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PM Modi's raincoat comment extremely shameful, demeaning: Robert Vadra

Dubbing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's raincoat barb as 'extremely demeaning,' Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra on Thursday said it was shameful for the entire nation that Manmohan Singh had to bear the brunt of Prime Minister Modi's jibe.

"It's extremely shameful for the entire nation that a senior and graceful politician like Manmohanji had to bear the brunt of our PM, Narendra Modi's jibes. His remarks, "The art of taking bath wearing a raincoat must be learnt from Manmohan Singh" were extremely demeaning. Manmohanji is an epitome of grace and maturity that he even refused to respond to our PM," Vadra said in a Facebook post.

Vadra also lashed out at Prime Minister Modi for linking Uttarakhand tremors with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's 'earthquake' remark.

"Day before, Modi took jibes at Rahul Gandhi and made fun of earthquake that hit Uttarakhand. It's sad to see our PM making such derogatory statements hurting sentiments of people," the post read.

UK Parliament gives Theresa May authority to trigger Article 50

The House of Commons approved the EU (notification of withdrawal) bill by a vote of 494-122, a majority of 372. This could mean that Britain is a mere month away from the triggering of Article 50, that will start the (the supposedly irreversible) two-year process of withdrawal from the EU. The bill will now go to the House of Lords by 7th March, with speculation that Theresa May plans on triggering Article 50, with the authority that this legislation gives her, at an EU summit two days later on 9th March.

The opposition Labour Party is facing an unprecedented crisis as a result of the vote. Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis resigned from the shadow cabinet and voted against the bill, after none of the amendments put forward by the Labour Party managed to get approved by the Parliament. Lewis was the fourth shadow minister to resign over the three-line whip issued by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to vote for the bill, even if none of the amendments introduced by the Labour Party were successfully adopted.

US shortens expiration period of old visa to 12 months for Chinese citizens

The United States has shortened the expiration period of old visa from within 48 months to within 12 months for Chinese citizens to apply for a new visa without interview.

A note published on the website of the U.S. embassy in China said that if Chinese citizens previously received a US visa that expired within the last 12 months and they are returning to the country for the same purpose of travel, they may be able to obtain a visa without coming to the consulate for an interview, reports the Global Times.

An agent providing visa services said that the change would make it harder for Chinese citizens to apply for a visa, adding, however, that it will have little influence on people who hold a 10-year travel visa.

According to experts, the change in visa policy might be linked to Trump's determination to restrain illegal immigration.

UP polls: Demand for division of Uttar Pradesh loses steam as parties step back

Once a hot issue to lure voters, division of Uttar Pradesh no longer finds favour with key political parties this time round.

Promises to carve out Harit Pradesh (western UP), Poorvanchal (eastern UP), Bundelkhand and Awadh have been pushed to the back burner with no party pushing for division of the state.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), headed by Mayawati, was once a strong supporter of the demand to corner ruling Samajwadi Party on development and law and order issues, maintaining that smaller states could be governed better.

Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, by whose name Mayawati swears, had recommended division of Uttar Pradesh in his book "Bhashayi Rajya".

As the chief minister, Mayawati had first raised the issue way back in 2007 and her government had even adopted a resolution in the state Assembly seeking division of the state into four parts.

India-US bilateral defence: James Mattis calls Parrikar, vows to build upon defence cooperation

India and US have agreed to "sustain the momentum on key bilateral defence efforts" after Defence Secretary James Mattis called his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar and expressed commitment to build upon the tremendous progress made in bilateral defence cooperation.

This was the first conversation between the two leaders after Mattis was sworn in as the Defense Secretary of the US President Donald Trump last month.

"In their first conversation, Secretary Mattis committed to build upon the tremendous progress in bilateral defense cooperation made in recent years, underscoring the strategic importance of the US-India relationship and India's role in advancing global peace and security," the Pentagon Press Secretary Capt Jeff Davis said yesterday.

"Secretary Mattis and Minister Parrikar affirmed their commitment to sustain the momentum on key bilateral defense efforts to include the defense technology and trade initiative," Davis said after the phone call between the two leaders which took place yesterday.