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




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.


Russia presidential election: Vladimir Putin wins fourth term by big margin



Vladimir Putin

Moscow, March 19: Vladimir Putin clinched victory in Russia’s presidential election, securing his fourth term in office.

Putin, who has ruled the country nearly two decades got more than 76% of the vote.

Around 55.5 million of voters supported his candidacy in the election that took place on Sunday paving the way for Putin, 65, to lead the country until 2024 after which he is constitutionally obliged to stand down, reports Sputnik news.

In 2012, Putin had attained 45.6 million votes (63.6 per cent) which secured his position until 2018. In 2000, 39.7 million people (52.9 per cent) voted for him, while 49.6 million (71.31 per cent) backed his candidacy in 2004.

Putin extended his thanks to volunteers for their hard work during the election campaign and called the preliminary results “very decent”.

“I think that we are a big team… I mean everyone who voted today and due to the position of whom this very decent result emerged,” Sputnik news quoted the President as saying here on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin is in the second place with 11.87 per cent of the vote, followed by head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 5.73 per cent, Civil Initiative party candidate Ksenia Sobchak with 1.64 per, according to the CEC.

Grigory Yavlinsky, the co-founder of the Yabloko Party, has received only 1.02 per cent of votes followed by Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights Boris Titov with 0.75 per cent, Communists of Russia party chairman Maxim Suraykin with 0.68 per cent and Sergey Baburin from the All-People’s Union party with 0.64 per cent.

Putin’s fiercest political opponent, Alexei Navalny, had been barred from competing because of an embezzlement conviction that he said was manufactured by the Kremlin, reports the BBC.

He called for a boycott of the election.

In his first reaction to the preliminary results, Navalny indicated he had been unable to contain his anger.

“Now is the season of Lent. I took it upon myself never to get angry and not to raise my voice. Oh well, I’ll try again next year,” he tweeted.

Sunday’s vote was also the first in Crimea since Russia seized the region from Ukraine.

However, Russians living in Ukraine were not allowed to participate.

Pre-election polls had placed Putin, the country’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, as a clear front-runner.

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Shock defeat for BJP in UP, Bihar by-polls

In the neighbouring Bihar, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) dealty a stunning blow to the saffron party and its ally JD-U headed by Chief Minister Nitsh Kumar when it bagged the Araria Lok Sabha seat.



Samajwadi and BSP Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow/Patna, March 14 : In results that can set the tone for the 2019 general elections, the BJP on Wednesday received a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha and assembly by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar losing four of the five seats, including the prestigeous Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary constituencies, after non-BJP parties teamed up in alliances against the saffron party in the two states.

The BJP also lost the Araria Lok Sabha constituency and the Jehanabad assembly seat while scoring a consolation win in Bhabhua assembly seat in Bihar. The results in both the states triggered calls for a Grand Alliance – a la Bihar – all across India to take on the BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls.

After sweeping the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and the assembly elections last year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced formidable rivals in the form of Samajwadi Party (SP) and BSP who stitched a last minute alliance in the by-polls. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati had announced the backing of her party for SP candidates in both the constituencies in return for a SP support to her party candidate in the Rajya Sabha biennial elections.

The BJP lost Gorakhpur seat to the SP by a margin of 21,961 votes. SP candidate Pravin Kumar Nishad got 4,56,437 votes over his nearest BJP rival Upendra Dutt Shukla who secured 4,34,476 votes. Congress candidate Sureetha Kareem polled 18,844 votes.

Yogi Adityanath, who had represented Gorakhpur seat in the Lok Sabha for five times, winning the last elections in 2014 with a margin of 3.13 lakh votes, resigned from the seat after he was became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Before him, his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath was MP from the seat for two terms, in 1991 and 1993.

In the Phulpur constituency, which was once represented by first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, SP candidate Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel defeated BJP candidate Kaushalendra Singh by a margin of 59,613 votes.

The winner polled 3,42,796 votes while BJP candidate got 2,83,183 votes. Former mafia don-turned politician Ateeq Ahmed secured 48,087 votes while the Congress’s Manish Mishra polled 19,334 votes.

The SP has been the runner-up on Gorakhpur seat many times before, while it had won the Phulpur seat four times since 1996. BJP won Phulphur Lok Sabha seat for the first time in 2014 when (now) Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya won by a margin of over three lakh votes.

In 2014, BJP and its ally Apna Dal had won 73 of 80 Lok Sabha seats and 325 out of 403 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections.

In the neighbouring Bihar, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) dealty a stunning blow to the saffron party and its ally JD-U headed by Chief Minister Nitsh Kumar when it bagged the Araria Lok Sabha seat.

The RJD’s Sarfaraz Alam defeated the BJP candidate Pradeep Kumar Singh by over 60,000 votes in Araria.

In Jehanabad assembly constituency, Suday Yadav of RJD defeated Janata Dal-United candidate Abhiram Sharma by 35,036 votes while BJP’s Rinki Pandey worsted Sambhu Patel of the Congress, a RJD ally, by 15,000 votes in Bhabua assembly constituency.

It was a direct fight between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Grand Alliance of the RJD-Congress in Bihar, a year ahead of the next Lok Sabha battle.

With the original Grand Alliance having come apart as the JD-U deserted it and joining hands with the BJP, there was a lot at stake for everyone in the by-elections: the RJD, JD-U, BJP and Congress.

Workers of SP and RJD celebrated across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by distributing sweets and bursting firecrackers.

At the Bihar Assembly premises, RJD legislators played Holi, splashing each other with colour powder.

Elsewhere, RJD workers beat drums and raised slogans hailing Lalu Prasad, who has been jailed for corruption, and his son Tejashwi Yadav, who asked opposition leaders to join hands at the national level to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha battle.

The balloting in Jehanabad and Bhabua followed the death of RJD and BJP legislators respectively. The Araria Lok Sabha seat became vacant after the death last year of Mohammad Taslimuddin, the RJD MP.

The RJD fielded Sarfaraz Alam — son of Taslimuddin and a legislator of the ruling JD-U. Last month, he left the JD-U and quit the Assembly to join the RJD.

He is a former legislator from Jokihat in Araria district.

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UP bypoll: Setback to BJP, SP wins Gorakhpur and Phulpur



Yogi Adityanath, Akhilesh Yadav

Lucknow, March 14: In a shock defeat for Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party won the Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.

In the initial rounds of counting, BJP was leading in both seats but after some rounds, the SP took over the BJP.

Lucknow Assembly adjourned till 12.20 pm following a ruckus over the issue of media being kept out of counting center in Gorakhpur, the issue was raised by SP’s Ram Govind Chaudhary.

Gorakhpur ByPoll: SP’s Praveen Kumar Nishad clinched victory by defeating BJP’s Upendra Dutt Shukla.

Phulpur ByPoll: Samajwadi Party’s Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel wins Phulpur Lok Sabha seat by 59,613 votes

Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel

Samajwadi Party’s Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel

Initially, the postal ballots were being counted after which the electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be opened for counting.

Results for both the seats were likely to be announced by 12 noon.

The Gorakhpur seat was vacated by Yogi Adityanath after he became Chief Minister while the Phulpur seat fell vacant after the election of his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya as an MLC in the state assembly.

Amid poor balloting – 43 percent in Gorakhpur and 37.39 percent in Phulpur, both the ruling, as well as the opposition, was claiming victory.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has extended support to the Samajwadi Party (SP) candidates in both the seats.


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