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2024 Lok Sabha polls life and death issue for the Congress: A.K. Antony

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Thiruvananthapuram, March 26 (IANS) Veteran Congress leader A.K. Antony on Tuesday termed the upcoming Lok Sabha polls “a life and death issue” for the party.

“The aim of the Congress is to ensure that the BJP doesn’t return… if it doesn’t happen, then our country is gone. Hence, our aim is to recover India, and so this election is a life and death issue for us,” said Antony, who is now leading a retired life in the state capital.

Antony, a three-time Kerala Chief Minister and the longest-serving Defence Minister, has largely withdrawn from public life ever since his son Anil Antony joined the BJP last year.

With Anil Antony fielded by the BJP from the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency, Antony, asked if he would campaign for the Congress candidate there, said: “It all depends on my health condition”.

–IANS

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Rajkot TRP game zone fire: Investigations reveal management's negligence

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Rajkot, May 26 (IANS) Investigations into the TRP game zone tragedy in Gujarat’s Rajkot that claimed 35 lives have revealed that the incident happened due to its management’s negligence.

The investigations revealed that the TRP game zone had been operating illegally in a residential area for four years without the necessary No Objection Certificate (NOC).

The amusement park was set up in a flimsy shed-like structure to bypass regulatory approvals, the sources said.

Despite this, the sources shared that the facility continued to attract visitors, oblivious to the lurking dangers.

Rajkot Additional Collector Chetan Gandhi did not respond to the media, while Executive Engineer of the Mechanical Department C. C. Patel has disappeared and is not responding to calls.

The Road and Building Department officials are also untraceable, and the officers responsible for issuing the stability certificate are missing.

It was found that the game zone managers had expanded the facility to three stories by obtaining a ride certificate.

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The sources added that they secured permission from the police for the amusement park and sought approval for rides from the mechanical branch, sidestepping comprehensive safety evaluations.

Questions have been raised about the management and safety protocols at the Gamezone.

Reports indicate that 2,000 litres of petrol were stored on-site, ongoing welding activities, and numerous tyres were kept, all without a proper fire No Objection Certificate (NOC).

The state government and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) have pledged thorough investigations and justice for the victims.

Subhash Trivedi, Chairman of the SIT, said, “This is a very tragic incident, and guilty will not be spared. Justice will be served to all,” he said.

Trivedi assured that a proper investigation is underway and concrete actions will be taken against those responsible.

–IANS

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SC to hear on Monday BJP's plea against Calcutta HC order restraining publications of ads against TMC

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) The Supreme Court is slated to hear on Monday the plea filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against a Calcutta High Court order restraining the saffron party from publication of “derogatory” and “offending” advertisements against the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

As per the causelist published on the website of the apex court, a vacation bench of Justices JK Maheshwari and KV Vishwanathan will take up the matter for hearing on May 27.

Earlier on Friday, the special leave petition was mentioned before a vacation bench presided over by Justice Bela M Trivedi for directions seeking urgent listing.

After much persuasion, Justice Trivedi-led Bench said that it would consider listing the matter.

In an order passed this week, Calcutta High passed an ex-parte injunction prohibiting the publication of advertisements which squarely violate the political rights of Trinamool and its functionaries.

A bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya of the high court said that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) prohibits all participants in the election process from criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion.

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It said that the Election Commission of India “grossly failed” to address, in due time, the complaints raised by the ruling Trinamool Congress.

“Accordingly, respondent no. 2 (BJP) is hereby restrained from further continuing with the publication of the offending advertisements… till June 04, 2024, or until further order, whichever is earlier. The respondent no. 2 is further restrained from publishing advertisements in any form of media which is violative of the MCC issued by the ECI during the aforesaid period,” the HC order said.

The special leave petition filed before the Supreme Court stated that the high court “erred” by granting an interim injunction based on the purported violation of MCC without taking into consideration that the issue was pending before the ECI, which has the authority to take appropriate action against any political party.

–IANS

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Kidney racket : Kerala SIT reaches Tamil Nadu after prime accused reveals connections

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Chennai, May 26 (IANS) A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Kerala Police reached Tamil Nadu to probe the kidney racket based out of Kerala with international connections.

The special team of the Kerala Police led by a DSP is in the Coimbatore and Pollachi areas of Tamil Nadu after the main accused in a kidney racket, Sabith Nasar (30) revealed his Tamil Nadu connections to the investigation team.

IANS had earlier reported that Tamil Nadu Police have taken into custody a few people who were directly associated with the Kerala kidney racket’s main accused Sabith.

On May 19, Kerala Police arrested Nasar as he returned from Iran, following a tip-off from the Central intelligence agencies. On interrogation, he revealed that he was involved in organ trade and had taken twenty people to Iran for kidney transplant for money.

He also told interrogators that he had received Rs 5 lakh for each kidney transplant and that he had transferred around Rs 10 lakh to each donor. However, sources in the investigation team told IANS that the amount that Sabith and his associates received was much higher and that more people are involved in the racket including a Keralite doctor based out of Iran.

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The Kerala Police team in Tamil Nadu will be conducting a thorough investigation on the contacts of the accused Sabith Nasar and will question a few people who are already in the custody of Tamil Nadu SIT.

During the initial days of questioning, Sabith had revealed that people from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and a few north Indian states were taken to Iran as organ donors, while he kept silent on the Tamil Nadu connection.

Police teams from both states are conducting a joint investigation on the number of people taken from Tamil Nadu to Iran for kidney trade and the money that was transferred.

–IANS

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Stage set for by-election to Telangana MLC seat

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Hyderabad, May 26 (IANS) The stage is set for the by-election to the Telangana Legislative Council from the Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda graduates’ constituency on Monday.

A total of 4.63 lakh graduates are eligible to cast their votes in this constituency spread over 34 assembly segments in the undivided districts of Warangal, Khammam and Nalgonda.

The Election Commission of India has made elaborate arrangements for peaceful conduct of the polling.

The vacancy arose after Palla Rajeshwar Reddy of BRS resigned following his election to the Assembly from the Jangaon constituency in the Assembly elections held in November 2023.

Though there are 52 candidates in the fray, the main contest is among Congress, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates.

Coming close on the heels of the Lok Sabha elections, the by-election is witnessing a bitter contest among the main players.

For ruling Congress, it is a prestige battle as it is going all out to demonstrate that it continues to enjoy the support of graduates. Jobs for unemployed youth was one of the key promises of the party in Assembly elections and the party tried to assure the voters that it is committed to filling two lakh vacancies by the end of 2024.

The ruling Congress party, which has 33 out of the 34 MLAs in the graduates’ constituency, is confident of wresting the seat from BRS.

It has fielded Chintapandu Naveen alias Teenmaar Mallanna, who had contested as an independent and finished second in the election for MLC seat held two years ago.

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He is locked in a three-cornered contest with Rakesh Reddy of BRS and G. Permender Reddy of BJP.

Premender Reddy had secured fourth place in the 2021 poll as BJP candidate.

Interestingly, the main candidates were all once friends in the BJP. Rakesh Reddy quit BJP to join BRS just before the Assembly elections after he was denied a ticket from the Warangal constituency.

Teenmaar Mallanna had also quit the BJP to join Congress just before the Assembly polls.

Mallanna runs a YouTube channel considered highly critical of BRS chief KCR and his family. He was arrested for his alleged derogatory posts and comments against KCR when BRS was in power.

In 2021, Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) president and academician M. Kodandaram also contested the poll from this MLC constituency but finished third.

In the recent Assembly elections, Kodandaram backed the Congress party and the latter rewarded him by nominating him to the Legislative Council under the Governor’s quota.

The Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and TJS have declared their support to the Congress candidate.

The CPI-M has said its main objective is to defeat the BJP. The party called upon its cadres, supporters and sympathisers to vote for the Congress candidate.

Ministers and key leaders of the ruling Congress party participated in the campaign in support of Teenmaar Mallanna.

The Congress leaders told the voters that the government is working sincerely to solve the problems of the unemployed youth by taking steps to provide them with jobs.

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BRS working president K. T. Rama Rao and senior leader T. Harish Rao addressed meetings in support of party candidate Rakesh Reddy.

The BRS leaders appealed to graduate voters to elect Rakesh Reddy so that he could raise people’s voices in the Legislative Council.

At every meeting, Rama Rao is asking voters if they want to elect a highly educated Rakesh Reddy, who returned to India from the US to serve people or a ‘blackmailer’. He was attacking Teenmaar Mallanna for allegedly resorting to blackmailing in the guise of journalism.

Union minister and state BJP president G. Kishan Reddy, MP K. Laxman, former minister Eatala Rajender and other leaders addressed several meetings to campaign for Permender Reddy.

Rama Rao and Harish Rao have highlighted the failures of the Congress government during the last six months. People are fed up seeing the misrule of Congress in a short span of six months.

Both the BRS and BJP leaders slammed Congress for its failure to implement the six guarantees given in Assembly elections.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has asked collectors to grant special casual leave to employees for the by-election.

Chief Electoral Officer Vikas Raj said instructions have been issued for the grant of special casual leave on the day of the poll to the central and state government employees, who are bonafide voters in the elections to state legislative council to enable them to exercise the right of franchise.

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Collectors of Warangal, Hanumakonda, Mahabubabad, Jayashankar Bhupalpally, Jangaon, Mulugu, Siddipet, Khammam, Bhadradri Kothagudem, Nalgonda, Suryapet and Yadadri Bhuvanagiri districts were asked to implement the orders.

“With regard to the employees of private establishments, the district election officers are informed that there is no provision under the Representation of People Act, 1951 to declare a general holiday under the Negotiable Instrument Act for the elections of state legislative councils,” he said.

However, the CEO requested all private businesses to grant necessary facilities to their employees who are registered voters in the constituency, such as permission to attend office/duty late, adjustments of shifts, short absences of duty hours or otherwise, so as to enable them to exercise their right of franchise to vote on the day of polls.

Rachakonda police have issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC under the limits of Bhongir Zone of Rachakonda police Commissionerate from 4 p.m. on May 25 to 4 p.m. on May 26 at the distribution centres and from 4 p.m. on May 26 to May 27 at polling locations till completion of by-polls.

Orders have also been issued for the closure of all liquor shops, hotels, restaurants, clubs and other establishments selling/serving liquor, situated within the limits of the Yadadri-Bhuvanagiri zone from 4 p.m. on May 25 to 4 p.m. on May 27.

–IANS

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TN likely to announce special Kuruvai package after Lok Sabha poll results

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Chennai, May 26 (IANS) Tamil Nadu government is likely to announce the special ‘Kuruvai’ package for farmers in delta districts of the state.

This follows the demand by farmer associations and political parties that the farmers of the region will have to depend on groundwater as the water level in Mettur dam have gone down drastically.

The Kuruvai package includes 45 kg of urea, 50kg of diammonium phosphate and 25 kg of potash per acre at no cost.

R. Muthuraman, leader of the Tircuchi farmers movement, while speaking to IANS, said: “The water level in Mettur dam has gone down drastically as there are no rains in Karnataka and hence farmers of this region will have to depend on groundwater. If the government announces the Kuruvai package at the earliest, then we will have the confidence to commence cultivation.”

Farmers also demand free and regular supply of electricity to pump sets and quality paddy seeds for better crop.

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N. Veerasekaran, state secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), while speaking to IANS, said: “A large number of farmers in the Delta region are dependent on groundwater now as the Mettur dam opening will be delayed. The government should bring out a special package that would help farmers.”

He also said that in addition to the Kuruvai special package, timely loans are also important for the sustenance of the farmers.

It may be recalled that in 2023, the Kuruvai package was announced for 6,500 acres of paddy farming and Tamil Nadu Agricultural Department is likely to increase the area of cultivation in the 2024 Kuruvai package.

–IANS

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