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India reports highest single-day spike of 29,429 new COVID-19 cases, tally rises to 9,36,181

India on Wednesday reported highest single-day spike of 29,429 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, informed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

As per the Health Ministry, there are a total of 9,36,181 coronavirus cases in the country of which 3,19,840 patients are active cases. 5,92,032 patients have been cured/discharged, the Ministry informed further. 582 more deaths due to COVID-19 were reported in the last 24 hours in the country, taking the number of patients succumbing to the virus to 24,309.

The Centre further informed that India's recovery rate from COVID-19 stands at 63.20 per cent while the recoveries and deaths ratio stood at 96.05 per cent and 3.95 per cent respectively.


I will continue to raise issues that will help Congress; the battle has just begun, says Sanjay Jha

Sanjay Jha, who was suspended by the Congress party for alleged ‘anti party’ activities took to Twitter on Wednesday to say that the battle had just begun.

“My loyalty is to the Congress ideology. My fidelity is not to any individual or family. I remain a Gandhi-Nehruvian idealist ( a vanishing breed within Congress). I will continue to raise issues that are fundamental to the resurgence of my party. The battle has just begun,” he tweeted.

Jha, who was suspended on Wednesday following the sacking of Rajesh Pilot as Rajasthan’s Deputy Chief Minister, as well as from the party for starting a coup that has destabilised the Ashok Gehlot-led government in the state.

The former Congress spokesperson was interviewed by several television channels on Tuesday, as well as getting interviewed by Akash Banerjee, who goes by the pseudonym ‘The Desh Bhakt. During that interview, Jha went on to say that the Congress party was ‘Jurassic’.

While speaking to senior journalist Shiv Aroor, Jha on Tuesday where he said, “It isn’t just the usual suspects, I can tell you there are Congress leaders at all levels, including in the CWC, who are disillusioned and wondering what’s going on.”

Jha, earlier in the day had tweeted, "For five years Sachin Pilot gave his blood , tears, toil and sweat for the Congress party between 2013-18. The Congress came back from a wretched 21 seats to 100. We just gave him a performance bonus. We are so meritocratic. We are so transparent."

Jha's suspension comes hours after Sachin Pilot was sacked from his post as PCC chief and Deputy CM of Rajasthan.

Earlier, last month, Congress announced that it would be dropping Sanjay Jha as 'AICC spokesperson'.

After being removed as spokesperson, Jha had resigned as president of the Maharashtra unit of the All India Professionals Congress (AIPC).

Last Friday, he said the party should find a new president through democratic elections, and preferably not from Gandhi family.

While talking to Outlook India, Sanjay Jha said that “There is no dearth of outstanding talent within the party. The uncomplicated way forward is elections; not just for the post of the president, but also within the CWC.”

Abide by Indian Army's mandate, delete your Facebook account: Delhi High Court to officer

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday declined to grant any interim relief to a senior army officer, who has challenged the Indian Army's recent policy banning armed forces personnel from using social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram, saying he has to either abide by the mandate of the organisation or put in his papers.

The high court said he has a choice to make and asked him to delete his Facebook account as the policy to ban the use of social networking platforms for army personnel was taken keeping in view the security of the nation.

It said he can create a new social media account later.

A bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon said that when it has not even found a reason yet to entertain the plea, "the question of granting any interim relief does not arise. Especially when the matter has the potential of concerning the safety and security of the country," the bench said.

Lieutenant Colonel P K Choudhary contended that once deleted all the data, contacts and friends in his Facebook account would be "irretrievably lost" and the loss would be "irreversible".

"No. No. Sorry. You please delete it. You can always create a new one. It cannot work like this. You are part of an organisation. You have to abide by its mandate," the bench said.

It further said, "If you are so dear to FB, then put in your papers. See you have to make a choice, what do you want to do. You have other choices which are also irreversible."

The army officer had sought an interim relief that he be allowed to retain his Facebook (FB) account in deactivated form till the next date of hearing when the court will decide whether to entertain his petition after going through the Army's policy under challenge.

According to the new June 6 policy, all Indian Army personnel have been ordered to delete their accounts from Facebook and Instagram and 87 other applications.

The counsel for the army officer said the only choice he has is whether to face departmental action for not deleting the account.

The officer's lawyer repeatedly urged the bench to allow him to retain the account in deactivated form, saying forcing him to delete it and the data therein amounts to violation of his right to privacy.

The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, told the court that the policy decision was taken as "we found that Facebook was a bug. It was infiltrating as a cyber warfare and there were so many instances of personnel being targeted".

ASG Sharma also said the petitioner's grievance was that he needs Facebook to communicate with his family in the US, when there were other modes of communication like WhatsApp, Twitter and Skype which were available to him.

After hearing him for some time, the bench said it finds no ground to grant the interim relief.

It asked the ASG to file the policy document in a sealed cover for perusal by the bench and said the reasons for taking the decision be also filed.

With the direction, the court listed the matter for hearing on July 21.

The petition has sought a direction to the Director General of Military Intelligence to withdraw its June 6 policy to the extent that it orders all the members of the Indian Army to delete their accounts from Facebook and Instagram and 87 other applications.

Lt Col P K Choudhary, who is currently posted in Jammu and Kashmir, said in the plea that he is an active user of Facebook and uses the platform to connect with his friends and family as most of them are settled abroad, including his elder daughter.

In the petition, the officer has sought a direction to the Ministry of Defence to withdraw the June 6 policy to ensure that the fundamental rights of armed forces personnel are not abrogated amended or modified by arbitrary executive action which is not backed by the mandate of law, offends the provisions of the Army Act and Rules made thereunder and is unconstitutional.

The petition has alleged that the policy which bans social media platforms is illegal, arbitrary, disproportionate, violates the fundamental rights of soldiers including but not limited to the freedom of speech and expression, the right to life and the right to privacy.

It has said the authorities have cited security concerns and risk of data breach as the basis of imposing the restrictions contained in the policy regarding usage of social media platforms but the act of banning it is a clear violation of Article 14 (Equality before law) of the Constitution.

The plea also seeks a declaration that the Director General of Military Intelligence is not empowered under the Constitution or under any other law to modify, amend or abrogate the fundamental rights of the petitioner and other members of the armed forces.

Besides, the Centre and Director General of Military Intelligence, the petition has also made Chief of the Army Staff, who is the professional head, commander and the highest-ranking military officer of the Indian Army, party to the petition.

'Congress Govt is stable in Rajasthan, we will complete full term': Randeep Surjewala says leadership has spoken to Sachin Pilot

Amid political turmoil in Rajasthan, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala on Monday said that Congress Government is stable in the state and will complete the full term. Speaking to media, Surjewala said, "I want to clearly state that Congress govt is stable in Rajasthan and we will complete the full term. No amount of conspiracy by BJP will be successful in toppling our govt in the state: Randeep Surjewala."

He also claimed that over the last 48 hours, Congress leadership has spoken to Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot a number of times about the present political situation in the state. "If anyone is upset in family, they should find a solution by sitting with members of the family...On behalf of Congress leadership, including Sonia ji & Rahul ji, I convey that doors of Congress party are always open for Sachin ji or any member," he added.

Ahead of the Congress Legislative Party meeting, Surjewala appealed Pilot and the MLAs supporting him, to attend the meeting at Chief Minister’s residence in Jaipur. "If anyone, be at any post or profile, has any problem, they must come forward and mention the issue on the party forum. We will work to resolve it together and keep our govt intact in the state," he added.

Meanwhile, Free Press Journal reported that Sachin Pilot is all set to form his own party called 'Pragatisheel Congress'. With BJP's support from outside, Pilot will become the Chief Minister of the state.

Pilot's office had on Sunday evening had put out a statement and said that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's Government is in minority after over 30 Congress and some independent MLAs had pledged support to the Deputy Chief Minister.

For the uninitiated, a controversy broke out in Rajasthan after Special Operation Group (SOG) sent a notice to Pilot to record his statement in the case registered by SOG in the alleged poaching of Congress MLAs in the State.

Sachin Pilot to from new party 'Pragatisheel Congress'; will be Raj CM with outside support from BJP

Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot is all set to form his own party called 'Pragatisheel Congress'. With BJP's support from outside, Pilot will become the Chief Minister of the state.

On Sunday evening, Pilot's office had put out a statement and said that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's Government is in minority after over 30 Congress and some independent MLAs had pledged support to the Deputy Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan Congress held a press conference early on Monday at 2.30 am. Addressing the media, Congress General Secretary Avinash Pande said that 109 MLAs have given support to Congress and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

The Congress Legislative Party had called a meeting on Monday at 10.30 am at the Chief Minister’s residence. Ahead of the meeting, party's Rajasthan In-charge Avinash Pande has said that Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot is not responding to calls and has not been communicating.

Pande said the party wants to hear him out but "indiscipline will not be tolerated". "I have tried to speak to Sachin Pilot and have even left messages for him but he has not replied. "Nobody is above party and he has to face action like other MLAs," he added.

However, AICC general secretary in-charge of Chhattisgarh, PL Punia claimed that Pilot is now in BJP. "Sachin Pilot is now in Bharatiya Janata Party. Everyone knows BJP’s attitude towards Congress party. We don’t need a certificate from BJP. In Congress Party, all leaders and workers are respected," he told ANI.

Meanwhile, he later clarified that it was a slip of tongue. "It is clear in the video that question was asked about Scindia ji and my reply was about Sh Scindia and by slip of tongue I took Sachin Pilots’ name instead of Scindia. Mistake is regretted," he said.

For the uninitiated, a controversy broke out in Rajasthan after Special Operation Group (SOG) sent a notice to Pilot to record his statement in the case registered by SOG in the alleged poaching of Congress MLAs in the State.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Sanjay Jha has backed Pilot. He tweeted, "I fully back Sachin Pilot. Look at the facts: Rajasthan 2013 Assembly elections; CM- Mr Gehlot. Result: BJP- 163, Congress- 21 ( lowest ever) Rajasthan 2018 Assembly Elections: Result: BJP-73, Congress-100. One man slogged 5 years for it; Sachin. But who becomes the CM?"


Rajasthan political crisis: Income Tax dept raids homes of Gehlot's aides, hotel that was to accommodate Raj MLAs after Monday meeting

It looks as if the BJP knows that Rajasthan is in its pocket as well. After Sachin Pilot on Monday announced that he would form a new political party called the Pragatisheel Congress, with outside support from the BJP, Income Tax raids were conducted on Congress leaders Dharmendra Rathod and Rajeev Arora. Both leaders are close aides of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

The Income Tax department is also conducting raids on Fairmont Hotel – the venue where the Congress MLAs were supposed to be taken after Monday’s meeting of Congress Legislative Party members.

Forty teams comprising 250 individuals are raiding 18 different locations. That is approximately six members per team.

Earlier in the day, Congress MLA from Rajasthan Girraj Malinga said that there were many double-crossed individuals in the Congress, extending support to both Pilot and Gehlot.

On Sunday, Sarah Pilot, wife of Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, on Sunday, attacked Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot without taking his name.

In a series of tweets tagged to Congress party, Sarah Pilot said, big magicians started sweating when we go to Delhi, apparently referring the magician to Ashok Gehlot.

The Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot is in Delhi to apprise the situation to the party leadership.

She said that for six years somebody struggled on roads in Rajasthan but when the moment came, Jaichand started taking advantage and usurped the throne. Sarah Pilot added a video of Sachin Pilot walking with hundreds of supporters when out of power.

To defuse the crisis in the state, source said that former union minister Ajay Maken along with state in-charge Avinash Pandey and Randeep Singh Surjewala is set to leave for Jaipur on Sunday night.

A Congress party source said that a meeting has been called by Gehlot on Monday at 10.30 a.m. which will be attended by Sachin Pilot.

Meanwhile, Surjewala took a swipe at the BJP and in a tweet in Hindi. He wrote, "Entire country is suffering from Covid-19 crisis and the fresh daily cases have crossed 29,000 mark. China has occupied our lands and the ruling party first bought our MLAs in Madhya Pradesh and now trying to lure legislators in Rajasthan. One needs to understand that crisis in not for any state but for the entire democracy."

'BJP doesn't believe that non-BJP parties have right to function in democratic set up': Sharad Pawar in interview with Sanjay Raut

Mumbai: NCP president Sharad Pawar has said his offer of outside support to the BJP in 2014 to form government in Maharashtra was a "political ploy" aimed to keep the Shiv Sena away from its then ally.

Pawar admitted he took steps to "widen the distance between the BJP and Shiv Sena".

The two long-term saffron allies parted ways after the state Assembly elections last year over the issue of sharing the chief ministerial post.

Pawar said after the last year's Assembly polls, BJP leaders approached him to support the Devendra Fadnavis government in the state, but he told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the NCP will not go with the BJP and if possible, it will form government with the Sena or sit in the opposition.

"The BJP doesnt believe that non-BJP parties have the right to function in a democratic set up," Pawar, who played a key role last year in the formation of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, said in an interview to Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana'.

The last of the three-part interview series was published in the Marathi daily on Monday. For the first time, a non-Shiv Sena leader has featured in a marathon interview series in the publication.

"I made the statement (after 2014 state polls) consciously since I didnt want the Shiv Sena and BJPto come together. When I realised the post-poll alliance could materialise, I made that statement announcing readiness to support a BJP government from outside," Pawar said.

"That didnt work out. The Shiv Sena joined the government and the alliance government completed its full term," he noted.

The 78-year-old Maratha strongman said he believed allowing the BJP to be in power in Maharashtra was not in the interest of the Shiv Sena and other parties.

"The power at the Centre was with the BJP (in 2014) and if it is the ruling party in Maharashtra, it would be a loss to the Shiv Sena. The BJP doesnt believe that non-BJP parties have the right to function in a democratic set up. I knew all other parties face a danger. The statement offering outside support was a political ploy," he said.

"I accept that I took steps to widen the distance between the BJP and Shiv Sena," the veteran politician said.

Pawar rejected the claim of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis that he (Pawar) was in talks with the BJP to form government last year and then did a "U-turn".

"Some BJP leaders spoke to my colleagues and myself about government formation, saying they didn't want the Shiv Sena on board. They said since I had good relations with the prime minister,he should intervene and I should give my approval," he said.

"Hence, to avoid any confusion and perception about myself and my party, I met the prime minister in his chamber at Parliament House and told him the NCP will not go with the BJP. If possible, we will form government with the Shiv Sena or sit in the opposition," Pawar said.

Targeting Fadnavis over his remarks that Pawar was in talks with senior BJP leaders to form government in Maharashtra, he said, "Where was he? I dont think he has a place in the decision-making process at the national level." Fadnavis became a known face after he became chief minister, while in the opposition he was only an active legislator and had "no say in the BJP's decision-making in the state and at the national level", Pawar said.

He said Fadnavis is yet to come to terms with not being able to form government again (last year).

"Power is never permanent. Whatever responsibility is given by people, we have to take it. When I lost chief ministership in 1980, I became leader of the opposition. There was more fun in that role for me," the former CM said.

"What do we see today? A former chief minister saying it was hard for him to digest he is no longer in power. This is not good for him. He should accept the reality," he said.

Asked about 'operation Kamal', Pawar said, "'Operation Kamal' of the BJP was misuse of power, weakening and destabilising democratically elected governments by misusing the power at the Centre."

'Operation Kamal' will not work in Maharashtra and the Thackeray government will complete its full term, he asserted.

"The 'Thackeray Sarkar' will complete full term and MVA allies will contest the next election together," he added.

Pawar also said that the opposition parties have the capability to provide an alternative to the nation (at the Centre). "But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the process has stopped. Once this crisis is over, political momentum will gain ground," he said.

Earlier this year, there were some meetings and the opposition parties discussed some policies. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, he said.

"I will take the initiative. Providing an alternative is the need of the hour," he said.

Speaking about the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government, Pawar said there was no problem in the dispensation, but dialogue among allies was lacking.

"It is a three-party government and dialogue between the three parties was necessary. I can't see such a dialogue.

If it is there, you will not hear rumours of rift or differences," he said.

To a question on Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi being asked by the Centre to vacate the bungalow allotted to her in Delhi, Pawar said, "I dont think this is cultured behaviour. Power should be used with humility. Such things happen when the arrogance of power goes in your head." "Priyanka is the daughter of a former prime minister (Rajiv Gandhi) who was assassinated. You may havepolitical differences. But, there is no wisdom in using the power in hand to harass political opponents, he said.


India records spike of 28,701 new COVID-19 cases, tally rises to 8,78,254

With a record single-day spike of 28,701 new COVID-19 cases, India's tally rose to 8,78,254, while the death toll climbed to 23,174 with 500 people succumbing to the disease in a day, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The number of recoveries stands at 5,53,471, while there are 3,01,609 active cases of coronavirus infection presently in the country.

The rate of recovery of the Covid-19 patients has touched 62.93 per cent. India, however, remains the third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil.

During the last 24 hours, 2,19,103 samples were tested, as the testing lab network continues to expand. As on date, more than 1,194 labs have enabled people to undergo coronavirus tests. Maharashtra remained the worst-hit state, with 2,54,427 cases and 10,289 casualties followed by Tamil Nadu with total 1,38,470 cases, including 1,966 deaths.

With 1,573 new coronavirus cases and 37 deaths in the last 24 hours, the national capital recorded a total tally of 1,12,494 cases, including 3,371 deaths. States with more than 10,000 cases included Gujarat (41,820 cases), Uttar Pradesh (36,476), Rajasthan (24,392), Madhya Pradesh (17,632), West Bengal (30,013), Haryana (21,240), Karnataka (38,843), Andhra Pradesh (29,168), Telangana (34,671), Assam (16,071), and Bihar (16,642). On the global front, the overall number of global Covid-19 cases was nearing 12.9 million, while the deaths have increased to more than 5,68,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.


‘India at good position in COVID-19 battle?’: Rahul Gandhi questions govt's claims on battling coronavirus

New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday questioned the government's claims on battling COVID-19, asking is India at a "good position" in the battle against the virus.

His remarks came a day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah said India is in a "good position" in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic and the country will fight the disease with determination and enthusiasm. In a tweet, Gandhi asked, "India at good position in COVID19 battle?".

He tagged a graph of India's daily average COVID cases that showed a steady rise, against that of other countries like South Korea and New Zealand which have shown a steady decline in cases.

India saw a daily rise of 28,701 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 8,78,254 as on Monday morning, while the death toll climbed to 23,174 with 500 people succumbing to the infection, according to the Union Health Ministry data. Gandhi has been critical of the government on the handling of the COVID crisis and has accused it of having failed to tackle the situation.

Two people arrested after Ashok Gehlot accuses BJP of 'bribing' Cong MLAs to destabilise Rajasthan govt

Hours after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot alleged that the opposition BJP was trying to topple the state government by buying off MLAs, the back and forth allegations have continued. Additionally, two people have now been arrested over the allegations.

"Whether it is Satish Poonia or Rajendra Rathore, they are playing games to topple our government on the behest of their central leadership. They are offering Rs 10 crore in advance and Rs 15 crore after the government is toppled," Gehlot had said in a virtual press conference.

"BJP is terrified due to investigation (by Special Ops Group), they are involved in horse-trading as seen in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. They tried in Rajasthan too but faced the dust. The investigation will unearth the truth," added Rajasthan Government chief whip Mahesh Joshi in conversation with news agency ANI.

BJP leader and state party President Satish Poonia had responded to the allegation stating that it was "completely baseless.

"Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is a cunning politician, he is trying to blame BJP for his failure in governance. The allegations are completely baseless. He has the numbers, who will try to destabilise the government," Poonia wondered.

In the meantime, as the Special Operations Group investigates the allegations, two people have already been arrestd.

"Two people, Bharat Malani and Ashok Singh, have been arrested (in connection with alleged attempts to destabilise state government). They are being questioned and will be produced before a court," Ashok Kumar Rathore, ADG, Special Operations Group (SOG), Rajasthan told news agency ANI.

The (SOG) has also issued notices to Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot to record their statement in connection with the allegations. Notice has also been sent Government Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi to record his statement.

(With inputs from agencies)