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Anantnag by-poll: Mehbooba’s 1st electoral challenge after father’s death

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Mehbooba Mufti

Srinagar, June 11 : Retaining her father’s assembly seat is the first major political challenge Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti faces after she took over the reins of power in the state on April 4.

Mehbooba, 57, has filed papers for the south Kashmir Anantnag assembly byelection. The seat fell vacant after her father and the then Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, died on January 7.

After procrastinating for nearly three months, Mehbooba decided to head the PDP-BJP coalition that her father headed before his death.

She is on record as saying her father ruled under tremendous pressure during his 10 months in power because the kind of support he had expected from New Delhi did not come forth.

At the same time, Mehbooba has asserted her father had taken an informed decision to align with the BJP because it had a massive mandate in the Jammu region.

“Had Mufti Sahib not formed the ruling alliance with the BJP, there would have been a tremendous problem regarding the regional unity of the state”, Mehbooba had said while justifying the decision to align with the rightwing BJP, a decision viewed as politically unpalatable in the Muslim majority Valley, where the PDP has its political base.

Of the 28 seats the PDP won in the 2014 assembly elections, 25 were from the Valley while the BJP won all its 27 seats from the Jammu region.

Mehbooba currently represents Anantnag in the Lok Sabha.

Under the state’s constitution of the state, she has to get elected to either house of the bicameral legislature within six months of taking over the chief minister’s post.

It is against this backdrop that Mehbooba is fighting the Anantnag assembly bypoll, voting for which is scheduled for June 22.

Besides Mehbooba, there are seven other candidates in the fray, including Hilal Ahmad Shah of the Congress and Iftikhar Hussain Misgar of the regional National Conference (NC).

Independent MLA from north Kashmir’s Langate constituency, Engineer Rashid, had also filed his papers from Anantnag but withdrew from the contest.

In the 2014 assembly elections, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had defeated his nearest rival, Hilal Ahmad Shah of the Congress, by around 6,000 votes.

The NC had suffered a jolt at the time because its known face against Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Mehboob Beg, decided to join the PDP at the last minute – leaving the NC dresperately battling for someone to take on Sayeed.

Most of 84,081 electors (42,924 males, 41,156 females and one neutral gender) in Anantnag constituency live within the Anantnag town where separatists have been successfully calling protests and shutdowns during the last 26 years since violence started in the state.

Separatists have called for a boycott of the Anantnag polls and there has been a deadly hit-and-run attack by militants in the town earlier this month in which two policemen, including a lower rung officer, were killed.

While the opposition parties say a general boycott of the elections would help the PDP, the party argues the boycott would only prevent its supporters from coming out and exercising their democratic rights.

“A supporter of the ruling party is always the first target of a separatist-called poll boycott. Since we have a strong presence on the ground in the constituency, it is us and not they (the opposition) that stands to lose votes if the separatist boycott evokes response,” a senior PDP leader said.

The PDP leader, however, asserted that what he was talking about is Mehbooba’s victory margin and not even the remote possibility of her losing.

This confidence notwithstanding, elections are difficult to be foretold like arithmetical equations.

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BJP robs common to pay capitalists: Ajay Kumar Lallu

That is why the government is not making any law to guarantee a minimum support price for farmers’ crops, he added.

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Ajay Kumar Lallu

Raebareli, Jan 27 : UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu on Wednesday accused the BJP of duping common men to benefit capitalists.

Lallu made the allegation while addressing a gathering here in Harchandpur block as a part of the ‘Sangathan Srijan Abhiyaan’, a campaign aimed at strengthening the party.

“The BJP has formed the government after getting your votes but it is giving all the benefits to capitalists. The people have now understood the deceit that the BJP has subjected them to, said the UP congress chief.

The people are now ready to give the BJP a befitting reply, he added.

“Whatever we buy from the market, we give 20 to 30 per cent as tax to the government. The government does not spend any money out of the tax on the public, it spends it all on industrialists, said Lallu.

That is why the government is not making any law to guarantee a minimum support price for farmers’ crops, he added.

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Appeal to Modi govt that anti-agriculture laws be taken back immediately: Rahul Gandhi

As protesting farmers clashed with police at several places in Delhi, Gandhi said on Tuesday that violence is not the solution to any problem and sought repeal of the three farm laws in “national interest”.

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Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Jan 27 : A day after violence during the farmers’ tractor rally in the national capital, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appealed to the Narendra Modi government on Wednesday to repeal, what he claimed were, “anti-agriculture” laws.

Taking to Twitter, he also shared a quote by Mahatma Gandhi — “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

“Once again, I appeal to the Modi government that the anti-agriculture laws be taken back immediately,” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

His appeal to the government came a day after tens of thousands of farmers broke barriers to storm the national capital as their tractor parade to highlight their demand of repealing the laws dissolved into unprecedented scenes of anarchy.

Deviating from the designated route for the tractor parade, protesting farmers also hoisted flags from some domes as well as the flagpole at the Red Fort, the centrepiece of India’s Independence Day celebrations, to hoist the Nisan Sahib, the Sikh religious flag.

As protesting farmers clashed with police at several places in Delhi, Gandhi said on Tuesday that violence is not the solution to any problem and sought repeal of the three farm laws in “national interest”.

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Haryana MLA Abhay Chautala resigns over farm agitation fall out

Twenty five Jat leaders, including four Chautalas, were elected to the state assembly in October 2019.

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Abhay Chautala

Chandigarh, Jan 27 : The lone legislator of Haryana’s Indian National Lok Dal Abhay Singh Chautala on Wednesday resigned from the Assembly over the three new farm laws and registration of cases against farmer leaders for the violence in Delhi on Republic Day.

Chautala reached the assembly here riding a tractor and handed over his resignation to Speaker Gian Chand Gupta, who accepted it.

In his resignation, he cited the reason as non-acceptance of the demand of the protesting farmers seeking roll back of all the three farm laws.

“Shri Abhay Singh Chautala, who represents Ellanabad assembly constituency, he came to me personally and tendered his resignation. I believe that the resignation that he has submitted is correct in all technical aspects. I have accepted it.

“He has referred to his earlier two letters that he had sent to me citing union government’s refusal to accept farmers’ demands,” a statement by the Speaker said.

Talking to the media, Chautala blamed the BJP for perpetuating violence in Delhi on Republic Day.

Earlier this month, Chautala, the grandson of former Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Devi Lal, sent a “conditional” resignation letter to the Speaker, offering to resign from the assembly in Haryana if the Centre failed to repeal the new agricultural laws by January 26.

In his letter, Chautala had said it should be considered a resignation from the Assembly if the Central government failed to repeal the three farm laws by January 26.

His party’s breakaway faction, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), is the crucial coalition partner in the state BJP government led by Manohar Lal Khattar.

JJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala has been maintaining a stoic silence in public over the issue of farmers, who have been staging protests on the border of the national capital, demanding revoking of the agricultural laws, for the past 63 days.

The INLD and the JJP are primarily rural Jat-centric parties with the farmers as their core vote bank. The Jats, a dominant farming community, comprise 28 per cent of the state’s population.

Twenty five Jat leaders, including four Chautalas, were elected to the state assembly in October 2019.

Coming out openly for the first time with the protesting farmers, JJP national chief and former MP, Ajay Singh Chautala, who is the brother of Abhay, on December 2, 2020, said the Centre should give, in writing, an assurance on the minimum support price (MSP) to the protesting farmers that largely come from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Political observers believe pressure on the JJP within the party to withdraw its support to the state government has been gaining as the BJP Central leadership has been adopting a ‘tough posture’ on its three agricultural laws.

Besides the JJP’s 10 legislators, seven independent MLAs had also extended support to the BJP, helping it reach a tally of 57 seats in the 90-member Assembly.

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