Stormy session marks Indian Parliament’s last session before 2014 elections

Updated 06 February 2014
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Stormy session marks Indian Parliament’s last session before 2014 elections

NEW DELHI: Congress party hopes of pushing through new laws to tackle corruption stalled on Wednesday when the Indian Parliament’s last session before a general election was adjourned amid rowdy scenes over the proposed creation of a new state.
The session, which will go through to Feb. 21, is seen as a final chance for Congress, which leads the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition, to convince voters it is taking action on graft and to showcase leader Rahul Gandhi.
After 10 years in power, its popularity has sagged in large part over a series of graft scandals as well as its inability to halt a slide in the economy.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calls it a lame duck government that is merely making a last-ditch attempt to shore up support. It should leave decisions to the next government, BJP leaders say.
On the eve of Parliament’s reopening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed to all parties to help push through legislation. But Finance Minister P. Chidambaram acknowledged that might be a forlorn hope.
“I doubt whether it will pass any law. We’ve to go through the ritual of attending Parliament every day and coming back empty handed,” Chidambaram said in a speech to students.
Congress will try to push through 39 bills, including six anti-corruption bills, to address public anger over graft. They address issues such as protection for whistleblowers and corruption in the judiciary. It will also try to pass an interim budget expected to contain some pre-election sops for voters.
But shouting and protests over the creation of a new southern state derailed other matters when the session began, despite speaker Meira Kumar’s appeals for calm. The new state, Telangana, would be carved out of Andhra Pradesh and should generate vote-winning support for Congress.
Members of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh crowded around the rostrum of the chamber to denounce the proposed split, some carrying placards saying “Hail United Andhra Pradesh.”
The turn of events was hardly a surprise and the same might happen again on Thursday.
The Economic Times urged the opposition not to block the functioning of what it called the worst-performing House since independence from Britain in 1947.
“The opposition should also agree to cooperate in passing other important pieces of economic legislation cleared by various standing committees,” it said in an editorial.



The world’s largest democracy must hold a parliamentary election by May and the date is expected to be announced round about the close of the session.
The bills due to come up for debate cover issues that Gandhi, the fourth generation member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that leads Congress, has championed, including women’s empowerment and graft.
It may be too little, too late.
Opinion polls put the BJP, a conservative Hindu nationalist party spearheaded by Narendra Modi, ahead of Congress.
The newly formed Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party (AAP), which campaigns against corruption and took power in the capital Delhi in local elections in December, could draw voters away from either one while a number of smaller parties are discussing the formation of a “Third Front.”
Chandan Mitra, a BJP upper house member, said Parliament should not be rushed into passing bills without due scrutiny.
“There is no obligation on the part of the opposition to allow Mr Rahul Gandhi to get his agenda pushed though,” Mitra told Reuters before the session opened. “The government is trying to end this term on a high, but we don’t want to give them an easy ride.”
Also on the slate is a bill on reserving a bloc of parliamentary seats for women, reflecting the growing prominence of women’s issues after a series of sexual assaults.
Mitra said the interim budget was a priority.
“The interim budget will be passed as no one wants a shutdown,” he said.
Ajay Gudavarthy, a politics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said Congress hoped to use the session to present itself and Gandhi as forces that can fight corruption.
“The party is trying to build an image for Rahul Gandhi. He is a bit of a non-symbol now and that is a big problem,” he said.
Mandira Kala, head of research at PRS Legislative Research, said the corruption issue should not distract attention from the economy. Once a star performer, India’s growth has slowed in recent years and it is now weathering a storm in emerging markets.
“When you look at what the economy needs there are a lot of bills that are not being looked at,” said Kala, picking out a pending higher education bill and a mining bill as examples.”


French tourist shot dead in Bangkok by off-duty Thai cop

Updated 12 December 2018
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French tourist shot dead in Bangkok by off-duty Thai cop

  • The Parisian was shot dead at a downtown apartment block after an altercation with a police sergeant major
  • Policeman followed him back to his place and shot him twice

BANGKOK, Thailand: A French tourist was gunned down early Wednesday by an off-duty Thai cop after a drunken bar fight in a seedy Bangkok district, police said.
The 41-year-old Parisian was shot dead at a downtown apartment block after an altercation with the police sergeant major who had approached the tourist’s Thai girlfriend.
“They were drunk... they started to argue and then had a fist fight but the policeman couldn’t fight back,” the Chief of Thailand’s Immigration Police Surachate Hakpan told AFP.
“The policeman followed him back to his place and shot him twice,” he said, adding the victim had been in Thailand for several months.
The officer has been arrested and “will be fired... and prosecuted on a murder charge,” Surachate added.
Police are hunting a second suspect seen on CCTV.
Gruesome pictures circulated on Thai media showed the victim lying in a pool of blood in front of a doughnut shop at his apartment block.
Bangkok is one of the world’s most visited cities, famed for its food and racy nightlife, much of it around Nana district where the murder took place.
Thailand has a grim reputation for its gun culture, with drunken arguments, business disputes and soured romances frequently resolved by violence.