BJP caricature of Rahul Gandhi not working any more: Tharoor

Latest News in English – The BJP had “very successfully caricatured” Rahul Gandhi but the tactic is no longer working because the people now see the Congress vice president as an “effective opponent” to the ruling party, former minister Shashi Tharoor has said.

The Congress MP in an interview to PTI said the narrative had “changed very very clearly” in the past few months and people were now openly expressing “doubts and misgivings” about how the Narendra Modi-led BJP government was performing.

People are also more willing to see the Congress as a viable alternative to the BJP, the Thiruvananthapuram MP said.

“The BJP had very successfully caricatured Rahul Gandhi in the past. That is no longer working because Rahul Gandhi is seen as a rather effective opponent to the BJP…As this changed narrative proceeds, you are going to find more and more momentum behind the Congress,” he asserted.

Tharoor said a change was visible with the Congress’s recent victory in the by-election in Gurdaspur in Punjab and of its ally in Vengara in Kerala, and claimed the BJP’s attempts to conduct yatras in places such as Kerala and Gujarat had “fallen flat”.

“I also feel very strongly that the people are beginning to ask when is the government going to keep the promises it has made…We are already riding much higher in people’s estimation than we were in the April or May of 2014, of that there is no doubt,” the 61-year-old leader said.

His comments assume significance as Gandhi is expected to take over the reins of the Congress party soon.

Last month, while addressing students at the University of California in the United States, the Congress vice president had said the impression that he was a reluctant politician was a result of a campaign against him by the other political camp.

“There is a BJP machine, about a thousand guys, sitting on computers that basically tell you about me,” he had said.

Tharoor said when Gandhi takes over, there will be “fresh energy” injected into the party.

Noting that there was still time for the general election, Tharoor said Congress’s credibility was on the rise.

“I would say that the narrative has changed very very clearly. People are now openly expressing doubts and misgivings about how the BJP government and Mr Modi are performing,” he said.

Asked if the state elections were any indication of the 2019 poll outcome, Tharoor said drawing conclusions from the state elections “may not always be the wisest way forward”.

“My gut instinct says we are doing well…In the next 12 months some very clear patterns will emerge,” he argued.

The former minister of state for external affairs, who has been vocal in criticising the government’s stand on the Rohingya Muslims, said forced deportation would “give India a very bad name in the international community”.

Tharoor answered in the affirmative when asked if India’s stature in the world arena would take a hit if the Rohingyas were deported.

“You cannot start off with the presumption that they are terrorists. Many of them are women and children, they are obviously innocents,” the former UN under secretary general said.

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Nifty nears 10K-mark, Sensex hits new high on strong corporate earnings

With strong and healthy corporate results as well as investors’ buying spree, Dalal Stree broke new record on Monday as the Nifty was almost close to the sensational 10,000-mark, while the BSE benchmark Sensex closed at a record new high again too.

The NSE Nifty broke free and hit an all time high of 9,982.05 in day’s trade. However, it closed at 9,966.40, a life high, up 51.15 points, or 0.52 per cent, over its last close.

The key stocks in the sectors such as oil & gas, finance, IT and FMCG among others threw their weight behind the rally. The rise was broad based as 156 stocks on the BSE surged to fresh 52-week highs on the BSE which include names like Sundaram Finance, RIL, HCL Technologies, Saregama, Wipro, Hindalco, Tinplate, Manappuram Finance, Jindal Saw etc. among others. Among the 100 stocks, almost 49 stocks hit fresh record highs which include names like Bajaj Finserv, Britannia Industries, DMart, Uflex, Deepak Fertilisers, Sunil Agro Foods, Vinati Organics Ltd etc. among others.

The investors were happy as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its World Economic Outlook Update, retained India GDP forecast at 7.2 cent for the current fiscal, saying the country will pip China in growth sweepstakes in 2017 and 2018 as well.

The 30-share BSE barometer rose to all time intra-day high of 32,320.86 as index heavyweight Reliance Industries, ITC and TCS registered strong gains. The Sensex settled higher by 216.98 points, or 0.68 per cent, at 32,245.87, a closing record.

Reliance Industries raced to 52-week high on better than estimated earnings and announcement of bonus share. It closed with gains of 1.89 per cent on the BSE. The stock of HDFC Bank jumped 1.83 per cent after it posted 20 per cent growth in net profit.

“Positive growth metrics for India endorsed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya propped up investors’ risk-on sentiment. Latest report from the IMF has projected India’s growth at 7.7 per cent in 2018 estimating a significant increase against the backdrop of ongoing economic reforms,” said Karthikraj Lakshmanan, Senior Fund Manager – Equities, BNP Paribas Mutual Fund.

Traders, however, said Bharti Airtel, FMCG giant ITC, TCS, Wipro, Infosys, ICICI Bank and SBI all had a good day, posting gains of up to 2.20 per cent. “Better-than-expected earnings by most corporates so far and a steady progress in monsoon also aided the rally that saw several stocks touching fresh 52-week highs,” they said.

The bullishness rubbed off on broader markets, lifting both small-cap and mid-cap indices. Bucking the trend, Dr Reddy’s, Axis Bank, Tata Steel, Sun Pharma lost by up to 2.44 per cent. Most Asian markets ended mixed as investors trained their attention to the US Federal Reserve meeting later in the week.

European shares were under pressure in their late morning trade. Foreign portfolio investors bought shares worth a net Rs 12.90 crore while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) made purchase to the tune of Rs 147.66 on Friday, as per provisional data.

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Modi visits Danziger flower farm with Netanyahu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today visited the Danziger “Dan” flower farm along with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Mishmar Hashiva where they were briefed about the latest technologies being used for floriculture.

The Danziger flower farm is one of Israel’s leading floriculture companies with approximately 80,000 square meters of state-of-the-art greenhouses specialising in reproduction of plants.

“Beginning with a focus on agriculture Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the Danziger Flower Farm,” Office of the Prime Minister said in a tweet.

“At the Danziger Flower Farm, advanced agriculture technologies were showcased by the Israeli Government,” it said in another tweet.

“In another special gesture, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu accompanied Prime Minister @narendramodi to the flower farm.

“The two leaders were briefed about the research technologies being used there for floriculture,” the office said in a series of tweets.

The farm, founded in 1953, is located in Moshav Mishmar Hashiva, about 56 km from Jerusalem, in central Israel.

“Reaffirming potential of deeper cooperation in Agriculture! Prime Ministers visit Danziger Flower farm — a leading facility for Research and Development in plant varieties,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in a tweet.

Soon after landing, Prime Minister Modi visited the Danziger flower farm in Moshav Mishmar Hashiva along with Netanyahu and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel to learn about latest innovations and advancements in floriculture.

The visit to the farm highlights that one of Israel’s key interests in closer cooperation with India is its expertise in agricultural technology, officials said.

Danziger flower farm developed into a company of 200 employee from a small family business, growing and selling cut flowers.

Today, the farm produces young plants and cuttings for the local market and for more than 60 countries all over the world.

Earlier, Modi was greeted by Netanyahu along with the top tier of Israel’s leadership — known as segel aleph — an honour afforded to only a few select leaders like US presidents and popes.

Modi began his “path-breaking” visit to Israel with his counterpart Netanyahu extending an extraordinary welcome and asserting that “even sky is not the limit” in the cooperation between the two countries.

Modi’s three-day visit to Israel is the first by an Indian prime minister to the Jewish nation.

During the visit, the two leaders will discuss common challenges like terrorism and ways to boost the economic ties.

The prime minister will be in Israel till July 6 before travelling to Hamburg in Germany to attend the G-20 Summit.

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Swaraj Posts Video of Her 2013 Ls Speech Interrupted by Kumar

Swaraj posts video of her 2013 LS speech interrupted by Kumar – Union minister Sushma Swaraj today launched a veiled attack on Meira Kumar, the opposition’s presidential candidate, by posting a video of a 2013 Lok Sabha speech in which the former Speaker was seen repeatedly interrupting the then leader of the opposition.

Swaraj had accused the UPA government of corruption in her speech.

“This is how Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar treated the Leader of Opposition,” Swaraj tweeted along with a link to the over six-minute-long video of her address in April, 2013.

Swaraj was seen as questioning the neutrality of Kumar, pitted against BJP-led National Democratic Alliance candidate Ram Nath Kovind for the presidential contest.

The external affairs minister also tweeted a link to a newspaper report with the headline “Speaker interrupted Sushma 60 times in 6-min speech.”

Swaraj, as the then leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, had lambasted the Manmohan Singh-led regime on alleged financial scams, calling it “the most corrupt government” since Independence.

In the video, Kumar repeatedly said “thank you” and “all right” to Swaraj, indicating that the MP had to cut short her address. Swaraj had later said the Speaker did not “protect” her when a number of senior ministers raised a ruckus during the speech.

The opposition last week named Kumar, a Dalit leader from Bihar and former minister, as its candidate against former Bihar governor and Dalit activist Kovind, who was likely to succeed Pranab Mukherjee as the president because of the NDA’s strength in Parliament and state assemblies.

The daughter of the former deputy prime minister, the Jagjivan Ram, Kumar, 72, was also the first woman to be made the Lok Sabha Speaker, a post she occupied between 2009 and 2014, during the UPA’s second term.

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Builders misleading homebuyers on GST

Taking a strong note of builders and construction companies forcing buyers to make full payment before the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on July 1, the Centre has warned builders of punitive action for trying to mislead homebuyers that they will have to pay more tax under the GST regime.

In a letter to Chief Ministers, the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation has asked them to ensure that builders do not charge higher tax from homebuyers on installments to be paid after the GST implementation.

The Ministry has received various representations and complaints from States and Central Board on Excise and Customs (CBEC) that the buyers, who have booked flats and made part payments, are being asked by their builders to make full payment before July 1 to avoid higher tax rate during the GST regime.

In his letter to the CMs, Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said there had been complaints that buyers are being asked to make entire payment before July 1 to avoid higher tax. “It has been further informed that these activities are against the GST law. The Department of Revenue has clarified that construction of flats, complexes and buildings will have comparatively a lower incidence of the GST if we compare it to a plethora of Central and State indirect taxes under the existing tax regime,” he said.

Naidu said it is expected that builders would pass on the benefits of the lower tax burden as result of the GST to buyers in the form of reduced prices/installments. “Hence, I would like to request your State Government as well as the builders’ associations to ensure that no builder/construction company should ask customers to pay a higher tax rate on installments to be received after imposition of the GST,” the letter said.

Naidu made it clear that in the current tax regimes, components of Central Excise Duty, VAT, and Entry Tax on construction material are borne by builders which they pass on to customers as part of the price charged from them.

“This is obviously not visible to the customer as it forms a part of the cost of the flat. The buyer/customer does not see the embedded taxes on account of cascading and sticking of input taxes in the cost of the flats,” Naidu said.

Under normal business circumstances, a transaction get “completed” when the goods/services are delivered, invoices received, and the payments made against them. “The Department of Revenue has further advised that under the GST, the current scenario will change. Full input credit would be available for offsetting the headline rate of 12 per cent proposed under the GST. As a result, the input taxes embedded in the flat will not form a part of the cost of the flat. The input credits should also take care of the headline rate of 12 per cent and it is for this reason that refund of the overflow of input tax credits to the builder has been disallowed,” the Minister said.

The officials say that under the GST, developers would see lesser burden of tax on input items like cement, steel, etc, as tax credits would be available for set off at various stages. This can lead to lower construction costs for developers across all asset classes, which could likely be passed on to property buyers.

On the other hand, builders say that under the GST, a developer would have to pay 12 per cent VAT on construction materials and 28 per cent on cement. This would be certainly passed on to the buyer. Presently, many developers do not show purchases such as building materials, steel, and others in white money.

The Pioneer has received several email from buyers in which developers are asking to clear all outstanding dues in one go.

The following is one such email sent by Unnati Fortune Group to their homebuyers.

Dear Sir/Madam

This is to inform you that from 1st July 2017 the service tax on property will be replaced by GST. So instead of 4.5% service tax, 12% GST will be charged on any payment done against the cost of the property.

We therefore suggest you to kindly clear ALL YOUR OUTSTANDING DUES by 30th June 2017 to save 7.5% on tax.

Please feel free to contact your relationship manager for any clarification/assistance.

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Baghdadi killed in airstrike? Russia unsure

Russia on Friday said it was verifying whether the elusive ISIS terror group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed in a targeted Russian airstrike in strife-torn Syria last month.

The airstrike was carried out on May 28 on the outskirts of the dreaded terrorist group’s de facto capital Raqqa, on a command post where ISIS leaders were meeting, according to Russian state media reports.

“According to information, which is being verified via different channels, the meeting was also attended by the (ISIS) leader Ibrahim Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated in the strike,” the Ministry said, according to the TASS news agency.

The leaders were discussing their exit from the city through the so-called southern corridor, the Ministry said.

The airstrike was carried out following drone footage confirmation of the council’s meeting location, state-run Sputnik reported.

Other state media reported that more than 300 “terrorists” were killed in the strike. There have been a number of previous reports of Baghdadi’s death. This is the first time, however, that Russia has said it may have killed the ISIS leader. Other media reports have previously claimed he had been killed or critically injured by US-led coalition airstrikes.

Reacting to the report, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists that there is no one-hundred-per cent confirmation yet that leader of the ISIS terror group outlawed in Russia, al-Baghdadi, has been killed.

“So far, I have no one-hundred-per cent confirmation of this information,” Lavrov said.

US defence officials said they were unable to confirm the reports. Col Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition’s operation against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, said the coalition “cannot confirm these reports at this time.”

There has been no official comment from Syria’s Government, the BBC reported. So far, there has been minimal reaction from online supporters of ISIS to news of the reported death of the group’s leader, it said.

ISIS sympathisers typically ignore reports from unofficial IS sources or ridicule them, especially given that Baghdadi’s death has been reported several times in the past.

One high-profile ISIS supporter on the messaging app Telegram shared a post denying the news and saying that when an ISIS leadership figure is killed, the group does not hide it. He expected Baghdadi to come out soon with a message to prove he was still alive.

The ISIS has earned global notoriety for imposing a hardline form of Islam that has included stonings, beheadings and amputations.

Earlier, the The Russian army, in a statement, said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where ISIS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by terrorists from the group’s stronghold.

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Scindia, Bhuria detained on way to Mandsaur

Congress leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kantilal Bhuria, along with a large number of their supporters, were detained at the Nayagaon-Jaora toll booth on their way to the neighbouring Mandsaur town to meet the kin of farmers killed in police firing.
“Police have detained Scindia, Bhuria and MLA Mahendra Singh Kalukheda, among others, under section 151 of CRPC,” Jaora city superintendent of police (CSP) Deepak Shukla told PTI.
Ratlam SP Amit Singh said, “We have already informed the Congress leaders that section 144 has been imposed in Mandsaur and therefore, they would not be allowed to visit the town.”
Before their detention, the Congress leaders and their supporters staged a sit-in at the toll booth demanding that they be allowed to visit Mandsaur.
Scindia said that if section 144 has been imposed then he would go there alone. “Why the police is preventing me from going to Mandsaur? This is ‘Hitler’shahi,” he said.
Meanwhile, Scindia’s supporters burnt an effigy of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Guna, the constituency of the Congress leader, and courted arrest.
The farmers’ protest in Madhya Pradesh, which began on June 1, took a violent turn on June 6, when five of them were killed in police firing at Mandsaur.
Subsequently, bandhs and arson were witnessed as the agitation spread to other districts of western Madhya Pradesh including Neemuch, Dhar, Ratlam and Jhabua.