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BJP's US friends support its election efforts with prayers, calls to India to boost voter turnout

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Dallas, May 15 (IANS) As people of Indian descent in the US who are shut out from voting observe India’s parliamentary elections with interest, supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been working to mobilise voter turnout back home and direct it to the party that aligns with their ideology — while invoking divine blessings.

The Overseas Friends of BJP-USA (‘OFBJP-USA’) has organised webinars with 32 BJP candidates from across India and is asking members and supporters to call their relatives and acquaintances back home to ensure they go out and vote — and for the BJP — the President of the organisation told IANS here in a recent interview here.

The friends have also held yagnas, the ritual offering to divinity for blessings, in temples at eight places across the US to bring help from the heavens to the BJP in the elections, he said.

He clarified that the yagnas were conducted by individuals supporting the BJP and not by the temples.

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In addition, he said, ‘OFBJP-USA’ also organised car rallies in four places as of May beginning, to rouse interest in the elections, he added.

The calls to voters in India is to “make sure that they understand the importance of the elections, that it’s absolutely imperative to go out and vote (for the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi) because that’s the future of India,” he said.

“The elections are the biggest celebration of democracy,” he added.

He said that the group was interested in getting the message of Prime Minister Modi’s development story to the voters of the South, East, and the Northeast.

Dasgupta said that the webinars are for “spreading the word, the awareness, out here in the US and also in India” and bringing in some of the candidates for “learning from them, and to see how we can assist them or how we can help them”.

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BJP Lok Sabha member and former West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh recontesting from Bardhaman-Durgapur, and candidates K. Annamalai contesting from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and Madhavi Latha, an actress contesting from Hyderabad, were among those who participated in the webinars, he added.

OFBJP-USA Vice-President Rudra Talukdar said that the organisation is for anybody who supports BJP and is open to all.

Dasgupta added the organisation has more than 500 dues-paying registered members and tens of thousands of supporters.

He emphasised that the OFBJP-USA, which is a registered, tax-exempted non-profit organisaiton, is not a unit of the BJP or its agent.

“We are friends, we do share the ideology, what is called integral humanism, integral humanity,” Dasgupta said.

“We share ideology with them. We do talk with them. We do exchange views. But at the same time, you know, we are an organisation based in the US, we follow US laws,” he added.

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The calls to India are done individually by supporters using their personal touch and the organisation does not use any mass dialers or phone lists, he said.

Robocalls are absolutely out, he added.

Another group that also calls itself Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party (USA) posted on Facebook that it had organised last month “Modi ka Parivar” – Family of Modi – marches in New York, Hollywood, Detroit and Chicago with photographs of the events.

The New Jeresy-based group that was active during the 2019 elections did not reply to e-mailed requests for information.

Dasgupta asserted that his organisation had registered its name and logo with the US Patent and Trademark office and, therefore, it alone could use the name.

–IANS

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Tribal fighter killed in bomb attack in Iraq

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Baghdad, May 26 (IANS) A paramilitary fighter from a local tribal force was killed and four others wounded in twin roadside bomb explosions in Iraq’s eastern province of Diyala, the Iraqi military said on Sunday.

The incident took place at 9:40 p.m. local time on Saturday (1840 GMT) when a roadside bomb ripped through an outpost of the tribal fighters affiliated with the Iraqi Hashd Shaabi forces near a village in the Khan Bani Saad area south of Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, according to a statement released by the Security Media Cell, a media outlet affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, reports Xinhua news agency.

The first blast caused no casualties. Upon the arrival of security forces to investigate and pursue the perpetrators, another roadside bomb went off, killing a tribal fighter and injuring four others, according to the statement.

The security situation in Iraq has been improved after the defeat of the militants of the extremist group Islamic State across the country in 2017. However, the country continues to grapple with sporadic attacks.

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–IANS

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Zelensky appeals to Biden and Xi to join Swiss peace talks

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Kharkiv, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday appealed to his US counterpart Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping to participate in a planned peace summit in Switzerland in June.

“We do not want the UN Charter to be burnt down just like these books, and I hope you don’t want to either,” said Zelensky against the backdrop of a printing plant destroyed by a Russian missile attack in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

“The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled. Please, support the peace summit with your personal leadership and participation,” Zelensky added, addressing Biden and Xi directly in English in a video posted on the social media platform Telegram.

Switzerland has invited around 160 countries to a peace summit on June 15-16 to discuss possible ways to achieve lasting peace in Ukraine. Russia, which invaded Ukraine more than two years ago, has not received an invitation.

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According to Zelensky, Moscow is currently preparing another attack in northern Ukraine after a recent offensive near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

Military experts say another Russian offensive in the northern Sumy region is possible. Russia’s aim could be to exploit its manpower and material superiority, overstretch the Ukrainian defence lines and thus achieve the collapse of the Ukrainian front line.

Kharkiv, which lies only 30 kilometres from the Russian border, has been one of the worst-hit cities in Moscow’s bombing campaign since its invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022.

–IANS/DPA

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Israel thins out forces in Rafah, Givati brigade left

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Jerusalem, May 26 (IANS) The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) thinned out forces in eastern parts of the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah, and the Givati infantry brigade left for Israel from the area where it had been operating since the operation a few weeks ago, Israel’s Ynet news website reported on Sunday.

The move comes shortly after Israel announced that it had agreed to renew talks with Hamas on a hostage deal soon, with the mediation of Egypt, Qatar and the US, Xinhua news agency reported.

Israel launched a large-scale offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip to retaliate against a Hamas rampage through the southern Israeli border on October 7, 2023, during which about 1,200 people were killed and over 250 were taken hostage.

The Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 35,900 people in the Gaza Strip, health authorities in the Palestinian enclave said in a press statement on Saturday.

–IANS

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Nearly 1 million evacuated as Cyclone Remal approaches Bangladesh

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Dhaka, May 26 (IANS) Bangladesh has begun evacuating millions of people ahead of Cyclone Remal, which is expected to bring winds as fast as 130 kmph when it makes landfall.

The cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal is poised to cross the country’s coastlines between Sunday evening and midnight, Xinhua news agency reported.

Bangladesh Meteorological Department on Sunday warned of the danger of flooding, landslides and a storm surge.

The great danger signal No. 10 has been sounded for the country’s coastal districts and seaports, where fishing boats, trawlers and maritime vessels have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.

At 9.00 a.m. local time Sunday, the cyclone was centred 295 km south of Bangladesh’s Mongla port in the southern Khulna region and 380 km southwest of Chattogram port in southeastern Bangladesh, said the bulletin signed by Kh Hafizur Rahman, a meteorologist at BMD.

Bangladeshi State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Md Mohibur Rahman, told Xinhua that at least 8,00,000 people from the ten most vulnerable districts have already been evacuated to shelters.

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He said Bangladesh’s navy, coast guard, police, voluntary organisations and political parties were supporting the ongoing massive evacuation efforts.

Television footage showed widespread flooding in the low-lying areas of coastal districts.

Due to the peripheral effect of the severe cyclone and steep pressure gradient, the low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Khulna and Chattogram are likely to be inundated by a wind-driven surge of 8-12 feet height above normal astronomical tide, reads the bulletin.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has suspended operations of all types of river vessels on all inner routes. Authorities of Chattogram Seaport have ordered to stop unloading of cargo at the outer anchorage and asked all the vessels anchored there to go to the deep sea.

Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram has suspended its flight operation for eight hours from Sunday afternoon.

In 2007, Cyclone Sidr hit the country’s southwestern coastal belt, leaving more than 4,000 people dead or missing.

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–IANS

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UN official: Death toll in Papua New Guinea landslide estimated to surpass 670

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Sydney, May 26 (IANS) The death toll from a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was estimated to surpass 670, an official from the International Organisation for Migration told the media on Sunday.

According to Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the UN migration agency’s mission in the Pacific island country, the scale of the impact was much greater than initially thought.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Aktoprak said that more than 150 houses might be buried under the debris six to eight metres deep, and over 670 people could have lost their lives.

The area surrounding the disaster zone in Enga province also remained dangerous, with incessant rockfalls and continuous landslides prompting the evacuation of about 1,250 survivors, the official noted.

At around 3:00 a.m. local time on Friday, a massive landslide battered a remote region in Enga province, located over 600 km northwest of PNG’s capital, Port Moresby.

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The UN office in PNG issued a statement on Saturday, offering its deepest condolences to the victims and their families in the Lagaip Porgera District of Enga province.

“While the total number of casualties is yet to be determined, preliminary reporting indicates the death toll may be significant. Search and rescue efforts are underway, although continuous landslides and falling boulders are affecting these efforts,” said a spokesperson.

–IANS

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