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Constituency Watch: It's BJP's 'stardom' vs Congress' 'royalty' in Himachal's Mandi

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Mandi, April 16 (IANS) In a unique electoral showdown in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi parliamentary constituency, the battleground shifts between “royalty” and “stardom”, as Congress legislator Vikramaditya Singh, the scion of the erstwhile royal family, challenges Bollywood’s queen, Kangana Ranaut.

Amidst the clash of heritage and stardom, the sprawling constituency, one of the toughest and covers almost two-thirds of the state, braces for a riveting electoral spectacle.

This seat is currently represented by Pratibha Singh, the mother of Vikramaditya who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Keonthal state. She’s a three-time MP from Mandi.

She declined to re-enter the fray, saying senior party leaders had proposed Vikramaditya’s name as they were of the opinion that “he’s young, energetic and a good orator with influence over the youth and will be a good competitor for Kangana”.

Political observers told IANS: “Kangana, who too belongs to the hill state, has a slight edge over Vikramaditya, who largely banks on his rich family political legacy, as she started her election campaign much ahead of the main archrival. The latter’s candidature was cleared on April 13. Before that, there was only a war of words between them that got personal and dirty too — like ‘chotta Pappu’ and ‘beef eater’.”

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Two-time legislator Vikramaditya, 35, who describes Kangana, 37, as his “badi behan” (elder sister), is the Public Works Minister in the state government led by Sukhvinder Sukhu, while Kangana is making her political debut.

Mandi is the home district of BJP leader Jai Ram Thakur, the first Himachal Chief Minister from Mandi. In most of the election meetings and during campaigning, he’s accompanying Kangana.

“This is a battle of prestige for Jai Ram Thakur as he has to establish his credibility by ensuring the victory of the BJP candidate, who is a greenhorn and caught in a straight fight with a seasoned politician family which commands respect in the entire state,” a political observer told IANS.

Thakur contested the assembly election in 1998 and since then, consecutively won all the six assembly elections with a huge margin. However, he lost the Mandi parliamentary by-poll to Virbhadra Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh by 1.36 lakh votes in 2013. Earlier, the seat was represented by Pratibha Singh’s husband, who resigned following his election to the state assembly in December 2012.

Mandi had remained a political battleground for long for Congress veteran and six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, the father of Vikramaditya. After making it to the Lok Sabha for the first time by winning the Mahasu parliamentary seat in 1962 and then again in 1967, Virbhadra Singh switched to the Mandi in 1971 and registered a win. He, however, lost the seat in 1977 but was again elected from the constituency in 1980 and later in 2009.

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Mandi is also the lone seat where the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is also in the fray.

Kangana belongs to Bhambla village near Hamirpur town, some 200 km from the state capital Shimla. She owns a cottage in the picturesque tourist resort Manali, which is part of the Mandi parliamentary constituency.

In his election meetings, former Chief Minister Thakur, whose focus is currently to ensure win of the Mandi seat, is often quoted as saying, “Kangana is the daughter of Mandi, which is called Chhoti Kashi. She has brought glory to Himachal and Mandi in the film industry.”

For Thakur, who rose from the ranks and is known for his humble and low-profile stature, it is a do-or-die battle to won the Mandi seat and that too with the highest margin in the state, admitted a senior BJP leader, saying “that is why he’s devoting most of his time in Mandi in comparison to three other seats to ensure the maximum lead”.

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Besides the Mandi seat, which includes Kullu, Mandi and some areas of Chamba and Shimla districts, besides the tribal-dominated Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti, the other three constituencies in the state are Shimla (reserved), Kangra and Hamirpur, which will go to the polls on June 1.

Historically, the Mandi constituency has favoured scions of erstwhile princely states, electing “royals” in 13 out of 19 elections, including two bypolls since 1952.

In the 2021 Mandi by-poll, necessitated by the death of Ram Swaroop Sharma, the BJP had pitted Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retired), a decorated officer who played a crucial in the 1999 Kargil war, against Pratibha Singh, who won the seat largely in the sympathy wave after the passing away of her husband, Virbhadra Singh.

With the electorate, traditionally in the Lok Sabha polls, favouring the party at the helm in the state, these elections are being seen as a referendum on Himachal Pradesh’s 16-month-old Congress government.

The Congress wrested the state from the BJP in December 2022, winning 40 seats in the 68-member Assembly, reducing the BJP to 25.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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People's resentment will ensure BJP's defeat, says Akhilesh

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Lucknow, May 21 (IANS) Samajwadi Party (SP) National President Akhilesh Yadav said on Tuesday that the growing resentment against BJP’s politics of hate coupled with PDA’s resolve to protect the Constitution will spell defeat for the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The poll plank of SP — PDA, stands for ‘Pichhade’ (Backward classes), Dalits, and ‘Alpsankhyak’ (Minorities).

“People are breaking all barriers of caste and religion to vote against the BJP because of growing anger against the party’s politics of hate and negativity. If people spread negativity and hatred, it comes back to haunt them,” he said in a statement.

Akhilesh added that people were so peeved with the BJP that 140 crore people in the country would not even spare 140 seats for the BJP.

He said the BJP govt at the Centre will change and so will the Cabinet of Ministers.

The former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister also said those who take pride in using bulldozers against the poor, have not used it against anyone involved in the paper leak.

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“Question papers of 10 recruitment exams have been leaked till now. This shows that these papers are being leaked as a part of a design because the government does not want to give jobs to the youth,” he added.

“The BJP wants to change the Constitution of India because it gives us the right to vote. It gives us the right to reservation. It provides for a right to equality which in turn provides equal opportunity to grow and prosper,” he said.

“The BJP has sidelined the PDA constituents, women and poor, and deprived them of their rights. SP and PDA have come forward to protect the Constitution and democracy in India,” Akhilesh said, adding that this urge to safeguard the Constitution will result in BJP’s defeat in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

The SP National President said the BJP government held massive events to claim that investment was pouring into the state but nothing has emerged on the ground.

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No industry or factory came up anywhere in the state, he added.

“They promised to double the income of farmers by 2022, their loans have doubled instead and their incomes have been halved owing to rise in prices of fertilisers and logistics,” he said.

“The prevailing rural distress coupled with rising joblessness has left every section of the society depressed and angry. It is this anger that people are venting out against the BJP in the form of voting in favour of the INDIA bloc in large numbers,” Akhilesh added.

–IANS

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PM Modi to address women in Varanasi today

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Varanasi, May 21 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with 25,000 women at Kashi’s Sampurnanand Sanskrit University ground on Tuesday.

He will address an election rally in Prayagraj too.

Kashi region BJP Spokesperson Navaratan Rathi said: “There are 1,909 booths in Varanasi Lok Sabha and 10 women from each booth have been invited for Prime Minister Modi’s interaction with women. All preparations for the event have been completed.”

Doctors, engineers, lawyers, professors, chartered accountants, and teachers have also been invited to the programme that will start around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, he added.

BJP’s state unit secretary and Mahila Morcha in-charge Archana Mishra said: “Our enthusiastic participation at his Kashi roadshow on May 13 made the Prime Minister very happy and that is why he is coming here again to share his happiness with us.”

She said BJP’s women wing members have gone door-to-door in Varanasi to invite women for the Tuesday event.

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Lok Sabha coordinator and MLC Ashwini Tyagi said: “Prime Minister has done many things for the upliftment of women during his 10 years in office. It was because of him that 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies under the Nari Shakti Vandan Act could become possible.”

After the event, Prime Minister Modi will spend the night at the BLW guest house in Varanasi.

The Prime Minister will address a meeting at the Government Polytechnic Ground on Wednesday (May 22), said Basti Superintendent of Police, Gopal Krishna Chowdhury.

He said that members of SPG security had already reached Basti and inspected the rally venue and added that no flying zone had been declared in nearby areas.

He said from May 20 to May 22, flying drones or balloons in the region have been banned due to security reasons.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Minister Anupriya Patel, too, would share the stage with Prime Minister Modi.

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–IANS

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65 more refugees from Bangladesh take shelter in Mizoram

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Aizawl, May 20 (IANS) At least 65 more refugees, including 27 women and 24 children, entered Mizoram’s southern Lawngtlai district from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) during the past two days, officials said on Monday.

Officials said that the fresh refugees came to Mizoram after troubles following the conflict between the Bangladesh Army and armed ethnic outfits in the mountainous areas of the southeast region of the neighbouring country.

The refugees have taken shelter at Vathuampui village and the villagers are providing them with food.

With this, the number of refugees from CHT in the state has risen to 1,433.

On May 10, 127 refugees from CHT entered Mizoram and took shelter in 6 villages.

The newcomers belong to the Bawm and Pang communities of tribals who called themselves the Kuki-Chin.

Refugees from CHT first fled to Mizoram in November 2022 after an armed confrontation started between the Bangladesh Army and the ethnic armed outfits, who are fighting for a separate state for the tribal people in the CHT.

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Meanwhile, after the military coup in Myanmar in February 2021, over 34,350 people from the Chin state of the neighbouring country fled to Mizoram and are now staying in all 11 districts of the state.

Mizoram shares a 510 km and 318 km unfenced border with Myanmar and Bangladesh, respectively

–IANS

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Three persons rescued after fire breaks out at showroom in Karol Bagh

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New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) Three men were rescued after a fire broke out at a garment store in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area on Monday evening, a fire department official said.

Director of Delhi Fire Service (DFS), Atul Garg, said that a call regarding the blaze at a clothing showroom on Ajmal Khan Road in Karol Bagh was received at 5:28 p.m.

Initially, three occupants were seen stuck on the top floor of the building.

“They were taken out of the building with the help of the public using a ladder,” said a senior official.

“Around 15 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. While no one is reportedly stuck inside, a search is being carried out to ensure the safety of the occupants,” a police officer said.

–IANS

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TN health officials directed to prepare for medical emergencies amid forecast of heavy rain

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Chennai, May 20 (IANS) The Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPH) in Tamil Nadu on Monday issued a circular to the district health officials to stay prepared for any medical emergencies after the weather department warned of continuous rain in the state and the arrival of southwest monsoon in Kerala on May 31.

The DPH directed the district medical officials that the southwest monsoon would bring moderate to heavy rain in various parts of Tamil Nadu due to a cyclonic circulation.

The circular also instructed the concerned authorities to make available an adequate number of health officials round the clock in view of the weather department’s forecast.

Rapid Medical Response Teams (RMRT) should also be made available in the vulnerable areas, which must consist of doctors, staff nurses, village health nurses, and health inspectors.

The state health department has also directed the district medical officers to store adequate quantities of medicines required for any emergency situation.

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The department urged the officials to provide on-the-spot medical care for minor ailments like fever, minor injuries, and skin diseases.

The circular also called upon the district medical officials to make available ambulance fleets with adequate fuel for any emergency situation.

–IANS

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