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By-Elections 2018: Re-polling underway in Kairana, Bhandara-Gondia and Aonglenden

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New Delhi, May 30: Repolling in 123 booths in Maharashtra’s Bhandara-Gondiya, Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana and Aonglenden in Nagaland underway.

On Tuesday, the Election Commission ordered re-poll at 73 polling stations in Kairana, 49 in Bhandara-Gondia and one polling station in Nagaland, after VVPAT machines developed snags during Monday’s Lok Sabha by-polls.

The repolling is taking place at 49 booths in Bhandara-Gondiya and 73 booths in Kairana.

In Nagaland’s Aongleden, repolling is being conducted at only one polling booth.

Following allegations of EVM malfunctioning, the poll panel on Monday ordered the transfer of District Collector Abhimanyu Kale. He was replaced by Kadambari Balkawade.

Kale cited high temperatures as the primary reason for the malfunctioning of the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) during the polling in the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha constituency.

The by-polls for four Lok Sabha seats and nine assembly constituencies were held on May 28 across 10 states.

Assembly by-polls were held in Noorpur (Uttar Pradesh), Shahkot (Punjab), Jokihat (Bihar), Gomia and Silli (Jharkhand), Chengannur (Kerala), Palus Kadegaon (Maharashtra), Ampati (Meghalaya), Tharali (Uttarakhand) and Maheshtala (West Bengal).

The Counting of votes will take place on Thursday.

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Election

Bihar: Congress gears for ‘Mahila Kranti Sammelan’ to be addressed by Priyanka Gandhi

As preparations are underway for the women’s conference, Congress is booking cinema halls and auditoriums in all the districts of Bihar so that women can see and hear Priyanka Gandhi on a big screen

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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra

New Delhi [India], September 27 : As women have been hailed as the ‘silent force’ behind Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s electoral victories in Bihar, the Congress party has decided to woo them by launching ‘Mahila Kranti Sammelan’ ahead of the State Assembly polls.

According to sources, the party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will address this conference through virtual mode, which is likely to be held in the second week of October.

“We are preparing to hold a huge women’s conference. For this, we have sought time from Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi,” a top Congress said.

As preparations are underway for the women’s conference, Congress is booking cinema halls and auditoriums in all the districts of Bihar so that women can see and hear Priyanka Gandhi on a big screen.

The party has decided to install screens in rural areas as well. Apart from this, a large number of women will also be connected through mobile phones and social media. The aim of the party is that about 50,000 women from all over Bihar directly participate in the conference and in addition, about 5,00,000 people join the sammelan through social media, the source added.

Earlier, virtual conferences held in North Bihar were more successful than expected. Now, with the elections coming closer, the party is planning to arrange everything in a larger manner with campaigning by the top leadership of the party. For this, a platform will be set up in the national capital, from where big leaders will send a message to the people of Bihar.

It is to note that in Bihar, Congress is contesting on the faces of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. In such a situation, the party is dependent on them to woo the larger audience in Bihar. Along with Priyanka Gandhi’s women’s conference, virtual rallies of Rahul Gandhi are also being planned ahead of the Assembly polls in Bihar. In the first week of August, Rahul Gandhi had addressed the party workers of Bihar through video conferencing.

In Bihar, the main challenge before Congress is to get more seats in an alliance with the RJD.

Bihar has elections scheduled in three phases from October 28 to November 7. The counting of votes will take place on November 10.

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Ahead of Bengal polls, snubbed Rahul Sinha hints at rebellion

With West Bengal set to go to the polls next year, the elevation of Roy and Hazra clearly hasn’t gone down well with Sinha.

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rahul sinha

New Delhi, Sep 26 : Barely a few hours after being shunted out, BJP’s former National Secretary and ex-Bengal President Rahul Sinha hinted at rebellion on Saturday.

In a video message, Sinha claimed that he will articulate his ‘stand’ and ‘next step’ in view of Saturday’s announcement in the coming 10 to 12 days.

Earlier on Saturday, BJP national President J.P. Nadda announced the new team of the party’s national office-bearers, with former Trinamool Congress leader Anupam Hazra getting promoted as one of the national secretaries, while Sinha was removed from the post.

Hitting out at Hazra’s elevation without naming him, Sinha said, “For 40 years, I have served the BJP as a soldier, from the very beginning. Today I had to be removed because a TMC leader had to be accommodated. There can not be anything more sad than this.”

Taking a further dig at the BJP, Sinha sarcastically called it a “gift”.

He said that in the next 10 to 12 days, he will make his stand about his removal known. “In the next 10 to 12 days, I will make myself clear… I will also clear my next step,” he said, hinting at a rebellion.

Hazra was a young Trinamool lawmaker who had his allegiance to Mukul Roy. After Roy’s exit from the party, Hazra has been in touch with Roy.

In March last year, he along with Congress’ Dulal Chandra and CPM’s Khagen Murmu joined the saffron party in Delhi.

With West Bengal set to go to the polls next year, the elevation of Roy and Hazra clearly hasn’t gone down well with Sinha.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the central BJP reaches out to him or waits for his “next step”.

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‘Social media platforms will be held liable for failure to counter misuse’: CEC Sunil Arora

The Commission has also asked political parties and candidates to sensitise their representative not to indulge in ‘malpractices, malicious propaganda and instances of hate speech’.

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Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora on Friday said that social media platforms will be held responsible if they fail to make adequate arrangements to counter misuse and don’t take prompt action against adverse posts ahead of the Bihar assembly elections.

“Adverse use of social media platforms has emerged as a new challenge in recent times,” Arora said. “If adequate arrangements aren’t made to counter the misuse of the social media then they will not be allowed to take pretext of being only a provider and shall be held responsible if necessary action is not taken promptly and adequately.”

The Commission has also asked political parties and candidates to sensitise their representative not to indulge in ‘malpractices, malicious propaganda and instances of hate speech’, as such actions will be dealt with ‘sternly’ and ‘harshly’.

“The commission would like to make it emphatically clear that anyone who misuses any such platform, such as for fomenting communal tensions, etc for electoral purposes, shall have to face consequences under the law of the land,” Arora said.

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Commission and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp along with IAMAI had signed a voluntary code of ethics. According to the code, while the participants ‘recognise they are neither the author nor the publisher of such content’, they are ‘committed to helping support democratic processes by improving the integrity and transparency of electoral processes’.

Hindustan Times reached out to Facebook and Whatsapp for a comment but did not receive one until press time. Twitter declined to comment.

Arora’s statement also comes in the wake of the Wall Street Journal reports in August which alleged Facebook had selectively exercised its hate-speech policy to favour the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, wrote to CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying that the platform allowed people to make posts against prime minister Narendra Modi, with BJP alleging that there was nexus between the Congress and Facebook.

According to Twitter’s recently updated civic integrity policy, a person may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes. This includes posting or sharing content that may suppress participation or mislead people about when, where, or how to participate in a civic process. It, however, makes no mention of propaganda, hate speech and malicious content.

According to people familiar with the matter, the Commission draws its reservoir of power from Article 324 of the constitution. “Elections are conducted under Constitution and the Supreme Court in its judgment has held on a number of occasions that Article 324 gives vast powers to the Commission subject of certain restrictions such as fairness and transparency,” said such a person on the condition of anonymity. The person added that the EC would decide what course to take on a case-to-case basis.

Article 324 allows the Election Commission the “superintendence, direction and control of elections”. The EC had invoked this provision in West Bengal in May last year, curtailing campaigning in the state ahead of Parliamentary elections after clashes between cadres of the BJP and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Kolkata.

Experts, however, say the ECI’s powers to regulate the social media platforms are limited.

“Their authority to regulate platforms is not clearly provided,” global cybersecurity lead and Asia Pacific policy director at Access Now Raman Jit Singh Chima said. “They are stretching authority they have to regulate electronic media and threatening companies by proposing to further regulate or prosecute them.”

“It’s commendable that the CEC is speaking about this, however, the ECI has failed to advance any reforms to protect electoral democracy in the digital age in India. Prior to the 2019 general elections, many groups working on electoral reforms, democracy and fundamental rights issues wrote to the ECI and went public with their suggestion on how the ECI can take steps in this area. They also recommended they engage all stakeholders on this important issue and should not only consult political parties in Delhi, web companies and their industry lobby group. This has not yet occurred, which is deeply disturbing,” he added.

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