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Republican Hindu group scaling back campaign for Trump

While Trump speaks of merit-based immigration there are about a million people caught up in the Green Card backlog and “they are in great pain”, he said.

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Washington, Oct 17 : During the 2016 election campaign around this time, then-candidate Donald Trump addressed a large, glamorous rally of thousands of cheering Hindus – the first time a US presidential candidate reached out to the followers of the faith.

But this time there won’t be such an event.

The Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), which organised the event on October 15, 2016, in New Jersey, is scaling back its campaign for Trump and will not hold events for him unless he gives an assurance on immigration reform, according to its founder Shalabh Kumar.

Kumar told IANS that he and the group’s members would continue to support Trump and urge Hindus to vote for him, but will not hold any campaign events like the one in 2016 which was attended by over 8,000 people.

In the US, electioneering based on religious appeal is legal and common at all levels.

“We are asking all our members to support Trump in their individual capacity to vote for Trump and for Republicans in general,” Kumar said.

“But in terms of major campaign events like what we did in New Jersey and what we did with ‘Apki Baar Trump Sarkar’ commercial which we aired every day, we are waiting for a meeting with the President to clarify his position particularly on the Green Card backlog,” he said.

He asserted that the RHC had about 50,000 members and because the Hindus came from all over the world, their number in the US exceeded that of immigrants coming directly from India and their children.

While the Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden is not carrying out large campaign rallies because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump has been holding them and it should be possible to organise a Hindu event for him.

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has launched an outreach under its own umbrella called the ‘Hindu Voices for Trump’, as part of a multi-pronged drive that also separately targets Sikhs, Muslims and Indian-Americans in general.

But it has been acting low key, not organising any big campaign events for Hindus and it emphasises religious freedom and economic opportunities.

For the first time, Democrats have also reached out to members of the religion with a “Hindus for Biden” initiative spearheaded by Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House of Representatives.

In the past, the Democrats’ explicit outreach had been to religions like Islam and Judaism and excluded Hinduism.

Noting the change in the Democratic Party, Kumar quipped: “We have at least made the Hindu word popular.”

He said that as a “very issue-oriented, policy-oriented organisation”, the RHC requires a commitment from Trump on immigration reform and clearing the Green Card backlog, which it considers is important to the community and would ramp up its campaign for him once it is received.

While Trump speaks of merit-based immigration there are about a million people caught up in the Green Card backlog and “they are in great pain”, he said.

The RHC wants a commitment from Trump that he would introduce a system of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that would allow people waiting for five or more years for their Green Cards to indefinitely work and live in the US till their numbers come up for it, he said.

According to Republican Senator Mike Lee’s estimate, the backlog is so bad that for some Indians the wait could take 195 years for a Green Card, which gives permanent immigrant status and puts the recipients in the pipeline to full citizenship.

The EAD would be a bridge to Green Card pending immigration reforms to clear the backlog, Kumar said.

Trump would also have to come out more clearly on the Citizenship Amendment Act that gives expedited Indian citizenship to Christian, Hindu and Buddhist refugees fleeing persecution in Islamic nations in South Asia, and on the Indian government withdrawing the special constitutional status of Kashmir.

In 2016, Kumar said “we had an agreement from Trump” on four issues that the RHC raised “before we endorsed his and went out all the way for him”.

The issues were holding Pakistan accountable for terrorism, the sale of advanced weapons systems to India, the supply of liquid natural gas to India and advancing US-India relations, he said.

Candidate Trump agreed to the conditions and as president he has delivered on them, Kumar said.

That is a reason for the uptick in support among Indian-Americans for Trump, he said.

Regarding the immigration issue, he said: “There is bipartisan support and we want to make sure that that issue gets taken care of, whether Trump gets re-elected, which, of course, we want — I am a hard-core conservative – (and) at the same time looking at the reality on the ground, if Vice President Biden become the president, we want that issue to be taken care of.”

Election

JAP chief’s stage collapses in Muzaffarpur, sustains hand fracture

Stage collapses at Jan Adhikar Party leader Pappu Yadav’s campaign rally in Muzaffarpur’s Minapur Assembly Constituency.

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JAP Pappu Yadav

Patna Nov 1 : Jan Adhikaar Party (JAP) president Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav sustained hand fracture after his stage collapsed during a rally in Meenapur, Muzaffarpur.

Yadav sustained multiple injuries including a fracture in right hand. He was taken to the hospital by his supporters soon after the incident.

After being discharged from the hospital, he alleged that the state government did not provide proper security to leaders of the opposition parties.

“Security is being provided to the leaders of the ruling parties only. No opposition leaders are being given proper security. We demand proper inquiry into the matter as there is a huge threat to me and my supporters. Anything could happen with us,” Yadav said.

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Karnataka Legislative Council polls: EC defers counting from Nov 3 to 10

There are 2.35 lakh voters in these four constituencies who exercised their franchise in as many 549 polling stations set up across these constituencies.

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Bengaluru: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday announced that it had decided to postpone the counting of votes for four Legislative Council seats in Karnataka from November 2 to 10.

The decision was taken following a memorandum submitted by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee on Saturday, appealing that any outcome of Legislative Council polls will have a direct impact on Assembly by-polls to Rajarajeshwari Nagara constituency in Bengaluru and Sira in Tumkuru district which are going to polls on November 3.

The biennial polls to four Legislative council (two graduates and two teachers) seats were held on October 28 amid pandemic fears. Wherein of the total 2.35 lakh voters, nearly 70 per cent electorates had turned up defying pandemic fears.

Conceding to the Congress party’s demand, EC said in its statement that the counting of Council polls can be held after any day after November 3 but it has now decided to hold counting of these Council seats along with counting of two Assembly seats – Sira and RR Nagar – on November 10.

It may be worth noting here that the Council polls took place as these constituencies fell vacant due to the retirement of R. Chowda Reddy Thoopalli of JD(S), S. V. Sankanur of BJP, Sharanappa Mattur of Congress and Puttanna of JD(S) respectively. Of these four recontesting candidates, Puttanna has crossed over to BJP and is contesting on this party ticket.

Despite pandemic, voters’ response was overwhelming in 2020 when compared with 2014 elections held in these seats. Voting percentage rose anywhere between 13.5 per cent to 24 per cent in the constituencies.

As many as 40 candidates’ fates are sealed in ballot units who are in fray from these constituencies. Among them are the four whose retirement on June 30 warranted the elections.

There are 2.35 lakh voters in these four constituencies who exercised their franchise in as many 549 polling stations set up across these constituencies.

In the council with strength of 75 members Congress has 28 members, BJP has 27 members, Janata Dal (Secular) has 14 members, one independent, one chairman and four vacant seats.

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Election

Bihar polls: ‘BJP’s Covid-19 vaccine promise not a poll violation,’ says EC

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while releasing the party’s manifesto for the Bihar polls, announced that the Covid-19 vaccine is all but ready and will be provided for free to everyone in the state.

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Nirmala Sitharaman

The Election Commission of India has said that the free Covid-19 promise made by the BJP in the run-up to the Bihar election is not a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

In its 28 October response to a representation from activist Saket Gokhale that sought action under the model code of conduct, the EC has cited three provisions from the MCC which include that the “state election manifestos should not contain anything repugnant to the Constitution; should avoid making promises that vitiate the purity of the electoral process or exert undue influence on the voter and trust of the voters should be sought only on promises that can be fulfilled”. HT has seen the communication.

Gokhale had alleged the promise was discriminatory and misleading as India’s vaccine policy had not been announced yet.

The EC letter adds that manifestos are always issued by particular parties for a particular election. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while releasing the party’s manifesto for the Bihar polls, announced that the Covid-19 vaccine is all but ready and will be provided for free to everyone in the state. Sitharaman’s declaration has caused immense outrage, with the opposition asking the Election Commission to take suo-moto cognizance of the matter since the polls are barely a week away.

“In view of the above, no violation of any of the provisions of Model Code of Conduct has been observed in the instant matter,” states the EC’s reply to Gokhale.

People familiar with the matter had earlier told Hindustan Times that there is precedent for the Commission to exclude what constitutes “welfare schemes”.

“There is a precedent to exclude welfare schemes,” said a person familiar with the matter.

The person added that a 2019 case against the Indian National Congress for announcing the NYAY Yojana, that promised a universal basic income of Rs 72,000 annually, the Commission had held that the manifesto promises “are not repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in the constitution and are not inconsistent with the letter and spirit of other provisions of the MCC”.

The Commission, in its order dated 5 May 2019, had further used the same three provisions to strike down the case. It had said that the “directive principles of the state policy enshrined in the constitution enjoin the state to frame various welfare measures for the citizens and the said scheme seems to be a welfare scheme which is not likely to vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on voters”.

“In view of the position mentioned above, there appears to be no violation of the MCC and said scheme does not fall under corrupt practices,” the Commission had said then.

Hindustan Times on 23 October had reported that experts believed a manifesto provides political parties the freedom to make announcements they can’t make as the government.

“The political parties have a right to make such promises,” former chief election commissioner VS Sampath had said. “Whether it is undue influence or not is for the voter to decide. One can’t take exception to parties making poll promises.”

Former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswami said that if a government in office makes such a declaration, it cannot be construed as undue influence, but not when a political party says it in its manifesto, it is kosher. “Manifesto allows you to say things you otherwise can’t say,” Gopalaswami said.

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