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Rahul Gandhi officially resigns as Congress President; says 'thank you' in open letter

Rahul Gandhi said today it was "an honour to serve the Congress party" in a letter, he tweeted hours after declaring that he was no longer the party president. The designation of "President" also vanished from his Twitter bio, which now says "Member of Congress and Member of Parliament". A new Congress president will be chosen "within a week", party sources said, indicating an acceptance, finally, in the ranks that Rahul Gandhi will not return as their chief.

"It is an honour for me to serve the Congress Party, whose values and ideals have served as the lifeblood of our beautiful nation. I owe the country and my organisation a debt of tremendous gratitude and love," he wrote in what was widely seen as an open letter of resignation.

"As president of the Congress party, I am responsible for the loss of the 2019 election. Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president."

Rahul Gandhi, 49, said rebuilding the party would need hard decisions and "numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019" but it would be unjust to hold others accountable and "ignore" his own responsibility.

He said he had tasked a group of people to search for a new president.

The letter also focused on other factors in his loss, commenting that he "personally fought the prime minister, the RSS and the institutions they captured with all my being". 

"The Prime Minister's win does not negate the breadth of corruption allegations against him; no amount of money and propaganda can ever hide the light of the truth," he wrote. "My fight has never been a simple battle for political power. I have no hatred or anger towards the BJP but every living cell in my body instinctively resists their idea of India."

He appeared to question whether a free press, an independent judiciary and a transparent election commission were missing in election 2019. "The stated objective of the RSS, the capture of our country's institutional structure, is now complete," he said, referring to the ruling BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Fearing that there was a real danger that elections would become a mere ritual "from now on", he said: "This capture of power will result in unimaginable levels of violence and pain for India. Farmers, unemployed youngsters, women, tribals, Dalits and minorities are going to suffer the most."  

He ended with a call for his party to "radically transform" itself.

Earlier today, he had told reporters that the Congress should choose a new president "quickly and without further delay" and that he was not part of the process at all as he had already resigned.

"I'm nowhere in this process. I have already submitted my resignation and I am no longer the party president," said the 49-year-old.

He explained in his letter: "Most of my colleagues suggested that I nominate the next Congress president. While it is important for someone new to lead the party, it would not be correct for me to select that person".

His words indicated that a non-Gandhi may take charge of the grand old party that has mostly been headed by members of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. 

Rahul Gandhi said the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's top decision-making body, should call a meeting at the earliest and decide on a new chief.

Rahul Gandhi, who took over as chief from his mother Sonia Gandhi in 2017, quit as Congress president on May 25, days after leading the party to its second national election drubbing. The party could win only 52 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, pulverized once again in the face of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP's massive victory. 

Taking responsibility for the rout, Rahul Gandhi also criticized party leaders for weakening the Congress campaign by placing their own interests above the party. 

In the weeks since Rahul Gandhi quit, there have been a rash of resignations in the Congress across the country.

Do you think there is any future of Congress party?

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TDP Lawmakers Meet Vice President, Challenge Colleagues Merging With BJP

Five lawmakers of Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party this evening met Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, to challenge four of their colleagues switching over to the BJP. The TDP delegation - two Rajya Sabha and three Lok Sabha lawmakers - have asked for the initiation of disqualification proceedings under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution against the TDP lawmakers who merged with the BJP yesterday.

Four of TDP's six Rajya Sabha lawmakers - YS Chowdary, CM Ramesh, Garikapoati Mohan Rao, TG Venkatesh - met Venkaiah Naidu yesterday and gave him a letter that said they have "decided to merge" the TDP's Legislature Party with the BJP with immediate effect "under Paragraph 4 of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution of India".

The fourth paragraph of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution lists circumstances under which lawmakers who join other parties cannot be disqualified from the House. "The merger of the original political party of a member of a House shall be deemed to have taken place if, and only if, not less than two-thirds of the members of the legislature party concerned have agreed to such merger," the provision says.

The switchover was led by YS Chowdary, who was named TDP leader in Rajya Sabha just a few days ago. Considered close to Chandrababu Naidu, was a minister of state in the first Narendra Modi-led NDA government till March last year when TDP pulled out of the coalition.

Mr Chowdary said Andhra Pradesh's development could only be achieved by cooperation and not confrontation, in an apparent dig at the TDP chief who had quit the NDA over the centre's refusal to provide Special Status to Andhra Pradesh; he later became one of the key interlocutors of the opposition.

Incidentally, Income Tax department had raided residential and official premises of Mr Chowdary and Mr Ramesh last year over allegations of tax evasion and money laundering. Both had then claimed innocence.

Chandrababu Naidu, who is currently in Europe with family, yesterday tried to downplay his MPs switching to the BJP and said the TDP "will be back" and crises were nothing new to it. 

With 4 MPs of TDP going in the BJP, is Chandrababu Naidu finished now?

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5 CRPF Soldiers Killed In Anantnag Terror Attack; 1 Terrorist Shot Dead

Five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel have been killed and two have sustained injuries after their patrol team was attacked by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag district. A police inspector and a civilian have also been injured in the firing.

According to the reports, out of the two terrorists who attacked the team, one has been killed by security forces.

The soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty have been identified as Ramesh Kumar from Haryana's Jhajjar, Nirod Sarma from Assam's Nalbari, Satendra Kumar from UP's Muzaffarnagar, Mahesh Kumar Kushwaha from UP's Ghazipur and Sandeep Yadav from Madhya Pradesh's Dewas.

The incident took place at KP Road in Anantnag. The terrorists fired at the team with automatic rifles and hurled grenades.

Station House Officer of Anantnag Police Station, Arshad Ahmed, was injured in the attack and has been shifted to Srinagar for treatment, the news agency added.

The attack comes as the state administration is preparing for the annual Amarnath Yatra that would begin next month. The 46-day pilgrimage is scheduled to start from two routes, one of which passes from Anantnag.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has condemned the attack.

"Strongly condemn the barbarous attack on security personnel in Anantnag. My heart goes out to families of our martyred CRPF personnel. Prayers for speedy recovery of those injured," she tweeted.

Omar Abdullah, National Conference leader, also condemned the incident.

"Very sorry to hear about the attack on the CRPF personnel in Anantnag today. I unreservedly condemn this attack and pray for the souls of the departed. May the injured make a speedy and complete recovery," he tweeted.

Nearly 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in a suicide blast carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pulwama district earlier this year. It later snowballed into an aerial dogfight between India and Pakistan.

Do you think India should retaliate?

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PM Modi's Aircraft Won't Fly Over Pak For Regional Meet SCO In Bishkek

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aircraft won't fly over Pakistan on its way to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan for regional meet SCO that starts tomorrow, the foreign ministry said today. This is widely seen as a snub to Pakistan days after reports suggested its government had "decided in principle" to allow PM Modi's plane to fly over its airspace.

In response to questions on the route the Prime Minister would take, a foreign ministry spokesperson said: "The government of India had explored two options for the route to be taken by the VVIP Aircraft to Bishkek. A decision has now been taken that the VVIP Aircraft will fly via Oman, Iran and Central Asian countries on the way to Bishkek."

Pakistan had closed its airspace on February 26 after Indian Air Force (IAF) planes bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot. Since then, it has only opened two of 11 routes, both through southern Pakistan.

India had requested Pakistan to let PM Modi's aircraft fly over its airspace on its way to Bishkek for the two-day SCO or Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet.

Pakistan had decided to allow it, PTI reported on Monday, quoting an unnamed official as saying that the Imran Khan government had "approved in principle" the Indian government's request to let PM Modi's aircraft fly over the Pakistani airspace.

"The Indian government will be conveyed about the decision once the procedural formalities are completed. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will also be directed to notify the airmen subsequently," the official said. The official was also quoted as saying that Pakistan "was hopeful that India would respond to its offer for peace dialogue".

Foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar says no bilateral meeting has been arranged between PM Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, who will also attend the meet.

Pakistan had given special permission to Sushma Swaraj, who was foreign minister in the previous Modi government, to fly directly through the Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO Foreign Ministers'' meet in Bishkek on May 21.

Apart from two routes, Pakistan's airspace remains closed for commercial airliners.

The Indian Air Force announced on May 31 that all temporary restrictions on the Indian airspace after the Balakot airstrike had been removed. However, it is unlikely to benefit any commercial airliners unless Pakistan reciprocates and opens its complete airspace.

International operations of Air India and IndiGo have been affected by the closure of Pakistani airspace.

Pakistan extended its partial airspace ban on eastern border with India until June 14.

Do you think Pakistan is afraid of Narendra Modi?

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Wreckage Of Missing Air Force An-32 Plane Found In Arunachal Pradesh

The wreckage of an An-32 aircraft that went missing with 13 on board last week has been found in Arunachal Pradesh, the Indian Air Force has confirmed. The aircraft went missing on June 3.

The wreckage has been found in Payum Circle of Siang district. It was spotted by a Mi-17 helicopter of the Indian Air Force, at a height of around 12,000 feet.

"Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and establish survivors," the Air Force tweeted.

IAF's C-130J transport aircraft, Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, NAVY P8-I search aircraft and a fleet of IAF and Army helicopters had been searching for the aircraft. ISRO satellites and unmanned drones were also involved in the search operations.

Teams from the Army, Navy and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) troops, supported by night-time sensors, worked through the night. The Air Force said the search area had been expanded despite challenges posed by vegetation, inhospitable terrain and poor weather.

The plane was traveling from Jorhat in Assam to a remote military landing strip in Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh when it vanished from the radar around 1 pm.

The Air Force deployed two Mi-17s and an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), the P8i - a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft from Tamil Nadu - for the search.

The search was difficult because of difficult terrain and bad weather. The spot where the plane had been flying was mountainous and heavily forested; landing and take-off at Mechuka are extremely difficult. Coupled with erratic weather, the region is among the most inhospitable for air transport.

The plane's Search and Rescue Beacon had not been in production for 14 years, and no signal had been detected. This distress signal was meant to have been picked up by a satellite belonging to Cospas-Sarsat, an international satellite-aided search and rescue facility.

The An-32 is a Soviet-designed twin engine turboprop transport aircraft used extensively by the Indian Air Force for over four decades. Since it joined the IAF fleet, the rugged planes used to ferry people and air-drop supplies have undergone several rounds of upgrades.

Do you think Indian Air Force should overhaul the present fleet of planes?

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