Daily Briefing: PM said think of tie up, I said no, says Sharad Pawar; Maharashtra sees highest one-day Covid surge since October

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NCP Chief Sharad Pawar said that the BJP was eager to tie up with his party after the 2019 Maharashtra elections but he was not in favour of such an alliance. Speaking at the launch of Ashtavdhani, a coffee table book published by Loksatta, the Marathi newspaper from The Indian Express Group, Pawar said: “It is true that there was a discussion about an alliance between our two parties. The Prime Minister said we should think about it…However, I told him right in his office that it was not possible and I would not like to keep them in the dark.”

Only in the Express 

Writing about what the widely telecast inauguration of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among other events, signifies, D Raja writes: “The invocation of Hindu symbols and ritualistic practices by the PM in a state function gave de facto official status to the majority religion. While the Constitution categorically proclaims India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, the current ruling regime willfully ignores this promise.”

There is a growing uneasiness among party leaders about some of BJP youth wing chief LS Tejasvi Surya’s controversial remarks, sources told The Indian Express. This was reflected in the directive from the national leadership asking the 31-year-old to withdraw his recent remarks calling for Hindus to “dream big” and re-convert to Hinduism all those who had converted to Islam and Christianity

From the Front Page 

In the first such decision by a state to tackle rising fuel prices, Jharkhand will subsidise Rs 25 per litre of petrol for ration-card holders with two-wheelers, with a likely cap of 10 litres per family per month, officials said. The modalities of the move to be implemented from Republic Day are still being worked out, they said. In Jharkhand, petrol currently costs Rs 98.52 per litre, and diesel Rs 91.56. 

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is currently on a statewide yatra to create public awareness on liquor prohibition, slammed those opposing it, saying those who drink and have a problem coming to Bihar because of the unavailability of liquor didn’t need to come to the state. Delivering a speech last Sunday, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana had cited the Bihar prohibition law as one example of “lack of foresight” in drafting legislation that leads to courts being inundated with cases and “a simple bail application” taking a year to be disposed of.

The Special Investigations Team set up by the Nagaland government to probe the Army operation at Oting village in Mon on December 4 that left six coal miners dead will get access to the soldiers involved in the incident. The government had called the incident a case of “mistaken identity”. In the violence that followed the incident, nine more, including a soldier, were killed. Army sources said that while the SIT was yet to take the statement of anyone, it would have access starting Thursday to “whosoever they want”.  

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Just days after it was inaugurated, IIT Kharagpur’s Centre of Excellence for Indian Knowledge System finds itself in the midst of a controversy over a calendar that questions the chronology of Indian history. The centre offers undergraduate and post-graduate courses in Vastu Vidya, Paribesh Vidya, Arthashastra and “eventually Ganita”. “There have been a lot of wrongdoings in the past. We are choosing what has been neglected and suppressed in the past,” the centre’s Chairperson Prof Joy Sen said. 

Between December 26-28 Maharashtra recorded the highest one-day surges since October, but at the same time, the numbers of tests being conducted dropped to the lowest recorded for the month of December. The public health department lagging behind in conducting Covid tests has resulted in an increase in the Test Percentage Rate (TPR) — number of positive cases detected when compared to the total tests conducted. 

Last week, an investigation by The Indian Express found that the relatives of state officials had purchased land in Ayodhya, raising serious questions of propriety and conflict of interest. The investigation revealed that some of the buyers are related to officials who are investigating the seller — Maharishi Ramayan Vidyapeeth Trust — for alleged irregularities in the transfer of the land from the original owners, who are Dalit. With an inquiry into the dubious land dealings underway, we explain the rules that govern the transfers of Dalit land in UP.

And Finally 

A compelling case could be made of the phalanx of India’s bowlers as the most lethal in the world now. The year began with them—even without Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami—out-bowling their Australian counterparts Down Under, before they put to shade England’s group, and by the end of this year, they out-bowled South Africa’s pace pack at their fortress. If their coming of age have been unfolding in the last few years, this year has been their tour de force, when they made a resounding statement that, in their current form, they are the most dangerous in the world.

Delhi Confidential: With PM Modi repeatedly emphasising on the need to focus on sports, several BJP leaders have taken his advice and have been working on their fitness. JP general secretary Arun Singh, for instance, has included in his routine a visit to Constitution Club every day to play badminton for an hour. 

In today’s episode of the ‘3 Things’ podcast, we take a look at how Corbevax and Covovax stand out from other Covid-19 vaccines, the controversy surrounding Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, and AAP’s big win in the Chandigarh Civic polls.

Until tomorrow, 

Rahel Philipose and Rounak Bagchi

Express Cartoon by EP Unny.

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