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Gehlot emerges top choice for Rajasthan CM, Pilot puts up spirited claim

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Ashok Gehlot

New Delhi/Jaipur, Dec 14 : Veteran Congress leader Ashok Gehlot on Thursday emerged Rahul Gandhi’s pick as the Chief Minister in Rajasthan, but suspense continued the with state party chief Sachin Pilot putting up his claim strongly as the two leaders had late night meetings with the Congress President.

Both Pilot and Gehlot had separate meetings with Gandhi, unlike in Madhya Pradesh where the two aspirants — Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia — had met him together.

Party observer for Rajasthan K. C. Venugopal, who was also at the meetings, told the media later that taking decision on leadership was not easy but it will be announced on Friday.

“Taking decision on CM is not an easy job. The final decision will be taken tomorrow in a meeting to be held here around 10 a.m.,” he said.

Pilot, who had a meeting with Gandhi earlier in the day, reached Gandhi’s residence at 10.30 p.m on Thursday.

The meeting came hours after the leadership issue was settled in Madhya Pradesh, with Gandhi tweeting his picture with Kamal Nath and Scindia, who were both chief ministerial aspirants. The smiling picture carried the line “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time – Leo Tolstoy.”

Kamal Nath was chosen as the new Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and both he and Scindia flew down to Bhopal to announce the decision.

Party sources said Gandhi is keen to give a similar message for Rajasthan as well.

Both in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress missed the majority mark by two seats and is now dependent on some external support.

Pilot, who stayed put in Delhi, appealed to party workers to maintain peace and saying that he would “welcome” any decision that will be taken by the party.

He issued the appeal on Twitter as reports emerged that Gehlot has been picked by the party leadership to lead the government and that his (Pilot’s) supporters were protesting on the streets demanding that Pilot should be made the Chief Minister.

The name of 67-year-old Gehlot, a two-time Chief Minister, is expected to be announced by the party on Friday.

Earlier, Gehlot and Pilot met Rahul Gandhi. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is understood to have counselled Rahul Gandhi over relying on “experience” as it was a verdict with a narrow margin of victory and a seasoned leader would be better equipped to deal with a situation in which the party would need the backing of MLAs belonging to BSP and Independents, who won 13 seats. Most of them are Congress rebels.

The party won 99 seats and with its pre-poll alliance partner it managed to touch the halfway mark in the 200-member Assembly.

Pilot reportedly put up a strong claim to the post on the ground that he had galvanised the party after the defeat in 2013, when he was appointed the state party chief.

Gehlot, who was planning to leave for Jaipur but was asked to stay back in Delhi, also appealed to workers to maintain peace and said any decision taken by the leadership will be acceptable to all.

Asked by the media why he returned from the airport, he said he could leave at night or on Friday accompanied by central party observer K.C. Venugopal and Avinash Pande, who is the party in charge in the state.

About the delay in announcing a decision, Gehlot said: “Such decisions take time because three states are involved. It is good that the leadership has decided to consult various leaders and workers.”

Replying to another question, he said, “What right BJP has to question us on the decisions? A signal has gone from the elections to the country that those who created an atmosphere of hate have been wiped out from the Hindi heartland. And this is what will happen in the Lok Sabha elections too.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the central Congress observers met the newly elected MLAs in a bid to find out who they would prefer as Chief Minister.

The MLAs authorised Gandhi to take the call on the Chief Minister’s name.

Both Gehlot and Pilot had also called on Governor Kalyan Singh on Wednesday evening and staked claim to form the government. Both contested the Assembly elections and won their seats.

Election

Congress, BJP intensity preparations for Madhya Pradesh bypolls

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Kamal Nath

Bhopal, July 6 : The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh are gearing up for the upcoming bypolls in the state even as the dates are yet to be announced. While the BJP is trying to send out the message of “writing a new chapter of development”, the Congress is going through a phase of discussions and brainstorming on the probable candidates.

Under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the BJP government was formed after the Kamal Nath-led Congress government collapsed. A total of 22 legislators resigned from the membership of the assembly as well as the Congress party. Besides, two seats fell vacant following the demise of two legislators. In all, by-elections are scheduled to be held in 24 assembly constituencies.

The bypolls are being seen as quite crucial from the political viewpoint as the ruling BJP does not currently have an absolute majority, and the party must win at least nine seats to attain the majority.

Madhya Pradesh has 230 assembly seats of which the BJP has 107 in its kitty. It is mandatory to have 116 MLAs for an absolute majority. Therefore, it becomes necessary for the BJP to win nine seats to enjoy an absolute majority in the assembly.

The BJP has started preparations for the by-elections on two fronts. On one hand, while the party is conducting virtual rallies to encourage its workers, on the other hand, it is trying to implement many development projects.

The work towards Chambal Expressway project in the Gwalior-Chambal area has been finalised, and with by-elections scheduled to take place in 16 assembly constituencies in the region, the BJP wants to convey the message that the project has the potential of opening the doors of development in the Chambal region.

Video conferencing has also been held between Union Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, and Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia regarding the project.

Apart from this, the BJP has also stepped up the exercise to establish Sainik School in either Morena or Bhind. CM Chouhan has also met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on this issue.

The Chief Minister says that Morena-Bhind is the district from where almost every household has sent a member in the army and they want officers to come out from here in the coming time and for this, a Sainik School is necessary.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh unit BJP president Vishnu Dutt Sharma held a virtual rally in Gwalior region on Sunday and mentioned the development work of the party, and also the work that was carried out during the BJP rule from 2003 to 2018. He also alleged that the area did not witness any significant progress under the previous Kamal Nath regime.

Sharma asked the workers to be prepared for the upcoming elections as the development of the region, as well as the state is possible only under the BJP government.

The Opposition Congress has also been holding hectic discussions on fielding the potential candidates.

A meeting of party leaders was also held on Sunday in the presence of state in-charge Mukul Wasnik. In the meeting, the names of candidates capable of winning the elections were discussed.

According to political observers, the upcoming by-elections are important for both parties. No party can claim that its victory is certain. They believe no party is willing to take any risk and that”s why, both parties have intensified efforts to communicate with the workers and encourage them.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Lalu seeks bail ahead of Bihar Assembly elections

Lalu Prasad has applied for bail in the Jharkhand High Court. Earlier, he had been granted bail in three fodder scam cases.

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Lalu Yadav

Ranchi, July 4 : Jailed former Bihar Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad has applied for bail in the Chaibasa treasury fraudulent withdrawal case in the run-up to the Bihar Assembly polls.

On Saturday the RJD chief met political leaders at the paying ward of Rajendra Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) where he is undergoing treatment.

Lalu Prasad has applied for bail in the Jharkhand High Court. Earlier, he had been granted bail in three fodder scam cases.

According to Lalu”s lawyer, he has applied for bail on the ground that he has spent half of the prison term in jail. Lalu has been in custody since December 23, 2017, after his conviction in three different cases related to the fodder scam. He was granted provisional bail for treatment in May 2018 which was later cancelled by the Jharkhand High court. He has been undergoing treatment in RIMS since August 2018.

“The Bihar Assembly polls are crucial for the RJD”s survival. Lalu cannot bank on his two sons Tej Pratap and Tejashwi Yadav for the elections. The RJD did not manage to secure a single seat in Bihar in the Lok Sabha polls which was humiliating for the party,” said a RJD leader to IANS.

In 2015 Nitish Kumar, currently Chief Minister of Bihar, and Lalu Prasad had joined hands for the Assembly polls and won more than 150 of the 240 seats. Nitish Kumar, however, parted ways from the RJD after one and a half years in 2017.

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‘Moon expects Trump to meet Kim Jong-un before Nov polls’

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south-korea moon

Seoul, July 1 : South Korean President Moon Jae-in believes that his US counterpart President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un need to meet again ahead of the American presidential election in November in order to reactivate the Korea peace process, a senior official said on Wednesday.

The South Korean presidential office has already conveyed Moon”s idea to the White House in their “close communication” especially following the North”s demolition of an inter-Korean liaison office in its border city of Kaesong last month, Yonhap News Agency quoted the official as saying.

“The US side understands (Moon”s position), and it”s making efforts (for that), as far as I know,” he told reporter.

In a virtual summit with EU Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday, Moon reaffirmed his resolve to strive “with patience” to maintain the momentum of dialogue involving the US and the two Koreas, the official added.

Moon stressed that the two Koreas should not revert from hard-won “progress and accomplishments” in their relations.

It remains unclear whether Trump and Kim will be able to hold another round of summit talks within the coming months, reports Yonhap News Agency.

Earlier this week, Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun, Washington”s point man on Pyongyang, expressed doubt about the possibility.

“I think it”s probably unlikely between now and the US election,” Biegun told a forum, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic would make such an in-person summit more unlikely.

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