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53 per cent voter turnout in Delhi municipal polls

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New Delhi, Apr 23 : The high-stakes Delhi municipal polls today saw a turnout of around 53 per cent, with a sluggish start and a brisk end, even as rancour over “faulty EVMs” coloured the entire exercise with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal railing at the state election body.

As the dust settled, the incumbent BJP, which based its campaign largely on the image and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appeared confident of pulling off a victory, two years after the assembly poll debacle.

The figures shared by State Election Commissioner S K Srivastava suggested that the polling percentage could inch past the 2012 mark of 53.23 per cent, which was the highest in 15 years.

The BJP and the Congress had then bagged 138 and 54 seats respectively. This time, the counting will be held on April 26.

Srivastava told a press conference that North Corporation’s Bakhtawarpur ward recorded the highest turnout at over 68 per cent, while south Delhi’s Lado Sarai registered the least turnout at 39 per cent.

Despite a sluggish start, as the day progressed and the heat waned towards the afternoon, people, including the women and the elderly, trooped out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

The AAP, which the exit polls suggested was headed for a drubbing, led the charge against the Commission over technical glitches in EVMs, which the party has claimed can be “tampered with”.

Kejriwal alleged in a tweet, “Reports from all over Delhi of EVM malfunction, people wid voter slips not allowed to vote. What is SEC doing? (sic).”

Srivastava said 18 electronic voting machines (EVMs) were replaced owing to battery or button-related issues.

“Out of 13,000 polling stations, EVMs were changed in only 18 polling stations. It shows our EVMs are unhackable, robust and no wrong can be done,” he said.

To a question on allegations that voting slips were not properly distributed in some areas, he said people were welcome to approach the commission with genuine grievances.

There were no reports of violence. However, a candidate of Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj India claimed that he was roughed up by a Congress candidate and his supporters during polling at a booth in Rohini after he tried to stop him from carrying out “bogus voting”.

Congress, desperate to regain some lost ground, said the matter should be probed by the Election Commission and ensure that people do not have any doubt over the country’s democratic process.

“If the chief minister of Delhi has raised some questions on EVMs, and if it has even one bit of truth, then the commission should look into the matter and ensure that the trust of people on the electoral process does not get hit,” Jaiveer Shergill of the Congress said.

Polling was held in 270 of the 272 wards of the three municipal corporations. The election to two wards has been postponed due to the death of candidates.

A total of 1,32,10,206 voters were entitled to exercise their franchise in electing councillors for the 270 wards falling under the three corporations – NDMC (103), SDMC (104) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (63).

The verdict will determine the standing of the three main players — the AAP, the BJP and the Congress — in Delhi and its ripples will be felt beyond the city’s borders, as it comes within 10 days of the Rajouri Garden bypoll where the Kejriwal-led party had finished third.

Incidentally, in May last year, bypolls to 13 wards were held, in which the AAP had finished on top with five seats, followed by the Congress with 4, the BJP at 3. One seat had gone to an independent candidate.

Election

Congress forms 5-party Mahagathbandhan to take on BJP in Assam

AIUDF General Secretary Aminul Islam said the Mahagathbandhan is good for Assam as it would fulfil the expectations of the people of the state and throw the BJP out of power.

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Guwahati, Jan 20: The opposition Congress on Tuesday announced a five-party ‘Mahagathbandhan’ to take on the ruling BJP-led coalition in Assam in the upcoming Assembly elections expected to be held in April-May.

Announcing the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), Assam Congress President Ripun Bora said that his party would contest the elections in alliance with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the three Left parties – Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) – and the Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM).

He said that regional parties are welcome to join the Mahagathbandhan to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party from power in the state.

“The Congress is always keen to oust all communal forces for the best interest of the country. People are ready to vote out the BJP as its misgovernance caused a lot of distress to the people, who have become fed up with the BJP,” he said.

AIUDF General Secretary Aminul Islam said the Mahagathbandhan is good for Assam as it would fulfil the expectations of the people of the state and throw the BJP out of power.

AGM President Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, also a Rajya Sabha member, termed the formation of the grand alliance as a historic moment. He sounded optimistic that the grand alliance would defeat the BJP in the forthcoming elections.

Besides the AIUDF, a Muslim-dominated party in Assam, and the Left parties, state Congress leaders had held several meetings in the past few months with the ‘like minded parties’.

AIUDF President and Lok Sabha member Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has been stating that the two parties (Congress and AIUDF) have decided to contest the Assembly polls together since their tie-up for the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls held last month.

Recently, interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi had appointed three central leaders — Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh Chief Minister), Mukul Wasnik (AICC General Secretary) and Shakeel Ahmed Khan (Bihar MLA) — to oversee the election campaign in Assam in close coordination with the AICC general secretaries and the party in-charge for the state.

Baghel and other central leaders held meetings with the state party leaders in Guwahati before Assam Congress chief announced the Mahagathbandhan.

The Congress had suffered a setback in the recent elections to the BTC and the Tiwa Autonomous Council. Two of its MLAs – Ajanta Neog and Rajdeep Goala – had joined the BJP last month, delivering another blow to the party.

In the 2016 Assam assembly elections, the Congress had contested on its own without an electoral alliance with any party, securing 24 seats.

After the last Assembly polls, the BJP formed the government in Assam for the first time after winning 60 seats following the formation of an alliance with the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which won 14 and 12 seats, respectively. The ruling alliance also has the support of an Independent MLA.

The 126-member Assam Assembly is likely to go to the polls in April-May along with West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

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Sonia forms 10-member election panel for Kerala chaired by Chandy

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Sonia Gandhi in Cong meeting

New Delhi, Jan 20: Eyeing the assembly polls in Kerala, the Congress on Tuesday announced a 10-member Election Management and Strategy Committee under the leadership of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as its chairperson along with senior party members like Shashi Tharoor and K. C. Venugopal.

Venugopal, who is the party’s General Secretary (Organisations) in a statement said that party chief Sonia Gandhi has approved the appointment of Election Management and Strategy Committee of Kerala Congress for the upcoming assembly elections with immediate effect.

He further said that the Committee shall meet frequently to discuss matters related to electioneering, co-ordination and formulation of election strategies.

Besides Chandy, Tharoor and Venugopal, the party has also named Mullapallay Ramachandran, Ramesh Chennithala, Tariq Anwar, K. Muraleedharan, V.M. Sudheeran, K. Sudhakaran and Kodikkunnil Suresh as the panel members.

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Bengal: Left, Congress leaders hold talks; to finalise candidates by Jan end

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Kolkata, Jan 18: Top leaders of the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the Congress conducted a meeting here on Sunday to discuss the seat-sharing and other election-related strategies, leaders of both the parties said, adding that their candidates would be finalised by the end of this month.

However, both the Congress and Left leaders said that they would hold more such meetings this month to finalise the candidates’ list for the upcoming Assembly elections, expected to be held in April-May.

Both the party leaders would meet again on January 25 and 28 to settle the seat-sharing issue and other poll-related preparedness.

In 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls, the two parties had forged an alliance and won 76 seats in the 294-member Assembly.

Post meeting, Left Front Chairman and CPI-M politburo member Biman Bose said that their discussion with the Congress was cordial and fruitful.

“To defeat the communal force BJP and the fascist TMC (Trinamool Congress), the Congress-Left parties’ alliance is must. The alliance would definitely thrash the binary rule in Bengal,” the veteran Left leader told the media.

Bose said that leaders and workers of Left parties and Congress should fight against the BJP and the TMC with shoulder to shoulder.

Party sources said that the Congress wanted to contest in 130 seats but the Left leaders did not concede the demand.

Bengal Congress chief and the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Chowdhury said that the seat sharing with the Left parties would not be completed in a single meeting, however, the seat sharing process would be concluded within this month.

CPI-M state secretary Suryakanta Mishra, Congress leaders Abdul Mannan and Pradip Bhattacharjee were present at the meeting.The Left and Congress parties are likely to hold a mega joint rally in Kolkata soon to kick start their election campaign.

The all important elections to the 294-member West Bengal assembly are likely to be held in April-May along with Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.In the 2016 West Bengal polls,

Trinamool had retained its majority and won 211 seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party won three seats.

However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Left and Congress had fought separately with the Congress won two seats, the Left Front dominated by the CPI-M, which ruled Bengal for 34 years (1977-2011), drew a blank.

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