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Farmers will vote Congress to power in Chhattisgarh: Leader of Opposition

Adding to the problems, Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel has been charge-sheeted by the CBI for distributing a pornographic CD allegedly featuring a state minister. He was arrested in September and is now out on bail.

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Even as it battles the ruling BJP’s “poaching prowess”, the Congress is hoping to leverage anti-incumbency sentiments and the rising agrarian crisis in its bid to oust the 15-year-old Raman Singh-led government in Chhattisgarh, in the two-phased elections to the 90-member assembly later this month.

Congress veteran and Leader of Opposition T.S. Singh Deo firmly believes Chhattisgarh is all set to end 15 years of the BJP’s “misrule and anti-people” policies.

“The agrarian crisis, exploitation of tribals and a downward spiraling economy with no jobs are the hallmarks of the Raman Singh government. Reeling under 15-years of misrule, the people, especially farmers and tribals, will vote the Congress to power in the state,” Singh Deo told IANS in an interview.

Widely considered as one of the party’s Chief Ministerial hopefuls, Singh Deo has been leading the Congress campaign in the state that promises complete waiver of farm loans and Rs 2,500 as minimum support price for paddy.

“Under the BJP, Chhattisgarh has consistently been among the top states to account for most number of farm suicides. Annually, more than 1,200 farmers and agriculture labourers end their lives. In fact, the government admitted in Parliament that there have been nearly 2,400 farm suicides between 2014-2016 in the state,” said Singh Deo, highlighting the deepening crisis in the agriculture sector in the state.

“Its the farmers and tribals who will vote Congress to power,” said the MLA from Ambikapur.

Notwithstanding Singh Deo’s assertions, the Congress is faced with a stiff challenge in the state which, for the first time, will witness a three-way poll battle with arch-rivals Congress and BJP wrestling it out with Mayawati’s BSP, which has aligned with the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and the CPI.

Still recovering from the snub by Mayawati, the Congress received a jolt when its state working president and prominent tribal face Ramdayal Uike joined the BJP. Soon after Uike switched loyalties, the BJP allegedly approached Chintamani Maharaj, the Congress MLA from Lundra, offering money and a ministerial berth to quit the party.

Since the 2013 Maoist attack that wiped out its top leadership, including then state unit chief Nand Kumar Patel and party veteran Vidya Charan Shukla, the Congress has been facing a leadership crunch that was further compounded in 2016 when Jogi quit to form his own outfit.

Adding to the problems, Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel has been charge-sheeted by the CBI for distributing a pornographic CD allegedly featuring a state minister. He was arrested in September and is now out on bail.

Singh Deo, however, asserted there is no leadership crunch and exuded confidence of the people putting their faith in the Congress.

While the Congress leadership, including President Rahul Gandhi, has refused to read much into Mayawati’s alliance with Jogi and the CPI, Singh Deo admitted the BJP’s “poaching prowess” is a big hurdle.

“The BJP is brazen in using money and muscle power in its bid to decimate the opposition. They have mastered the art of subverting the democratic process. It exposes their political bankruptcy,” he said, adding that it was good for the Congress to have lost an “opportunist” like Uike.

“Going by BJP’s way of fighting by by-hook-or-crook, but its the people who would give a befitting reply,” he said asserting the Congress has been able to reach out to farmers, tribals and the youth who have been the biggest victims of the BJP’s “misrule”.

Asked if the Mayawati-Jogi alliance was a threat to Congress’ plans on winning Dalit votes, Singh Deo asserted that both were insignificant players in the state.

“Compared to the Congress securing 40.3 per cent of the vote share and 39 seats in 2013, the BSP got only 4.27 per cent and could win only one seat. Our vote share difference with the BJP (41.04 per cent) was just 0.75 per cent. The people realise that it’s only the Congress which is the alternate and they will vote for us. The BSP-Jogi combine is only bidding to hurt our chances,” he said, asserting that the Congress will come to power with an absolute majority.

Hitting out at the BJP government over the rising Maoist violence, Singh Deo said that bringing the rebels into the mainstream through dialogue and appropriate policies was high on the Congress’ agenda.

“Like in other fields, the BJP government has been a complete failure in tackling left- wing extremism. For 15 years, the state has been deprived of any development and even basic amenities like water and roads. Raman Singh is only known for making promises and not fulfilling them. Dialogue with the Maoists and an effective surrender policy will be our way to tackle the issue,” said Singh Deo.

Polling to the 90-member assembly will be held on November 12 and November 20, with the first phase covering 18 seats, spread across the Maoist-affected districts of Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada, Sukma, Kondagaon, Kanker, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon. The second phase will cover the remaining 72 seats.

The Congress has fielded a mix of youth and experience with prominent faces including Baghel, Singh Deo and senior leader Satyanarayan Sharma.

Among the main candidates in the first phase is Devati Karma, widow of former state minister Mahendra Karma and founder of the controversial anti-Maoist Salwa Judum militia.

Besides reaching out to the people at the grassroots, the Congress is actively running a digital campaign to appeal to both urban and rural voters.

Using social media to reach out to the youth, the party has also been targetting voters in the hinterland, particularity farmers and tribals.

“We have been running a campaign called the ’15 saal kayi sawaal’ (15 years, many questions) across the state, particularly in rural areas, highlighting how the Raman Singh government has paid only lip-service and all its promises to farmers have remained unfulfilled,” said Naresh Arora who is spearheading the digital campaign.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at [email protected])

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AAP irrelevant, we want to win all 7 Lok Sabha seats in Delhi: Sheila Dikshit

I will mobilise all workers and leaders for the party’s victory

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : Inducted as Delhi Congress President ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections, Sheila Dikshit says her target is to win all the seven Lok Sabha seats in the national capital.

The 80-year-old leader, who assumed office as the Delhi Congress chief on Wednesday, said she will mobilise all workers and leaders for the party’s victory.

She said her target is “to get Congress active and get all Congressmen together.”

Asked about her target for the Lok Sabha elections, she said: “I hope to win all the seven. We will target all the seven and then see”.

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Veteran Congress leader Sheila Dikshit with Former Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken during a programme where she took charge as the party’s Delhi unit chief in New Delhi, on Jan 16, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

Asked when the party will declare its candidates as the AAP has sounded its potential candidates and the BJP already has sitting MPs in all the seven seats, she hoped that the candidates will be decided soon. “Let’s see when the high command announces.”

Dikshit said she is not in favour of an alliance with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the capital and prefers that the party go it alone.

However, at the same time she also does not rule out a tie up with the AAP.

“No, I am not in favour of it (alliance with AAP),” she told IANS.

“The Aam Aadmi Party is not a very polished party. For instance why did they do all that …Rajiv Gandhi having got the award (Bharat Ratna). What have they got to do with it. They never gave the award 22 years ago. Why did they pick it up? They just pick up things. I don’t think they think before what they are doing,” the three-time chief minister of Delhi said when she was asked about the reasons for not going for an alliance with the AAP.

“Anyway, for me, I mean they are the ruling party of Delhi so that relevance is there but otherwise they are an irrelevant party.”

Asked if the AAP was in touch with the party’s central leadership, she said: “No, not with us in anyway. I don’t think so.”

Pressed further on the issue, Dikshit said she had no idea. “Nobody has spoken about it.”

Asked if she had conveyed her viewpoint to the central leadership, Dikshit said she had given her views in the media.

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Veteran Congress leader Sheila Dikshit with party leaders Ajay Maken, Meira Kumar and Harun Yusuf during a programme where she took charge as the party’s Delhi unit chief in New Delhi, on Jan 16, 2019. Also seen . (Photo: IANS)

“I have conveyed to all of you so everybody knows my viewpoint. It has been there for a long time.”

Asked if she was ruling out an alliance with the AAP, she said: At the moment there is no alliance with AAP, and let’s see what happens in future.”

To a follow up question on when the uncertainty will end, she smiled and refused to comment.

She rejected apprehensions that the Congress and the AAP fighting separately will give an advantage to the BJP in Delhi.

“Why, why, why…No. We are strong enough ourselves, please remember. We are older than the BJP and much older than the AAP. No thank you…No, there is no need (to align).”

To a query whether she had given her feedback to the party, Dikshit said, “Not yet,” and added that she will be doing so as soon as she was asked by the leadership.

Asked if potential candidates have been sounded out, she said “everybody is working, everybody has got their mind on it and we have to meet and bring (it) to each other’s attention.”

Asked about her being made PCC chief only three months before the polls and if it should have been done earlier, Dikshit said: “What has happened has happened. You make the best of what has happened.”

She said the party not having declared its candidates so far does not matter. “The God made the whole world in seven days and surely we can do this (declare candidates).”

However, she refused to spell out her party’s strategy. “I won’t tell you just now. I will bring the strategy which is implementable. So let me just study it.”

She said the workers were motivated and the ground work was visible for the last-three four days.

Asked who was the main challenger between the AAP and the BJP in Delhi, she said they both were a challenge.

“I think at the national level, if you are looking at their presence, then the BJP is.”

Asked if Rahul Gandhi was relying on the old guard having appointed Kamal Nath chief minister in Madhya Pradesh, Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan and Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh, Dikshit did not give a direct answer.

“I wouldn’t say. This is a question you need to ask Rahulji. I don’t make assessments on appointments, they have been made, they have been made.”

Dikshit admitted that there was some factionalism in the Delhi unit and said it will be addressed.

“There is… wherever there are 20…there are hundreds of people in the Congress, there is bound to be a faction. It is not something that cannot be overcome for a particular cause,” she said.

“The challenge is to face the forthcoming elections to the Lok Sabha and the challenge that is consistent with that is to keep the party together. All of us not to show our differences of opinion if we have any. Carry on what the leaders (say) so that we are seen as a joint organisation working for the good of the Congress,” she said.

Dikshit said she will campaign for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh if asked to, “but I will focus more on Delhi as there is a lot of work here.”

Asked about the dim possibility of a grand alliance shaping up in Delhi, she said: “You all bring a time limit saying do it now or tomorrow. In politics there is no time limit. It depends on the opportunities and atmosphere that is there and then we take decisions.”

She said that both national and local issues will be highlighted in Delhi during the campaign.

Dikshit said the party will highlight the development work done during her 15 years as chief minister. “Obviously, those works were done by Congress and we will surely highlight those works.”

On the recurrent confrontation between the AAP government in Delhi with the BJP-led central government, Dikshit said she had worked smoothly as Chief Minister with the Vajpayee government.

“It is for them to understand whether confrontation brings out work,” she said.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected] and Prashant Sood at [email protected])

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Modi-Yogi bonhomie on full display in politically-charged Kumbh Mela

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Prayagraj, Kumbh 2019
Prayagraj, Kumbh 2019

Hundreds of hoardings carrying the images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath dotted the streets of the holy town as millions from across India and abroad have descended here for the religious, spiritual and cultural congregation taking place barely three months ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The Kumbh Mela, which opened formally in the early hours of Tuesday with the first of the six ‘shahi Snan’ (royal bath), and is expected to draw over 15 crore pilgrims this year, is a sea of saffron and slogans such as “Modi tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain” (Modi you lead the fight, we are with you) and “Mandir wahin banayenge” (temple will be built at the disputed site in Ayodhya) rent the air at the site.

Notably, both Modi and Yogi have waxed eloquent on the preparations for the holy dip, which according to legend, opens the doors to heaven. The Kumbh Mela administration officials told IANS that Yogi has resolved to provide an unforgettable pilgrimage experience to crores of devotees visiting Kumbh.

They say that Yogi has laid special emphasis on “blending the grand traditions of Kumbh with the deployment of modern techniques and solutions” so that the kalpavasis, spiritual gurus, dignitaries, foreign visitors and the pilgrims have a “life emancipating experience” during their visit to Prayagraj.

At a press conference on Monday, Prayagraj Commissioner Ashish Kumar Goyal told reporters that the state government is fully dedicated to providing a unique and fulfilling experience to visitors, highlighting that “there is no shortage of budget, we have sufficient funds”.

He maintained that the Chief Minister is personally monitoring the Kumbh Mela, and has advised officials to do everything that is needed.

The Kumbh is also the world’s largest religious congregation of its kind, making it a potential political playfield for the BJP that has a strong voter-base among the Hindus.

The 2019 Kumbh Mela is organised on a much wider scale than its previous editions and multiple tent cities, along with lakhs of new toilets have cropped up along the banks of the holy river Ganga. The historic city was also recently renamed from Allahabad by the BJP government.

Displayed here are multiple life-size hoardings welcoming pilgrims to Kumbh and they carry images of Modi and Yogi on either side with their messages.

Such hoardings and posters are among the first sights that visitors arriving in the city encounter, and on the way leading up to the Sangam — the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna rivers and the mystical Saraswati — visitors are introduced to the various programmes and campaigns introduced and promoted by the BJP government.

One example of this is a massive yellow-coloured hoarding that appears near the Parade Ground on Kali Road, about 3 kms before the Sangam, that sings praises of the bonhomie between the Yogi-led Up government and the Modi-led NDA government at the centre. It states that in keeping with the piousness of the Ganga, the state of Uttar Pradesh is marching forward.

The hoarding, whose similar variations also appear in other parts of the city, states that Modi has allotted Rs 146.87 crores and Rs 52.76 crores towards Prayagraj District Sewerage Project and Prayagraj District Sewerage Network Project, respectively. The hoarding carries smiling pictures of Modi and Yogi on either sides, with the achievements of the BJP government inscribed at the bottom.

Another similar hoarding reads: “Ek dubki aastha ki, ek bhaav sadbhav ka” and displays a saint offering water to the Sun god. The smiling pictures of Modi and Yogi on either sides of the hoarding keep the visitors company here as well.

The Kumbh administration has built pontoon bridges that lead the visitors to the five-kilometre bathing ghat at Sangam. These bridges can only be reached after passing through the by-lanes of the city, which are dotted with hundreds of such hoardings and posters at regular intervals.

While several such hoardings in multiple colours and sizes attract the visitors visually, there are occasional political sloganeering in the praise of the two leaders that reverberate the Kumbh nagri.

Organised processions of men, women and sadhus were seen late on Monday evening, hailing lord Ram and calling for the construction of a grand Ram Temple at the disputed Babri Masjid site. Such slogans, almost routinely, shift from singing the praises of gods to those of PM Modi.

Visitors too seem to have entered the election mood as political conversations and predictions can be heard at roadside tea stalls and dhabas. This gathering of Hindu pilgrims also becomes significant for its political implications as Congress President Rahul Gandhi had recently set on a Mandir-hopping exercise before the state assembly elections.

The Kumbh Mela, 2019 is being held from January 15 to March 4, with six important bathing dates. Makar Sankranti, which falls on Tuesday, was the first of these dates for bathing, and officials expect over a crore devotees to take the holy dip on the first day of the fair.

By Saket Suman

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Modi’s policy transformed Jammu & Kashmir into a conflict zone

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Narendra Modi,in his first tenure as Prime Minister has transformed Jammu and Kashmir into a conflict zone and this blunder of his, will emerge as a big lesson for the future leaders.

The Narendra Modi government at the centre has created a new form of division or faultline by labelling some regions dominated by Hindus and other by Muslims and then attempting to play one region against another so as to bring disharmony in the state and further in the country as a whole on the basis of religion.

The Modi government at the centre is so power hungry that it has crushed the democracy succeeding in Jammu and Kashmir, more so it is under his leadership that Kashmir issue has been internationalised as is evident by the meetings held between Former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and top Kashmiri separatists in Srinagar and with Masood Khan in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

The most important point must be taken into account that India has consistently ruled out any third-party mediation, including by the United Nations or the US, and maintained that Kashmir was a bilateral issue.

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg came to India and said that the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan could not be solved only from a military standpoint, and that popular support was also important.

Solberg said the former PM’s visit to Kashmir was strictly a private one, which did not involve either government and he was invited and he wanted to see if there were some possibilities of helping out but there was no official mission.

It is a very significant development in the troubled state of Kashmir as Norway is known for playing a constructive role in resolving the conflict across the globe and Norway had negotiated peace between the Sri Lankan government and LTTE rebels in 2005.

Bondevik meetings with All Party Hurriyat Conference leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq reflects that Modi’s muscular policy that has failed to bring normlacy in the state and stoked a fresh wave of armed insurgency in the Valley.

Kashmir has been on the boil since July 2016 when security forces shot protesting civilians heading to the funeral of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant , which started another violent chapter in the state as more than 100 killed,over 12,000 injured, 1,000 lost their vision in one eye after being hit by pellets and five were blinded in 2016 .

Consequently, thousands of youth were arrested and voter turnout for srinagar by-election in 2017 plunged to an all- time low (27-year low) of 7.14 per cent of the 12.61 lakh electorate.Further, a repoll in 38 polling stations on April 13 saw only a two percent turnout.

Then sensing trouble for the Saffron party prospects in 2018 and 2019 elections, BJP suddenly ended its alliance with the PDP citing worsening terrorism and violence as reason in the state in June 19,2018,thus bringing the state under the Governor’s rule.The PDP-BJP coalition came to power in Jammu and Kashmir in 2015.

Then the president’s rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir on the night of December 19 after a gap of more than two decades is a pointer to the worsening situation in the state.

Allowing “third party mediation”(meeting of Norway representative with kashmiri separatists) in Jammu and Kashmir has drastically affected Modi ‘s image abroad and at home while maintaining aggressive approach in dealing with Kashmir is a palpable loss of control and India’s image abroad at stake. But the Centre appears unperturbed rather home minister Rajnath Singh has promised that India “will see a transformed Kashmir in a year.

Youths which were arrested during 2016 to Sep 2017 were released by Mufti’s initiative so as to start the dialogue between all stakeholders. Mehbooba ordered the withdrawal of acses of stone pelting against 4327 youths.
For the first time in 35 years that the BJP was a coalition partner in the state government.

Sensing malafide activities of Bharatiya Janata Party of wooing PDP MLAs, the PDp chief and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who claimed the support of her rival Omar Abdullah and the Congress claimed to form the government while Sajad Lone, whose two-member party was backed by the BJP also claimed to form government.

Governor Satyapal Malik defended his sudden decision to dissolve the Jammu and Kashmir assembly . He claimed unstable government will be formed citing horse trading,treason,impossibility of forming a stable government by the coming together of political parties with opposing political ideologies .

Political parties were suspicion of Governor’s hurried action but he cleared the air, saying, “Had I looked towards Delhi (the centre), then I would have been forced to invite Sajad Lone to form the government. Then I would have gone down in history as unscrupulous. But I ended the whole thing. Those who want to abuse me can do so, but I am convinced I did the right thing.”

Kashmir is Asia’s most dangerous flash points, where a million troops have squared off along the disputed border and infiltration of terrorists have increased many fold and terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen reportedly held a meeting at the heart of Srinagar city, at Hazratbal Shrine on November 20 attended by terrorists from Hizbul, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror groups.


In the absence of policy to govern the state, Jammu Kashmir has caught the international attention due to increased civilian killings and the rise in trend of youth joining terror groups. Chief of Army Staff Gen Bipin Rawat’s statement of implementing the policy of treating terrorists and stone pelters on the same plane has brought forth a new narrative where the militants are being described as Kashmiris.

People in Jammu and Kashmir are hoping for a new government with a new perspective and a better approach to solve the Kashmir issue that can bring normalcy in the state.

arti


Blog: By Arti Bali,

(Senior Journalist)

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