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Former Minister set to join BJP, likely to file nomination for Rajya Sabha today

The political crisis in Madhya Pradesh came to a head on Tuesday morning with former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia quitting the Congress and all set to join the BJP.

Setting off a chain of events, the former MP from Guna drove to Gujarat Bhawan in the morning to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The two later left for the Prime Minister’s official residence, 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, in Mr. Shah’s vehicle. Mr. Scindia, 49, announced his decision to quit the Congress party right after his meeting with Mr. Modi.

Stifled in party

While Mr. Scindia’s resignation letter was dated March 9, he made it public only after he met Mr. Modi. In his letter addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Scindia said he was unable to serve the people within the party and was hence taking this step.

The Congress later said it had sacked Mr. Scindia.

Mr. Scindia’s loyalists in the Madhya Pradesh Congress (around 19 MLAs, including a Minister) had landed in Bengaluru on Monday, prompting an emergency meeting of the State Cabinet. Sixteen Ministers had submitted their resignation to Chief Minister Kamal Nath allowing a Cabinet revamp.

In talks for months

This, however, was not enough to pacify Mr. Scindia who has been having growing differences in the Congress over what is his due after the party gained power in the State.

Sources in the BJP said Mr. Shah and Mr. Scindia as well as a BJP spokesperson, who is a personal friend of the latter from his banking days, had been in talks for months. Later State-level leader Narendra Tomar had been roped in along with Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Around the last week of February, Mr. Scindia handed over a list of 24 MLAs who were with him. After this State BJP leader Narottam Mishra got in touch with the dissenters, while Mr. Scindia met with senior BJP leaders in Delhi. An abortive attempt on March 5 to spirit away MLAs was made, but on March 8, after finalising the offer of a Rajya Sabha seat for Mr. Scindia, 19 MLAs loyal to him were moved to the BJP-ruled Karnataka.

While Mr. Scindia did not join the BJP on Tuesday, sources say he is likely to do so on Wednesday in Bhopal and file nominations for the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

Mr. Scindia’s aunt and BJP leader Yashodhara Raje said on record that he would join the party soon.

The BJP held a meeting of its Central Election Committee (CEC) on Tuesday evening but a member told The Hindu that the list of its candidates for next month’s Rajya Sabha polls will only be out on Wednesday.

Speculation is rife over the future course of the Madhya Pradesh government and Mr. Scindia.

Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra report fresh cases

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan. REUTERS

Fourteen more people have tested positive for COVID-19 — eight in Kerala and three each in Karnataka and Maharashtra, State authorities said on Tuesday, as the total number of cases in the country went up to 61.

Of the eight new cases in Kerala, six belong to the COVID-19 cluster that originated in Pathanamthitta district, all of which are linked to the family that arrived from Italy on February 29.

The other two cases are that of the parents of the three-year-old boy who tested positive earlier and is already in isolation at the Government Medical College Hospital, Ernakulam. This family too came from Italy but they landed in Kochi only on March 8.

The daughter of a Pune couple, who tested positive on Monday, a co-passenger and the Ola cab driver who ferried the couple from the Mumbai airport to Pune on their return from Dubai on March 1 were the latest to test positive in Maharashtra, said State health officials.

While all the new cases reported on Tuesday are yet to be confirmed by the Union Health Ministry, Special Secretary (Health), Sanjeeva Kumar, said: “The total number of positive cases are now 50. Of these, 34 are Indian nationals and 16 are citizens of Italy. There has been no death in the country due to the coronavirus so far.”

On Tuesday, 58 Indians were airlifted from Iran. “Mission completed. On to the next,” Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted.

Visa curbs

The government on Tuesday barred entry of nationals of three more countries — France, Germany and Spain — suspending the regular as well as e-Visas granted to them till date, if they have not yet entered the country.

The Health Ministry said that it has, for the first time, used a combination of two drugs meant for HIV treatment. These drugs have been used for treating the coronavirus-affected elderly Italian couple at a Jaipur hospital.

Premamati and Taramati were legends

U.S. Ambassador to India, Kenneth I. Juster, centre, in Hyderabad on Tuesday. Nagara Gopal

On Tuesday, as visitors walked past the freshly laid lawn and stepped inside the tomb of Premamati at the Qutb Shahi tombs complex at Golconda here, the morning sunlight bounced off the floor and lit up the insides. The accumulated grime over the years was gone; also gone was the musty damp odour. According to historians, Premamati was a companion of Abdullah Qutb Shah, the seventh king of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, who ruled between 1626 and 1672. She was fabled to be a danseuse and was powerful enough to build a mosque just outside the Golconda fort. The stone mosque remains unfinished as Premamati died in 1662 when Abdullah Qutb Shah was at the height of his power.

“Much of it is original lime stucco work. Wherever it was damaged, we restored,” said Ratish Nanda, CEO, Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), on the recent effort to restore two tombs here. The other restored tomb belongs to Taramati, who is fabled to be a companion of Sultan Muhammad Qutb Shah.

The two tombs are of two women who retained their identities and were honoured with a space inside the royal necropolis of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. They have been restored using the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

Photographs taken before the conservation work began show domes covered with moss and big peepal trees. “The trees led to seepage, damaging the inside of the dome. The plinth was in a dilapidated condition ,” said AKTC’s Prashant Banerjee.

Interestingly, while Premamati’s dome is 1.5 times bigger than that of Taramati’s, both of them look equal due to the different sizes of the finials. A dancing pavilion built in Taramati’s honour outside the Golconda Fort still exists and has been turned into a convention centre.

Globemaster aircraft evacuated stranded persons

Back home: Indian nationals after they were brought to India by Indian Air Force's C-17 Globemaster aircraft from COVID-19-hit Iran, at Hindon airbase on Tuesday. Fifty-eight Indians were airlifted in the military transport aircraft.PTIRavi Choudhary

The Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17 Globemaster aircraft with Indians evacuated from Coronavirus-hit Iran landed at Hindan Air Force Station on Tuesday morning.

“The C-17 returned from Iran to Hindan airbase this morning with 58 Indian citizens onboard. The Indians who have returned from Iran will be quarantined at Hindon,” the IAF said.

Defence officials said 31 women, 25 men and two children were brought back. The aircraft also carried 529 samples for investigation.

“IAF has activated necessary medical protocols and has put required facilities in place to provide fellow citizens with adequate care and support,” the IAF stated.

The C-17 with an IAF medical team and support staff onboard took off at 8 p.m. on Monday evening from Hindan airbase.

Samples brought back

It brought swab samples of 529 Indians to carry out laboratory tests and check whether they carry coronavirus infection.

About 2,000 Indians are living in Iran, a country that has witnessed increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in the last few days.

The official said the Indian citizens who have returned from Iran have been quarantined at a medical facility in Hindon.

“The IAF has activated necessary medical protocols and has put required facilities in place to provide fellow citizens with adequate care and support,” an official said.

(With PTI inputs)

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