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Infighting in Trinamool gives advantage to Nisith Pramanik in Bengal's Cooch Behar

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Kolkata, March 22 (IANS) The sole Lok Sabha constituency in India-Bangladesh bordering Cooch Behar district in Bengal will be an interesting contest for multiple reasons.

While BJP’s sitting Lok Sabha member from the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat and the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nisith Pramanik has already started a full-fledged campaign there with the principal talking-point being the Prime Minister’s Viksit Bharat slogan, his closest opponents seem to be a little confused over the line of campaign to be adopted for the forthcoming polls.

Cooch Behar, with voter strength of little over 18 lakh, is scheduled to go to polls in the first phase on April 19.

The factionalism within Trinamool Congress in Cooch Behar, mainly between the followers of a high profile party legislator and those aligning with a former district president of the party, seems to be playing a negative role in organising an orchestrated campaign against the heavyweight candidate of BJP.

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Trinamool Congress has fielded Jagadish Chandra Barma Basunia, the sitting party MLA from Sitai, one of the nine Assembly constituencies in the district. Basunia has already started feeling the pinch of the party infighting in the district as a number of heavyweight party leaders are remaining absent from the camping rallies and street-corner meetings.

One such aggrieved leader from the district, Purnachandra Sinha said that despite being with Trinamool Congress in the party’s bad times, several senior leaders from the district are being kept away from activities since the panchayat elections last year. “So this time, we have decided to keep ourselves away from the electoral process,” he said.

Similar opinion was expressed by the block president of the party’s peasant wing, Juljelal Miyan. Despite being the block president of a branch organisation, his suggestions were being ignored for long by the party’s district leadership. “Precisely that is why we are keeping away from poll-related activities though emotionally I am still with Trinamool Congress,” he said.

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However, Basunia himself is confident that the recent notification on CAA, which has created negative reaction among the Rajbanshi population, is bound to backfire for BJP’s heavyweight candidate in the forthcoming Lok Sabha politics.

The Left Front constituent All India Forward Bloc has filed veteran party organisation man from the district Nitish Chandra Roy, who had grown in the party beginning his life with student politics. Admitting that the organizational network of his party is not in the right shape in the district, Roy said that he is focusing on door-to-door campaigns rather than big rallies or meetings.

Cooch Behar had been a strong bastion of the All India Forward for a long time, with the people of the constituency giving the Left Front constituent 10 consecutive victories between 1977 and 2009.

Even amid the Trinamool Congress wave in 2009, All India Forward Bloc candidate Nripendra Nath Roy got elected from the constituency with a margin of a little over 41,000 votes.

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However, the pattern changed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the Trinamool Congress candidate Renuka Sinha got elected from Cooch Behar by a margin of little less than one lakh votes. In the 2016 bypolls to the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha, the Trinamool Congress candidate Partha Pratim Roy increased the winning margin to over four lakh votes.

However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with BJP’s Nisith Pramanik emerging as a victor by a margin of over 50,000 votes.

–IANS

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NE states likely to witness moderate to very heavy rainfall for 3 days from Sunday

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Guwahati/Agartala, May 24 (IANS) Most northeastern states will witness moderate to very heavy rainfall for three days from Sunday due to a severe cyclonic storm arising from a depression over the central Bay of Bengal, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast on Friday.

An IMD statement said that the depression is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards and intensify into a cyclonic storm over the east-central Bay of Bengal by Saturday morning.

The cyclonic storm would intensify into a severe cyclonic storm by Saturday night, continue to move nearly northwards and is very likely to cross Bangladesh and adjoining West Bengal coasts between Sagar Island and Khepupara around Sunday midnight as a severe cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 110-120 kmph, gusting to 130 kmph.

The IMD said that light to moderate rainfall at most places, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places, is likely to occur in Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland from May 26 to 28.

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Isolated extremely heavy rainfall is likely over Assam and Meghalaya on May 27 and 28, Mizoram and Tripura on May 27, and Arunachal Pradesh on May 28, the IMD statement said.

–IANS

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All arrangements in place for voting in J&K's Anantnag-Rajouri constituency: CEO

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Srinagar, May 24 (IANS) J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) P.K. Pole said on Friday that all arrangements are in place for smooth, fearless, and secure voting in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency on Saturday in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls.

All polling staff and security personnel have been deputed at their places of duty, he said.

“All necessary arrangements, including comprehensive security protocols, have been made for the elections. We have made all the arrangements for the elections. Security has been put in place in all the districts of the constituency. We are expecting a good voter turnout in the region,” the CEO said.

Polling staff and security personnel drawn from CAPFs and J&K Police have been deputed in all the five districts of Poonch, Rajouri, Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian where the 18 voting segments of this constituency are situated.

A total of 2,338 polling stations for 18,36,576 voters – 9,33,647 males, 9,02,902 females, and 27 third-gender voters – have been set up. The voter list also includes 17,967 persons with disabilities and 540 individuals over the age of 100.

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There are 25,000 migrant voters in the constituency for whom special polling stations have been set up in Jammu, Udhampur, and Delhi.

For uninterrupted communication with polling staff at remote booths, satellite phones and wireless sets have been provided.

As many as 19 polling stations are located along the Line of Control, (LoC) where additional security deployment has been made.

There are 20 candidates in the fray in this constituency. However, the main contest is between National Conference candidate and senior Gujjar/Bakarwal leader Mian Altaf Ahmad, Peoples Democratic Party President and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, and J&K Apni Party’s Zafar Iqbal Manhas. The BJP has unofficially supported the Apni Party candidate and has not fielded any candidate in this constituency.

Pahari community living in Poonch and Rajouri districts form a significant number of voters in the constituency. This community was given ST status by the Centre recently. In addition to the Pahari community, Gujjar/Bakarwal community also forms a significant part of the constituency’s electorate.

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Mian Altaf Ahmad has a predominant influence among the Gujjar/Bakarwal community which cuts across party lines since he is considered to be the religious leader of this community.

Voting starts at 7 a.m. on Saturday and will end at 6 p.m.

Polling for the constituency was due to take place in the third phase on May 7 but subsequently deferred to the sixth phase due to weather conditions. With this, LS elections will end in J&K.

–IANS

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Odisha: Third phase of polling on May 25 with BJP eyeing a breakthrough

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Bhubaneswar, May 24 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had never focused so much on Odisha as it has been doing in the 2024 elections as the party hopes to wrest the power from the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

After the talks on alliance with BJD failed to materialise, the BJP resorted to an aggressive campaign mode in Odisha with party heavyweights from across the country visiting the state almost every day.

The third phase of polling in Odisha — for Lok Sabha and Assembly — will be held on Saturday (May 25).

Hardly a day passed without any BJP star campaigner and local heavyweights of the party addressing a poll rally in Odisha in the last couple of weeks.

Leading the campaign from the front is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has so far addressed several poll rallies and also held massive roadshows in different parts of the state.

PM Modi has so far visited thrice to Odisha and addressed seven massive rallies at different constituencies of the state this month.

He has also led two massive roadshows at Bhubaneswar and Puri on May 10 and 20, respectively.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit the state again on May 29 for election campaigning.

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Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also visited the state several times for election campaigning in the last few weeks.

HM Shah also held a massive roadshow at Cuttack on May 15.

Other senior leaders who have so far campaigned in the state include Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP national president J.P. Nadda, former Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, Union Minister Giriraj Singh, cine stars Hema Malini and Arun Govil (who played the role of Lord Ram), and Chief Ministers of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh — Himanta Biswa Sarma, Yogi Adityanath and Vishnu Deo Sai, respectively.

“Though PM Modi and other central leaders had visited the state during the previous elections as well, yet the campaign by BJP was never as intense in the past as it is this time,” said veteran journalist Rajaram Satpathy.

Not only has the frequency of visits to the state by senior BJP leaders increased but also the central leaders of the party, who used to avoid targeting the BJD government in the past, are now hitting out at the ruling party in the harshest possible way, a political analyst said.

The BJP strategists have weaponised several local issues to wrest power from BJD, aiming to end the nearly 25-year-old rule of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

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Major issues raised by BJP leaders during their campaign include a threat to Odisha Asmita (self-identity), missing keys of Ratna Bhandar, the treasury of Jagannath Temple at Puri, demolition of Mutts during Shree Jagannath Heritage Corridor Project, massive corruption and hijacking of the Central government schemes by BJD government, etc.

Among all the major poll planks, a threat to Odia Asmita, ‘Bhumiputra (son of the soil) vs outsider’ and Ratna Bhandar issues have taken centerstage in the election campaigning in the state.

It is pertinent here to mention that V.K. Pandian, the Tamil Nadu-born former Odisha cadre IAS officer, has emerged as the second most powerful leader in the ruling party and a probable successor to CM Naveen Patnaik.

According to analysts, the BJP leadership has been seeing it as a golden opportunity to strike an emotional chord with the voters by raking up the issue of threat to Odia Asmita, Odia culture, literature and language with an ‘outsider’ VK Pandian taking over the reins of government post elections.

The party’s top brass have unleashed a virulent attack against the ruling dispensation by constantly raking up the issue of threats to Odia culture, language and literature.

All the BJP leaders, from PM Modi to Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, are assuring the voters in Odisha that if the BJP comes to power, a Bhumiputra will become the Chief Minister, not an ‘outsider’.

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The missing keys of Ratna Bhandar is one of the major issues being raised in every election rally by the BJP leaders.

PM Modi stated during one of the public rallies in Kandhamal that the keys of Ratna Bhandar have been missing for the last six years.

He said the devotees of Lord Jagannath and the people of Odisha have the right to know what happened to the keys.

“Why were duplicate keys made? Is the Ratna Bhandar opened during the night using duplicate keys? Are the ornaments of the Lord stolen? The government set up a Commission but its report has not been made public yet,” said PM Modi.

The party promised to make public the commission report on the Ratna Bhandar and unravel the truth behind the missing keys issue as soon as the BJP comes to power in the state.

How much the party has succeeded in swaying the voters in its favour with the help of these issues will only be ascertained with the declaration of results on June 4.

–IANS

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African Swine Fever kills 965 pigs in Mizoram

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Aizawl, May 24 (IANS) The African Swine Fever (ASF) so far killed at least 965 pigs in Mizoram since the outbreak of the contagious disease last month while the authorities culled 1,320 pigs to prevent the spread of the virus, an official said on Friday.

Officials in the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary (AHV) Department said that the department declared six districts — Aizawl, Champhai, Lunglei, Saitual, Khawzawl and Serchhip — as ASF-infested districts while the remaining five districts of the state are still considered as safe from the recurrence of the infectious disease.

AHV Department officials said that under the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Disease in Animals Act, 2009, the department has declared various villages and localities in these six districts as infected areas following the outbreak of ASF in April.

The department has also barred the supply of pigs and pork from the infected zones.

“Our surveillance teams have been culling the pigs with lime powder in the designated areas and we are also requesting the villagers to follow the same procedure,” an official of the AHV department said.

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Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Minister C. Lalsawivunga recently held a review meeting with the concerned officials and appealed to all to adhere to the government’s guidelines and directives to deal with the disease.

Mizoram was first hit by the ASF in 2021 and since then, reports of the outbreak of the disease have been reported almost every year during summers.

According to officials, the outbreak of ASF mostly occurs when the climate begins to warm up and pre-monsoon rains commence in the state.

Between 2021 and 2023, over 47,270 pigs and piglets have died in Mizoram due to the ASF outbreak, while at least 25,182 pigs have been culled during that period.

The government has so far provided compensation to 2,488 families for loss of pigs due to the disease and the state government has approached the centre for payment of compensation to additional families amounting to Rs 311.66 lakh.

According to experts, the outbreak of ASF may have been caused by pigs or pork brought from neighbouring Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the adjoining states of the northeast.

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Pork is one of the most common and popular meats consumed by both the tribals and non-tribals in the northeastern region.

With heavy demand for pork in the northeastern region, its annual business in the region is worth around Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 crore, with Assam being the largest supplier.

–IANS

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Congress leader Chennithala moves Kerala HC challenging amended Lok Ayukta Act

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Kochi, May 24 (IANS) Veteran Congress legislator Ramesh Chennithala has moved the Kerala High Court, challenging the constitutional validity of the recent amendments made to the Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Act, 2022, which became law after the President gave assent to it earlier this year.

The plea will be heard on Monday by a division bench headed by Chief Justice A.J. Desai.

The decision of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led state government to amend the act attracted much criticism both inside and outside the Assembly and after the amendment was passed, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan kept it pending. However, after the Vijayan government put pressure, he sent it to the President, who gave assent.

Chennithala, in his plea, said that before the amendment, the competent authority for complaints against the Chief Minister, a Member of the state Legislature, or office bearer of a political party was the Governor but after the amendment to Section 2 of the Act, the competent authority for a Minister or Secretary is the Chief Minister.

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The competent authority for a member of the state legislature is now the Speaker.

He also objected to the change in the eligibility of the Lok Ayukta from being a former judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a state high court to just a former high court judge.

“The amendment now introduced, the contingency of appointing a retired judge of the High Court, who had only a shorter tenure and who held the office as a judge of the High Court with perceived political philosophy cannot be avoided and thereby questioning the very significance of the office of the Lok Ayukta. Hence the provision for appointing retired judge as Lok Ayukta, other than retired chief Justice of the High Court is in fact and in reality, downgrading the office of the Lok Ayukta System,” his plea said.

The Congress leader also argued that the amendments are also against the independence of the judiciary

–IANS

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