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Election

BJP set to sweep Delhi MCD polls, AAP alleges EVM tampering

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New Delhi, Apr 26 : Steamrolling opposition, the BJP today swept the MCD polls, trouncing the Aam Aadmi Party that rules Delhi and decimating the Congress, in an election which was billed as a referendum on the Arvind Kejriwal government.

Delhi’s overwhelming rejection of the AAP came barely two years into its meteoric rise in the 2015 Assembly polls when it had clinched an unprecedented 67 of the 70 seats.

Today, it was left with just 48 wards in its kitty out of the 272 spread across the three municipal corporations in the national capital.

After its abysmal performance in the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls when it could manage to win just three seats, the BJP added muscle to its decade-long domination of the corporations effortlessly bucking anti-incumbency, with the electorate giving a thumbs up to its gamble of fielding all fresh faces.

The results are being seen as a ringing endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies and a reflection of his unmatched popularity.

Taking forward its stupendous electoral successes in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the BJP won 181 seats, putting paid to Congress’ hopes of a revival in the national capital which it ruled uninterruptedly for 15 years between 1998 and 2013. Congress could win just 30 seats.

The BJP’s corporation-wise tally is: SDMC – 70, NDMC – 64 and EDMC – 47 as against AAP’s 16, 21 and 11 and Congress’ 12, 15 and 3 wards.

AAP’s abject defeat, which came close on the heels of its abysmal performance in the Assembly polls in Goa, where it failed to open account, and poorer than expected show in Punjab, does not portend well for the party which is bracing itself for a bigger battle in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf Gujarat. Assembly election is Gujarat is due later this year.

As the AAP hit a political low after successive jolts in the Punjab and Goa Assembly polls, and the Rajouri Garden Assembly bypoll here, there were murmurs of discontent in the party.

Its Delhi convenor Dilip Pandey resigned while Chandni Chowk MLA Alka Lamba offered to step down owing responsibility for the debacle, pointing towards an impending churning in the party.

Delhi’s Water Resources Minister Kapil Mishra, a popular face, called for “introspection” instead of raking up the issue of alleged manipulation of EVMs.

The ripple effect of AAP’s defeat in Delhi was felt in Punjab where knives were out, with party MP Bhagwant Mann assailing the party leadership for the loss in the assembly election.

Mann alleged that the AAP leadership was behaving like a “mohalla (neighbourhood) cricket team” and said there was no use of finding falut with the EVMs.

There were noises of discontent in Congress, too, with Sheila Dikshit, who led the party’s government for 15 years in Delhi, calling for “introspection”.

“The party was not able top reach out (to voters) the way we should have. Any excuse can be given when you don’t want to do anything. The decision has to be taken by the high command.

The leadership needs to introspect,” she said.

Dikshit, who did not campaign, said Ajay Maken, the party’s state unit chief, did not involve senior leaders in electioneering.

“I was not asked for campaigning then how could have I gone for it,” Dikshit said.

A jubilant Modi, meanwhile, expressed his gratitude to the people of Delhi for reposing faith in the BJP and ensuring its resounding victory.

“I laud the hardwork of team @BJP4Delhi which made the resounding MCD win possible,” he tweeted.

In his first reaction, Kejriwal promised all cooperation to the civic bodies and refrained from commenting on EVMs, the “manipulation” of which he had identified as the reason behind AAP’s string of poll upsets.

“I congratulate BJP on their victory in all 3 MCDs. My govt looks forward to working wid MCDs for the betterment of Delhi,” Kejriwal, who went into a huddle with top leaders of the AAP as the results trickled in early in the day, tweeted.

The Congress, which was hoping to bounce back in Delhi, has also been consigned to political wilderness, at least for the time being. Ajay Maken, who steered the party’s Delhi unit over the last two years, resigned.

The grand old party did increase its vote share from 9.7 per cent in the 2015 assembly polls to 21.2 per cent in the civic elections, but the scale of the defeat overshadowed whatever little gains it made.

In the 2012 municipal polls, BJP had garnered 36.74 per cent vote share and the Congress 30.50 per cent. The AAP was yet to make its electoral debut then.

The opposition called it a “referendum” on the Kejriwal government and demanded that the CM resign.

Experts credited the BJP’s landslide victory to the “Modi wave”, while the AAP’s debacle was described as the bursting of a political bubble.

Sanjay Kumar, Director of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), was of the view that the AAP’s defeat will “reduce its chances of survival”.

“The way the AAP has been routed, its chances of survival have been reduced. Parties contest elections all the time, they win and they lose as well, it should not be too worrisome for them. But, the AAP’s case is different,” he said.

Election

Ahead of DDC polls, BJP targets Abdullahs over ‘land grab’

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Farooq Abdullah

New Delhi: Ahead of the District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir beginning Saturday, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad trained his guns on the Abdullahs for their alleged role in the Roshni scam.

Prasad alleged that the key leaders of the erstwhile state, including Farooq Abdullah, used their “influence and power for land grabbing”.

“In 1998, Farooq Abdullah had purchased 3 kanals of land but he encroached upon 7 kanals of land which were double the size of the purchase,” Prasad alleged while speaking to the media. He further said that under the Roshni scam, the name of Farooq Abdullah’s sister Suraiya Mattu has also appeared, who, the minister alleged, is also a beneficiary of 3 kanals of land.

“There was a conscious land loot by the powerful people of J&K who were getting benefits under the Roshni Act which was declared unconstitutional by the J&K High Court. This is low level politics by the powerful people of J&K and we condemn it,” alleged Prasad.

Prasad said the J&K High Court has declared the Roshni Act as unconstitutional and has stated that the names of people who have acquired land under this Act should be listed and made public.

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Election

CPI-M and Cong holding talks, to rally in Kolkata on Nov 23

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has accused AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi of trying to benefit the BJP. Owaisi has denied the charge and maintained that he was running a political party and contest elections wherever the party wishes.

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Congress

New Delhi: A joint rally of the Congress and CPI-M slated to be held on Monday in Kolkata on Monday is a step towards an alliance ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections as informal talks on the issue are on, Congress sources said on Sunday.

The West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) and the Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M) will rally on November 23 to protest against the alleged ‘anti-people’ policies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.

The BJP has already started preparation to take on the ruling Trinamool Congress. The Congress and the Left will face challenges from the TMC, BJP and AIMIM in the state polls.

Party insiders said that both parties will chalk out joint political programmes across various Bengal districts to emerge as a third political alternative in the Assembly polls.

“Both the parties met to prepare the road map for the coming Assembly polls,” the sources said.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury has said that defeating the TMC and the BJP is a priority for his party as he blames the TMC for BJP inroads in the eastern state. The West Bengal could see three-cornered contest with AIMIM giving an edge to the BJP, as was seen in Bihar Assembly polls.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has reportedly offered an alliance with TMC and awaiting a response. Howver, it’s unlikely that the TMC will join hands with AIMIM, considering it will give the BJP an advantage, the sources pointed out.

As many as 90 seats in the 294-member West Bengal Assembly have sizeable Muslim voters, who can be a deciding factor in any poll battle. Even if the AIMIM may not win many seats in Bengal, it can surely play a Bihar-like spoilsport for the TMC and the Congress.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has accused AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi of trying to benefit the BJP. Owaisi has denied the charge and maintained that he was running a political party and contest elections wherever the party wishes.

Muslims in West Bengal account for 27 per cent of the total voters, a majority of them going along with the TMC and the Congress in the past.

The BJP won 18 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections and any further division of Muslim votes in Assembly elections will only benefit it.

The districts of Murshidabad, Malda, and North Dinajpur have more than 50 per cent Muslim population while Birbhum, North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Nadia have more than 25 per cent Muslims.

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Election

Farooq writes to J-K poll panel: PAGD candidates not allowed to canvass, confined to ‘secure locations’

Meanwhile, the PAGD vice-president and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti also raised the issue and called for the intervention of J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.

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Farooq Abdullah

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and president of newly formed People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) Farooq Abdullah has shot off a letter to J&K Election Commissioner K K Sharma, complaining that the Alliance’s candidates were being denied a level playing field in the upcoming polls for the District Development Councils (DDC) in the name of security.

The letter was sent amid the allegations by the People’s Alliance that the police is preventing its candidates from campaigning by lodging them into “secure” accommodations in the name of security.

“I am taking the liberty of writing to you about the upcoming DDC elections. A strange and a unique feature has come to the fore. Candidates put up by the PAGD are immediately whisked away to ‘secure locations’ in the name of security and confined to those ‘secure locations’,” Abdullah wrote in the letter. “They are not allowed to canvass, they are completely out of touch with those from whom they are supposed to seek votes.”

In his letter, Abdullah has accused the government of “interfering” in the democratic process.

“The current state of affairs in the realm of security is blatantly oriented towards providing security to a select few and confining others,” Abdullah said in an apparent reference to the BJP and PAGD candidates, respectively. “This comes across more as an attempt to interfere in the democratic process than any real concern for the wellbeing of the contestants. Security cannot and should not be used as a tool or an excuse to interfere in democratic processes.”

Abdullah, in his letter, also stated that it was the job of the government to provide security to the candidates contesting the DDC polls.

“Security is a challenge and it is for the government of the day to counter that challenge in a manner which is fair and transparent,” Abdullah said, adding that: “Providing security to a select few and literally interning the rest is a gross interference in democracy.”

Saying that the journey of democracy in J&K is soaked in blood, Abdullah has termed the government “interference” in the polls as “desecration of those sacrifices”.

“May I add that the evolution of democracy in J and K is distinctive compared to any other part of the country. The journey is a bloodied journey, soaked in the blood of thousands of political workers who have laid down their lives for the sake of democracy. It is a desecration of those sacrifices when the very conflict that consumed their lives is used as an alibi to customize democracy,” Abdullah has written.

“Democracy is still in a state of fragility in J and K. Governments come and go. No government has the right to alter the institutional foundations of democracy in J and K, nourished by the sacrifices of thousands of political workers,” he added.

Abdullah said that being in power in the past, they are aware of the security challenges in J&K. “Our parties have been in power in the past and have had the opportunity to head and run the government. We are aware of the challenges posed in the realm of security in a place beset by violence,” the letter read. “These challenges are not new but have been painfully persisting for the last three decades. But the government had structures in place which ensured security for all contestants irrespective of the ideology they espoused or the parties they represented.”

Meanwhile, the PAGD vice-president and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti also raised the issue and called for the intervention of J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.

“GOI sabotaging participation of non-BJP parties in DDC polls. PDPs Bashir Ahmed despite having adequate security has been detained at Pahalgam on the pretext of security. Today is the last day for filing nominations & have spoken to DC Anantnag for his release,” Mufti tweeted.

In the first phase of the DDC elections scheduled to be held on November 28, 167 candidates are in the fray from 10 districts in the Valley. In the second phase, 227 candidates have filed their nomination (subject to scrutiny) papers, and nominations for the third phase are still being received.

The decision of mainstream parties to contest DDC polls is likely to open up political space after almost 15 months since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and downgrading of the state into two Union Territories last August.

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