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Kerala bypolls outcome could be a harbinger of things

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Pinarayi Vijayan

Even though the outcome of the five Kerala assembly by-polls is not going to make any difference to the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government, as it has at present 91 seats in the 140-member Kerala Assembly, this could well be the harbinger of the upcoming polls – local body – next year and the 2021 assembly polls.

With the campaign entering the last phase as the polls will be held on Monday, the three political fronts are hoping against hope that, all of them will have something to cheer, when votes will be counted.

After the shock defeat of the UDF candidate at the Pala Assembly by-election, last month, the Congress-led UDF camp had turned jittery, as out of the five that goes to the polls, four of them are presently held by the UDF and the CPI-M , holds one seat.

While four seats fell vacant after sitting legislators won the Lok Sabha polls, at Manjeswaram constituency, sitting UDF legislator of the Indian Union Muslim League passed away.

As things stand now, the contest at Ernakulam seat, which is a stronghold of the Congress party for several years, it continues to hold that dominance as its candidate T.J. Vinod is sitting pretty, with the Left-backed independent candidate Manu Roy, a practising advocate by profession, is doing its best to alter things.

At Manjeswaram, the northern most assembly constituency in the state, for the past few elections, it has been a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP.

At the 2016 assembly polls, the BJP leader K. Surendran, lost by a margin of just 89 votes to the IUML candidate P.B. Abdul Razack and this time too the fight is a direct one between these two parties and at the moment, IUML’s Kasargode district President M C Kamarudheen appears to have the edge and is ahead of BJP leader Ravisha Tantri Kuntar while CPI-M nominee Shankar Rai is also doing his best to make it a triangular one.

At Aroor constituency in Alappuzha, the fight is a direct one between the Congress candidate Shanimol Usman, who lost the recent Lok Sabha polls to sitting Aroor legislator and CPI-M leader A.M. Arif.

Here the CPI-M has fielded a local youth leader Manu C. Pulickal and for the CPI-M this is a prestigious fight, as Usman at the Lok Sabha polls had got the better off of Arif by 648 votes and it turned out to be a shocker for the CPI-M, as Arif had won this seat at the 2016 assembly polls by a staggering margin of over 38,000 votes.

Coming to the Vatiyoorkavu seat in the state capital, it’s a battle royal that’s currently on after the CPI-M brought in young Thiruvananthapuram Mayor V.K. Prasanth turning the poll battle into an exciting triangular contest, with the Congress fielding a former legislator K.Mohankumar and the BJP its District President S. Suresh.

The scene is no different at the Konni constituency, which has been the domain of now Lok Sabha member Adoor Prakash for the past 23 years and with the entry of Surendran of the BJP and the fielding of young local boy K.U. Jenish, it has become alive.

For Vijayan, the outcome could well be a decider and if he manages to retain Aroor, and wrest Vatiyoorkavu, he could well be on the road for more success in the upcoming local body polls, where the Left already has a strong grip.

If by any chance, things do not go Vijayan’s way, his position could well take a beating, even though he through his indomitable style managed to hold on despite winning just one of the 20 Lok Sabha seats.

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Clive Owen to play Bill Clinton in ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’

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Clive Owen on Bill Clinton

Los Angeles, Nov 16 : Oscar-nominated actor Clive Owen will star as Bill Clinton in “Impeachment: American Crime Story”, the third season of the network FXs award-winning limited series franchise, which centers on the sex scandal that rocked the Clinton presidency.

Owen joins Sarah Paulson, who will play Linda Tripp, Beanie Feldstein, who will play Monica Lewinsky, and Annaleigh Ashford, who will play Paula Jones in the limited series, reports aceshowbiz.com.

The role of Hillary Clinton is currently being cast.

“Impeachment…” is written by Sarah Burgess who executive produces alongside returning ACS team Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall and Paulson. Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan are also producing.

The limited series is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s bestselling book “A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President”. Toobin’s 1997 book The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson served as the source material for Season 1 of American Crime Story.

Filming on “Impeachment” is set to begin in late March. The limited series is currently slated to premiere on Sunday, September 27, 2020, about a month out from the next US Presidential election, but Murphy recently indicated the date may be in flux as the filming schedule has changed.

Owen’s casting comes in the midst of the impeachment hearing against President Donald Trump. Despite the confluence of events, the current impeachment proceedings are not influencing “Impeachment: ACS”, which chronicles events from two decades ago.

Owen received an Oscar nomination for “Closer” and was most recently seen in “Gemini Man”. On TV, he headlined “The Knick” and will also star opposite Julianne Moore in the limited series “Lisey’s Story”.

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Maharashtra: BJP-Sena split unites a divided Congress-NCP

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Sonia and Udhav Thackeray

Mumbai, Nov 14 : Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi is said to be a happy woman, smiling and grinning from ear-to-ear over the latest political developments in Maharashtra.

The unexpected split in Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena has come as a boon to the Maharashtra Congress and its ally, Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party, party sources reveal.

It’s well-known that the state Congress has always been a big divided house since years, and also harboured huge differences with its 20-year old ally, the NCP.

Since 1999 to 2014, the Congressmen were either engaged in an in-house crabby battle to pull down each other and simultaneously the NCP, as the latter always seemed to have a political edge, and unwittingly giving a political advantage to the rivals.

Even as late as October, the party-men and party-women were engaged in bitter political skirmishes at all levels, including the powerful Mumbai Congress, which dented its image and with serious repercussions at the hustings both in Lok Sabha and assembly election results.

After the October assembly poll results were announced, the Congress came trumps with 44 seats and NCP with 54 – against 42 and 41 in 2014 respectively – boosting their morale though they were miles away from forming a viable government.

Shortly afterwards, the political landscape changed dramatically with the Shiv Sena splitting from the BJP and the ruling NDA at the centre, and extending a clawy paw to the bewildered Congress-NCP.

As the ‘clock’ ticked away, the two opposition parties were naturally reluctant to extend their ‘hand’ of friendship to a party which was not only harshly critical but downright abusive for nearly 53 years, spanning the eras of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, besides Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

After Sena President Uddhav Thackeray climbed down his pedestal and called Sonia Gandhi for support, shooed away an alleged BJP emissary and Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide Guruji, withdrew his sole minister Arvind Sawant from the union cabinet, his intentions became clear.

As the seriousness of the situation unfolded, the Congress-NCP got into the act, presenting an unprecedented picture of unity and camaraderie, and initiated the process of raising a potential tri-partite government with the Sena as the lead partner.

A party leader said Sonia Gandhi was occasionally both amused and bemused to see her warring tribe assuring her in practically one voice that an alliance with the long-perceived enemy Shiv Sena was worth a political gamble to keep BJP at bay.

Though she raised an eyebrow of doubt, the Congress earnestly got down to business, and practically adopted Sharad Pawar as the Mandrake who could perform the unbelievable magic of giving Maharashtra a “MahaShivAghadi” alliance of Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena – in the coming days.

Adopting a magnanimous approach, the 79-year old Pawar also reciprocated by never displaying the NCP’s overzealousness in the government formation, keeping the Congress sentiments ahead of his own.

In fact, soon after the election results, Sonia Gandhi had warmly received and congratulated Pawar at her home in New Delhi for almost single-handedly dragging both the allies out of the political muck, when the BJP-Sena squabble over the power-sharing was just breaking out.

The past few days have seen the recently-divorced Sena being grudgingly accepted by Congress-NCP as a potential key ally, many of their leaders visiting the ailing Sena MP Sanjay Raut – the man who set the ball rolling against the BJP – convalescing in hospital, and displayed other gestures of goodwill.

A cheerful Thackeray – who has undergone a change of wardrobe from his awesome collection of ‘kurta-pyjamas’ to formal shirts-trousers – is seen hopping from one tiresome meeting to another with his newfound future saviours, and hopes to re-establish the Sena’s position as the once-dreaded ‘Big Brother’ in state politics.

After all, it has dawned on him that finally, the time has come for a ‘son-rise’ even in the Thackeray family!

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])

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Token seat not accepted this time: Chirag Paswan

The LJP is a part of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.

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Chirag Paswan

New Delhi, Nov 13 : The Lok Janshakti Party, which is ready to contest the Assembly elections in Jharkhand alone on 50 seats, has made it clear that it doesn’t want to contest polls on a token seat.

The party has gone its own way from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and has announced that it will contest alone on 50 out of the 81 seats.

The LJP’s national President and son of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Chirag Paswan told IANS on Wednesday: “Last time (previous Assembly elections) the Bharatiya Janata Party allowed the LJP to contest on just one seat. But this time the LJP has made it clear that we won’t contest on any token seat. We will contest the election only on the seat where our party has a public base”.

Junior Paswan who took over the party reigns earlier this month said: “Last time we were given the Shikaripada seat where we did not have any candidate also. If the BJP does it again, we are not ready”.

The LJP is a part of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.

He said the LJP has strengthened in the state in the recent past and the party’s state unit wanted to go solo in the Assembly elections. Still, we demanded six seats from the BJP but the efforts went in vain.

Chirag said: “I made an honest effort by contacting the BJP’s central leadership and demanded six seats to contest. But we could not get their consent. Therefore, the LJP has decided to contest this election alone”.

However, he made it clear that even if the LJP wins any seat in the election, it will support the NDA. “We are with the NDA at the Centre and state as well,” he said.

Replying to a query about the impact of the LJP’s decision to go solo in the election, he said it won’t affect the alliance.

“If some opposition parties are happy that they (BJP and LJP) lack coordination in Jharkhand and Shiv Sena has gone its own way in Maharashtra, they should not be overwhelmed,” said Paswan.

He said we had no alliance in Jharkhand, our pact is based on Bihar. We entered into an alliance in Bihar under which we contest the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections there together.

Chirag added that the BJP, LJP and the Janata Dal (United) would contest the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections together.

We will win more than 225 seats in the Assembly elections in Bihar like we won 39 out of 40 seats during the Lok Sabha elections. Chief Minister (Nitish Kumar) will retain power, he said.

The LJP chief said that the party will contest the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections alone.

Asked about the imposition of President’s Rule in Maharashtra and the break-up between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, he said: “People of Maharashtra have given a clear mandate to the NDA. People wanted to form a government under NDA but the decisions from parties and their political aspirations took things to President’s Rule. It’s unfortunate”.

The LJP has announced the candidates for 10 seats in Jharkhand. The state will go to the polls in five phases between November 30 and December 20 while counting is scheduled for December 23.

(P.K. Jha can be contacted at [email protected])

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