Mexico's president did not discuss border wall with Trump

Mexico’s president did not discuss border wall with Trump


MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he has not discussed a proposed border wall with President Donald Trump, as the U.S. leader seemingly backtracked on threats to make Mexico pay for the controversial project.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador arrives for an event to unveil his plan for oil refining, in Paraiso, Tabasco state, Mexico, December 9, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

“We have not discussed that issue, in any conversation. … It was a respectful and friendly conversation,” Lopez Obrador told reporters following a tweet in which the U.S. president said a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada would cover the cost of a wall.

The two leaders spoke by telephone on Wednesday. Lopez Obrador said they discussed the possibility of creating a joint program for development and job creation in Central America and Mexico.

One of Trump’s key campaign promises was to build the border wall and he had long pledged that Mexico — not U.S. taxpayers — would fund it.

In a Twitter post early on Thursday, Trump again insisted that Mexico will foot the bill for the border wall.

He wrote that payment will begin with savings for the United States as a result of the renegotiated trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada. “Just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!”

Mexico has repeatedly rejected Trump’s demand that it pay for the project, and it is unlikely the country’s new president will reverse that course.

Funding for the border wall has been a sticking point in spending bills before the U.S. Congress, and Trump clashed with leading Democrats over the issue during an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday.

One of them, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, taunted Trump over his Mexico claim later on Thursday.

“Mr. President: If you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall (which I don’t believe), then I guess we don’t have to! Let’s fund the government,” Schumer retorted in his own Twitter post.

Lopez Obrador said he also discussed a possible meeting with Trump in Washington.

“He invited me. I’m also able to go to Washington, but I think that both for him and for us there must be a reason and I think the most important thing would be to sign this agreement or meet with that purpose,” said Lopez Obrador.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito in Mexico City and Doina Chiacu in Washington; editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis



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Wikipedia announces Kamal Nath as Madhya Pradesh CM before Rahul Gandhi can

Wikipedia announces Kamal Nath as Madhya Pradesh CM before Rahul Gandhi can


Jyotiraditya Scindia, who along with Kamal Nath is the race to by the Madhya Pradesh CM, said the decision on the chief ministership would be announced today. Who knew that the announcement would be made via Wikipedia!

Wikipedia announces Kamal Nath as next Madhya Pradesh CM before Rahul Gandhi can

Who will be the Madhya Pradesh CM? Wikipedia apparently has the inside scoop! (Photo: PTI)

Kamal Nath will be the next chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. The announcement has finally come two days after the Congress won a handsome victory in the Madhya Pradesh assembly election.

But wait, there’s a slight catch — the announcement has not come from 12, Tughlaq Road (the home of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi) but from Wikipedia.

Don’t believe us? Here’s a screenshot taken at around 8:45pm for proof.

Kamal Nath’s Wikipedia page at 8:45 pm

Here is a zoomed-in version of the page for better clarity.

Kamal Nath’s Wikipedia page at 8:45 pm

The photo is of Kamal Nath’s Wikipedia page. On the right, Wikipedia’s customary fact box lists ‘Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh’ as Kamal Nath’s current occupation.

The page says that Kamal Nath assumed office on December 15, i.e. two days from now.

Kamal Nath’s Wikipedia was updated even as the Congress leader himself was on a flight back to Bhopal. Nath was in New Delhi where he and Jyotiraditya Scindia met Congress chief Rahul Gandhi late in the evening.

Both are contenders for the Madhya Pradesh chief ministership and Scindia has said that decision of who will be the next Madhya Pradesh CM will announced today itself.

But who knew that the announcement would be made via Wikipedia!

Well, even Wikipedia thought that was weird. Kamal Nath’s page was later updated to remove the reference of him being the Madhya Pradesh chief minister.

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Wall Street rises at open on trade optimism

Wall Street gains on trade optimism


(Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose for a second day on Thursday, led by technology stocks, as sentiment was boosted by signs of progress between the United States and China over their bitter trade dispute.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Dow components – Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) – gained between 0.5 percent and 0.8 percent, with the S&P technology sector .SPLRCT 0.42 percent higher.

Technology names are heavily exposed to China and the progress on trade talks has helped put the Nasdaq on track for fourth day of gains in a row.

Trade-sensitive industrials sector .SPLRCI was up 0.21 percent.

The S&P 500 .SPX enjoyed its best one-day percentage gain in 10 days on Wednesday following U.S. President Donald Trump’s upbeat comments on trade talks and Beijing’s first major purchase of U.S. soybeans in months.

Trading has been increasingly choppy in the past few days, with stocks testing their 2018 lows multiple times, amid a slew of headlines on topics ranging from China trade and a potential U.S. government shutdown to uncertainty around Brexit.

Traders caution that while the market might stay above the 2018 lows it would likely continue to be volatile at least until a U.S.-China negotiating deadline at the end of February.

“Market is going to be choppy surrounding the resolution of the trade talks until we see some clarity,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

“The market is approaching a seasonally positive time of the year, but right now we have uncertainty about trade and looks like that’s going to drive volatility.”

Among the 11 major S&P sectors, only the S&P energy index .SPNY was down 0.60 percent as oil prices fell below $60 per barrel. [O/R]

At 9:55 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 48.30 points, or 0.20 percent, at 24,575.57. The S&P 500 .SPX was up 2.63 points, or 0.10 percent, at 2,653.70 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 1.65 points, or 0.02 percent, at 7,099.96.

Among other stocks, Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N) gained 2.38 percent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded the consumer goods maker’s stock to “buy” from “neutral”.

General Electric Co (GE.N) jumped 10.22 percent after longtime bear JP Morgan upgraded the industrial conglomerate’s shares to “neutral”.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.05-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.32-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded four new 52-week highs and 17 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 10 new highs and 77 new lows.

Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila



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Kapil Sharma, Ginni Chatrath tie the knot again in Sikh ceremony, inside pics and video

Kapil Sharma, Ginni Chatrath tie the knot again in Sikh ceremony, inside pics and video


Kapil Sharma and Ginni Chatrath tied the knot again today in a Sikh ceremony at the latter’s residence. The two got married in a traditional Hindu ceremony in Jalandhar last night.

Kapil Sharma, Ginni Chatrath Sikh wedding

Kapil Sharma, Ginni Chatrath Sikh wedding: The bride and the groom during their wedding ceremony

Kapil Sharma and Ginni Chatrath got married in a Sikh ceremony at the bride’s residence today after arriving from The Grand Cabbana resort at around 4-4:30 pm in Jalandhar. The couple were beautifully colour-coordinated in pink. While Kapil wore a white and pink bandhgala, Ginni sported a beautifully embroidered pink lehenga.

Their Sikh ceremony was streamed live on Kapil Sharma’s official youtube channel:

Kapil and Ginni’s saat pheras wrapped up in the wee hours of the morning today. The much-in-love couple also spoke to media right before their wedding ceremony started.

Next up, the comedy king will host a wedding reception in Amritsar, his hometown, followed by a Mumbai reception for his industry friends. Both his nuptials were intimate and only close friends and family were invited.

Kapil and Ginni’s pre-wedding festivities kicked off last week with Akhand Parth and Bangle ceremony respectively. Both the bride and the groom kept their look simple in all their ceremonies.

A day before the wedding, a Jaago ceremony was organised by Kapil’s family and also a cocktail and dinner party hosted by Kapil’s friends like Krushna Abhishek, Bharti Singh, Haarsh Limbachiyaa, Sumona Chakravarti, Rajiv Thakur among others.

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Highlights: EU leaders arrive for two-day summit dominated by Brexit

Highlights: EU leaders arrive for two-day summit dominated by Brexit


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders arrive in Brussels for two days of talks on Brexit, the euro zone, migration and Russia, among others.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

Below are some of their comments made on arrival.

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

“We can have a political discussion tonight, but the legal framework and the agreement that were negotiated are not supposed to change.”

“It’s important to avoid any ambiguity: we cannot reopen a legal agreement, we can’t renegotiate what was negotiated for several months.”

“It’s up to Theresa May to tell us what political solution she expects to pursue to find a majority for this deal.”

IRELAND PRIME MINISTER LEO VARADKAR

“The kind of things that we talked about was how we might give the UK government a greater assurance that the future relationship treaty will actually be negotiated in an expeditious manner and will be negotiated and agreed long before we’d have to consider things such as the extension to the transition period or the implementation of the backstop.”

“In that space, we all accept that the backstop is the backstop, it’s an insurance policy, nobody wants us to have to invoke it. And if it is invoked, we want to make sure that it’s only for as short a period as possible.”

“If the backstop has an expiry date, if there is a unilateral exit clause, this is not a backstop. That would be to render it inoperable. That would mean reopening the substance of the withdrawal agreement and the European Union is unequivocal that this is not an option.”

“The objective here is to get this agreement ratified.”

“The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. Any agreement that deals with the withdrawal has to be an agreement between the EU and the UK… Ireland is Europe when it comes to these negotiations.”

“What we want is an enduring assurance that there will not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland no matter what the circumstances. That an assurance that the UK government gave us over a year ago… The Withdrawal Agreement puts that into law and now we’d like to see that agreement ratified.”

“It’s within the gift of the UK government and the UK parliament to take the threat of no-deal off the table. It impossible if the UK wishes to revoke the article 50… to seek an extension of the Article 50 so that the UK parliament has more time to come together and decide what they would like the outcome to be.”

“It seems to me there is majority in Westminster in favor of the proposition that there shouldn’t be a no deal.”

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE

“Brexit Christmas wish: finally decide what you really want and Santa will deliver,” she said on Twitter in posting a picture of a chocolate Christmas tree.

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

“I think the withdrawal agreement has been negotiated very well.”

“We have our principles and I do not see how the withdrawal agreement can be changed. We can (see) if there are additional assurances but in this the 27 EU member states are together and make their interests clear.”

“We want very, very good relations with Great Britain after Great Britain has left the European Union.”

AUSTRIA CHANCELLOR SEBASTIAN KURZ

“We are prepared to accommodate Theresa May.”

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT KLAUS IOHANNIS

“I think we have a good deal. My impression is that on the British side, people have not yet understood that this is a good deal.”

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE

“It is impossible to open the negotiated withdrawal agreement. That is now a given.

“There is nobody in their right mind in Europe who wants to use the backstop.”

“The UK decided to leave the EU, to draw these red lines.”

“Given Brexit, given the red lines, this deal is now on the table.”

“We cannot break open or start to re-negotiate the withdrawal agreement. Then it is about clarification, the question is what language you put in this clarification. This is all up for debate.”

“Today is about de-mystifying this whole Northern Ireland backstop. Nobody in the EU wants to use it. But we need to have it.”

“How to make that clarification on paper – that’s something we have to look at tonight.”

Q: Would EU extend Article 50?

A: “If and when. It’s up to the UK to ask for that. At the moment, no such thing is on the table.”

ESTONIA PRIME MINISTER JURI RATAS

“I am sure that both sides, we need the agreement. The United Kingdom and also the European Union.”

FINLAND PRIME MINISTER JUHA SIPILA

“We want to help, first of all. Our goal is that the new relationship is ready before the backstop (enters into force).”

“Legally binding will be a bit difficult… Let’s see if we can find something from the legal side as well.”

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY

“I recognize the strength of concern in the House of Commons and that is what I will be putting to colleagues today.”

“I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough but what I do hope is that we can start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.”

“I said that in my heart I would love to able to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election but I think it is right that the party feels it would prefer to go into that election with a new leader.”

“I will be seeking the legal and political assurances I believe we need.”

LUXEMBOURG PRIME MINISTER XAVIER BETTEL

“We will clarify certain points. We will not renegotiate the whole document. I am happy that Mrs May received support yesterday because otherwise we would have been heading towards a no deal.”

“You should not forget that the whole referendum was based on lies. There were so many people who said that billions of euros would come back from Brussels into the health service… I would be not against it if Theresa May said rather a second referendum than a no deal…. This idea that you could just leave Europe in a mere click of the fingers and that you would only get benefits – a win for the UK and a loss for the rest of the world – we see that’s not the case.”

“We are ready to help.”

TOP EU DIPLOMAT, FEDERICA MOGHERINI

“The Council… will confirm our strong position and our demand for Russia to release the vessels and the crews.”

“We’ll reaffirm not only our strong support to territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine but also our strong policy of non-recognition of the annexation of the Crimean peninsula; and a very substantial package of support to Ukraine that the EU has put in place so far and is ready to strengthen.”

ESTONIA PM JURI RATAS

“We must support Ukraine and the people of Ukraine. We must support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

CZECH PM ANDREJ BABIS

“It is fully unacceptable that the flow of migrants to Europe is managed by smuggler mafias.”

“We have to help north African countries in a way like we did with Turkey. We have to help individual African countries. We want to help them improve their lives at home.”

ANTONIO TAJANI, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT HEAD

“This is not the time to enter a debate on France”.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

“We are in the process of fighting terrorism.”

“This is not a good moment to discuss other issues.”

“It is not for us to say what should be done in internal French politics.”

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Alastair Macdonald, Jan Strupczewski, Elizabeth Piper, Francesco Guarascio, Gabriela Baczynska



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May seeks Brexit help at Brussels summit

May expects no quick Brexit breakthrough as she seeks EU help


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain’s weakened prime minister, Theresa May, said on Thursday she did not expect to secure a quick breakthrough in Brexit talks that would give her fractured party the reassurances needed to get her deal through parliament.

Arriving in Brussels just a day after a failed attempt to topple her at home, May was met largely by readiness to help from European Union leaders and one demand: tell us want you want.

Britain’s departure from the EU, its biggest shift in trade and foreign policy for more than 40 years, is proving anything but smooth, complicated by the deep divisions in her Conservative Party, the lower House of Commons and the country as a whole.

With less than four months before Britain is due to leave on March 29, May faces deadlock in parliament over the deal she agreed with the EU last month but which has hardened opposing positions at home, throwing up more uncertainty for businesses trying to predict what will happen to the $2.8 trillion economy.

“I recognize the strength of concern in the House of Commons and that is what I will be putting to colleagues today,” May said. “I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.”

EU leaders were clear. They all said they needed to know exactly what May wanted to secure in Brussels but also warned that Britain could not reopen the divorce deal, or withdrawal agreement, signed off by both sides in November.

While others tried to temper their language by expressing a desire to help May, French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out any legal changes to the agreement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was less strident, saying: “We can of course talk about whether there are additional assurances but in this the 27 EU members are together and will make their interests clear, although always in the spirit that we want very, very good relations with Great Britain after Great Britain has left the European Union.”

MAY SURVIVES

May will meet the EU leaders to discuss Brexit later on Thursday, less than 24 hours after she survived a no confidence vote among Conservative lawmakers in London, when critics of her plan tried to bring her down.

She won the secret ballot 200-117 but the size of the vote against her merely deepened divisions just weeks before parliament needs to approve a deal to prevent a disorderly exit from the EU. Victory also came at a price – May promised she would step down by the next election scheduled for 2022.

“I said that in my heart I would love to able to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election but I think it is right that the party feels it would prefer to go into that election with a new leader,” she told reporters.

With no vote on the Brexit package in the parliamentary schedule before Christmas, May hopes to secure political and legal assurances from the EU over the so-called Northern Ireland backstop – designed to prevent extensive controls on the border with the Irish republic that could disrupt a peace settlement for the British-ruled province.

But while EU leaders said they wanted to help, a draft EU statement said they were merely “ready to examine” whether further assurance can be given.

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said it was hard to know what the EU should give to May because it was not clear what she needs to win over opponents. “Not all the arguments of Brexit supporters are rational,” he said.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite put it more bluntly. “Brexit Christmas wish: finally decide what you really want and Santa will deliver,” she said on Twitter in posting a picture of a chocolate Christmas tree.

BACKSTOP BATTLE

The backstop is the main stumbling block for lawmakers in London who fear Britain will become stuck in the fallback arrangement, preventing it from striking trade deals beyond the EU.

The level of opposition to her deal was underlined earlier this week when May was forced to delay a parliamentary vote on her deal, designed to maintain close future ties with the EU, for fear of a defeat.

May, who met Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Brussels and EU summit chairman Donald Tusk, wants legal assurances that the backstop will not remain in place indefinitely.

The EU’s draft statement, seen by Reuters, reiterated that it prefers a new trade deal to triggering the Irish backstop and it would try to conclude one swiftly, even if the emergency border fix kicks in.

EU states were not in agreement on the text on Thursday morning, however. Diplomats in Brussels expect it to change after May tells the other national leaders what she needs to push their deal through her parliament.

Slideshow (2 Images)

They suggested the EU may be readying more solid assurances for May in January.

“Today is about de-mystifying this whole Northern Ireland backstop. Nobody in the EU wants to use it. But we need to have it,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “How to make that clarification on paper – that’s something we have to look at tonight.”

Additional reporting by Kate Holton and Kylie MacLellan and Paul Sandle in London, Alastair Macdonald, Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop, Editing by Alastair Macdonald, Raisa Kasolowsky, Andrew Cawthorne, Larry King and David Stamp



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U.S. to counter China, Russia influence in Africa: Bolton

U.S. to counter China, Russia influence in Africa: Bolton


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to counter the rapidly expanding economic and political influence of China and Russia in Africa, where the two nations use corrupt business practices with little regard for the rule of law, according to prepared remarks on Thursday by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The United States’ No 1. priority will be developing economic ties with the region to create opportunities for American businesses and protect the independence of African countries, as well as U.S. national security interests, he said in the prepared remarks.

“Great power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa,” Bolton said.

“They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.”

Bolton’s speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, leaders of the world’s two largest economies, seek to resolve trade disputes that have roiled global markets and created economic uncertainty.

“China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption,” Bolton said in his remarks.

Bolton had equally harsh words for Russia.

“Across the continent, Russia advances its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law or accountable and transparent governance,” he said.

He accused Moscow of selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the United Nations, “votes that keep strongmen in power, undermine peace and security, and run counter to the best interests of the African people.”

China’s development policies in Africa have been a concern for Washington as the United States seeks to ramp up development finance in the face of China’s global ambitions.

The head of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC) said in July that China is saddling poor nations with unsustainable debt through large-scale infrastructure projects that are not economically viable.

In October Trump signed legislation overhauling the way the federal government lends money for foreign development, creating a $60 billion agency intended largely to respond to China’s growing influence. The new the U.S. International Development Finance Corp combines OPIC and other government development organizations.

Xi’s “Belt and Road” initiative, unveiled in 2013, aims to build an infrastructure network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

(This has been refiled to remove typo in Jinping, paragraph 5.)

Reporting by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe



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NDTV

Alia Bhatt’s Reply When Asked If She Can Be Called ‘Alia Kapoor’ Will Stump You


New Delhi: 

Alia Bhatt, who is rumoured to be dating Ranbir Kapoor, participated in a question-answer session with fans on Twitter on Thursday evening, when she was obliquely fired the often-asked question about her rumoured relationship. On Twitter, Alia was answering fan queries during an “ask Alia” session when a user asked her: “Can we call you Alia Kapoor?” And needless to say that the 25-year-old actress’ response will leave you stunned as it appeared to have shut the user up. On the debut episode of Koffee With Karan 6, Karan Johar appeared to confirm that Alia and Ranbir are dating and only recently, Alia’s filmmaker father Mahesh Bhatt said in an interview that Alia and Ranbir “are in love.”

Check out the Twitter conversation Alia Bhatt had with a fan:

 

 

Speaking to The Telegraph earlier this month, Mahesh Bhatt had spilled the beans on the much speculated relationship status of Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor and said: “Well, of course they’re in love. You don’t need to be a genius to get that! I love Ranbir… he’s a great guy.” In the interview, Mahesh Bhatt also added that he’s really supportive of whatever decision Alia and Ranbir decide on about taking their relationship to the next level.

Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor, who are also co-stars of upcoming film Brahmastra, are often spotted hanging out together in and about Mumbai. The paparazzi have also photographed Ranbir catching up with Mahesh Bhatt at the Bhatt residence. But like Karan Johar said on Koffee With Karan, Alia dropped a major hint about dating Ranbir when she Instagrammed a photo of them together from Sonam Kapoor’s wedding reception in May.

 

 

 

.

A post shared by Alia (@aliaabhatt) on

 

Ahead of that, in March this year, Ranbir was asked if he’s dating Alia, when he told GQ: “It’s really new right now, and I don’t want to over speak.” Meanwhile, Alia also met Rishi Kapoor in New York and went on dinner outings with Ranbir’s family in Mumbai.

Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra will mark Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor’s first film together. They co-star with Amitabh Bachhcan in the film, which is expected to hit screens next year.



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Ndtv

As Kamal Nath Leads Race For Madhya Pradesh Top Post, Akalis Cite 1984 Riots


Kamal Nath had said he was “fully absolved” by the Nanavati Commission.

New Delhi: 

The buzz about veteran leader Kamal Nath being picked for the Chief Minister’s post in Madhya Pradesh has triggered protests among the Sikh community. Its prominent leaders have warned the Congress of repercussions if Mr Nath, who, they say, had a role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, be chosen to head a state. The Congress already rules Punjab, and a section of the party, insiders say, is having second thoughts following the warning by the Sikhs.

Nearly 3,000 people died in November 1984 across the country, when large-scale violence broke out after then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. There were allegations that senior leaders of the Congress were involved.

“Sikhs would launch a nation-wide protest if Kamal Nath is chosen as the Chief Minister in Madhya Pradesh,” Akali Dal leader and lawmaker from Delhi Manjinder Singh Sirsa was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India. He said he was “warning Rahul Gandhi of Sikhs’ anger if he followed his family’s tradition of rewarding butchers of 1984 Sikh genocide”.

In June 2016, Mr Nath had stepped down days after being appointed the party’s in-charge in Punjab. His appointment had drawn sharp reactions from the Akali Dal – which ruled the state at the time – and the Aam Aadmi Party. In multiple press conferences, both raised questions about his role in the riots.

In his resignation letter, Mr Nath said he was named in the case was in 2005 – more than two decades after the riots. He also said he was “fully absolved” by the Nanavati Commission, which was appointed to investigate the riots by the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The senior Congress leadership is leaning towards Kamal Nath to lead Madhya Pradesh ahead of next year’s national elections. But other contender for the post – Jyotiraditya Scindia – is believed to be refusing to back down. The 47-year-old is believed to have been offered the post of the Deputy Chief Minister, but he reportedly refused to scale down his demands.

Asked about the Akalis’ warning, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said, “35 years later this thing is being brought up. There is no case against him, there is no FIR against him. He has not been chargesheeted. Yet every time Kamal Nath-ji’s name comes up, there is a slur campaign.”

Mr Nath, he pointed out, had been appointed minister thrice since the anti-Sikh riots.  

The Congress won 114 seats — a shade short of majority — in Madhya Pradesh, putting an end to the BJP’s winning spree in the heartland state and is forming government with support from Mayawati. In view of next year’s national elections, governance in the state and unity in the party, are expected to be key issues in the coming months.



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