Author Archives: Sumit Sharma

New Delhi :  Mustard oil, with its ideal ratio of essential fatty acids and natural antioxidants, may be one of the healthiest edible oils, with huge benefits for the heart, experts suggest.

Mustard oil, which has a pungent taste, contains about 60 per cent monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), 21 per cent polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and about 12 per cent saturated fats.

"High levels of MUFA and PUFA -- also called good fats -- maintain heart health and lower bad cholesterol, while improving good cholesterol," Reeti Kapoor, Venkateshwar Hospital, Dwarka, told IANS.

Further, it also consists of six per cent of the omega-3 fatty acids (N-3) and 15 per cent of the omega-6 (n-6) -- the two essential fatty acids -- in the ideal ratio of 1:2, which is a huge benefit for the heart, as it balances cholesterol levels.

This, in turn, reduces triglycerides or blood fat levels, and helps in keeping the heart healthy, experts said.

"A heart-friendly oil should be cholesterol- and trans-fat free, low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, and should have an ideal N6 to N3 acids ratio as well as a high smoking point. Mustard oil meets all these criteria," Parmeet Kaur, Nutritionist, Columbia Asia Hospital Gurgaon, told IANS.

According to a study published recently in the Journal of Preventive Cardiology, use of mustard oil as a cooking medium reduced the chances of heart disease such as coronary artery disease (CAD) -- the most common type of heart disease -- by nearly 70 per cent.

It also helps to regulate blood flow and protects the body from hypertension.

Furthermore, mustard oil may also be more beneficial than olive oil, which is typical to Mediterranean cooking, as well as other refined oils such as vegetable oils, the experts said.

"Olive oil, which is much-hyped and five times costlier, does not have an ideal ratio of omega-6 (N6) and Omega-3 (N3) fatty acids useful in reducing heart complications," said Umesh Verma, DGM (Corporate Communications), Puri Oil Mills Limited, the company that manufactures and markets the P Mark Mustard Oil brand.

Whereas, mustard oil has a ratio of 1.2 which is closest to the one recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO), that is, 1.25.

Additionally, "olive oil is not a good choice for deep-frying as it has a low smoke point (the temperature at which the oil starts to burn)", Verma said.

Refined oil, on the other hand, is a product obtained after treating natural oils with various chemicals which can cause various diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart and kidney ailments, among others.

The mechanical and chemical processes also use solvents such as hexane and is heated at very high temperature, which affects the quality and nutrition value of refined edible oil.

However, "mustard oil extracted through 'kachi ghani' process is unrefined oil. Its unique fatty acid profile is backed by a chemical-free method of manufacturing and is by far the healthiest and affordable cooking oil", Verma observed.

Mustard oil has various non-edible uses as well, such as in massaging the body and hair of new-born babies as well as adults. It is used as a remedy for stomach and skin diseases (fungal infections).

The oil, which also has high levels of Vitamin E, helps the skin to fight free radical damage to the body by ultra violet rays and pollution.

During oil production, beta carotene gets converted to vitamin A, which is excellent for hair growth. Apart from this, it also contains iron, fatty acids, calcium and magnesium, all of which promote hair growth.

 

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Toronto : Dark red onions, known as the richest source of dietary flavonoids, may help fight off cancer of the colon and breast, a researchers has suggested.

"We found that onions are excellent at killing cancer cells," said Abdulmonem Murayyan, doctoral student at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

"Onions activate pathways that encourage cancer cells to undergo cell death. They promote an unfavourable environment for cancer cells and disrupt communication between cancer cells, which inhibits growth," Murayyan added.

The findings, published recently in the journal Food Research International, revealed that red onions contain high levels of quercetin -- a plant polyphenol from the flavonoid group, found in many fruits, vegetables, leaves, and grains -- and include benefits such as lowering inflammation and fighting allergies, among others.

Further, red onions were also found to have high amounts of anthocyanin, which enriches the scavenging properties of quercetin molecules.

"Anthocyanin is instrumental in providing colour to fruits and vegetables so it makes sense that the red onions, which are darkest in colour, would have the most cancer-fighting power," said Murayyan.

In the first study, to examine how effective onions are at killing cancer cells, researchers have found that not all onions are created equal.

The team tested five onion types grown in Ontario and discovered that the Ruby Ring onion variety -- that has hard, firm, tall globe-shaped bulbs with dark red colour features -- came out on top.

When cells of the colon and breast cancer were placed in direct contact with quercetin extracted from the five different onion varieties, the team found them effective at killing the cancerous cells.

"The next step will be to test the vegetable's cancer-fighting powers in human trials," said Murayyan.

While currently this superfood can be included in salads and on burgers as a preventative measure, researchers expect onion extract will eventually be added to food products such as juice or baked goods and be sold in pill form as a type of natural cancer treatment.

 

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Mumbai: Eighty-five per cent of diabetics see amputations in their lifetime due to lack of appropriate treatment, data released during a national conference on diabetics here has revealed.

Currently 15 per cent of of India's diabetic population suffers from ulcers in their lifetime, the conference attended by over 50 eminent surgeons here was told.

Pioneers in wound management such as Madhuri Gore and Dr Sitaram Prasad were among the delegates who attended the national conference held at Zen hospital on Sunday.

The doctors called for a better wound healing health care in the hospitals of the country.

"Around the globe, about 415 million people are diabetic. However, India has the world's second largest diabetic population at 69 million. Almost 15 per cent of diabetics develop an ulcer in their lifetime," said Roy Patankar, Director at Zen Hospital.

Stating that treatment of wounds is a challenge as the physicians or surgeons needs to assess wounds accurately, the doctors also urged hospitals for a better recognition of wound related problems and provide interventions such that morbidity reduces. 

"With advanced technology, newer wound care products are helping surgeons to provide optimal benefits to patients. The wound update conference included wound classification and evaluation, wound healing and scar formation. Chronic wounds, infections and wound closure or therapy along with case studies were a part of the panel discussion and conference," said a joint statement issued by the surgeons at the conference. 

As a part of the national faculty, Somprakash Basu and Sunil Kari discussed chronic wounds and wound therapy along with a few case studies. Seven other speakers were a part of the panel discussion.

 

 

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New Delhi:  Under attack from within and rivals, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday hit back at Yashwant Sinha calling him a "job applicant at 80" and said "acting in tandem" with Congress leader P. Chidambaram would not change facts.

He also referred to the attacks made against each other by Sinha and Chidambaram -- both former Finance Ministers -- in the past to wonder about the newfound bonhomie between the two.

 

At the launch of a book titled "India @70, Modi @3.5" edited by Bibek Debroy and Ashok Malik, Jaitley said: "Probably a more appropriate title for the book would have been 'India @70, Modi @3.5 and a job applicant @80'", an apparent dig at Sinha who is 84.

Jaitley's remarks came a day after Sinha set off a political storm by writing a stinging critique against the Finance Minister's management of the economy and held him personally responsible for the continuous economic downturn.

He strongly defended the demonetisation and implementation of GST, the two key issues on which Sinha had attacked the government, holding them responsible for pulling the economy down.

"There are always attempts to change the narrative. I don't have the luxury of being a former Finance Minister. Nor do I have the luxury of being a former Finance Minister who has turned a columnist. And therefore, I can conveniently forget about a policy paralysis, I can conveniently forget the 15 per cent NPAs (non-performing assets) of 1998-2002, I can conveniently forget the $4 billion reserves left in 1991. And I can switch over and change the narrative," he said in digs both at Chidmabaram and Sinha.

Recalling a parliamentary debate on Bofors in 1999 shortly after he entered the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said veteran leader L.K. Advani complimented him for his speech but advised him to focus on issues rather than persons.

"I have tried to follow it. I may have breached this rule once in a while. I have some very distinguished predecessors in the Finance Ministry. One is a former Prime Minister and one is a former President. But I am not referring to them. The others (Sinha and Chidambaram) have decided to act in concert because speaking on persons and bypassing the issues is something easily done."

Jaitley said he had done some research before coming to the event and found that Sinha had said that Chidambaram will have to be born again to match his record in the Finance Ministry, that Chidmabaram was like an incompetent doctor who failed to curb India's alarming deficit and accused him of being the most conceited person. He then went on to accuse that Chidambaram had ordered bugging of Sinha's phones.

"Today, with complete responsibility I want to say that when I raised the Aircel-Maxis issue, he (Chidambaram) ordered my phones to be bugged," Jaitley said.

The Finance Minister then went on to recollect what Chidambaram had said about Sinha.

"I thought Sinha was happy to remain a distant memory for the people of India. However, since he seemed determined to remain relevant in his party I am obliged to recall his record during his four years as Finance Minister. I may point out that 2001, 2002, 2003 were the worst years since liberalisation in terms of growth. And Vajpayee had to force him out. I am glad they did not have Advani to advise them. Acting in tandem won't change facts," Jaitley said, quoting Chidamabaram.

Talking about the economy and the new initiatives, Jaitley said the new normal of Prime Minister Modi was to target the shadow economy.

Earlier, there was no way one could do business or buy property without indulging in black money, he said.

Since the UPA government did not do anything from 2011, the first decision of the government was to set up an SIT on black money, give an opportunity for the people to come out with disclosure of assets, enact a stringent legislation on benami and worked with G20 to get real time information on people stashing money abroad.

Referring to attack on demonetisation, Jaitley said the effort was to subvert the narrative as if the exercise was aimed at confiscation of money.

But demonetisation was intended to make sure that anonymous tender gets identified with the owner, he said, adding those who cannot justify the deposits will have to pay taxes.

Changing the old normal was never on the political agenda of the UPA, he said.

On GST, Jaitley said all decisions were taken by consensus, including the Finance Ministers of the Congress-ruled states who were very supportive.

He said normally people are accused of delaying but in this case he was being accused of pushing things.

Referring to the political scene and ideological battle, he said that the space left vacant by the Congress was being occupied by the BJP, which becomes the pole "that will become the natural protector of the state".

In an apparent reference to Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi going to JNU at the height of a student agitation last year, Jaitey said if Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi were at the helm they would not have taken such a course of aligning with the Left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Panaji:  Charges were framed today in a Goa court against journalist Tarun Tejpal, who is accused of raping a junior colleague four years ago. Mr Tejpal, who was present in court, has been charged with rape, sexual harassment and outraging the modesty of a woman. The court rejected Mr Tejpal's petition to defer framing of charges by a month and also denied him exemption from appearing in person for court proceedings. The former editor of Tehelka magazine has said the allegations against him are "absolutely false" and motivated by "political vendetta" and has appealed in the Bombay High Court that the case be dropped.

 

 

Here is your 10-point cheat-sheet to this story:
 
  1. The Bombay High Court said earlier this week that it will hear Mr Tejpal's petition on November 1, but had refused to stall the framing of charges. It has said that the recording of evidence, which marks the beginning of the trial, should be deferred.

 

 

 

  1. The trial court in Goa's Mapusa has asked for status report on proceedings in the High Court on November 21.

 

 

 

  1. A woman journalist who worked with Tarun Tejpal in Tehelka had in November 2013 accused the magazine's founder-editor of sexually assaulting her during an event in Goa. The young woman said Mr Tejpal, 50, had assaulted her inside an elevator of a five-star hotel during the ThinkFest conference organised by Tehelka.

 

 

 

  1. The woman had complained to her seniors at Tehelka and a series of leaked emails between her, Mr Tejpal and the magazine's then Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhary, were published by media. Based on the media reports, the Goa police began an investigation.

 

 

 

  1. The woman quit her job later that month. Tarun Tejpal stepped down as Tehelka Editor soon after, saying he was "recusing" himself for six months. He was arrested on November 30, 2013.

 

 

 

  1. The police have said that CCTV footage from the hotel corroborates the woman's allegations against Mr Tejpal.

 

 

 

  1. In a 2,684-page chargesheet filed before the Goa fast-track court, the police said that Tarun Tejpal assaulted the woman twice and that there is enough evidence to prove the charges against Mr Tejpal.

 

 

 

  1. Tarun Tejpal has denied all charges and has told judges that false allegations have been made against him as part of "political vendetta" by the BJP government in Goa because of his criticism of the party.

 

 

 

  1. He moved the Bombay High Court after the district court in Goa's Mapusa refused to drop charges against him.

 

 

 

 

  1. Tarun Tejpal was lodged at the Sada sub-jail of Goa's Vasco for six months before the Supreme Court granted him bail in July 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

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The legend of Vijender Singh continued to grow as the Indian boxing star outslugged his Chinese opponent Zulpikar Maimaitiali in a close bout to retain the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title on Saturday. Vijender started off cautiously in the first couple of rounds but soon picked up momentum by landing a couple of heavy blows. To Zulpikar's credit, Vijender didn't have it easy as the Chinese boxer used his left hand to good effect and soon came back strongly in the next couple of rounds. Zulpikar was penalised by the referee for taking an unsporting shot at Vijender and that turned out to be crucial in the context of the match as Vijender won the bout by a very small margin. It was a double delight for the fans as Vijender also snatched the WBO Oriental Super Middleweight title from the Chinese, who is nine years younger to him. It was the 32-year-old Beijing Olympic bronze medallist's ninth successive win in his professional career.

 

In front of a partisan crowd, Vijender gave an exhibition of his class during the slugfest, and his oodles of experience came in handy during 10 intense rounds.

 

While Vijender had commented that 'Chinese products don't last long' but Zulpikar managed to squeeze every ounce of his opponent's energy.

 

"I didn't expect him to fight so well and last the distance," Vijender said after the bout.

 

Using his height and greater reach to good effect, Vijender most of the time had the better of exchanges with his straight ones and hooks landing flush on Zulpikar, whose blows didn't have the desired effect.

 

The Chinese southpaw had his guard up most of the times and with a crouched stance, was relying mostly on the uppercuts.

 

However, he was guilty of trying to hit Vijender below the belt with as many as five low blows for which he was promptly warned by the referee.

 

The only round when Zulpikar looked a bit assertive was the third one when he tried to chase the Indian, who again showed his fleet-footedness to evade his punches on more than one occasions.

 

A frustrated Zulpikar, in fact, pushed Vijender to the ground, a favour that the Indian duly returned in the very next round.

 

Zulpikar got the real taste of Vijender when he landed a straight right followed by a left uppercut flush on his face as the crowd roared in approval.

 

However, the younger legs of Zulpikar did help him towards the fag end of the bout as the Indian looked tired.

 

Zulpikar took the chance to attack but Vijender's tight defence, despite jaded legs, helped him.

 

In the final round, Zulpikar landed an uppercut which left the Indian ace with a bloodied nose, but he did manage to hold his own in the end.

 

The bonhomie between the opponents was there to be seen as Zulpikar hugged Vijender and made him wear his cap.

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Ravichandran Ashwin clinched a five-wicket haul as India bowled out Sri Lanka for 183 runs in the first innings to take a massive lead of 439 runs at lunch on the third day of the second cricket Test here on Saturday.

With Indian captain Virat Kohli deciding to enforce the follow on, the Lankans face an uphill battle in their bid to stave off defeat.

 

Ashwin ended up with figures of 5/69 in 16.4 overs. Fast bowler Mohammed Shami bowled superbly for figures of 2/13 while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja returned 2/84. Fast bowler Umesh Yadav also bagged a wicket.

This is the 26th five-wicket haul for Ashwin in Test cricket, achieving the feat in his 51st appearance in the longest format of the game. He is placed second in the all-time list among Indian bowlers. Former leg-spinner Anil Kumble is at the top spot with 35 hauls from 132 Test matches.

Harbhajan Singh is third with 25 hauls from 103 Tests, the legendary Kapil Dev is placed fourth with 23 from 131 while B.S. Chandrashekhar has 16 from 58.

This is also the third highest first innings lead for India. The highest is 492 against Bangladesh in Dhakain 2007 while the lead of 478 runs against West Indies in the Kolkata Test of 2011 is second on the list.

Niroshan Dickwella was the highest scorer among the Lankans with a quickfire 51 runs off 48 deliveries which included seven boundaries and a six.

Resuming the day at 50/2, Sri Lanka lost wickets in quick succession. Quite a few of the Lankan batsmen managed to get decent starts but were unable to convert them into big scores.

Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Mendis departed shortly after the start of the day's play before Dickwella and Angelo Mathews managed to hold the Indian bowlers at bay for a short while with a 53-run stand.

However, that only proved to be a short respite for the hosts and as soon as both departed in consecutive overs, the Indian bowlers were back on top.

The rest of the Lankan batsmen could not last on a pitch which was taking quite a bit of turn as the Indians tightened their grip on the match.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka (first innings): 183 (Niroshan Dickwella 51; Ravichandran Ashwin 5/69) vs India (first innings): 622/9 declared.

 

 

 

 

 

A vastly superior India outclassed an injury-ravaged and out-of-sorts Sri Lanka by 304 runs in the opening Test to bury the ghosts of a humiliating loss at the same venue, exactly two years ago on Saturday. India lead the three-match series 1-0. This was India's biggest overseas win (in terms of runs) surpassing 279 run-victory against England at Leeds in 1986. For Sri Lanka, it was their biggest defeat (in terms of runs), surpassing their 301-run loss against Pakistan in 1994. A gigantic victory target of 550 was out of question for the hosts but they fizzled out in the final session of the fourth day to finish on 245 in 76.5 overs - their innings terminated with injured skipper Rangana Herath and Asela Gunaratne ruled out.

This was after India captain Virat Kohli struck his 17th Test hundred with India declaring their second innings at 240 for three.

The Sri Lankans, especially their opener Dimuth Karunaratne (97) batted gutsily for the first two sessions reaching 192 for 4 at tea.

However Ravichandran Ashwin (3/65 in 27 overs) ran through the middle-order. Once Karunaratne was dismissed trying to play paddle sweep, it was all over for the islanders.

After the tea break, India made short work of proceedings. The breakthrough was achieved in the fifth over after the break. Niroshan Dickwella (67) top-edged off Ashwin with Wriddhiman Saha collecting an easy catch.

Dilruwan Perera (21 no) added 23 runs for the sixth wicket with Karunaratne. The Lankan resistance ended for all-purpose when the latter was bowled off Ashwin, dragging a sweep back onto his stumps. Overall, he faced 208 balls and hit 9 fours.

Two balls later, Virat Kohli took a great catch at leg slip and accounted for Nuwan Pradeep (0) as well. The end came swiftly when Lahiru Kumara (0) skied off Ravindra Jadeja (3/71).

Herath and Gunaratne were unable to bat owing to on-field injuries. Umesh Yadav (1/42) and Mohammed Shami (1/43) took a wicket apiece at the start of the innings.

In post-lunch, Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis (36) continued their partnership for the third wicket. The two batsmen looked to play for time and cut out any aggressive strokes. They did capitalise on run-scoring opportunities, as this atypical Galle pitch didn't provide much support to the Indian spinners. In all, they put on 79 runs.

Karunaratne scored his 12th Test half-century off 81 balls. Overall, he faced 166 deliveries and hit 9 fours. In doing so, he brought up Sri Lanka's 100 in the 27th over.

In that same over, Mendis survived a DRS review off Ashwin for caught behind as Ultra-Edge didn't show any deviation.

Four overs later, Mendis was caught behind off Jadeja as the DRS review was turned in India's favour, this time an edge clearly detected off the batsman. It became a double blow for Lanka thereafter as Angelo Mathews (2) was caught going for a wild slog at backward point off Jadeja again.

Karunaratne though held his ground and put on another 79 runs for the fifth wicket with Dickewella. The two batted out 22.3 overs until the tea break to defy India's bowling.

In the morning, starting from overnight 189/3, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane showed an eagerness to score runs.

It was obvious that the visitors were waiting for the captain to get to his landmark before putting Lanka into bat again. And to his credit Kohli didn't waste any time as he reached his hundred off 133 balls in the sixth over of the morning. Overall, Kohli faced 136 balls and hit five fours as well as a six.

In doing so, he equalled the records of former Indian skipper Dilip Vengsarkar (116 Tests) and VVS Laxman (134 Tests), who both have 17 Test hundreds. Kohli reached his milestone in only his 58th Test. The Indian declaration came after the very next over. It was the second highest target set by India in a Test after 617 versus New Zealand at Wellington in 2009.

Kohli and Rahane put on 51 runs for the 4th wicket. In doing so, they became the 14th pair to put up 2000-plus runs in Test cricket for India. Kohli also became the quickest captain to score 1000 overseas Test runs, reaching the mark in 17 innings. He improved Sachin Tendulkar's record of 19 innings.

 

 

 

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PATNA:  Nitish Kumar quit as the Chief Minister of Bihar in a shock move this evening, ending the Grand Alliance with Lalu Yadav and the Congress, formed three years ago to keep the BJP out of power in Bihar. Sources said he would take oath tomorrow, forming a new government with the support of the BJP. After his meeting with Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi, Mr Kumar said the approach of his allies, Lalu and Tejashwi Yadav, to a CBI case of corruption filed against them earlier this month, made it untenable for him to remain in partnership with them. Within hours, the BJP offered support to a government formed by Mr Kumar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted support to Mr Kumar "joining the fight against corruption", drawing a tweet of thanks.

 

 

Here is a 10-point guide to this big political story:
  1. "There was no scandal before this, I tried to make it work for as long as I could," said Nitish Kumar to reporters this evening. "My conscience would not allow me to continue," he said.

 

 

  1. BJP chief Amit Shah dialled Patna and after a discussion, the seniormost BJP leader in Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, said he conveyed the party's decision to Mr Kumar. "Nityanand Rai ji and I called Nitish ji. BJP has decided to support him and the government formed under him, We will inform the Governor too," Mr Modi said.

 

 

  1. Sources said the BJP, which earlier said it could offer Mr Kumar "outside support", has decided to join the new government.

 

 

  1. Asked about an alliance with the BJP, Mr Kumar said, "Let's see what happens next. We will decide on whatever is best for Bihar."

 

 

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Mr Kumar in a series of tweets. "For the nation, especially for Bihar's bright future, rising above political differences and fighting against corruption is the need of the hour," his tweet read. "Many many congratulation to Nitish Kumarji for joining the fight against corruption. Over hundred million citizens are welcoming and supporting of the honesty."

 

 

  1. After Nitish Kumar's resignation, Lalu Yadav hit back with an allegation. "Nitish Kumar faced charges worse than corruption, we knew it. He has murder taint on him, we never raised it," he said. He also accused Mr Kumar of being in league with the BJP.

 

 

  1. On July 7, the Yadavs were accused of corruption stemming from Lalu Yadav's term as Railways Minister; their home was raided. Nitish Kumar dropped broad hints that Lalu's son Tejashwi Yadav, 28, must quit his post of Deputy Chief Minister.  Today, Lalu Yadav announced that their son, Tejashwi, would not quit.

 

 

 

  1. Last month, Nitish Kumar abandoned his allies and other parties to side with the BJP in the election for President of India. He said the opposition which has formed an 18-party league was "in a mess" thanks largely to the Congress. The corruption case against the Yadavs allowed Nitish Kumar the exit point he was looking for to return to the BJP, say his critics, without making it seem like he is politically promiscuous.

 

 

 

  1. His support for the Prime Minister was first vociferously expressed in November when he stood out as the only opposition heavyweight to back the sudden ban of high-denomination notes.

 

 

 

  1. In 2013, Nitish Kumar ended a 17-year alliance with the BJP over its decision to promote Mr Modi as its presumptive prime minister. In 2015, he tied up with the Congress and former rival Lalu Yadav to block the PM from winning Bihar for the BJP.

 

 

 

 

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NEW DELHI:  The BJP has picked Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, for President of India. The announcement was made after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Amit Shah and other top leaders of his party. PM Modi, who on Twitter said the Governor would make "an exceptional President", has personally talked to Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh to seek their support for the BJP's nominee. They and other opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee said they will decide whether to back the BJP's choice after they meet on Thursday. "It's a duty, let's take it as such," Governor Kovind told NDTV today as he took off from Patna for Delhi.

 

 

Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:

Governor Kovind, 71, has served twice as a Rajya Sabha member, and is a trained lawyer. He will travel to Delhi from Patna this evening.

 

The selection of a Dalit leader for President is a move by the BJP to consolidate its growing support among backward castes and poorer voters. If elected, Governor Kovind will be India's second Dalit president after KR Narayanan, who served from 1997 to 2002. 

 

The opposition has said that despite the BJP talking of wanting a "consensus candidate", it sought no input on Governor Kovind's candidature. Opposition leaders will meet on Thursday to decide whether they will field their own candidate. 

 

"Now that they have made the decision unilaterally, there is no more scope for discussion with them," said Left leader Sitaram Yechury, complaining that at conferrals last week, the BJP mentioned no names including that of Governor Kovind.

 

The complaint on not being consulted was duplicated by the BJP's permanently disgruntled ally, the Shiv Sena, which said it learnt through the media of the nomination for President. The Sena will announce tonight whether it will back the BJP, party leaders said.

 

Several opposition leaders are already indicating that they will find it tough to oppose Mr Kovind, given his caste. "As he is a Dalit, we are positive on his name, but only if the opposition doesn't announce a popular Dalit name (too)," said Dalit leader Mayawati.

 

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, another key component of the opposition, said the Governor's credentials are also impressive. "Kovind has discharged his duties in an unbiased manner as the Bihar Governor. He has worked as per the Constitution and upheld the dignity of the Governor's post. His was an ideal relation with the state government," the Chief Minister said after congratulating Mr Kovind in person.

 

However, he said, his party will decide on whether to back the Governor's promotion only after it consults with others on Thursday.

 

Ms Banerjee, the Bengal Chief Minister who has been a vocal critic of the PM on most issues lately, said, "I am not for a moment saying that the Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind is unfit to be the President. I have spoken to 2 or 3 other Opposition leaders, they are also surprised. There are other big Dalit leaders in the country." 

 

If an election is held, the BJP and its allies are positioned to make their candidate win because regional parties, including some from the south, have committed their support to the ruling alliance.

 

 

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