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BJD releases first list for Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies (Lead)

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Bhubaneswar, March 27 (IANS) Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) President Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday announced the first list of candidates for 72 Assembly and nine Parliamentary constituencies in the state, where simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and the Assembly will be held in four phases from May 13.

The party has fielded Pranab Prakash Das from the Sambalpur Lok Sabha constituency, replacing Nalini Kanta Pradhan. The constituency will witness an intense fight as the Bharatiya Janata Party has already announced the name of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan for the seat.

Similarly, veteran hockey player and former Indian team captain Dilip Tirkey will contest the elections from Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency against former Union Minister and senior BJP leader Jual Oram.

The BJD has fielded Anshuman Mohanty from Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency replacing popular Odia cine star Anubhav Mohanty. Anshuman Mohanty will face BJP’s national Vice President and former MP Baijayant Panda, who was earlier in the BJD.

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In a surprise move, the BJD has announced Manmath Routray, son of veteran Congress leader Sura Routray, from the high-profile Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency. Routray’s name was announced hours after he formally joined the party on Wednesday. He will contest against former bureaucrat and sitting BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi.

Meanwhile, Pradeep Kumar Majhi, who joined the BJD after quitting the Congress in 2021, has replaced Ramesh Chandra Majhi as the party’s candidate for the Nabarangpur Lok Sabha constituency. Pradeep Kumar Majhi, who contested on Congress ticket from the same constituency in 2019, had lost to Ramesh Chandra Majhi.

Similarly, the BJD has replaced Pramila Bisoyi with Ranjita Sahoo for the Aska Lok Sabha constituency. The party has fielded Sudam Marndi for the Mayurbhanj Lok Sabha seat, replacing Debashis Marndi. The BJD also announced the Lambodar Nial for the Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituency replacing Puspendra Singhdeo who had lost in the 2019 general elections.

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The party, on the other hand, retained Kausalaya Hikaka for the Koraput parliamentary constituency. He had lost to Saptagiri Shankar Ulaka of Congress in the 2019 elections.

The party has also announced the list of candidates for 72 Assembly constituencies for the upcoming elections. Barring a few new faces, many previous candidates have been retained.

The party has fielded Sujata Sahu for Jajpur as sitting MLA Pranab Prakash Das will contest the Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat. Similarly, Kalikesh Singh Deo has replaced his father Ananga Udaya Singh Deo from the Bolangir Assembly seat.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will contest from the Hinjili constituency in Ganjam district, which he has been elected five times since 2000.

Simultaneous elections to 21 Lok Sabha and 147 Assembly seats in Odisha will be held in four phases on May 13, May 20, May 25, and June 1. The counting of votes will be taken up on June 4.

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–IANS

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FairPoint: Is there something under wraps in Kashmir

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) The recent terror attacks in Jammu have sparked a wave of anxiety and panic among people in the region. The fact that terrorists can carry out heinous attacks anywhere and anytime has exposed chinks that need to be sealed.

The attack on a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims in Reasi raises several questions — like how come the attackers knew the bus was carrying Hindu pilgrims or it would be travelling on that particular route at that time. Were they given the information? Who told them? The terrorists ambushed the bus on a stretch where traffic was less and as per those who survived, the attackers were there for almost 20 minutes.

Does this not indicate a kind of collusion with some local sympathisers? The questions may be part of the investigation being carried out, but they are reminiscent of the times when terrorism struck Kashmir in the early 1990s and most of the attacks were carried out after getting information from neighbours or colleagues and even local policemen. This was something which was even described in detail by Late Governor Jagmohan in his book, ‘Frozen Turbulence’.

The help at the local level could be out of fear or sympathy. With improved security situation and crackdown on separatist leaders, the atmosphere of fear is supposed to have been curbed. But, terror eruptions like the recent ones bring forth an ugly fact that rogue elements continue to exist and exert their presence from time to time.

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These elements try to rear their heads when they deem fit or act on orders from across the border. Pakistan has not shut its terror factory and continues to infiltrate terrorists to carry out attacks. It believes that it is its right to keep J&K disturbed through such acts of violence.

J&K Director General of Police R. R. Swain recently said that 70-80 foreign terrorists are active in the Union Territory. An equal number is reported to be trying to sneakily cross the LoC/border from various launch pads in Pakistan.

With the security apparatus tight and strong in Kashmir, the terrorists have been trying to shift their activities to the Jammu region, in the south of Pir Panjal range. The region with dense forests is a difficult terrain where terrorists get enough space to hide. The Pakistan-backed terrorists are also now trying to go to those areas which have been relatively peaceful, and the Reasi attack is an example.

This is the challenge for security forces. The fact that terrorists are able to strike and vanish is something which is deeply worrying. The question again arises — is it possible for the attackers to just vanish or are there elements helping them in the UT?

The terror attacks cannot happen in isolation. There is always a local connect, whether it is in the form of a hybrid terrorist, an overground or underground worker or just simply doing it for money or getting exploited on the basis of religious sentiments.

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Before the abrogation of Article 370, the separatists and the pro-Pakistani elements were successful in creating a network which was connected by Islamic sentiments. This link helped in organising stone-pelting sessions, targeted killings, attacks on minorities and security forces, etc.

After Article 370 ceased to exist, the valley has seen a drastic change. The pro-separatist network was demolished and a drastic reduction in violence, including stone-pelting, was noticed. The valley has been witnessing a massive and unprecedented flow of tourists.

Despite a majority wanting to live in peace, there is a hidden remnant of the motivated link that has been trying to gather itself by various means. These hidden elements show their presence through acts of terror, as was witnessed in three back-to-back attacks in Jammu, including the targeting of Hindu pilgrims in a bus in Reasi district.

The police have announced huge rewards for information about the attackers but days after the attack, no one has been arrested. The fact is that these hidden elements are able to get support — with moving around, hiding, food, weapons or pinpointed information about the subject of attack. This is something which should act as an alarm bell for the government.

The victory of Engineer Rashid, a leader with an inclination towards the separatist agenda, in the recently held Lok Sabha elections, is again a pointer to something brewing in the valley.

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Rashid has been in Tihar jail for the past five years in connection with a terror funding case. In 2015, when he was an MLA, he organised a party at his official residence where beef was cooked. He has also repeatedly raised his voice for the “right to self-determination” in the then J&K Assembly.

Recently, when he won the Lok Sabha elections, eyebrows were raised as to how he managed to secure the win despite being in jail. His campaign was led by his 26-year-old son Abrar Rashid.

Much on the lines of AAP head and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s campaign in the general elections, where he appealed to people to vote for him to keep him out of jail, Abrar Rashid adopted a similar strategy. His short speeches — “Your vote can get my father released…,” struck a chord and translated into victory.

If Engineer Rashid enters Parliament, will he raise his voice for self-determination as he used to do when he was an MLA.

The question is troubling, is there some under-wraps agenda that is now gradually unfolding? The separatists, by fielding proxies even if the Jamaat-e-Islami, JKLF and others are banned organisations, plan to enter the system. Is there an effort to implode the system by entering the system legitimately?

The questions may seem hypothetical currently, but Kashmir has a lot hidden.

(Deepika Bhan can be contacted at deepika.b@ians.in)

–IANS

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INDIA bloc wants to include Chandrashekhar Azad for 2027 UP polls

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Lucknow, June 16 (IANS) Buoyed up by its recent victory in the Lok Sabha elections, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress in Uttar Pradesh are now looking to expand their vote base by bringing in ‘more influential leaders’.

The INDIA bloc members are clearly eyeing Azad Samaj Party MP Chandrashekhar Azad who registered a spectacular win from the Nagina reserved seat on his own.

While Chandrashekhar won his Nagina seat, another Azad Samaj Party (ASP) candidate Amar Singh Chaudhary in Domariyaganj ranked at the third position.

The BSP in both constituencies ranked at the fourth position with 1.33 per cent votes in Nagina and 3.5 per cent votes in Domariyaganj.

“The fact is that Chandrashekhar has emerged as an alternative to Mayawati and her BSP in these elections. His acceptability among Dalit youth has increased substantially and the Dalit votes are rapidly veering towards him from the BSP. We would definitely like to bring (ASP) into the INDIA bloc so that our position gets stronger before the next assembly polls in UP in 2027,” said a senior Samajwadi Party functionary.

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Chandrashekhar, it may be recalled, was brought in to meet SP President Akhilesh Yadav by RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary who was then in alliance with SP.

However, he was left to fend for himself when Jayant Chaudhary walked across to join the NDA.

Akhilesh did not continue his relationship with Chandrashekhar after being ‘betrayed’ by RLD.

Rahul Gandhi, however, was among the first leaders to call up Chandrashekhar when the latter’s convoy was fired upon in June last year.

According to sources, Chandrashekhar has already started working to build up his party organisation and is preparing to contest assembly elections.

The SP and Congress have indicated that their alliance would continue and now there will be seat-sharing between the two in by-polls too.

“The alliance will continue. Will be in play in the forthcoming by-polls also. And there will be seat-sharing discussions,” said UP Congress President Ajay Rai.

SP national secretary and party’s chief spokesperson, Rajendra Chaudhary said: “Yes, the alliance continues and there will be seat-sharing between the SP and Congress in the by-polls as well”.

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SP sources said that if Chandrashekhar agrees to join the INDIA bloc, the formation could get greater strength.

“Dalits will now go with Chandrashekhar because Mayawati has already slipped into political oblivion. If he joins us, the PDA (Pichhda, Dalit and Alpasankhyak) formula will become stronger and the 2027 polls will bring good news for the INDIA bloc,” said an SP functionary.

–IANS

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6 feared missing as boat capsizes in Patna

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Patna, June 16 (IANS) Six persons are feared missing on Sunday after a boat capsized on the outskirts of Patna, authorities said.

Subham Kumar, Barh Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO), confirmed the incident, adding that 17 members of a family boarded the boat to cross the Ganga River

“It has capsized in the middle of the river. The local boat sailors managed to rescue 11 of them but six persons are still missing. The mishap occurred at Umanath Ghat of Barh,” Kumar said.

He added that the victims belong to one family living in Malti village of Nalanda district.

The district administration has informed the NDRF and SDRF about the incident and the rescue operation is underway to pull out the missing persons.

On the occasion of Ganga Dussehra, a large number of devotees had come from far-flung areas to take holy bath in the Ganga river.

The eyewitnesses have said that many devotees went to the other side of the Ganga river using boats to take a holy bath.

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The victims boarded a boat which capsized midway in the river.

–IANS

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IAF contingent participates in combat exercise 'Red Flag' in Alaska

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) An Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent participated in Exercise Red Flag 2024 conducted at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska of the United States Air Force, from June 4-14. This was the second edition of Exercise Red Flag 2024, which is an advanced aerial combat training exercise, held four times a year by the US Air Force.

The exercise witnessed the participation of the Indian Air Force along with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), Royal Air Force (RAF) of the United Kingdom, Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), German Luftwaffe, and the US Air Force (USAF).

“IAF contingent participated with the Rafale aircraft and personnel comprising of aircrew, technicians, engineers, controllers and subject matter experts. The transatlantic ferry of Rafale fighter aircraft was enabled by the IL-78 Air to Air Refuellers (AAR), while the transportation of personnel and equipment was undertaken by the C-17 Globemaster aircraft,” the Ministry of Defence said on Sunday.

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The contingent landed at Eielson, USAF base in Alaska on May 29.

Red Flag is an air combat exercise conducted with multiple scenarios designed to provide realistic combat settings. A demarcation of forces is done for simulating the desired environment, with the Red Force simulating Air Defence elements, and the Blue Force simulating the Offensive Composite elements. During this Exercise (Ex), the Red Force was mainly constituted by the USAF Aggressor Sqn flying the F-16 and the F-15 aircraft.

This was the first time the IAF Rafale aircraft participated in Exercise Red Flag, wherein, they operated alongside the RSAF and USAF F-16 and F-15s, and the USAF A-10 aircraft. The missions included Beyond Visual Range (BVR) combat exercises as a part of Large Force Engagements (LFE), in Offensive Counter Air and Air Defence roles. The IAF crew were actively involved in mission planning and also assumed the role of Mission Leaders for designated missions during the exercise, officials said.

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In spite of the challenging weather and almost sub-zero temperatures, the IAF maintenance crew worked diligently to ensure the serviceability of all the aircraft throughout the duration of the exercise and all assigned missions could be undertaken with more than 100 sorties being flown during the exercise.

Key takeaways from the exercise included insight into interoperability with international partners and a collaborative understanding of employment philosophy in a multinational environment. Experience of ferrying long distances, while undertaking Air to Air refuelling en route, was both an enriching and thrilling takeaway, especially for the younger crew.

Undertaking their return journey, the contingent is planned to split en route along with their mutual support elements and participate in exercise with Air Force elements of Greece and Egypt, before landing back in India on June 24. Enriched with the Red Flag exercise experience, the IAF keenly looks forward to hosting the participating contingents from other countries during Ex-Tarang Shakti-2024, which is the first-ever Indian multinational air exercise to be held later this year.

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–IANS

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Amit Malviya slams K'taka Congress over fuel price hike

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) Amit Malviya, in-charge of BJP’s national IT cell, on Sunday, came down on Karnataka Congress and Rahul Gandhi over the recent fuel price hike in the state.

Malviya took to X to express his discontent, pointing to Karnataka Minister for Industries and Development M. B. Patil, who justified the hike as necessary to fund Rahul Gandhi’s “guarantees.”

“M. B. Patil, Karnataka State Minister for Industries and Development, has said that the hefty fuel price hike was necessitated to fund Rahul Gandhi’s ‘guarantees’. Rahul has ruined every state he has laid his hands on,” Malviya stated.

On Saturday, M. B. Patil defended the move, explaining that the decision to raise fuel prices was crucial to support the state’s guarantee schemes and other developmental projects. He emphasised that, despite the increase, Karnataka’s fuel prices remain lower than those in many other states.

Highlighting the internal conflicts within the Karnataka Congress, Malviya continued: “There is widespread discontent in Karnataka Congress after they fared poorly in Lok Sabha elections. Earlier, D. K. Shivkumar faction pulled in one direction, and now even the Lingayats in the Congress are upset after B. S. Yediyurappa ji was targeted.”

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He urged Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge to focus on the instability within the Karnataka government, suggesting the administration might be operating “on borrowed time.”

“Kharge ji should worry about the Congress Govt in Karnataka. It seems to be on borrowed time,” he wrote.

The Congress-led Karnataka government increased the retail sales tax on fuels on Saturday, leading to a rise in petrol prices by Rs 3 and diesel by Rs 3.50. The new prices took effect immediately, surprising many vehicle owners.

Nithish K., Joint Secretary of the Finance Department of Karnataka, issued a notification for the immediate implementation of the new rates.

–IANS

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