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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.

India

Congress alleges ”secret” trip by Kerala CS just before retiring

According to estimates, Chennithala said the quantity of this sand is in excess of one lakh tonnes.

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Ramesh Chennithala

Thiruvananthapuram, June 2 : Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala on Tuesday expressed serious doubts on a ”secret” helicopter trip taken by Tom Jose and State Police chief Loknath Behera, hours before the former retired.

Jose retired on last Saturday from the post of chief secretary and handed over the charge to Vishwas Mehta on Monday morning.

Chennithala told the media here that the trip was a secret one to have a look into the tonnes of sand lying on the banks of river Pamba at the foothills of the famed Sabarimala temple.

According to estimates, Chennithala said the quantity of this sand is in excess of one lakh tonnes.

“Soon after this flying visit, the Pathanamthitta district authorities came out with an order giving the rights of removing this precious sand to the Kannur based state owned Kerala Clays and Ceramics Products,” said Chennithala.

“What is intriguing is neither the forest nor revenue department is aware of what happened. This place is where the Forest Act is in vogue and the Revenue department is responsible for the sand. I read in the media that State Forest Minister K. Raju had no clue on this. This particular company has no expertise or has not done anything conclusive till now. This company is chaired by a top level CPI-M party official from Kannur,” said Chennithala.

Kannur is the home town of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and State Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, under whose department, this company is placed.

“We wish to know if a sand audit was conducted and also was the environmentalist consulted. My question is — what are they going to do with the sand and if there are other ”players” involved in it? Today everything is happening under the guise of Covid, without taking into account even the concerned departments. We are questioning why this is now being done as this sand was lying there for two years. We want to hear from the government and then I will reveal more,” added Chennithala.

–IANS

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Politics

Adesh Kumar Gupta appointed Delhi BJP president, takes over from Manoj Tiwari

Former North Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Adesh Kumar Gupta replaced Manoj Tiwari as Delhi BJP President on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Party appointed Vishnu Deo Sai and S Tikendra Singh as State Party Presidents of Chhattisgarh and Manipur respectively.

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Manoj Tiwari and Adesh Kumar Gupta

New Delhi: Former North Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Adesh Kumar Gupta replaced Manoj Tiwari as Delhi BJP President on Tuesday. After BJP’s defeat in the Delhi Assembly polls, the party had decided to revamp the Delhi Unit. Meanwhile, the Party appointed Vishnu Deo Sai and S Tikendra Singh as State Party Presidents of Chhattisgarh and Manipur respectively.

Under Tiwari’s leadership, the BJP had performed brilliantly in the 2017 MCD election and the 2019 Lok Sabha election, but in the assembly election under his leadership, the party suffered a humiliating defeat.

After the elections, the BJP held several meetings to ascertain the causes for its defeat in the elections in which the ruling Aam Aadmi Party posted a landslide victory for the second time in a row.

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China must respect norms, use diplomacy to resolve border issue with India: Top US Congressman

Eliot L Engel, who heads the powerful House panel on Foreign affairs, said, “China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law.”

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India China Border Sikkim

Washington, June 2 : The US censured China for resorting to aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India and not resolving the conflict as per the international law.

In the first comments from Capitol Hill on the ongoing tension along the India-China border, a top US Congressman — who heads the powerful House panel on Foreign affairs — has expressed “concern”, called China a “bully”, and “strongly” urged China to “respect norms and use diplomacy” to resolve its border questions with India.

In a statement late on Monday night, US Congress’ House Committee chair Eliot L Engel said, “I am extremely concerned by the ongoing Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control on the India-China border.”

“China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law. Countries must all abide by the same set of rules so that we don’t live in a world where “might makes right,” he said.

“I strongly urge China to respect norms and use diplomacy and existing mechanisms to resolve its border questions with India.”

Engel, an influential Democrat Congressman, has long been a supporter of India. However, External Affairs minister S Jaishankar had cancelled a meeting with Engel and other Congress members in Washington DC last December, over Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s inclusion into the delegation.

In July last year, after US President Donald Trump had falsely claimed that PM Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on Kashmir, Engel had spoken with then Indian ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

“Engel reiterated his support for the longstanding US position on the Kashmir dispute, saying he supported dialogue between India and Pakistan, but reaffirmed that the dialogue’s pace and scope can only be determined by India and Pakistan,” he had said in a statement.

During the call, Engel “reaffirmed that in order for dialogue to be meaningful, Pakistan must first take concrete and irreversible steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure” on its soil, the statement had said.

Last week, on May 29, Trump had claimed that he spoke to PM Modi about the India-China border, but sources in New Delhi said there has been “no recent contact” between the two leaders and the last conversation took place almost two months ago, on April 4.

Trump had claimed that he had spoken to Modi, who was “not in a good mood” about what’s going on with China. The US President made those remarks in response to questions at the White House.

“They have a big conflict going with India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people. Two countries with very powerful militaries. And India is not happy, and probably China is not happy. But I can tell you, I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He’s not — he’s not in a good mood about what’s going on with China,” the US President had said.

That had been the only comment so far from the US on the ongoing India-China border tension.

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