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BJP to capture UP after 14-year hiatus; Cong gets Punjab



New Delhi, Mar 11 : The BJP headed for a stunning victory today in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, trampling a fragmented opposition that had hoped the demonetisation exercise would have chipped away at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity.

The BJP was also locked in a close contest in Goa and Manipur with the Congress, which won the consolation prize of Punjab where it will form the government.

Modi’s party was now set to return to power in Uttar Pradesh after a 14-year gap during which regional parties such as the SP and BSP had held sway.

“The prime minister has clearly established himself as the predominant leader in India,” said Aarti Jerath, a political analyst, on NDTV.

BJP president Amit Shah, who crafted and conducted the election strategy in UP, credited Modi and his policies for the victory.

“This is the victory of the corruption-free rule and pro-poor polices under the leadership” of Modi, he tweeted.

“BJP has reached new heights in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and changed the political picture of the country,” Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said amid scenes of jubilation at party offices in UP.

Party members danced and distributed sweets on streets and BJP offices. Women gathered in groups to watch results on TV danced as the results came in. One party leader said Holi, which will be celebrated on Sunday and Monday, has come a day early.

Terming the BJP victory as “shocking” and “difficult to swallow”, BSP leader Mayawati hinted at vote fraud in the elections that were spread over seven phases during the last two months in the five states.

She provided no evidence for her allegation, and it is unlikely to be taken seriously. Her party is expected to finish third.

After five hours of counting, the BJP won or led in 309 seats in UP. Along with its allies Apna Dal (Soneylal Patel)and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), the party will have a comfortable two-thirds majority in the 403-member legislative assembly.

The party had, however, not put forward any chief ministerial candidate. BJP leaders said the decision will be taken by the BJP parliamentary board and the legislature party in the state soon.

The BJP, which had just 47 seats in the outgoing Assembly, garnered 40 per cent vote share in the most riveting contest seen as a gamechanger and a virtual referendum on Modi’s popularity and demonetisation.

The party also went to the elections without fielding any Muslim candidate.

The nascent SP-Congress coalition was ahead in only 56 seats while Mayawati’s BSP was a distant third leading only in 20 places. The SP, whose campaign was spearheaded by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on development agenda, led in 49 seats.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi acknowledged that the party’s defeat was massive.

“Yes, UP is a bad loss, it hurts…I agree that, in UP, we need fundamental restructuring thinking for the Congress as a whole. These have to be hard, tough decisions about strategy,” Singhvi said.

The previous best showing by BJP in UP was in 1991, at the height of Ram Janam Bhoomi movement, when it got majority on its own winning 221 seats out of 425 in an undivided state.

SP leader and a state minister, Gayatri Prajapati, who is wanted in an alleged gangrape case and attempt to rape a minor, was trailing in Amethi, where Garima Singh (BJP), the first wife of Congress leader Sanjay Sinh, was leading.

Ameeta Singh (Cong), the current wife of Sanjay Sinh, was also trailing.

In Noida, Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh was leading by an impressive margin.

The trends also showed BJP’s Sangeet Singh Som, who was booked in the Muzaffarnagar riots, leading in Sardhana.

Kailash Vijaywargia, a BJP general secretary, said that the perception that the BJP was a party of the upper castes has been demolished as all sections of the society including Dalits and Muslims voted for it.

“The central government schemes have benefitted everyone.

Muslim women have also benefitted from the schemes. Modi has created confidence in every section,” he said.

In Uttarakhand, the BJP put up a splendid show and is leading in 56 seats in the 70-member Assembly while Congress was ahead in only 10 seats. Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat lost Haridwar (Rural) and Kichcha seats to BJP.

Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad attributed the party’s poor show in the politically crucial UP to “public mood” and said its performance will be “scrutinised”.

He, however, stressed that Congress’ gains in Punjab and likeliness of the party forming government in Goa, ruled by the BJP until before the elections, should not be ignored

In Punjab, the Congress won 16 and was leading in 60 of the 117 constituencies while the AAP, making a debut in Punjab Assembly polls, was in second position winning six seats and ahead in 16.

The ruling SAD was demolished with the party winning one and leading in 13 while its coalition partner BJP led in three seats.

Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh, who is the party’s chief ministerial face, thanked people of the state for their overwhelming support.

The Congress legislature party will meet tomorrow to elect its leader, he said.

In Goa, where trends and results were available for 25 seats, the Congress won 11 seats and ruling BJP bagged 10.

They were leading in three and four seats respectively, in what could lead to a hung Assembly whose strength is 40.

The BJP suffered a big reverse when Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar lost to his Congress rival from Mandrem.

Former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat (Congress) won from Margao constituency.

In Manipur, the ruling Congress won 14 seats and was ahead in 10 while the BJP bagged 16 and led in four, according to details available for 40 constituencies.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh won from Thoubal Assembly seat by a margin of 10,400 votes. Rights activist Irom Sharmila, making her poll debut, was relegated to the fourth position.


Russia presidential election: Vladimir Putin wins fourth term by big margin



Vladimir Putin

Moscow, March 19: Vladimir Putin clinched victory in Russia’s presidential election, securing his fourth term in office.

Putin, who has ruled the country nearly two decades got more than 76% of the vote.

Around 55.5 million of voters supported his candidacy in the election that took place on Sunday paving the way for Putin, 65, to lead the country until 2024 after which he is constitutionally obliged to stand down, reports Sputnik news.

In 2012, Putin had attained 45.6 million votes (63.6 per cent) which secured his position until 2018. In 2000, 39.7 million people (52.9 per cent) voted for him, while 49.6 million (71.31 per cent) backed his candidacy in 2004.

Putin extended his thanks to volunteers for their hard work during the election campaign and called the preliminary results “very decent”.

“I think that we are a big team… I mean everyone who voted today and due to the position of whom this very decent result emerged,” Sputnik news quoted the President as saying here on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin is in the second place with 11.87 per cent of the vote, followed by head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 5.73 per cent, Civil Initiative party candidate Ksenia Sobchak with 1.64 per, according to the CEC.

Grigory Yavlinsky, the co-founder of the Yabloko Party, has received only 1.02 per cent of votes followed by Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights Boris Titov with 0.75 per cent, Communists of Russia party chairman Maxim Suraykin with 0.68 per cent and Sergey Baburin from the All-People’s Union party with 0.64 per cent.

Putin’s fiercest political opponent, Alexei Navalny, had been barred from competing because of an embezzlement conviction that he said was manufactured by the Kremlin, reports the BBC.

He called for a boycott of the election.

In his first reaction to the preliminary results, Navalny indicated he had been unable to contain his anger.

“Now is the season of Lent. I took it upon myself never to get angry and not to raise my voice. Oh well, I’ll try again next year,” he tweeted.

Sunday’s vote was also the first in Crimea since Russia seized the region from Ukraine.

However, Russians living in Ukraine were not allowed to participate.

Pre-election polls had placed Putin, the country’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, as a clear front-runner.

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Shock defeat for BJP in UP, Bihar by-polls

In the neighbouring Bihar, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) dealty a stunning blow to the saffron party and its ally JD-U headed by Chief Minister Nitsh Kumar when it bagged the Araria Lok Sabha seat.



Samajwadi and BSP Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow/Patna, March 14 : In results that can set the tone for the 2019 general elections, the BJP on Wednesday received a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha and assembly by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar losing four of the five seats, including the prestigeous Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary constituencies, after non-BJP parties teamed up in alliances against the saffron party in the two states.

The BJP also lost the Araria Lok Sabha constituency and the Jehanabad assembly seat while scoring a consolation win in Bhabhua assembly seat in Bihar. The results in both the states triggered calls for a Grand Alliance – a la Bihar – all across India to take on the BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls.

After sweeping the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and the assembly elections last year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced formidable rivals in the form of Samajwadi Party (SP) and BSP who stitched a last minute alliance in the by-polls. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati had announced the backing of her party for SP candidates in both the constituencies in return for a SP support to her party candidate in the Rajya Sabha biennial elections.

The BJP lost Gorakhpur seat to the SP by a margin of 21,961 votes. SP candidate Pravin Kumar Nishad got 4,56,437 votes over his nearest BJP rival Upendra Dutt Shukla who secured 4,34,476 votes. Congress candidate Sureetha Kareem polled 18,844 votes.

Yogi Adityanath, who had represented Gorakhpur seat in the Lok Sabha for five times, winning the last elections in 2014 with a margin of 3.13 lakh votes, resigned from the seat after he was became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Before him, his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath was MP from the seat for two terms, in 1991 and 1993.

In the Phulpur constituency, which was once represented by first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, SP candidate Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel defeated BJP candidate Kaushalendra Singh by a margin of 59,613 votes.

The winner polled 3,42,796 votes while BJP candidate got 2,83,183 votes. Former mafia don-turned politician Ateeq Ahmed secured 48,087 votes while the Congress’s Manish Mishra polled 19,334 votes.

The SP has been the runner-up on Gorakhpur seat many times before, while it had won the Phulpur seat four times since 1996. BJP won Phulphur Lok Sabha seat for the first time in 2014 when (now) Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya won by a margin of over three lakh votes.

In 2014, BJP and its ally Apna Dal had won 73 of 80 Lok Sabha seats and 325 out of 403 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections.

In the neighbouring Bihar, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) dealty a stunning blow to the saffron party and its ally JD-U headed by Chief Minister Nitsh Kumar when it bagged the Araria Lok Sabha seat.

The RJD’s Sarfaraz Alam defeated the BJP candidate Pradeep Kumar Singh by over 60,000 votes in Araria.

In Jehanabad assembly constituency, Suday Yadav of RJD defeated Janata Dal-United candidate Abhiram Sharma by 35,036 votes while BJP’s Rinki Pandey worsted Sambhu Patel of the Congress, a RJD ally, by 15,000 votes in Bhabua assembly constituency.

It was a direct fight between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Grand Alliance of the RJD-Congress in Bihar, a year ahead of the next Lok Sabha battle.

With the original Grand Alliance having come apart as the JD-U deserted it and joining hands with the BJP, there was a lot at stake for everyone in the by-elections: the RJD, JD-U, BJP and Congress.

Workers of SP and RJD celebrated across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by distributing sweets and bursting firecrackers.

At the Bihar Assembly premises, RJD legislators played Holi, splashing each other with colour powder.

Elsewhere, RJD workers beat drums and raised slogans hailing Lalu Prasad, who has been jailed for corruption, and his son Tejashwi Yadav, who asked opposition leaders to join hands at the national level to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha battle.

The balloting in Jehanabad and Bhabua followed the death of RJD and BJP legislators respectively. The Araria Lok Sabha seat became vacant after the death last year of Mohammad Taslimuddin, the RJD MP.

The RJD fielded Sarfaraz Alam — son of Taslimuddin and a legislator of the ruling JD-U. Last month, he left the JD-U and quit the Assembly to join the RJD.

He is a former legislator from Jokihat in Araria district.

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UP bypoll: Setback to BJP, SP wins Gorakhpur and Phulpur



Yogi Adityanath, Akhilesh Yadav

Lucknow, March 14: In a shock defeat for Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party won the Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.

In the initial rounds of counting, BJP was leading in both seats but after some rounds, the SP took over the BJP.

Lucknow Assembly adjourned till 12.20 pm following a ruckus over the issue of media being kept out of counting center in Gorakhpur, the issue was raised by SP’s Ram Govind Chaudhary.

Gorakhpur ByPoll: SP’s Praveen Kumar Nishad clinched victory by defeating BJP’s Upendra Dutt Shukla.

Phulpur ByPoll: Samajwadi Party’s Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel wins Phulpur Lok Sabha seat by 59,613 votes

Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel

Samajwadi Party’s Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel

Initially, the postal ballots were being counted after which the electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be opened for counting.

Results for both the seats were likely to be announced by 12 noon.

The Gorakhpur seat was vacated by Yogi Adityanath after he became Chief Minister while the Phulpur seat fell vacant after the election of his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya as an MLC in the state assembly.

Amid poor balloting – 43 percent in Gorakhpur and 37.39 percent in Phulpur, both the ruling, as well as the opposition, was claiming victory.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has extended support to the Samajwadi Party (SP) candidates in both the seats.


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