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It’s all about Modi’s ‘mamas’, Stalin’s Rahul as PM and golden girl, Sindhu

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In most of today’s papers, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections overwhelm other developments, including the death of seven civilians during protests against an anti-militancy operation in Kashmir.

“Modi slams Congress: No Quattrocchi mama or Michel uncle in NDA deals” reads The Indian Express’ lead headline. In his first remarks since the Supreme Court rejected judicial intervention in the Rafale case, Modi took the “fight against Congress to Sonia’s home turf”, Hindustan Times notes.

“Addressing rallies in Rae Bareli and Allahabad, Modi accused Congress of having no faith in SC and recalled former PM Indira Gandhi’s attempt to take challenges to her election outside the purview of judicial scrutiny,” The Times of India reports. Rae Bareli is Sonia’s Lok Sabha constituency.

Meanwhile, union finance minister Arun Jaitley took to Facebook to call out the Congress on its “lies, short-lived lies and now further lies” regarding the purported review of the Rafale deal by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG).

According to Jaitley, the CAG review is “not relevant” to the SC’s judgment. The fresh political row over Rafale stems from an alleged typographical error in the SC judgment, which implied the CAG had conducted a review and submitted its report to Paliament’s public accounts committee.

The Telegraph remains unconvinced by Jaitley’s arguments, and jokes about his own grammar: “‘All the lies spoken on the Rafale deal has [sic] been exposed,’ Jaitley began his blog.”

The Economic Times editorial on the Supreme Court’s Rafale verdict is perhaps the best on the subject. Under the headline “Flawed Result of a Misplaced Review”, the editorial reads, “The court should have dismissed the PIL seeing a premature review of a sensitive defence deal, instead of taking an arbitrary call that has a bearing on the political discourse.”

A further twist in the race for 2019 is DMK chief M.K. Stalin’s support for Rahul Gandhi as a PM candidate. “He said the Gandhi scion had the ability to defeat the ‘fascist-Nazi Narendra Modi government’,” reports The Hindu.

This endorsement finds no Page 1 mention in TOI, though The Indian Express gives it prominence, emphasising a lack of enthusiasm from regional parties.

Chhattisgarh’s new Congress chief minister, Bhupesh Baghel, is on the front page of all newspapers. TOI says Baghel made the ideal candidate because of his “organisational stewardship”.

However, his “first priority”, to waive farmer loans, comes in for some criticism: TOI’s editorial draws on the opinion of 13 economists led by former RBI chief Raghuram Rajan to say that “farm loan waivers, the staple of an election manifesto today, do not work”.

The Hindu is sceptical of the Congress’s choice of chief ministers, saying that its selection of “experience over youthful dynamism” means it lost out on the opportunity to “be bold and break the old mould…A good way to start would be by decentralising power and not concentrating it in the so-called high command, a feeble euphemism for the Nehru-Gandhi family”, it writes in its editorial.

A victorious P.V. Sindhu lights up the front pages of all mainstream papers with her smile: Her win Sunday at the World Tour Finals in China, The Indian Express informs us, also got Sindhu her “biggest pay cheque”.

Meanwhile, the continuing tensions in Kashmir have been left to the inside pages, except in The Times of India.

In the aftermath of the civilian deaths during protests against an anti-militancy operation in Pulwama, The Times of India writes in its Page 1 lead, “The stage is set for a confrontation between security forces and protesters.”

Prime Time

While several channels like Times Now focused on the Prime Minister’s attack on the Congress in Rae Bareli, DMK president M.K. Stalin’s vote for Rahul Gandhi as PM candidate was debated on others, including India Today.

Times Now host Athar Khan’s alliterative ‘Rafale, Rahul and Rajneeti’ on The Newshour Sunday night involved a panel discussion on whether attacking the Congress will help Prime Minister Modi win.

BJP spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam defended the PM, saying, “If the Congress is telling lies, it is our responsibility to expose them.”

Lawyer Vikas Gupta attacked the incumbent government on its “accountability”, which is “absolutely zero… The 2019 elections will be on the report card of this government”.

Meanwhile, India Today anchor Pooja Shali asked whether the satraps spearheading discussions for an opposition alliance would accept Rahul Gandhi as the next prime minister.

S.G. Suryah of the BJP said, “The Congress and the DMK may have joined together but there is no greater alliance happening.”

Muralidharan Sivalingam of the ruling AIADMK thought, “This marriage between the parties (DMK-Congress) is due to ‘Modi-phobia’ that is driving all the leaders up the wall.’’

On Aaj Tak, host Saral Ansari asked if the Congress could win the Lok Sabha elections with a united Opposition.

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain was dismissive of the prospects of any opposition alliance: “The word ‘gathbandan’ has lost its meaning now that Nitish Kumar is on our side.”

Congess spokesperson Akhilesh Sinha shot back, “This debate itself is proof of the fact that the country now depends on the Congress. People want to give a chance to a humble party like ours to perform.”

News it’s just kinda cool to know

Miss Phillippines Catriona Gray has been crowned Miss Universe 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, India Today reports. NDTV added that Miss India Nehal Chudasama failed to make it to the pageant’s Top 20 shortlist.

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