Indian media: 'Setback' to Laloo Yadav's poll ambitions

File photo of Laloo Yadav Image copyright AFP
Image caption Laloo Prasad Yadav is one of India's most colourful politicians

Media in India are reporting a split in the regional Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) party led by former federal minister Laloo Prasad Yadav.

The RJD has 22 members in the assembly of the eastern state of Bihar and fiercely opposes the ruling Janata Dal (United) party.

Yadav is likely to form an alliance with the Congress party, which runs the federal government, for the forthcoming national elections.

But his ambitions suffered a "major blow" on Monday when 13 of its state legislators decided to quit the party, reports said. Mr Yadav, however, denied such reports and claimed that at least six of the "13 rebels" had pledged their support to the party.

"The split has dealt a severe blow to Yadav's plans for a comeback as a major political player in Bihar in the national elections, due by May," says the NDTV website.

He was jailed in October last year after being found guilty of embezzling state funds intended to buy food for cattle while he was the chief minister of Bihar. He was released on bail in December but remains disqualified from parliament and cannot contest elections.

But he is allowed to run his party and manage its campaign.

He is one of the most colourful politicians in India and was planning his party's comeback on a national stage when the reported "split" happened.

The Zee News website sees the "revolt" in the RJD as a "big setback" to his national ambitions, while the India Today website says "there is no end of bad news for Yadav".

Meanwhile, over 500 passengers had "a narrow escape" when a mid-air collision was averted after an air force fighter jet came "dangerously close" to two international flights over the northern city of Amritsar, The Hindustan Times reports.

An inquiry has been ordered into the incident, which occurred on 20 February, the report adds.

Rubbish worry

Staying with national news, over 40 juvenile offenders escaped from a correction home in northwest Delhi "amid arson and stone-pelting", The Hindu reports.

This is the third such incident in the past few months at the facility which houses "nearly 180 juvenile delinquents", the report adds.

Elsewhere, a parliamentary panel has expressed concerns over a waste disposal crisis in Delhi, the Hindustan Times reports.

The daily generation of garbage is likely to jump to 19,100 tonnes by 2024, up from the current 9,200 tonnes, and the city has to start preparing to deal with the crisis, the panel said in its report.

In business news, international ratings agency Moody's says India's economic growth is expected to "remain sluggish" at 5.5% in the financial year beginning 1 April, with the upcoming elections delaying the reforms process, a report in The Business Standard says.

Mobile radiation

In international news, papers are worried about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine after President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed by an interim government on Saturday.

"From India's perspective, the turmoil in Ukraine is a matter of grave concern... Delhi must exercise caution in this regard, as it cannot afford to be caught in the crosshairs of Russia, the European Union and now the US-led West," The Pioneer says.

The Times of India says: "Ukraine must hold elections and if need be in the presence of international observers, and stick to lawful process and multiculturalism. And big powers must desist from interfering."

And finally, the telecom department is planning to launch a website that will allow users to check radiation from mobile phone towers in their area, The Hindu reports.

The junior Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Milind Deora, said a study had been commissioned to "formalise India-specific electromagnetic field radiation" standards.

Telecom firms use more than 550,000 towers across India to serve hundreds of millions of mobile handsets, but activists have often voiced concerns over the "harmful radiation" from these towers, reports say.

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