that the board was only doing it to prevent encroachment. He also added that this is not something new but has been happening since 1974 — the last part of the statement is absolutely correct. Temple wealth has been fair game for most governments irrespective of their hue or ideology.

About a week before the TTD notification on sale of land-assets, a report that appeared in the Deccan Herald talked about how the Tirupati temple authorities were considering the liquidation of land-assets and buildings donated by devotees to Lord Venkateswara to help tide over what the management called “COVID-19 related financial crisis” and an inability to pay staff salaries — how a temple/kshetra that earned on an average Rs. 3.18 crores per day could have run out of funds so quickly is a moot point and should be the subject of a separate investigation. All it took was a 45-day lockdown for the richest temple in the world to become so cash-starved that they decided to sell their assets.

In January 2020, just a few months after assuming office, the YS Jaganmohan Reddy government hiked the annual contribution of the TTD to the government exchequer to Rs 50 crore per annum. This is over and above the frequent demands for funds that are made by the government to the TTD for “financial assistance” for various projects/programs of the state government.

Tirupati-related article

Even as the TTD’s finances were being burdened and bled, the same government was enhancing the “financial assistance” to Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem in Israel and other Biblical places from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 (for those with annual income up to Rs 3 lakh), and from Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 (for those with annual income over Rs 3 lakh). Why should this not be seen as a case of burdening the exchequer by increasing assistance to Christian pilgrims and subsidising this burden by asking the Hindu temple to pay for it?

The loot of Hindu temples and more specifically of the riches of the TTD is not something that is new and has been an ongoing affair under supposedly “secular” governments, like for example the case of the priest who mortgaged Lord Balaji’s jewels or the fact that a vigilance enquiry in 2008 led to the suspension of several officials. That there has been no audit of the inventory of ornaments since 2005 for fear of unearthing a major scam is in itself a major indictment of all governments — present and past.

Take, for example, the case of 300 five-gram gold coins that went missing in 2006 valued at 15 lakhs then, from one of the most fortified places within the Tirupati temple complex — the temple treasury! That case was quietly buried in 2017 when the Andhra Pradesh government issued a Government Order (GO) dropping all disciplinary action against the retired officials who were allegedly involved in the scam. Then there was the case of the gold appraiser (1990) who earned a meagre Rs. 700 per month but owned 4 buildings, a large plot, a goldsmith’s shop, a silversmith’s shop, and a pawnbroker shop, all under different names — this well-organized racket of stealing from the “Hundi” during counting had been running for several years! There was also the case of 1,381 kg of gold worth over 400 crores belonging to the temple being transported without proper authorisation or security and was subsequently seized in Tiruvallur near Chennai.

Tirupati-related report

So what is new and why the outrage and ruckus across social media and opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh? Beyond the obvious political compulsion of opposition parties to oppose anything that a government does and the opportunity to milk a scandal for what it is worth, the fact remains however that the fear of an increase in the pace and scope of loot and desecration of the kshetra under the incumbent government is a real and present danger.

The YSR family has a long, chequered, and controversial connection to Tirumala. The late Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy a Christian by faith was a frequent visitor to Tirumala and maintained that he was a devotee of Balaji but his tenure as CM saw some of the most brazen attacks on the kshetra — an attempt to reduce the jurisdiction of the Tirupati temple/Lord Balaji from seven to two hills, permitting evangelical activity in and around the kshetra and the gold coins scam referred to earlier in this article.

The rampant evangelical and conversion activity in and around the Tirumala kshetra where Tirupati is situated had reached a crescendo during YSRs regime. This led to a backlash from Hindus and Hindu religious groups which forced the then government to issue an ordinance declaring the entire Tirumala kshetra exclusively for Hindus. That has however not stopped the encircling of the kshetra by a modus that is euphemistically referred to as ‘church planting’. A simple google maps search of churches in and around the kshetra reveals the extent of the danger (see snapshot below) — a semicircle of churches and prayer halls situated along the periphery of the kshetra highlights the imminent danger and the unfolding of the ‘church planting’ plan.

Tirupati: Where Protector Of Three Worlds Needs Protection
Churches on the Tirumala hills

The scale of the conversion problem became clear when a minister in the present state government openly admitted on TV that large scale conversions have been happening and continue to happen in AP. He further added that Christian missionaries were pumping in funds from abroad to fuel these conversions. He also alleged that the actual number of Christians in Andhra Pradesh were way over the official census numbers. This is in line with the suspicion that converts are advised to hide their faith in order to ensure that conversions can continue to proceed by stealth and through subterfuge.

Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests a massive conversion wave that is changing the demographics of Andhra Pradesh, particularly the coastal belt and the pace is only expected to rise with a favourable government in power.

The Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam is a pivotal and symbolic landmark of Hindu Dharma. It is not only the most popular temple on earth but is also the earthly location of Vishnu who resides here as Venkateshwara in the age of Kali — the Bhuloka Vaikuntam. Any attack on the Tirumala kshetra is a direct attack on the Dharma. It is, therefore, no surprise that Tirumala has been and will continue to be in the crosshairs of those who want to see the end of the Dharma.

The only way this kshetra and all other kshetras can be protected is to free it from government control and hand it over to the Hindu community. A secular state should have no business in deciding how the resources, assets, and wealth of a religious place should be used. The assets anyway belong to the deity. Everyone else is only a trustee and a trustee’s fiduciary duty is of loyalty solely to the beneficiaries — in this case, the Hindu community. Just as secularism has no place for religion in it, so also a religion (or the Hindu dharma in this case) has no place for secularism — it is impossible for a place of worship to be secular — that is an oxymoron: विमुक्त क्षेत्रान् [Vimukta Kshetrān (Free the Temples)].

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India

Tirumala temple property sale: BJP protests, Jagan govt yields as of now

Politicians of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) joined a day-long hunger strike this morning to protest the Andhra Pradesh government’s order to auction the land donated to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam.

In New Delhi, Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao and Sunil Deodhar, the party’s national secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh with V Muraleedharan, sat on a hunger strike, alleging that the YSR Congress party was trying to sell the property of the temple that they don’t own. “The state government is not the owner, but the custodian of these assets,” Deodhar said, adding that the state government had no right to sell these properties.

Facing stiff opposition, the Government of Andhra Pradesh on Monday suspended the proposed auctioning 50 immovable ‘unviable’ properties donated by devotees of Lord Venkateswara. It asked the hill temple administration to re-examine its decision. The government directed the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams to take a fresh decision on auctioning the properties in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand after consulting devotees and religious heads among others.

Tirumala temple property sale: BJP protests, Jagan govt buckles as of now [inside 1]
The adjournment order

“Keeping in view the sentiments of devotees, the government hereby directs TTD to re-examine the issue in consultation with different stakeholders like religious elders, opinion makers, a section of devotees etc.,” a government order said. It asked the TTD to ascertain whether these properties located in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand can be used by it for construction of temples, dharma pracharam (propagation of faith) and other religious activities.

However, the BJP leader said even after the Andhra Pradesh government cancelled its decision to auction the assets, his party was not calling off the protest. Deodhar asked the Tirumala body to re-examine the decision, as it does not trust the government.

Deodhar said, “We want the government to bring an ordinance that no property of a mutt or a temple under the state government will be auctioned and the details of property, land, money and other assets will be made public.”

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam is the administrative body for the hill temple of Lord Venkateswara (Lord Vishnu) in Tirumala hills. The properties the state government wants to auction include land in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The BJP is not the only party against the sale of properties. Janasena Party, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Congress Party and CPI(M) also opposed the state government’s decision to auction the properties to raise funds.

Sunil Deodhar [Tirumala temple property sale: BJP protests, Jagan govt yields as of now]
Sunil Deodhar (from the archives)

Deodhar said the union government should investigate the allegations against the YSRCP MP that a lot of money is being diverted for the exercise of conversion (to Christianity).

Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is a Christian given to overt displays of his faith. During his father YS Rajasekhar Reddy’s rule, the Andhra Pradesh government had announced a pilgrimage package for trips to Bethlehem.

Another BJP MP Rakesh Sinha wrote to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam president Subbarao Reddy that 63 properties belonging to the devasthanam were sold on the grounds that they were small pieces of land that were unmanageable and “untenable”.

Jagan’s greed for Tirumala property consequence of larger malaise of Indian state

Hindus who care for their heritage have for long been protesting against the state control over their temples, which leads to both corrupt and unethical practices by state functionaries while government greed never ends. On 18 May, the mahants of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple banished former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan who had urged the government to extract gold from the Hindu temples in the country to fight coronavirus.

In the recent years, Hindu places of worship witnessed the introduction of feminist activists who had before that evinced no interest in the spiritual practices associated with shrines like Lord Ayyappa’s in Sabarimala, Kerala, and Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra. The Sabarimala case has gone for a review in the Supreme Court.

If the state ceases to own or control Hindu temples, just as it does not own or control the places of worship of other religions in the country, the activists for Hindu freedom say the executive, legislature and judiciary cannot dictate terms to the community.

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India

Shah rebuts opposition on CAB point-by-point

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while replying to the objections of the opposition, said in Parliament today that nobody’s rights were being violated by the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). There is no injustice happening to anyone, he said.

Earlier, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Manish Tewari of the INC, Afzal Ansari of the BSP and Vinayak Raut of the Shiv Sena had raised various points of objection to the CAB.

Among the surprise elements were the YSRCP, BJD and JD(U) that supported the bill as did the LJP.

The home minister said, responding to the objections raised by the opposition, that the Constitution was accepted by those who came to India in 1947. Shah said that Manmohan Singh and LK Advani fell into the same category as those who have come from outside. “They were given citizenship. They reached big positions,” he said.

“Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister of the country. There will hardly be any area of ​​the country where refugees from West and East Pakistan do not reside,” Shah said.

Here are the salient things from the reply of Amit Shah in the Lok Sabha.

“Do not view this bill on the basis of any political party. There is a provision for granting citizenship to the religious minorities who have come from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, with which we share our international borders. This bill will liberate millions of people from hellish lives,” Shah said.

The home minister said there was a provision in the CAB to give citizenship to minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

“No one should be abused. Nobody’s rights should be violated. We accept secularism. We respect the Constitution,” Shah said.

Addressing the concerns of some States in the Northeast, Shah said, “The Assam Accord was signed between Rajiv Gandhi and the students of Assam. People have been given citizenship since 1971 and we have always supported it.”

“Refugees from within Bengal and Northeast will be given citizenship from the same date. Ration card will not be needed,” the home minister said.

Shah said, “Whatever action is going on against the minority immigrants will end with the grant of citizenship of India.”

“We are accommodating Manipur with the inner line permit system. The bill contains a response to the concerns of the Northeast. People do not need to agitate. Do not be tempted by anyone. This country wants to move forward in the path of peace,” the home minister said.

Shah said, “We have not brought this bill out of our mind. We have discussed the issue with political parties and NGOs for 119 hours.”

The CAB was part of the 2014 and 2019 manifestos of the BJP. “It is the duty of the government of any country to protect borders, prevent intruders, identify refugees and intruders. Which is a country which has not made a law to give citizenship to people outside?” Shah asked, adding, “We have made such a law. We have made a provision of single citizenship.”

“Should Bangladesh’s minorities not get special treatment? Should the minorities living in Pakistan not get special treatment? It is the responsibility of the government to protect the country’s borders. Tell me which country in the world is such that does not make the law of citizenship to protect its borders and the country,” Shah asked.

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India

CAB gets support of JDU, BJD, YSRCP, LJP

The debate in the Lok Sabha on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, has elicited interesting views. On the one hand, the Shiv Sena has raised questions about this bill; on the other, many parties, including the JD(U) that often questions issues related to intense nationalism, have openly supported it. Apart from the JD(U), BJD, YSR Congress and LJP have also supported the bill.

The stand of the Shiv Sena, which split the BJP last month with the Congress and the NCP in Maharashtra, seems to contradict its ideology.

JD(U) leader Rajiv Ranjan Singh said that this bill was going to strengthen the spirit of secularism. He said the proposed legislation was about to rescue the refugees who had left their homes for their honour. The JD(U) leader said that this bill did not challenge the principle of secularism from any angle.

The BJD and YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) are supporting this bill. However, the BJD suggested the inclusion of Sri Lankan refugees in the CAB even as there is no report of mass-scale emigration from the island country to India.

With the support of YSRCP that has 22 MPs in Lok Sabha, JD(U) with 16 members and BJD with 12 MPs, it is clear that the government will see the bill passed by a voice vote. With the support of these parties, it is clear that the NDA, which does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, can pass this bill in the Upper House as well, just like it did in the case of abolishing triple talaq and abrogating Article 370.

Chirag Paswan of the LJP said that his party supported this bill. He said that this had nothing to do with the people of India’s minority community. He said that this bill was related to minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He said, “I thank my home minister for giving importance to our concerns and incorporating the suggestions in this bill.”

Objections to CAB

INC leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that India had been upholding the idea of ‘live and let live’ for centuries. He said to the MPs of BJP, “Outside Parliament, you will spread a canard that the INC opposed the bill supporting Hindus. But we are not against giving asylum to any victim; it is, however, against the spirit of the Constitution as its basis is religious. Therefore, this bill should be reformed.”

“You did not include the people of Sri Lanka, China and any other country in this bill. You included only those countries, which are Muslim majority,” the INC leader from West Bengal said. Referring to Rabindranath Tagore, Chowdhury said that this country was an “ocean of humanity”.

INC’s Manish Tewari objected to Amit Shah’s observation that India’s first ruling party had yielded to MA Jinnah’s two-nation theory. Tewari said it was Hindu Mahasabha’s VD Savarkar who had proposed the two-nation theory first.

With the support of YSRCP that has 22 MPs in Lok Sabha, JD(U) with 16 members and BJD with 12 MPs, it is clear that the government will see the Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by a voice vote

Putting forth the view of Shiv Sena, MP Vinayak Raut asked, “How many people have come from these three countries so far and how many people have been identified?” If all the people were given citizenship, he argued, the population of the country will increase greatly.

The home minister, Raut said, should explain by what extent the country’s burden will increase on the arrival of these people.

The persecution of people due to the partition of India in Pakistan and Bangladesh is understandable, but it is not understood that this is the subject of Afghanistan, the Shiv Sena said and added that Sri Lanka should be included in this bill. Raut said it would be better if Afghanistan is removed from this bill and Sri Lanka added instead.

The BSP is of the view that Muslims should be included in the CAB. Muslims who came to India at the time of the Bangladesh War or before or later should be given citizenship, said Afzal Ansari of the party. They are being denied citizenship by branding them as Bangladeshis, he said. “They did not come to India happily. If they had been treated well, they would not have left their country,” Afzal Ansari said, adding that a refugee had no caste, no religion.

NCP leader Supriya Sule opposed the CAB, saying, “It is not right for any community to remain outside the purview of the definition of a refugee. The bill violates Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.”

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India

Andhra Pradesh fallen ‘from frying pan into fire’: Ram Madhav

Amaravati: Launching a scathing attack on the YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav on Wednesday remarked that the state has fallen “from the frying pan into the fire.”

“TDP and YSRC both are the same in terms of governance. Andhra Pradesh appears to have fallen from the frying pan into the fire. Through his aggressive actions, Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is leaving people of the State terrorised,” Madhav remarked.

Madhav visited East Godavari district as part of the BJPs membership enrolment drive and was addressing a meeting in P Gannavaram. “TDP is the past, YSRC the present and BJP the future (of Andhra Pradesh). BJP will emerge as the largest party in the State by 2024,” he said, adding the party needed to be strengthened in every village.

[pullquote]TDP is the past, YSRC the present and BJP the future of Andhra Pradesh. BJP will emerge as the largest party in the State by 2024: Ram Madhav[/pullquote]

Taking on the TDP, Madhav said people voted for it in 2014 with a lot of hopes for the future. But the five-year rule of N Chandrababu Naidu was filled with corruption, nepotism and inefficiency, he alleged. “By being friendly with the BJP, Chandrababu secured over Rs 3 lakh crore for the State in three years. But he misappropriated the money and pushed the blame on to Prime Minister Modi. People realised this and showed him the door, the BJP general secretary observed.

BJP Andhra Pradesh president Kanna Lakshmi Narayana, former MP K Geeta and other leaders were present on the occasion.

Posting photographs of the event, a BJP worker Rohit Kumar wrote on Twitter, “As a part of the massive membership drive of the Bharatiya Janata Party (@BJP4India), BJP Andhra Pradesh organised a door to door meeting in presence of Shri Ram Madhavji (@rammadhavbjp) in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh.

Ram Madhav retweeted the tweet.

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India

Triple talaq: Why BJP is confident bill will become law soon

New Delhi: At the beginning of the Budget session after coming back to power, the Narendra Modi government presented the triple talaq bill in the house on Friday. The bill passed with 186 votes against 74 votes. Now this bill will be placed in the Rajya Sabha. Here is why the government brought this bill at the beginning of the session. We explain also why it is confident that the legislation will pass this time.

This bill was first introduced by the Modi government in the Lok Sabha during its first term in December 2017. However, the bill was not passed in the Upper House where the BJP and its allies are in a minority.

The government practically treated it as a law nevertheless with two ordinances. The first ordinance was issued in September 2018 and then it was implemented for the time being until the Lok Sabha election was announced in February 2019.

The age of any ordinance is of six months. The period of this ordinance ends in July. Because of this, the government has once again had to present the bill in the Lok Sabha.

BJP hopeful triple talaq bill will become law this time

This time, the Modi government is hoping to get the triple talaq bill [technically, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance, 2019 bill] passed in the Rajya Sabha as well. The Upper House currently has 245 seats and the government will need 123 votes to get the bill approved.

On Thursday, after four Rajya Sabha MPs of the TDP joined the BJP, the ruling party’s strength in the Rajya Sabha has increased from 71 to 75.

Besides, the AIADMK’s 13, TRS’s six, YSRCP’s two and BJD’s five MPs are expected to extend support to the bill.

Apart from this, elections will be held on 6 July for six more seats. If the BJP and its allies win, it is possible to raise the figure to 123.

Triple talaq bill: Impact on Assembly elections

Three States Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand will have Assembly elections this year. All these three States have a good Muslim population. Jharkhand has a 15% Muslim population while Maharashtra has 11.56% population and Haryana has around 7%. Women voted in large numbers in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, too. In such a scenario, the government hopes that this issue will get the party the beleaguered Muslim women’s votes.

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India

Om Birla unanimous choice as Lok Sabha Speaker?

New Delhi: Two-time BJP MP Om Birla will be the NDA candidate for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker, sources said. Birla, who won from the Kota-Bundi parliamentary seat in Rajasthan, will become the Speaker easily when nominated as the NDA has a clear majority in the House.

Union minister Prahlad Joshi said about the candidature of BJP’s Om Birla for Lok Sabha Speaker that the BJP had spoken to the Congress who did not sign the proposal but did not oppose the candidature either. Joshi met Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The prime minister, the defence minister, the home minister and the transport minister have proposed the name of Birla, Joshi informed. The BJD, Shiv Sena, NPP, MNF, Akali Dal, LJP, YSRCP, JDU, AIADMK and Apna Dal have signed the proposal.

The NPP, Mizo National Front, Lok Janshakti Party, YSRCP, JDU, AIADMK, Apna Dal etc have extended their support to Om Birla.

BJP MP Om Birla is 57-years-old. He has been an MLA thrice and an MP twice from Rajasthan.

Birla filed his nomination paper this afternoon. According to news agency ANI, Om Birla got the support of the Biju Janata Dal.

When Birla was asked about his candidature, he said he had no information about this. “I went to meet the working president of the BJP as an ordinary party worker,” he said.

Birla’s wife Amita said, “It is time for us to take pride. We are grateful to the whole Cabinet for choosing him (Birla).”

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Elections

Prashant Kishor, with enviable track record, to devise campaign for Trinamool

Kolkata/Patna: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is all set to leave the disappointing performance of the Trinamool in the Lok Sabha election behind her and rope in as her campaign manager Prashant Kishor. The careerist campaigner, who is known to switch between political camps regardless of ideology, boasts of a track record of running successful campaigns for Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Nitish Kumar in the 2015 Bihar Assembly election and Jaganmohan Reddy in the 2019 Andhra Pradesh Vidhan Sabha election.

So far in his career after moving in from Africa, Prashant Kishor has suffered just one setback: the loss of the CongressSamajwadi Party alliance in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election of 2017.

Prashant Kishor has struck the deal with the Trinamool for the 2021 West Bengal Assembly election. The deal came through after a two-hour long meeting of the campaigner with Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata.

Prashant Kishor will begin devising the campaign in the beginning of July as per his contract.

The campaigner’s recent success in Andhra Pradesh is significant, as N Chandrababu Naidu was so confident of the TDP’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls that he had emerged as a convener of sorts for a proposed third front, which could not materialise only because of the Modi wave that swept the country once again in the 2019 general election.

After ensuring the win of Jaganmohan Reddy-led YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh, Prashant Kishor had tweeted, “Thank you Andhra and colleagues at for the landslide victory. Congratulations and best wishes to the new CM

However, the question now arises whether his political career would suffer due to his business. Notably, despite his membership and office in the Janata Dal (United), he was given no responsibility in the campaign of the NDA in Bihar.

Sources say that the BJP had pressured the JD(U) to keep Prashant Kishor away because it disagreed with the manner in which the campaigner had devised a strategy to reach out to the youth of the State. To Nitish, sources say, keeping the alliance to which he had returned in 2017 was more important. He was ready to sacrifice his party’s national vice-president for the alliance.

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India

Congress wouldn’t demand LoP position but expects it

New Delhi: The Indian National Congress will not demand the post of leader of the opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha once again. The Congress had only 44 MPs in the last Lok Sabha, hence the party did not get the status. This time again, falling short of the number of MPs required for the position — 10% of the strength of the Lok Sabha — the party will not stake this claim.

An opposition party needs to have at least 55 MPs in the 545-member strong Lower House, out of which 543 are elected positions, to get the LoP position. However, even a score of 54 is considered.

Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala made it clear that such a demand would not be placed on behalf of the party.

Surjewala was quoted by news agency ANI on Twitter as saying that his party would not make any such demand of the government due to the lack of adequate numbers. He said it was a fact that the LoP position demanded 10% of the strength of House. “Since we’re two short officially, we can’t have a Leader of Opposition.”

However, the Congress betrayed its expectation when its spokesman said the onus lay on the government as to whether they wanted to designate a party formally as the principal opposition.

While the Congress had failed to occupy the LoP position in the 16th Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge was the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. He has lost the election to Umesh Jadhav of the BJP this time and couldn’t make it to Parliament.

Today, the Congress parliamentary party met. Sonia Gandhi was re-elected as the leader of the parliamentary party in the meeting.

The DMK with 23 seats, with TR Baalu as its Lok Sabha leader; YSR Congress Party and All India Trinamool Congress with 22 seats each, fall far short of the cut-off mark of 55 too. Hence, no party technically qualifies to get the LoP position.

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Elections

Jaganmohan Reddy: NDA hasn’t got 250 seats that I could pressure Modi

New Delhi: YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) chief Jaganmohan Reddy met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday at the residence of the latter in Delhi. Reddy then met with BJP president Amit Shah, too—although this meeting was not scheduled. He addressed a press conference at the Andhra Bhavan, Delhi, after the two meetings.

Addressing the press, Reddy said if the BJP had won 250 odd seats, the situation would have been different today. In such a situation, the YSRCP could have placed a condition for supporting the government, which the NDA no longer requires.

Reddy said the YSRCP would have supported a weaker NDA only if the latter agreed to according Andhra Pradesh the special category status.

Reddy’s party YSRCP won 151 out of 175 seats in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly election and 22 out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats.

Reddy, who arrived in Delhi on Sunday, during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, discussed issues related to Andhra Pradesh’s special State status, economic status of the State and funding from the Centre.

After meeting Modi, Reddy met with officials at the Andhra Bhavan. YSRCP MLAs will take the oath of office on 30 May in Vijayawada.

Reddy said, “I did what was needed today. I told the Prime Minister about the condition of Andhra Pradesh.”

About Andhra Pradesh, Reddy said, “When the State was divided, it was indebted by Rs 97,000 crore. Chandrababu Naidu let it increase to Rs 2.58 lakh crore. I told the Prime Minister about the State’s condition. I have asked for support from him. I think Prime Minister Modi has taken the demands positively.”

Regarding alcohol prohibition in Andhra Pradesh, Reddy said, “I am committed to the prohibition of alcohol. I always said that it will be implemented in phases. By 2024, only a fifth of the hotels will be allowed to sell liquor. Only after applying the prohibition will I ask for votes again. We will work according to the promises made in the YSRCP manifesto.”

Reddy met with Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrasekhar Rao, too. He said this was the first time that there prevailed a friendly relation between the two States. This is very important for the development of both the States, he added.

“They went have supported the demand for the special status of Andhra Pradesh. It is very important that both of us work together,” Reddy said.