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BJP unable to find Rajasthan chief as no one wants to be a scapegoat: Sachin Pilot

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New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) From a historical low in 2013, the Congress has bounced back in Rajasthan with support from all communities and will oust the BJP in the assembly polls later this year, says state Congress chief Sachin Pilot, who also feels that the BJP is finding it difficult to find a state unit chief as no one wants to be a scapegoat after the assembly elections later this year.

Pilot, 40, says that caste is not the pivot around which everything works in an election and young people were now looking beyond caste while voting.

Pilot said it had been almost four weeks since the state BJP president Ashok Parnami “was made to resign”.

“And for four weeks they have not found a person to do the job because nobody wants to be a scapegoat. They know in 5-6 months, they will lose the election. For four weeks, the BJP, the party with a difference and so-called largest party in the world, is unable to find somebody who is willing to do the job of a state president. This shows the reality of the government of Rajasthan and BJP itself,” Pilot told IANS in an interview.

Taking a dig at Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, he said she had visited the national capital not to seek development funds “but to lobby for (appointment of) a state president.

“So there is obvious infighting (in BJP). There is a lack of coordination between the state and central governments, and people are suffering because of that,” he said.

Pilot said Raje has lost control over governance and there is “unemployment, agrarian distress, farmers’ suicides, atrocities against tribals and Dalits and scams relating to land and mining”.

Asked about former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s remarks, apparently aimed at him, that younger leaders should stay in the queue and those who break the line risked a premature end to their political career, Pilot referred to Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s speech at the party’s plenary in March where he had talked of breaking down walls.

“I don’t think Gehlotji was trying to attack anybody. But I do remember that speech Mr Rahul Gandhi made, where he committed himself to breaking down the walls in politics and in the Congress party. So, when the Congress president is breaking down the walls, where is the question of any line and queues?” he asked.

Asked about Gehlot’s other remark that a PCC chief should not be automatically considered as chief ministerial choice, Pilot said the party has been fighting elections under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and will do so in Rajasthan also.

“The aim and objective for all of us is to secure a mandate for the Congress and who will get what position is not a matter of concern for me or others. We are fighting as a team,” he said.

Asked about Gehlot’s appointment as a party general secretary and his remarks that he had not been separated from Rajasthan politics, Pilot said: “Even if Ashok Gehlotji wants himself to be away from Rajasthan, as party president I won’t allow him to be away from Rajasthan.”

On ticket distribution, Pilot, who was appointed state Congress chief after the party’s debacle in the 2013 assembly polls, said winnability and consensus will be the criteria and “people who have worked in the last four years to rebuild the party, their efforts will be rewarded”.

“We are focusing on booths. The fake voters that the BJP had included, we are taking them out. And we are taking the battle to the polling stations. At the right time we will declare the candidates,” he said.

Asked about the reasons for the party’s debacle in the assembly polls, he said a factor was the party not being able to translate the good work done into political dividends.

“It requires some sort of communication strategy, some sort of self-marketing, which perhaps we didn’t do well. But we lost (due) to many other reasons.”

Pilot noted that he was a MP at 26, a Union minister at 31 and made chief of the Rajasthan Congress at 35. “The party has given me so much; now it’s time for me to give back to the party,” he said.

On a query on the caste matrix, he said: “As far as caste communities are concerned, they will vote on issues and the Congress is the only party that has the capacity and the intent to carry all communities together, all castes together,” he added.

The Congress had been reduced to 21 seats in the 200-seat Assembly in the 2013 elections but won four of six assembly by-polls and the two parliamentary by-elections to Ajmer and Alwar earlier this year. The party led in all the 16 segments of two parliamentary seats.

Pilot said no ruling party in Rajasthan has lost a parliamentary by-election in the last 40 years and it showed the depth of anger against BJP across all communities and regions.

IANS

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Dates for Gujarat local body polls declared

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The Gujarat State Election Commission (SEC) on Saturday announced the local body elections in the state, involving six municipal corporations, 81 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats. The terms of these seats had ended last year, but the elections were postponed due to Coronavirus pandemic. With Saturday’s announcement, the model code of conduct (MCC) becomes effective in these constituencies.

The State Election Commission (SEC) has declared the dates for the polling for the local bodies like Municipal Corporations, municipalities, the district and Tehsil Panchayats in Gujarat.

The notification for the Municipal Corporation elections will be February 1, the last date of filing nominations will be February 6, scrutiny of nomination forms will be February 8, the last date of withdrawal of nominations will be February 9 and polling on the February 21. If repolling is required, then it will be carried out on February 22. The counting and the results are scheduled for February 23.

The notification for the Municipality, District Panchayat, Tehsil Panchayat elections will be February 8, the last date of filing nominations will be February 13, scrutiny of nomination forms will be February 15, the last date of withdrawal of nominations will be February 16 and polling on February 28. If repolling is required, then it will be carried out on March 1. The counting and the results will be on March 2.

“After the latest electoral roll, we have 4.09 crore voters in the state. There will be 47,695 polling stations, out of which over 11 thousand are sensitive and over 6 thousand extremely sensitive, but these are not final figures and they are dynamic. The total areas for which the elections will be held will be 6,577 and total elected seats will be 9,049,” said Sanjay Prasad, the State Election Commissioner.

“For these elections, more than 91,700 Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) will be utilised. The Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) won’t be used in these elections, as the standing Committee constituted technical Committee had recommended that as the EVM are tamper-proof, the VVPAT are not required. So none of the state election Commissions are using them,” added Prasad.

According to the programme, polling for Municipal Corporations will take place on Sunday, February 21 from 7 am to 6 pm while that for municipalities and panchayats, polling will take place on February 28th from 7 am to 6 pm. Counting for the Municipal Corporation polls will take place on February 23 while that for municipalities and panchayats will take place on March 2.

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‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan angers Mamata during Netaji’s birth anniversary

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
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West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre are engaged in a tussle over the celebration of Netajis 125th birth anniversary that is taking place in Kolkata on Saturday.

But at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee came together along with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to attend the programme. Everything was going fine till Mamata was requested to deliver her speech on the podium and a section of people from the audience shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans which clearly made the West Bengal CM angry.

“This is not a political programme. I think there should be some dignity in a government programme,” the CM said, adding that as a protest she will not speak on the occasion.

Banerjee said that It doesn’t suit to invite someone and then insult her at the event. She also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Culture Ministry for inviting her to the government event.

Protesting the incident, Trinamool Congress’ Lok Sabha MP from Basirhat Nusrat Jahan strongly condemned shouting of political and religious slogans at government functions.

“I strongly condemn the shouting of political and religious slogans at government functions to celebrate the legacy of freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his 125th birth anniversary celebrations,” Jahan Tweeted.

The optics of Saturday’s events in Kolkata over Netaji’s birth anniversary celebration were significant in the context of the upcoming state Assembly elections that are just a few months away.

Earlier in the day, Banerjee paid a surprise visit to Netaji’s ancestral residence on Elgin Road where she criticised the Centre’s decision to announce January 23 as ‘Parakram Diwas’.

“I don’t understand the meaning of Parakram Diwas. We celebrate the day as Deshnayak Diwas,” Banerjee said. She further said that Netaji doesn’t require anyone’s mercy at all.

On the occasion of commemorating 125th birth anniversary of Netaji, the Centre had already declared January 23 as ‘Parakram Diwas’ to honour the boundless courage and valour of Netaji.

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Somnath Bharti gets 2 years imprisonment for assaulting AIIMS staff

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A special MP/MLA court in Delhi on Saturday sentenced Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Somnath Bharti to two years imprisonment for assaulting AIIMS security staff in a 2016 case.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey also imposed a fine of Rs 1 Lakh on the AAP leader. In the conviction judgement, the court said the prosecution has proved the case beyond all reasonable doubt against Bharti regarding charges of offence punishable U/s 323/353 read with Section 149 IPC and charge of offence punishable U/s 3 of The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 and charge of offence punishable U/s 147 IPC read with Section 149 IPC.

“He is held guilty and convicted for the same”, said the magistrate. The offences carry a maximum punishment of five years in jail.

However, Bharti was granted bail to file an appeal before the High Court to challenge his conviction in the case and jail term. The magistrate noted that key witnesses specifically stated that accused Bharti was leading the mob, which broke the fence at the boundary wall of the AIIMS with the JCB machine as well as manually.

The prosecution had said that on September 9, 2016, Bharti, along with nearly 300 others, demolished the fence of a boundary wall at AIIMS in Delhi with a JCB operator.

The magistrate observed that Bharti’s defence did not hold any merit in view of the other corroborating evidence regarding the presence of JCB machine, instruction given by him to the driver for the JCB machine and manual action of the mob demolishing the fence.

The court noted that the injuries suffered by witnesses during the incident while protecting the demolition of fence and boundary wall of the AIIMS and due to stone pelting by the mob is also duly proved by prosecution.

However, the court acquitted Bharti’s associates and co-accused – Jagat Saini, Dileep Jha, Sandeep Sonu and Rakesh Pandey – due to lack of evidence. The case was registered following a complaint from RS Rawat, Chief Security Officer, AIIMS.

Bharti had submitted before the court that he was falsely implicated in the case by police officials and other witnesses, who deposed against him.

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