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Congress loses more ground, faces tough task for 2019 polls

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New Delhi, May 19 : The defeat in assembly polls to four major states on Thursday has come as a big disappointment to Congress and a dampener to its ambitions to replace the Narendra Modi government in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The results could delay elevation of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and lead to demands within the party for immediate organisational revamp.

The results of polls in Assam, Kerala, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu showed that decline of Congress since the Lok Sabha elections has not ebbed. The party has lost nine assembly elections after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when its tally had touched a historic low of 44 seats. The Congress was on the winning side in Bihar elections but as the third junior partner of the alliance.

In the results announced on Thursday, Congress lost its government in Assam, the party-led government in Kerala and finished third in Tamil Nadu. In West Bengal, it finished a distant second to Trinamool Congress but performed better than the CPI-M with which it had an understanding. The good news for Congress came from Puducherry, where it is poised to form government in alliance with the DMK.

Congress leaders talked of introspection and correctives as results showed that geographic spread of Congress rule in states had shrunk to a few states- two states in north India (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand), one in south India (Karnataka); three states in east India (Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya). The party is also part of the ruling alliance in Bihar.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the party will introspect reasons for its loss and rededicate itself to the service of people with greater vigour.

Rahul Gandhi said the party will “work harder” till it wins the confidence and trust of people.

Rahul Gandhi has in the past fiercely contested Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestions to make India “Congress-mukht (Congress-free)” but there is growing concern in party circles over the series of defeats.

Analysts said Congress does not have a proper strategy to win states and this is crucial for it to stay in serious contention for power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Senior journalist and political commentator H.K. Dua said Congress state units were ridden by factionalism and the party faces a major challenge to win back states.

“How will they govern the country when they are losing state after state. You cannot come to power at the Centre unless you win major states. It is very important to win Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat but Congress strategy is not clear,” Dua told.

He said Congress needs to forge unity in its units and promote new leadership in states.

A Congress leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the morale of workers was down after the series of defeats.

“The party morale is at its lowest ebb,” he said.

“Today you need fighters who put in their heart and soul in the work given to them. People have got tired to seeing the same faces in states. There should be generational change. The young leadership should be in the forefront,” he said.

The leader said parties such as BJP were far quicker in bringing about correctives compared to Congress.

“Whatever is the party’s strategy for revival, it should be unveiled fully,” he said.

Senior journalist and political commentator Kuldip Nayar said BJP was replacing Congress as the dominant national party.

Nayar said Rahul Gandhi was not attracting votes and the Congress should get out of “dynastic obsession”.

“The party seems to have lost its way. If there is no strong alternative, people will go to BJP in 2019,” he said.

Congress leaders also said they were on the wrong side of the electoral cycle in both Assam and Kerala.

The party had expectations of pulling it off in Kerala, of at least a hung assembly in Assam and finishing victorious in Tamil Nadu as a junior ally of DMK.

Party leaders reaffirmed their faith in Rahul Gandhi after the results.

“He is the undisputed leader of the party,” party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

While Rahul Gandhi emerged as a more articulate leader over the last year following his over 50-day sabbatical, he has not brought about any major organizational change in the party’s central set up since the defeat in Lok Sabha polls.

He has also faced criticism from some of leaders who left the party including Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has been instrumental in BJP’s victory in Assam.

Sonia Gandhi has been Congress president for a record 18 years and there is no clarity

in the party when Rahul Gandhi will step into her shoes despite suggestions from senior leaders.

There is also a section which wants Sonia Gandhi to continue at the helm at a difficult time for the party.

There also have been occasional suggestions that Rahul Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra should be more active in politics.

Politics

No one was consulted, govt must agree to start on ‘clean slate’: Chidambaram on farm laws impasse

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday hit out at the Centre over the impasse on the farm laws, alleging that no one was consulted for the legislations, and asserted that the only way out for the government was to agree to start on a clean slate.

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P Chidambaram

New Delhi: His remarks came a day after the Centre asked protesting farmers to form an informal group to prepare a concrete proposal about their objections and suggestions on the farm laws for further discussion at their next meeting on January 19 to end the long-running protest at various Delhi borders.

The protesting farmer unions, however, stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three legislations.

In a series of tweets, Chidambaram said that as expected, another round of talks between the farmers and government has failed.

The fault lies with the government because it will not agree to get rid of the disputed laws, the former Union minister said.

”RTI responses have exposed as a lie the government’s claim that there were extensive consultations before the Farm Laws Ordinances were promulgated. The truth is that no one was consulted. In particular, state governments were not consulted,” he alleged.

The only way out of the impasse is for the government to admit its mistake and agree to start on a clean slate, Chidambaram said.

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Haryana and Punjab, have been protesting at several border points of Delhi since November 28 last year, demanding a repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee to the minimum support price (MSP) system for their crops.

Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the ”mandi” (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

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Election

Former minister Shahnawaz Hussain is BJP’s MLC candidate in Bihar

National general secretary Arun Singh said the BJP’s central election committee has approved the names of candidates for the MLC elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

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shahnawaz hussain

New Delhi, Jan 16 : The BJP on Friday announced the names of six candidates for the member of legislative council (MLC) elections for Uttar Pradesh and one in Bihar.

For the only MLC seat in Bihar, the party has given the ticket to former Union minister and present-day spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.

According to the official list issued by the BJP on Saturday, Kunwar Manvendra Singh, Govind Narayan Shukla, Salil Bishnoi, Ashwini Tyagi, Dr Dharamvir Prajapati and Surendra Chaudhary have received the ticket from Uttar Pradesh.

National general secretary Arun Singh said the BJP’s central election committee has approved the names of candidates for the MLC elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

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If vaccine is reliable, why no govt functionary took shot: Manish Tewari

“While Covishield has not drawn ire of eminent medical experts, the Covaxin has been questioned, and by not allowing people to choose the vaccine that to take it militates the doctrine of informed consent that lies at the heart of medical ethics,” he added

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the world’s biggest vaccination drive in the country, the Congress launched its attack on the Centre saying vaccines were being allowed to be used without the mandatory trials of Phase 3.

Speaking to IANS Congress leader and MP from Anandpur Sahib Manish Tewari asked if the vaccine is so reliable then why no important government functionary has taken the shot?

He said that in the every country of the world the head of the government has taken the vaccine, in US, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have taken the vaccine shots. In UK, Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have taken it and other countries there respective heads of state have done the same thing.”

“In India, why has no responsible functionary of the government taken the vaccine shots first if it is so safe and reliable,” Tewari asked.

He said, “As the vaccine has been rolled out, there are certain disturbing and obfuscated questions with the government using a soaring rhetoric of the vaccine nationalism. The first question about the efficacy… is that in the absence of a regulatory architecture — requiring licencing of the drugs and vaccines for the emergency use… It is perplexing that same has been permitted by the Drug Controller.

“While Covishield has not drawn ire of eminent medical experts, the Covaxin has been questioned, and by not allowing people to choose the vaccine that to take it militates the doctrine of informed consent that lies at the heart of medical ethics,” he added

Modi earlier launched the vaccination drive aimed at ending the pandemic which so far has killed 1,52,093 people in the country and ravaged the economy.

Addressing the country digitally, the Prime Minister said that India managed to make two ‘Made-in-India’ vaccines in a very short period which usually takes years.

Modi said that avoid “rumours” as the Drug Controller General of India has approved the vaccines for emergency use.

Lauding the efforts of scientists who are involved in vaccine research, Modi said they deserve special praise for making these vaccines and that “the vaccines will provide us a decisive victory against the deadly pandemic”.

The Prime Minister further reminded people to get two doses of the vaccine, explaining that “there should be a gap of almost one month between the first and second dose”.

“Only two weeks after the second dose, your body will develop the necessary strength against coronavirus,” the Prime Minister said.

Noting that this kind of vaccination campaign on such a large scale has never been done in history, Modi said: “India is vaccinating three crore people in its first phase of vaccination starting today and the government will bear the cost of the vaccination to be administered to healthcare workers”.

In the second phase, the Prime Minister said, “We have to take it to 30 crore”.

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