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On Amarinder’s birthday, Congress sweeps Punjab; AAP finishes second, Akali-BJP third

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Chandigarh, March 11 : The Congress party on Saturday swept back to power in Punjab after a decade, with veteran Amarinder Singh set to return as Chief Minister of the border state.

The Congress, headed for a two-thirds majority in the 117-seat Punjab assembly, worsted the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine. The party’s win also turned on its head the BJP’s ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (Congress free India) slogan.

The Congress won 76 seats and was leading in one more.

Having won Punjab for his party on his 75th birthday, Amarinder Singh said his first priority would be to eradicate drugs from the state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose BJP was piggy-backing to power with the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab for the past decade, spoke to Amarinder Singh and congratulated him on the victory.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had run a high-voltage campaign in the state and claimed it could win up to 100 seats, got only 20 seats. Its ally, Lok Insaaf Party, won two seats.

The AAP beat the Akali Dal to emerge at second spot, and will be the main opposition in the new assembly.

The Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, which ruled Punjab since 2007, finished a poor third with 18 seats. The Akalis won 15 seats while the BJP won three seats.

Ten ministers, including two from the BJP, in the Parkash Singh Badal government were defeated.

Congress candidate Gurjeet Singh Aujla won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat comprehensively by 199,189 votes. The by-election was held along with the assembly polls.

“The people of Punjab have given us a big mandate. Our first priority will be to eradicate drugs from Punjab. I have vowed to finish drugs within four weeks,” a visibly happy Amarinder Singh, who was Chief Minister from 2002-07, told the media.

He was non-committal on having cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu as Deputy Chief Minister in the new government.

“That will be decided by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. All ministers will be decided by the party leadership.”

In Chandigarh, security was enhanced outside the private bungalow of Amarinder Singh in the upscale Sector 10 on Saturday morning itself as early trends started coming in. A metal detector and more security personnel were deployed as the number of visitors increased.

Outgoing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, a five-time Chief Minister, accepted defeat and said he will resign on Sunday.

Badal, 89, the oldest Chief Minister in the country, said: “I am grateful to the people of Punjab for giving me an opportunity to serve them. I am fully satisfied with all the things I was able to do. I seek forgiveness for any mistakes.”

On the Lambi assembly seat, where Amarinder Singh had challenged Badal on his (Badal’s) home turf, Badal won by 22,770 votes. But Amarinder Singh won his traditional Patiala Urban seat by over 52,400 votes.

The Chief Minister’s son Sukhbir Singh Badal, the Akali Dal President, won in Jalalabad over AAP’s Bhagwant Singh Mann by a margin of 18,500 votes.

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who won from the Amritsar-east assembly seat by over 42,000 votes, dubbed the Congress victory as its “revival” and blamed the Akali rout on its leadership’s “arrogance and turning the treasury into personal property”.

Sidhu, who left the BJP to join the Congress last year, also attacked Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “Kejriwal had wrong intentions. It is a huge defeat for him.”

Prominent AAP winners included Sukhpal Singh Khaira, H.S. Phoolka and Kanwar Sandhu. The AAP also finished second in 26 constituencies.

Prominent losers included former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Congress), Sunil Jakhar (Congress), Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu (Congress), Punjab ministers Adaish Pratap Singh Kairon, Tota Singh, Sikander Singh Maluka and former Army chief, Gen J.J. Singh.

The Congress ended up with a vote share of 38.5 per cent from the votes polled in the election. The Akali Dal got 25.3 per cent while its ally BJP got 5.3 per cent. The AAP finished with 23.8 per cent of the vote.

Election

Congress workers protest outside EC office, detained

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New Delhi, Dec 14 : Several Congress workers were detained on Thursday as they staged a protest march against the Election Commission for issuing a notice against party’s President-elect Rahul Gandhi for his TV interviews but alleged that it had failed to apply the same standards for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for holding a roadshow after casting his vote.

The party also submitted a fresh memorandum to the EC on Thursday demanding action against Modi for the roadshow in Ahmedabad. In its memorandum, the party called upon the EC to follow the dharma of the Constitution, implement the law and register an FIR against the Prime Minister.

Police detained Congress workers who were marching to the Election Commission in protest against Modi’s roadshow in Gujarat after casting his vote on Thursday.

Party workers were stopped by police outside Sardar Patel Bhawan near Patel Chowk.

“ECI is a constitutional institution. It is not dependant on anyone. Democracy and election process are being being murdered. This is surprising since we gave them prima facie evidence – a video of Modiji’s roadshow. Why was there no notice against him,” said Congress leader and Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev.

“Notice has been issued against us, We are not sad about it. But why notice has not been issued against them (BJP),” asked Dev.

“When Modiji is appealing to the people on December 8 to vote for BJP on December 9, is that not violation of model code of conduct. Why notice is not being issued to them?” Dev added.

Dev said: “BJP is in power, they can go anywhere. We are in opposition, so the police has stopped us. This is what is happening in the country. They are misusing power in front of the ECI.”

IANS

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Opposition slams ‘inaction’ by EC, says it has failed to uphold constitutional mandate

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Opposition Parties Meet, Photo Tweeted by ANI

New Delhi, Dec 14 : Opposition parties on Thursday strongly criticised the Election Commission over its “inaction” regarding alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat and said the “attitude” of the poll body has cast an “ominous shadow” on its “credibility”.

In a statement issued by opposition parties after they meet here at Parliament House to chalk out the strategy for the winter session beginning on Friday, they said, “The opposition parties strongly criticised the violation of model code of conduct by Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues during the Gujarat elections and on the day of polling when he held a road show in Ahmedabad.

“Inaction of the Election Commission is indeed shocking as it has failed to uphold its constitutional mandate under Article 324,” the statement read.

The meeting of the opposition leaders was attended by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Anand Sharma, Jyotiraditya Scindia, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, SP’s Naresh Agrawal, CPI’s D. Raja, TMC’s Derek O’Brien, NCP’s Tariq Anwar and RJD’s J.P. Yadav.

The opposition leaders said that instead of taking action for violations, the poll panel has allowed violations by the ruling BJP and been indulgent in allowing the Prime Minister to dedicate the submarine ‘Kalvari’ on the day of the poll.

“These actions directly influence the voters to the advantage of the BJP, the ruling party.

“This attitude of the EC has cast an ominous shadow on the credibility of the EC and the integrity of the electoral process,” it said.

The opposition party leaders also expressed their disappointment and outrage over the “hasty decision” to disqualify Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar from the membership of Rajya Sabha, “without following due process”.

“The decision is unfair and unjust,” the leaders said.

The opposition parties will meet again on Monday to chalk out the strategy for the winter session.

IANS

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Gujarat battle ends amid Congress-BJP war of words

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Gandhinagar, Dec 14 : The second and final phase of the bitterly fought Gujarat Assembly polls ended on Thursday evening amid a war of words between the ruling BJP and an aggressive Congress.

Balloting closed at 5 p.m. with an estimated 60 per cent of the 2.22 crore electorate exercising their franchise in 93 constituencies across 14 districts of northern and central Gujarat.

Nearly 50 per cent polling was seen by 3 p.m., the Election Commission said. One official said the overall polling could even cross 70 per cent.

Thursday’s fight for Gujarat, ruled by the BJP for 22 long years, ended more or less peacefully. Voters, however, complained about malfunctioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at some places.

The sluggish voter turnout in the first few hours due to the winter chill gave way to visible enthusiasm as the day progressed. Long queues of men and women were seen outside polling booths almost everywhere.

But with the stakes high in Gujarat, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress were locked in a war of words after Prime Minister Narendra Modi voted in Ahmedabad and then went around the area, flashing his finger with the voter mark.

A furious Congress complained to the Election Commission that Modi held a roadshow in Ranip area.

Afer casting his vote, Modi stood on the steps of his vehicle and waved to the cheering crowds. His 97-year-old mother Hiraba, who lives in Gandhinagar with Modi’s younger brother Pankaj Modi, also voted in Gandhinagar North.

The Congress accused the Election Commission of ignoring the BJP’s and Modi’s violations of the model code of conduct. Congress activists staged a demonstration outside the office of the poll panel in New Delhi.

BJP veteran L.K. Advani, the Lok Sabha member from Gandhinagar, cast his vote at a booth in Hindi Vidyalaya in Shahpur area of the old city. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley voted at a booth in Chimanbhai Institute at Vejalpur area.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel too voted on Thursday. Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who has virtually thrown his lot with the Congress, exercised his franchise in Viramgam.

A skirmish took place between two groups in Hasanpur village in Visnagar at Mehsana. The police used batons to disperse the mob. Ten persons have hospitalised.

The districts were elections were held on Thursday included Banaskantha, Patan, Sabarkantha, Mehsana, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, Aravalli, Mahisagar, Panchmahal, Dahod, Kheda, Anand, Vadodara and Chhota Udepur.

A total of 25,575 polling booths were set up in 14,523 places.

There were several complaints regarding malfunctioning EVMs in and around Vadodara city, halting polling temporarily.

A clash also erupted in Dhanera town in Banaskantha district, police said.

The first round of polling to elect a 182-member Gujarat Assembly took place on December 9. The votes will be counted on Monday.

IANS

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