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5 THINGS FIRST

PM Modi to hold review meeting with districts having low Covid vaccination coverage; WHO’s decision on Covaxin emergency use listing likely; Data release: Markit Composite PMI; Markit Services (Oct); ICC World Cup T20: New Zealand vs Scotland, Afghanistan vs India; 2021 Booker Prize winner to be announced

1. Bypoll results a mixed bag for BJP, Cong sweeps HP
1. Bypoll results a mixed bag for BJP, Cong sweeps HP
  • Himachal Pradesh: In a major setback to the ruling BJP, the Congress won all three Assembly seats — Fatehpur, Arki and Jubbal-Kotkhai — in addition to the Mandi Lok Sabha seat. (Mandi is the home district of CM Jairam Thakur). The results hold significance as HP is scheduled to go to polls next year. While both parties faced dissidence at every seat this time, it was the BJP that came off worst in the fight.
  • Rajasthan: The Grand Old Party triumphed in both the Dhariawad and Vallabhnagar Assembly seats.
  • Haryana: There was more heartbreak for the saffron party as Indian National Lok Dal chief Abhay Chautala won in his traditional stronghold of Ellenabad.
  • Maharashtra: Congress reclaimed Deglur, a reserved SC seat, from the BJP.
  • Karnataka: The BJP may have wrested Sindgi constituency from the JD(S) with a big win, but ceded the Hanagal seat to the Congress in CM Basavaraj Bommai’s home district of Haveri. The Hangal defeat is seen as a personal setback for Bommai as he represents its neighbouring segment — Shiggavi — in the Legislative Assembly.
  • Madhya Pradesh: While the BJP clinched the Jobat Assembly seat, and the Prithvipur and Khandwa Lok Sabha seats, it conceded Raigaon, a traditional seat of the party, to the Congress.
  • West Bengal: The Trinamool Congress swept all four Assembly seats, winning Dinhata (previously held by the BJP), Gosaba, Khardah and Santipur.
  • Assam: In BJP’s only clean sweep of the day, it won the Thowra, Bhabanipur, Mariani and Tamulpur seats, while ally UPPL claimed Gossaigaon.
  • Bihar: The ruling Janata Dal (United) won both the Assembly seats of Kusheshwar Asthan and Tarapur.
  • Andhra Pradesh: In Badvel, the ruling YSR Congress Party comfortably retained the seat, with its candidate Dr D Sudha prevailing over BJP’s P Suresh.
  • Telangana: The BJP wrested the Huzurabad Assembly seat from the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
  • Dadra & Nagar Haveli: The Shiv Sena celebrated its first win outside Maharashtra after Kalaben Delkar secured the LS seat, defeating BJP candidate Mahesh Gamit.
  • Meghalaya: The ruling MDA coalition partners National People’s Party and United Democratic Party consolidated their Assembly strength by winning all three seats: Mawryngkneng, Rajabala and Mawphlang.
  • Mizoram: The Mizo National Front won the lone Assembly seat of Tuirial.
2. Central agencies box in Maharashtra’s powers that be
2. Central agencies box in Maharashtra’s powers that be
The income tax department provisionally attached properties estimated to be worth over Rs 1,000 crore allegedly belonging to Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar (in pic) and his close relatives under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act.

  • The propertiesinclude an office at Mumbai’s Nariman Point, a flat in Delhi, a resort in Goa and 27 land parcels in different parts of Maharashtra.
  • The I-T department had recently conducted searches at these properties. The department had said then it discovered unaccounted income worth Rs 183 crore.

The enforcement directorate will have custody of former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh till November 6.

  • Deshmukh was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act late Monday.
  • The agency told the special holiday court that remanded Deshmukh that he was the “prime beneficiary of the proceeds of crime” in a Rs 100 crore money laundering case, and the agency needed to investigate a “foreign angle”.

Maharashtra is governed by an alliance of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. Pawar and Deshmukh are senior NCP politicians.

  • NCP spokesperson and skill development minister Nawab Malik said Deshmukh was “being framed”. NCP chief Sharad Pawar had earlier slammed the union government for using central agencies to intimidate the alliance and “break our will”.
  • Several other key leaders of the alliance are being probed by ED and income-tax authorities, including public works minister Ashok Chavan, transport minister Anil Parab, Sena leaders Pratap Sarnaik, Anandrao Adsul and Bhavan Gawali and NCP leader Eknath Khadse.
  • Also: Shiv Sena accused the union government of helping absconding IPS officer Param Bir Singh escape the country after he made “false accusations” against Deshmukh. “He has not absconded, but made to move out of the country,” said Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
3. Haryana’s Gurugram withdraws namaz permission at 8 spots
3. Haryana’s Gurugram withdraws namaz permission at 8 spots
Haryana’s city of Gurugram Tuesday withdrew the permission to hold namaz — the Islamic prayer — at eight public sites, amidst weeks-long efforts by right-wing demonstrators to disrupt the Friday prayers.

  • The eight sites were among the 37 designated places to hold the Islamic Friday prayers in the city. Demonstrators had disrupted Friday prayers in at least two of these sites in the previous weeks. The district administration said that the decision was taken after “objection from local residents and resident welfare associations”.
  • A committee, comprising a sub-divisional magistrate, an assistant commissioner level police officer, and members of Hindu and Muslim communities, will also be formed to determine a list of designated sites where Friday namaz prayers would be offered in the city.
  • “While taking a decision, it will be ensured that the residents of the area do not have any opposition to the offering of namaz at a particular location. Namaz can be offered at any mosque, Idgah or a private place.” a statement by the city administration read. Haryana has a BJP government.

Context:

  • For the past several weeks, certain right-wing outfits have tried to disrupt Friday prayers held at designated public spots.
  • Last Friday, the Haryana Police detained around 25 people after they tried to disrupt prayers at two sites. They were booked under sections 107 (security for keeping the peace) and 151 (arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offence) of the criminal code, and later released on bail.
  • One of the two groups was led by a former BJP district president, advocate Kulbhushan Bharadwaj. Another outfit that has been organising such demonstrations is Bharat Mata Vahini, headed by a certain Dinesh Bharati (here and here).
4. Punjab has a new party — and it’s another Congress
4. Punjab has a new party — and it’s another Congress
  • Formality fulfilled: Coming good on his proclamations of forming a new political outfit, former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh announced the name of his new political party, Punjab Lok Congress, even as he formally tendered his resignation from the Indian National Congress (INC), stating in his letter to party president Sonia Gandhi that he was quitting in the “interest of my state and my country.”
  • Parting potshots: Singh’s seven page letter was scathing in its criticism of Punjab’s Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who he labelled “an acolyte of the Pakistani deep state” and “a person of unstable mind.” The former army man-turned-politician did not also spare Gandhi or her kids, Rahul and Priyanka, alleging that not only did her children patronise Sidhu but she herself “chose to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of this gentleman.” Singh, who resigned in September after a bitter tussle with Sidhu, also accused Gandhi of hatching a conspiracy along with her children to force him out.
  • Does he matter? While Singh has been a formidable force in Punjab politics, it has always been as part of one of the two main political outfits — the Congress and the Akali Dal. Considering that none of his erstwhile party or ministerial colleagues followed him when he quit as CM and from the Congress, or that he’s been seeking support from both the BJP and splinter Akali groups to bolster his political chances with the assembly elections just about three months away, it remains to be seen whether his party can be more than just a vote-splitter in a multi-party contest that also involves the AAP.
6. Is gold smuggling a terrorist offence?
6. Is gold smuggling a terrorist offence?
The Kerala High Court (HC) granted bail to Swapna Suresh and seven other people in the gold smuggling case registered against them by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

The case

  • Last year, customs authorities intercepted a shipment of 30 kilogrammes of gold being smuggled via diplomatic parcels at Thiruvananthapuram airport, which was scheduled to be delivered to the UAE Consulate-General in the state capital. A multi-agency investigation revealed Suresh as the lynchpin of the smuggling operation.

Snowball effect

  • Suresh is a former executive secretary at the UAE Consulate and was accused of forging documents from the consulate and smuggle gold under the guise of diplomatic immunity. Suresh’s arrest also brought into focus her association with former principal secretary to the Kerala CM and IT secretary M Sivasankar, as she had worked as a contract staff with the state government’s flagship Space Park project.

Why bail now

  • Suresh had contended that an offence of gold smuggling can not attract charges under UAPA. This was upheld by a division bench of the HC in February earlier this year, which said that the mere act of gold smuggling, which was covered under the Customs Act, can not be considered a “terrorist act” under UAPA unless the smuggling was carried out with the ‘intention to threaten the economic security of the nation.’
  • The division bench judgement, which led to bail being granted to 12 accused in the gold smuggling case, was upheld by the Supreme Court as well which denied an appeal by the NIA seeking cancellation of the bail after the Rajasthan HC, in a similar case, denied bail to a person accused of gold smuggling and charged under UAPA.
7. Facebook wants to know what questions will Delhi assembly ask
7. Facebook wants to know what questions will Delhi assembly ask
  • Test preparation: Seeking a 14-day extension to appear before the Delhi Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony, Facebook India has, via a letter, sought to now from the committee what questions will the company’s executives face “or at least the topics of inquiry in advance” in order to ostensibly be “equipped with relevant information.”
  • The summons: The committee had sent summons to the social media giant asking it to depute its senior executives to testify on November 2 about the role played by it in the 2020 riots in Delhi over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which left over 50 people dead and coincided with US President Donald Trump’s visit to India. The committee said it was “of the opinion that social media has a very important role in curbing the spread of false, provocative and malicious messages, which can fan the violence and disharmony.”

Why Facebook is in the dock

  • In a report in August last year, the Wall Street Journal said the social media company was complicit in the Delhi riots by allowing several hate messages to go viral over its network and not applying hate-speech rules to messages that were internally flagged for promoting violence.
  • The report added that Facebook’s then public policy head Ankhi Das — who later quit the company — had allegedly steamrolled over the objections to such hate messages by citing business imperatives, in particular posts from four accounts said to be linked to the BJP.
  • Facebook had even mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge to the committee’s summons, which said that “since Facebook has lakhs of users in the NCT of Delhi, the committee has decided to hear the views of representative(s) of Facebook India.”
8. Unbeaten Pakistan confirm semis spot, SA boost their chances
8. Unbeaten Pakistan confirm semis spot, SA boost their chances
  • It was another batting masterclass from Pakistani openers Babar Azam and Man of the Match Mohammad Rizwan (both in pic) against Namibia in Abu Dhabi that made it four wins out of four for them in Group 2. The result also sealed their passage into the final four of the World T20 for the first time in almost a decade.
  • Choosing to bat, the duo started in sedate fashion against the new ball. That’s where Babar’s fifty was key to keep the runs coming even as Rizwan strung together 16 in 25 balls. But once the latter had battled through the tough phases, he just unleashed in the death overs. The two put on a 113-run partnership as Pakistan tonked 130 off the last 10 overs, 51 off the last three and 24 off the last.
  • The chase was always going to be a tall order for Namibia and the regular fall of wickets didn’t help, coupled with an escalating run-rate.
  • Earlier: Pacers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje crippled the Bangladesh batting lineup to star in South Africa’s win. Achieved with 39 balls to spare, the victory helped them moved to the second spot in Group 1 with 6 points and a run rate of +0.742.
  • That’s substantially higher than Australia’s and something that could come into play in their quest to reach the semis. Bangladesh are officially out of contention and have taken down Sri Lanka along side them as well.
  • Scorecards: Pakistan 189/2 (Rizwan 79 not out, Babar 70) beat Namibia 144/5 (David Wiese 43 not out) by 45 runs
  • South Africa 86/4 (Temba Bavuma 31 not out; Taskin Ahmed 2/18) beat Bangladesh 84 (Nortje 3/8, Rabada 3/20) by 6 wkts

9. Islamic State attack on Kabul hospital kills over a dozen
9. Islamic State attack on Kabul hospital kills over a dozen
  • Several people were killed after Islamic State militants set off two explosions and opened fire at a military hospital in Kabul. Reuters put the casualty toll at 25 and another 50 wounded; Associated Press said 7 were killed.
  • All of the attackers were killed within 15 minutes, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. He said Taliban special forces dropped by helicopter had prevented the attackers from entering the hospital itself, with all killed at the entrance or in the courtyard.
  • The Islamic State had orchestrated several attacks, mostly targeting the minorities in Afghanistan, since the Taliban took the reins of the country. The group opposes the Taliban. The series of attacks has raised concerns if the Taliban has the wherewithal to provide security to the citizens and organisations that are still in the country.

Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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Elon Musk. The world’s richest person-owned SpaceX has incorporated its wholly-owned subsidiary in India to start local broadband operations, a top official of the company said. SpaceX’s satellite broadband arm Starlink aims to start broadband services in India from December 2022, with 200,000 active terminals subject to permission from the government.

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