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79 percent polling in Bengal’s third phase, one dead in violence

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Assam Polls

Kolkata, April 21 : Amid incidents of violence that left one person dead and several others injured, West Bengal saw over 79 percent votes cast in 62 constituencies on Thursday in phase three of the assembly elections.

Amid sweltering heat, incidents of violence were reported in parts of Murshidabad, Nadia, Kolkata and Burdwan districts, while the Left Front and the Congress demanded repolling in 15 booths of Domkal constituency.

The constituencies that went to polls included 22 in Murshidabad, 17 in Nadia, 16 in Burdwan districts and seven in north Kolkata.

“At 5 p.m., the overall polling percentage was 79.22 percent,” Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta said.

The turnout in Murshidabad was 79.29 percent, Nadia 81.62 percent, Burdwan 78.26 percent, and Kolkata (North) 57.06 percent,” said Gupta.

Tahidul Islam, said to be a Communist Party of India-Marxist activist, was killed in Domkal of Murshidabad district. However, Additional Director General of Police Anuj Sharma said according to the FIR, the victim’s name was Tahidul Mondal.

Ten people were injured in various incidents, while 232 people were arrested, he said. “Of them, 169 were arrested in the districts and 63 in Kolkata. The number of arrests under preventive sections of the Indian Penal Code was 225, while seven others had specific cases against them.”

Gupta said seven presiding officers were removed for “inefficiency and to speed up the polling process”.

A block Level Officer, Rabindranath Ghosh, died of heatstroke in Mangalkot constituency of Burdwan district.

Election Commission officials received 2,777 complaints, including of violence, voter intimidation and disruption of the poll process. Altogetehr 2,322 complaints have been disposed off.

Regarding the killing in Domkal, the district administration in its report to the Election Commission said Tahidul did not die “in any clash or bomb blast“.

“The body of Tahidul Islam was found 500 metres away from Haridoba Notunpara with a sharp cut injury. Apparently, he was murdered by unknown people and the body was placed on the road.”

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate from Domkal Anisur Rahaman claimed that Tahidul was his polling agent and blamed the Trinamool Congress for the killing. But the ruling party claimed the death was a result of a clash between the CPI-M and Congress supporters. The district administration denied that Tahidul was a polling agent.

At least four others were attacked in Domkal allegedly for casting their votes.

Reports of violence were also received from Ketugram in Burdwan district where three people were injured after crude bombs were hurled near a polling booth.

Several crude bombs were also seized from near a booth at Saguna in Nadia district.

Voters in Chakdaha in Nadia district alleged they were “prevented from voting by Trinamool goons”.

At least four people were injured in Mangalkote of Burdwan with Trinamool’s Siddiqullah Chowdhury accusing the CPI-M for the attack.

Complaints of voter intimidation and scuffles between rival political activists were also received from several booths in Kolkata, including Beliaghta and Entally. A mediaperson was among the injured.

Union Minister Babul Supriyo was seen chasing a “drunkard” in a lane of north Kolkata’s Jorasanko constituency and handing him over to the police. Supriyo is a voter of the constituency.

Accusing the ruling Trinamool of indulging in “massive rigging” and booth capturing in Domkal, the alliance partners demanded repoll in 15 polling booths.

Left Front spearhead CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said there were disturbances in six-seven constituencies.

“We think there should be repoll in 15 polling booths of Domkal constituency,” said Mishra, whose demand was seconded by state Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

However, Mishra expressed overall satisfaction over the role of the Election Commission.

Over 1.37 crore (1,37,42,000) voters were eligible to elect their legislators across 16,461 polling stations, including 10 auxiliary booths, from among 418 candidates, including 34 women.

The ruling Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party are contesting all 62 constituencies in the third phase.

The Left Front-Congress alliance is in fray for all the 62 constituencies. But the Congress nominees are also clashing with those from the Left Front in 11 seats — 10 in Murshidabad and one in Nadia.

Among the major candidates in the third phase are state ministers and Trinamool contestants Rabiranjan Chattopadhyay, Sashi Panja, Sadhan Pandey, former state minister and CPI-M candidates Anisur Rahaman and Debesh Das, Congress legislature party leader Mohammad Sohrab and former state party president Somendranath Mitra, and BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

Earlier voters in 105 of the state’s total 294 assembly constituencies exercised their right to franchise on April 4, 11 and 17 in the first two phases.

Polling in the fourth, fifth and sixth phases will be held on April 25, 30 and May 5 for 49, 53 and 25 constituencies respectively.

Election

Congress ropes in Prashant Kishor for Madhya Pradesh bypolls

By-elections are due in 24 seats following the demise of two MLAs and rebellion by 22 MLAs from the Congress.

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Prashant-Kishor

Gwalior, May 22 : The Congress has roped in political strategist Prashant Kishor to lend edge to its by-election campaign in Madhya Pradesh. The state will witness by-polls to 24 seats in the next four months due to the rebellion by former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia who bolted with 22 MLAs into the BJP.

The unprecedented situation has put doubts in the minds of both Congress and BJP supporters

It took the Kamal Nath-led government just 15 months to spill the power it earned through 15 years’ struggle. Prashant Kishor played a crucial role even during 2018 assembly elections to help the party return to power. The Congress is weighing the proposal from three advertising and image-building firms to take charge of its campaign.

First thing, the party plans to take the battle to the Scindia stronghold of Gwalior-Chambal region by setting up the war-room in Gwalior. This is to overcome logistic issues during the lockdown. Some former close associates of the Gwalior scion like Ramniwas Rawat and Anil Singh who have stayed back in the Congress will lead the charge. They believe Scindia’s desertion has not gone down well with his constituents and he is no longer invincible given his miserable failure to retain the Guna Lok Sabha seat in May 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Former Leader of Opposition, Ajay Singh, is likely to be fielded in Surkhi against Govind Singh Rajput whom Shivraj Singh Chouhan had included in the first lot of ministers.

Congress is also seriously considering pitting former MP Premchand Guddu against another minister Tulsi Silavat. Guddu has been an MLA in the past, from the Sanwer seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes. He had joined the BJP in the last elections, but claims to have left it in February while the party served a notice on him for anti-party activities.

Congress leaders are also persuading former MP Meenakshi Natarajan to contest the by-elections from Suwasra against her former supporter Hardeep Singh Dung, who left the Congress to join the BJP.

The Congress is also considering former minister Ramnivas Rawat, Ashok Singh or a Brahmin leader from Badnawar against Pradyuman Singh Tomar in Gwalior.

The Congress has made strategic organisational changes to take on the twin challenge of Scindia supporting ex-members of Congress as also the BJP rivals. It appointed 11 district Presidents on Wednesday. The party hopes to harness the anger among the people over the way the BJP has handled the recent Corona crisis and its aftermath among the workers.

By-elections are due in 24 seats following the demise of two MLAs and rebellion by 22 MLAs from the Congress.

Of these, 16 seats are Gwalior-Chambal division. These by-elections will decide the political future of the Chouhan government and Congress.

In Gwalior Rural, Congress has appointed Ashok Singh as district President. Ashok Singh, once an ardent supporter of Scindias, believes the royalty lost much of its influence by submitting before the BJP. The party has also appointed a new district President in Guna district, a stronghold of Scindia.

Chief Minister Chouhan has the unenviable task of balancing the aspirations of old BJP hands who will have to make sacrifices for the recent arrivals from the Congress. They would also have to seek support for the former adversaries.

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Election

Governor’s rule in Tripura autonomous tribal body

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Ramesh Bais

Agartala/Guwahati, May 18 : After the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam, Governor’s rule was imposed in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) on Monday as the polls have been postponed indefinitely due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of novel coronavirus, officials said.

Chief Executive Officer of the TTAADC Balin Debbarma said that G.K. Rao, former Tripura Chief Secretary and a retired IAS officer, has been appointed as the Administrator of the autonomous body. Tripura Governor Ramesh Bais appointed Rao, who of late was the member of the Tripura Police Accountability Commission, to run the politically important tribal autonomous body on his behalf.

The 30-member TTAADC, until Sunday, was governed by the opposition CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and its five-year term expired on May 17. An official of the TTAADC said that within the next six months, the elections to the council would have to be conducted as per the mandate of the Constitution.

Opposition CPI-M state Secretary Gautam Das and Tripura Pradesh Congress President Pijush Biswas separately asked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government to conduct the elections of the TTAADC within the stipulated period. The politically important TTAADC, which was constituted under the sixth Schedule of the Constitution in June, 1985, has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km are, home to over 12,16,000 people, mostly tribals.

In Assam, on the recommendations of the state government, the State Election Commission recently put off the 40-member BTC polls for an indefinite period. Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi, who is the constitutional head of the Sixth Schedule areas like that of BTC, had also earlier suggested postponement of the council polls.

Mukhi on April 27 appointed Rajesh Prasad, a 1995-batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, as the administrator of the BTC following the promulgation of Governor’s Rule.

The politically important BTC, which started functioning in December 2003, comprises four districts of western Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri and is home to over 31,00,000 people, the majority of whom are tribals. Before the Governor’s rule in BTC, since 2003 it was governed by the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), a local party and an ally of the BJP-led Assam government.

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Election

Supreme Court’s relief for Gujarat minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, High Court order stayed

Supreme Court issues notice in the matter. Justice Shantanagoudar says that the Gujarat High Court order has to be stayed.

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Bhupendrasinh Chudasama

New Delhi: Supreme Court stays Gujarat High Court order which had nullified the election of BJP leader Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on the grounds of malpractice and manipulation.

Supreme Court issues notice in the matter. Justice Shantanagoudar says that the Gujarat High Court order has to be stayed.

Senior Lawyer Kapil Sibal, “When have your Lordships stayed matter’s like this which are based on corrupt practices?”

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