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Kashmir Special Status (Article 370) Ends "At Once"

Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has been abolished by a presidential order that would come into force "at once", Home Minister Amit Shah said in parliament today, announcing the most far-reaching move on the state in nearly seven decades. The announcement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting of his cabinet at his house this morning. Jammu and Kashmir will also be bifurcated into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Prepping for any trouble in the state after the announcement, the centre today moved 8,000 paramilitary troops from different parts of the country to Kashmir, in addition to nearly 35,000 personnel moved in the past week.

Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:

  1. Article 370 gave Jammu and Kashmir its own constitution and decision-making rights for all matters barring defence, communications and foreign affairs. Its removal ends special status for Kashmir, which was key to its accession to India in 1947.
  2. Article 370 made it necessary for the centre to get the state legislature's approval for introducing any policies or constitutional powers to the state.
  3. Jammu and Kashmir will cease to be a state and become two union territories with two Lieutenant Governors. Ladakh will be a Union Territory without a legislature and Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature.
  4. The government's huge step followed a massive build-up of troops in the sensitive Kashmir Valley and a night where senior leaders including former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were placed under house arrest.
  5. Internet and phone lines were forced out of service in parts of Jammu and Kashmir. All educational institutions and offices are closed and groups have been banned from gathering in Kashmir and Jammu.
  6. Thousands of paramilitary troops were sent to Kashmir last week after the government said it was cancelling the Amarnath Yatra, an annual pilgrimage, and asked tourists and outsiders to leave the state.
  7. The cabinet met this morning at the home of PM Modi after which all ministers and the PM moved to parliament for Amit Shah's big announcement.
  8. Arun Jaitley said in tweets: "A historical wrong has been undone today. Article 35A came through the back door without following the procedure under Article 368 of the Constitution of India. It had to go."
  9. The government received support from parties like ally Shiv Sena and even from rival leaders like Chandrababu Naidu, Arvind Kejriwal and Mayawati. BJP ally Nitish Kumar's party, however, was among those who opposed the move.
  10. Omar Abdullah said: "The government of India (GOI)'s unilateral and shocking decisions today are a total betrayal of the trust that the people of Jammu & Kashmir had reposed in India when the State acceded to it in 1947. The decisions will have far-reaching and dangerous consequences. This is an aggression against people of the State as had been warned by an all-parties meeting in Srinagar yesterday."

Should Jammu and Kashmir be granted special autonomous status under Article 370?

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Finance Secretary Resigns After Being Shifted To Power Ministry

A day after he was shifted from the high profile Ministry of Finance to the Power Ministry, senior bureaucrat Subhash Chandra Garg on Thursday applied for voluntary retirement from service, sources said.

Mr Garg, was the senior-most bureaucrat in the Finance Ministry, in charge of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), and was designated the Finance Secretary. However, in a surprise move, he was named Power Secretary in an order issued late on Wednesday.

The Power Ministry is considered to be of a lower profile than the Ministry of Finance.

As DEA Secretary, he was in charge of fiscal policy, RBI-related matters, and was closely involved in the preparation of union budget.

The shift came just a day after Parliamentary procedure for approval of Modi 2.0 government''s maiden union budget for 2019-20 was completed.

Mr Garg was replaced by Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) Secretary Atanu Chakraborty in a major bureaucratic reshuffle.

Sources said Mr Garg came to his office in the North Block -- the seat of Finance Ministry -- in the morning, but left after noon.

It was not immediately clear when Mr Garg submitted his voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) application to the government. It was also not known if the government would accept the application. If he hadn''t applied for VRS, he would have retired from government service at the end of October 2020 on attaining of 60 years of age.

1983 batch IAS officer of Rajasthan cadre, Mr Garg came to the centre in 2014 and was appointed Executive Director in the World Bank where he stayed till 2017, when he was appointed DEA Secretary in June 2017. In December 2018, he was elevated as the Finance Secretary after the retirement of Hasmukh Adhia.

As per convention, the senior-most among the 5 secretaries in the Ministry of Finance is designated as the Finance Secretary.

The secretaries in the Finance Ministry are Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar (1984-batch, Jharkhand cadre), Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey (1984-batch Bihar cadre), DEA Secretary Atanu Chakraborty (1985-batch, Gujarat cadre), Expenditure Secretary G C Murmu (1985-batch, Gujarat cadre) and DIPAM Secretary Anil Kumar Khachi (1986-batch, Himachal Pradesh cadre).

Do you agree with his Decision?

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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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