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With Sanders out, US presidential race intensifies with Trump-Biden

Biden has suggested holding it virtually because of the socially distancing rules that may in force for months.

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Donald Trump Joe Biden

New York, April 9 : Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the US presidential election has been set as a contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden after the socialist Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic race for nomination.

By conceding to Biden on Wednesday, Sanders will allow him and the party to focus on Trump and get an early start for a campaign directly against Trump stretching for the next seven months instead of spending resources for several months on infighting by party candidates for the nomination.

“I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward,” Sanders said in his live-streamed announcement.

Biden said he realised “how hard a decision this was for him to make,” adding, “Bernie has put his heart and soul into not only running for president, but for the causes and issues he has been dedicated to his whole life.”

“I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Sanders said finally recognising the changed environment in a nation ravaged by COVID-19.

Sanders and Biden have not been able to hold rallies or even have house-to-house campaigns.

Trump, who has expressed preference for the self-described democratic socialist Sanders to be his rival, roiled the political waters claiming the nomination process was “rigged” against “Crazy Bernie.”

In an email to supporters soon after Sanders live-streamed his decision, Trump took a dig at his favourite targets: “It’s been obvious from day one that the Democrats, the Fake News Media, the Hollywood Elites, and the Deep State all want Sleepy Joe to be president no matter the cost.”

An aggregation of the national polls by RealClear Politics showed that Biden was leading Trump by 6.3 per cent, but there has been some concern in the Democratic Party with Trump’s approval rating for handling the coronavirus pandemic, although it has come down from a high of 50.6 last month to 46.8 on Wednesday.

Sanders has ended a five-year quest for the presidency, during which he put up credible challenges to Hillary Clinton and to Biden, and it may be the last for the 78-year-old who suffered a mild heart attack during the current campaign.

In the 2016 party election, there were accusations that the Democratic National Committee was biased against him and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who criticised leadership, resigned as a party vice president to back Sanders.

Several Democratic leaders wanted Sanders to drop out so the party can present a united front against Trump

Although he was seeking the Democratic Party nomination, Sanders is officially an Independent member of the senate and not a party member. The rules allowed him to run in the party election for the presidential nomination.

Sanders announced that although he is suspending his campaign, he said would continue to stay on the party ballot so that he can have delegates at the party convention “to exert significant influence over the party platform.”

“While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not,” referring to his socialist cause like higher minimum wages, universal healthcare and free college education.

Acknowledging Sanders’s ideological appeal, Biden said, “Bernie has done something rare in politics. He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement.”

Biden, who advocates a centrist agenda, is against some Sanders’s proposals like nationalised health care.

Intra-party elections – either by secret ballot known as primaries, or open, in-person balloting known as caucuses – have been held in only 28 of the 50 states.

Of the remaining states, 15 have postponed the party elections because of the COVID-19 pandemic and 12 will have postal ballots.

The selection of the party candidate is by an indirect process with the primaries and caucuses electing delegates pledging to support one of the candidates to the party convention where the party nomination will be officially made.

With 3,979 elected delegates, a candidate will need 1,991 delegates to win the nomination and Biden leads the delegates count with 1,217 to Sanders’s 914.

Sanders has only won in eight states, while Biden, who had a slow start and was almost written after losing in the first three states, staged a powerful comeback, winning in 19 states.

Biden has an array of endorsements from Democratic leaders and he is leading by a large margin among African-Americans, an important segment of the party, to whom Sanders could not appeal.

While the race started last year with 20 credible candidates qualifying for the first party debate, they started dropping out seeing no prospects for themselves leaving only Biden and Sanders till today.

Among the candidates dropping out were Senator Kamala Harris, who is of Indian and Jamaican-African descent, and Gabbard, who is Hindu by faith.

Despite being out of the running, Sanders has a large, vociferous support base dominated by young people.

Reaching out to them, Biden said he realised “how hard it is for the millions of his supporters — especially younger voters — who have been inspired and energised and brought into politics by the progressive agenda he has championed.”

Originally scheduled for July and postponed to August because of the pandemic, the party convention to officially make the nomination was in question because of the pandemic.

Biden has suggested holding it virtually because of the socially distancing rules that may in force for months.

“We’re going to have to do a convention, may have to do a virtual convention,” he told a television interviewer on Sunday.

Sanders dropping out of the race would make this easier removing one of the possible challenges.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

Election

Congress ropes in Prashant Kishor for Madhya Pradesh bypolls

By-elections are due in 24 seats following the demise of two MLAs and rebellion by 22 MLAs from the Congress.

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Prashant-Kishor

Gwalior, May 22 : The Congress has roped in political strategist Prashant Kishor to lend edge to its by-election campaign in Madhya Pradesh. The state will witness by-polls to 24 seats in the next four months due to the rebellion by former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia who bolted with 22 MLAs into the BJP.

The unprecedented situation has put doubts in the minds of both Congress and BJP supporters

It took the Kamal Nath-led government just 15 months to spill the power it earned through 15 years’ struggle. Prashant Kishor played a crucial role even during 2018 assembly elections to help the party return to power. The Congress is weighing the proposal from three advertising and image-building firms to take charge of its campaign.

First thing, the party plans to take the battle to the Scindia stronghold of Gwalior-Chambal region by setting up the war-room in Gwalior. This is to overcome logistic issues during the lockdown. Some former close associates of the Gwalior scion like Ramniwas Rawat and Anil Singh who have stayed back in the Congress will lead the charge. They believe Scindia’s desertion has not gone down well with his constituents and he is no longer invincible given his miserable failure to retain the Guna Lok Sabha seat in May 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Former Leader of Opposition, Ajay Singh, is likely to be fielded in Surkhi against Govind Singh Rajput whom Shivraj Singh Chouhan had included in the first lot of ministers.

Congress is also seriously considering pitting former MP Premchand Guddu against another minister Tulsi Silavat. Guddu has been an MLA in the past, from the Sanwer seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes. He had joined the BJP in the last elections, but claims to have left it in February while the party served a notice on him for anti-party activities.

Congress leaders are also persuading former MP Meenakshi Natarajan to contest the by-elections from Suwasra against her former supporter Hardeep Singh Dung, who left the Congress to join the BJP.

The Congress is also considering former minister Ramnivas Rawat, Ashok Singh or a Brahmin leader from Badnawar against Pradyuman Singh Tomar in Gwalior.

The Congress has made strategic organisational changes to take on the twin challenge of Scindia supporting ex-members of Congress as also the BJP rivals. It appointed 11 district Presidents on Wednesday. The party hopes to harness the anger among the people over the way the BJP has handled the recent Corona crisis and its aftermath among the workers.

By-elections are due in 24 seats following the demise of two MLAs and rebellion by 22 MLAs from the Congress.

Of these, 16 seats are Gwalior-Chambal division. These by-elections will decide the political future of the Chouhan government and Congress.

In Gwalior Rural, Congress has appointed Ashok Singh as district President. Ashok Singh, once an ardent supporter of Scindias, believes the royalty lost much of its influence by submitting before the BJP. The party has also appointed a new district President in Guna district, a stronghold of Scindia.

Chief Minister Chouhan has the unenviable task of balancing the aspirations of old BJP hands who will have to make sacrifices for the recent arrivals from the Congress. They would also have to seek support for the former adversaries.

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Election

Governor’s rule in Tripura autonomous tribal body

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Ramesh Bais

Agartala/Guwahati, May 18 : After the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam, Governor’s rule was imposed in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) on Monday as the polls have been postponed indefinitely due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of novel coronavirus, officials said.

Chief Executive Officer of the TTAADC Balin Debbarma said that G.K. Rao, former Tripura Chief Secretary and a retired IAS officer, has been appointed as the Administrator of the autonomous body. Tripura Governor Ramesh Bais appointed Rao, who of late was the member of the Tripura Police Accountability Commission, to run the politically important tribal autonomous body on his behalf.

The 30-member TTAADC, until Sunday, was governed by the opposition CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and its five-year term expired on May 17. An official of the TTAADC said that within the next six months, the elections to the council would have to be conducted as per the mandate of the Constitution.

Opposition CPI-M state Secretary Gautam Das and Tripura Pradesh Congress President Pijush Biswas separately asked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government to conduct the elections of the TTAADC within the stipulated period. The politically important TTAADC, which was constituted under the sixth Schedule of the Constitution in June, 1985, has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km are, home to over 12,16,000 people, mostly tribals.

In Assam, on the recommendations of the state government, the State Election Commission recently put off the 40-member BTC polls for an indefinite period. Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi, who is the constitutional head of the Sixth Schedule areas like that of BTC, had also earlier suggested postponement of the council polls.

Mukhi on April 27 appointed Rajesh Prasad, a 1995-batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, as the administrator of the BTC following the promulgation of Governor’s Rule.

The politically important BTC, which started functioning in December 2003, comprises four districts of western Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri and is home to over 31,00,000 people, the majority of whom are tribals. Before the Governor’s rule in BTC, since 2003 it was governed by the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), a local party and an ally of the BJP-led Assam government.

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Election

Supreme Court’s relief for Gujarat minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, High Court order stayed

Supreme Court issues notice in the matter. Justice Shantanagoudar says that the Gujarat High Court order has to be stayed.

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Bhupendrasinh Chudasama

New Delhi: Supreme Court stays Gujarat High Court order which had nullified the election of BJP leader Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on the grounds of malpractice and manipulation.

Supreme Court issues notice in the matter. Justice Shantanagoudar says that the Gujarat High Court order has to be stayed.

Senior Lawyer Kapil Sibal, “When have your Lordships stayed matter’s like this which are based on corrupt practices?”

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