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India PM in office but 'not in power', book claims

A tell-all book by an ex-aide to India's Premier Manmohan Singh depicting him as a powerless political puppet hit bookstores this weekend, stirring new controversy in the midst of a bitterly fought election. The book, giving ammunition to opposition critics during the marathon polling which winds up May 12, paints a damning portrait of a premier who was in office -- but "not in power" -- while ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi called the shots.

India' tea workers buck trend, stick with Congress

Retired tea worker Vilati Tati has a strong brew of complaints about the Congress government and queuing at the start of India's election required a Herculean effort for the 70-year-old. But after a lifetime working on plantations in India's famed northeastern Assam tea district, Tati said she had no qualms about still voting for the ruling party even though it faces electoral humiliation elsewhere.

Indian man dies after self-immolation protest

An Indian man died on Monday after setting himself on fire over the denial of land rights by the northeast Assam state government, officials said. Pranab Boro, a 45-year-old farmer activist, set himself ablaze after pouring kerosene oil over himself in Guwahati city, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma told AFP. "He was admitted to the hospital with 100 percent burn injuries and despite best efforts by doctors, he died," said Sarma.

Indian man dies after self-immolation protest

An Indian man died on Monday after setting himself on fire over the denial of land rights by the northeast Assam state government, officials said. Pranab Boro, a 45-year-old farmer activist, set himself ablaze after pouring kerosene oil over himself in Guwahati city, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma told AFP. "He was admitted to the hospital with 100 percent burn injuries and despite best efforts by doctors, he died," said Sarma.

Indian parliament's last session set to be pre-election scrap

By Shyamantha Asokan and Angus MacSwan NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's parliament reconvened on Wednesday for its last session before a general election, a final chance for the ruling Congress party to convince voters it is taking action on corruption and to showcase the resolve of leader Rahul Gandhi. After 10 years in power, the popularity of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by Congress, has sagged in large part over a series of graft scandals as well as its inability to halt a sliding economy.

India 'disappointed' after US downgrades air safety ranking

US aviation authorities have downgraded India's safety ranking in a "disappointing" and "surprising" move that will hit the expansion of air links between the countries, India's aviation minister said Friday. "They have downgraded us to category 2, which is very disappointing and also surprising," Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi. anb-adp/tha/erf

Rahul Gandhi awaits further promotion in India's ruling party

The path is clear for India's Gandhi family scion Rahul to become the Congress party's next prime ministerial candidate, following premier Manmohan Singh's announcement Friday that he will step down before this year's polls. Rahul, 43, is already number two in the Congress, behind his mother Sonia who is party president, and he is chief strategist for the national elections. The party originally had no plans to declare its candidate for the top job before voting, but newspapers are now speculating that Rahul will be promoted as early as a meeting on January 17.

Indians in remote regions campaign for new time zone

A leading politician in northeast India gave fresh momentum Thursday to calls to scrap the country's single time zone, which causes problems for easterners who face summer sunrise as early as 4:30am. Despite India's vast size, it has one time of +5:30 from Greenwich Mean Time for its 1.2-billion population, spread from points further east than Bangladesh to the western Arabian Sea. At this time of year the sun rises in the east shortly before 6am, more than 90 minutes earlier than in the west, while daybreak in the east comes as early as 4:30am around the summer solstice.

Angry India tells US 'times have changed' after diplomat spat

India angrily brushed aside fresh efforts Friday by the United States to defuse a row over the arrest and strip-search of one of its diplomats, warning Washington that "times have changed". Diplomatic sources said Nancy Powell, the US ambassador to New Delhi, was holding talks with senior foreign ministry officials as part of efforts to resolve the crisis sparked by the December 12 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general at its mission in New York.

India urges US to drop case against arrested female diplomat

India Thursday urged the United States to drop the case against a female diplomat who was arrested and strip-searched and apologise for her "terrible" treatment, ratcheting up pressure in the blistering diplomatic row. US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed "regret" over the episode in New York, and India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said he hoped the "valuable relationship" with Washington would soon return to an even keel.
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