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Rahul Gandhi’s hands full of challenges as party chief, needs new formulas

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Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s long-delayed elevation as party chief is eventually taking place at a time when Congress faces an “existential crisis”, as a party leader put it, and has huge electoral challenges in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Gandhi, 47, will be the sixth member of Nehru-Gandhi family to take the top position of the 132-year old party.

The change at the top is coming on the eve of assembly polls in Gujarat and the outcome there would be interpreted in terms of Rahul Gandhi’s ability as a campaigner and vote getter.

But the next round of assembly polls in 2018 — first in Karnataka and later in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — will be absolutely crucial for Rahul Gandhi for building the momentum to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls. The state elections, with Bharatiya Janata Party as the key rival, will also be first major polls directly under Rahul Gandhi’s charge as party chief. Assembly polls will also be held early next year in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.

The challenges for Rahul Gandhi include fostering a new energy and enthusiasm in the Congress and evolving a new strategy to galvanise the party after a string of electoral losses since the 2014 Lok Sabha debacle. The Congress has to work hard at the grassroots to take on the relentless election machine of BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party chief Amit Shah.

Gandhi has to take a call on forging a larger opposition alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls under a “collective leadership” or projecting himself as the alternative against Modi with support of different parties. He was the face of Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Gandhi has been perceived as a reluctant politician due to some of his longish trips abroad, the delay in stepping up to the role of party chief, his not taking up a ministerial responsibility in two UPA governments and not properly following through some of the issues he raised.

Of late, he has been able to counter the perception with his sharp and aggressive attacks on Modi and the BJP. A trip to the United States where he had had interactions with think tanks appeared to have done a sea change to the image about him.

In Gujarat, where success will be a big morale-booster for the Congress, Gandhi has sought to create a broad social coalition and has forced Modi to react.

Congress’ only major success since its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls has been Punjab while the BJP, in comparison, has tremendously expanded its footprint by winning states it had never done in the past. The BJP is making efforts to expand its base in states it has been weak including West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

Another major challenge for Rahul Gandhi is to revive Congress in Uttar Pradesh, the state that sends the largest contingent of 80 MPs to parliament. Gandhi has twice led the party’s campaign in the assembly polls but had come a cropper.Rahul Gandhi

The results of the recent local body polls in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituencies of Rahul Gandhi and his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, have not been flattering for his image.

Congress has shrunk electorally, being now the fourth player in states such as Bihar, third in states such as West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as also Delhi. In the polls held to various assemblies since 2014, it has largely finished third or fourth. Sections, which were strongly with the party including Dalits, have drifted away.

Rahul Gandhi had been projected as a young leader who understands the language and idiom of the youth but Modi has been more successful in weaning away the section that has large electoral presence. The Congress also has to devise ways to woo the large middle class.

Gandhi, who is stepping into shoes of his mother Sonia Gandhi who helmed Congress for 19 years including 10 as the chief of the party heading the ruling coalition at the Centre, will need to be dexterous in his dealings with allies as also other opposition parties such as the CPI-M.

The crumbling of the ruling alliance in Bihar has been a setback for the party.

Senior leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Prasad have a comfort level with Sonia Gandhi and it remains to be seen how Rahul Gandhi fits into the role.

Within the party, Gandhi has to take several decisions including whether to project chief ministerial candidates in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan and who they will be.

Bringing about unity in faction-ridden state units and making the balance between the “old guard” and the younger aspirants will be other challenges.

Congress had to project nonagenarian Virbhadra Singh as chief ministerial candidate in Himachal Pradesh in the absence of a younger acceptable option.

Congress is now ruling only five states and a union territory and if it loses Gujarat and Karanataka next year, its chances of staging a comeback in 2019 will be further squeezed.

Though Gandhi’s experiments to democratise the party’s youth organisations have not entirely succeeded, he has had some political successes, including forcing the Modi government to go back on its proposed changes in the land acquisition Act.

The concerted opposition attack on the “flawed” implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) as also perception of unease among traders in poll-bound Gujarat has apparently forced the government to extend several concessions.

But the Congress or other opposition parties could not reap political dividends on demonetisation though it caused a lot inconvenience to people.

Though Gandhi had promised to “involve people in ways you cannot even imagine now” after the party lost in Delhi in 2013 assembly polls, the party fared far worse in the next polls.

Gandhi, who is into his third term as Lok Sabha MP, was made party vice-president in 2013 as a stepping stone to his eventual elevation.

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National Milk Day: Know history, significance of this day; Interesting facts about milk here

National Milk Day was established in 2014 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered the father of India’s White Revolution.

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Amul Milk Production

Every year, National Milk Day is celebrated on November 26 across India. The largest milk producing country celebrates this day to demonstrate the importance of milk in everyone’s life. It is worth noting that National Milk Day and World Milk Day are two different events, observed on different dates with different significance.

National Milk Day was established in 2014 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered the father of India’s White Revolution.

Why is National Milk Day Celebrated?

National Milk Day is celebrated on November 26 all over India, and it was established by the Food and Agricultural Organisation in 2014.

The day is dedicated to honouring Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered to be the father of India’s White Revolution. November 26 is also his birth anniversary, which is why this day is even more important as it also highlights his contribution to the country’s dairy farming and production.

First National Milk Day:

The Indian Dairy Association (IDA) in 2014, took the initiative to celebrate this day for the first time. The first National Milk Day was marked on November 26, 2014, in which various milk producers from 22 states participated.

Kerala-born, Dr Verghese Kurien is known as the ‘Milkman of India’ and the father of the 1970s White Revolution. He came with the one billion litre idea of turning a milk-guzzling country into world’s top dairy producer.

National Milk Day: Interesting facts about milk here

Milk is one of the best sources of calcium and the only drink in the world that contains such a large amount of natural nutrients.

Dr Verghese worked towards enabling the country to have its own production centres of milk. His support was crucial in making the Amul girl ad campaign-which is one of the longest-running campaigns for decades.

His accolades include Ramon Magsaysay Award, World Food Prize, Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Wateler Peace Prize.

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Global availability of Covid vaccine for public only by mid-2021: Moody’s

The report said mass vaccination that significantly reduces individual and public health concerns would lift sentiment and present a significant upside to global growth.

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Covid 19 Vaccine

New Delhi: While recent news about the high effectiveness of two coronavirus vaccines is a promising sign in the effort to combat the pandemic, a vaccine for Covid-19 will not be widely distributed before mid-2021, Moodys Investors Service said on Tuesday.

“However, these developments do not change the assumption underpinning our economic forecasts that widespread, global availability of the vaccine to the general public is only likely by around mid-2021,” Moody’s said in a report.

It added that the recent positive news about the effectiveness of vaccines under development will do little to ease the immediate concern that the current rise in coronavirus cases across the US and Europe will dampen sentiments and economic momentum in these regions this quarter and the next.

“Our baseline economic forecasts balance the downside risks of increasing infections and new lockdowns in the next two months, against the potential for widespread vaccinations over the next 12 months. If lockdowns are more severe than we expect, the negative effect on GDP could be offset if a coronavirus vaccine is available quicker and uptake is wider than we had expected,” it added.

Although successful Phase 3 trials of vaccines are a big step, there are numerous hurdles ahead, including satisfying approval requirements by regulators in individual countries, production of the billions of doses required for mass vaccination, ensuring proper storage and building distribution networks.

Distribution will likely occur in phases once regulators approve a vaccine, with health officials prioritizing access for healthcare workers and those in other high-risk professions, as well as for people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as older people and individuals in care homes.

Moody’s said two important variables in overall success of vaccines in curbing the pandemic will be the public’s willingness to get vaccinated and what percentage of the population will need to be vaccinated in order for the spread of the virus to be brought under control. Vaccine availability likely will vary across countries, with cost and access major hurdles in particular for less-developed economies.

Many advanced and a handful of middle-income emerging market countries have already secured contracts for hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccines. Residents of these countries will be among the first to get the vaccinations, with their economies benefiting from the associated easing of the public health crisis. The earlier the health crisis in a country subsides, the stronger the country’s economic recovery will be, it added.

The report said mass vaccination that significantly reduces individual and public health concerns would lift sentiment and present a significant upside to global growth.

As long as the coronavirus remains a health risk, social distancing restrictions and the reluctance of consumers to engage in high contact social and economic activity will mar the recovery of services sectors. As vaccines become broadly available, health fears and concerns about an uncertain economic and financial outlook should recede, allowing for a quicker resumption of activity in high contact sectors such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, mass transit, airlines and travel and tourism.

Moody’s said the pandemic has already inflicted enormous damage on the hardest-hit sectors and will continue to undermine their financial condition and prospects, with repeated virus outbreaks and lockdown measures suppressing demand. The risk of business failure increases exponentially the longer the pandemic prevents a return to some semblance of normal activity.

A vaccine will help accelerate the recovery. But for many of these businesses, survival will remain challenging until the virus is no longer viewed as a significant public health threat. It is difficult to know how many businesses will survive several more months of below-normal revenue, it added.

Small and midsized businesses across advanced and emerging market countries are at risk and more of them will undoubtedly close on account of the prolonged cash flow shock. And those that do survive will have the long and arduous task of rebuilding their balance sheets while also, in many cases, facing significant changes in consumer behavior and demand patterns. “Therefore, even if economic activity returns to healthy levels once a vaccine is widely available, the detrimental economic impact and transformed operating environment will be felt for years to come”, Moody’s said.

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Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom Day: J-K Lt Governor Pays Tribute To Sikh Guru

Manoj Sinha noted that the pious day is a reminder to respect and uphold the ‘faith, belief and rights of people’.

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Manoj Sinha

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha paid rich tributes to Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, on his martyrdom day on Tuesday.

“The teachings and martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur underline one of the most fundamental principles of human existence, which is ensuring the right of everyone to breathe free and live unshackled,” Sinha said.

Guru Teg Bahadur’s sacrifice is an important reminder for the future generations to be committed towards upholding the faith, belief and rights of people, he added.

On this pious day, everyone must resolve to dedicate themselves to selfless service of others, the LG said.

“Peaceful co-existence, mutual respect for each other’s religious beliefs go a long way in uplifting individual lives and achieving harmony and compassion in the society,” he added.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was born on April 1, 1621. He resisted forced conversions of Hindus, Sikhs, Kashmiri Pandits and non-Muslims to Islam and was killed on this day in 1675 on the orders of the then Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi.

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