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With 1 MP and 2 MLAs, Congress faces do-or-die battle in Uttar Pradesh

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Lucknow, March 26 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh was once considered to be the stronghold of the Congress party as the Amethi and Rae Bareli constituencies have always sent Gandhi-family scions to the parliament.

However, Congress has been reduced to just one MP in the outgoing Lok Sabha and two MLAs in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly.

In the upcoming Lok Sabha election, the Congress faces a do-or-die battle in Uttar Pradesh as the party is low on confidence, lacks leadership and also faces a dearth of candidates.

The Congress currently has no representation in the legislative council of Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress secured 6.36 per cent of the votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The biggest setback in these elections was that senior party leader Rahul Gandhi had suffered a defeat in Amethi where union minister Smriti Irani emerged victorious in the last election.

The cadres sunk into the realms of despair and the party’s vote share plummeted to a mere 2.33 per cent in the 2022 UP legislative assembly polls.

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Any further decline in the party’s performance in the upcoming elections will result in no representation for the Congress from Uttar Pradesh, a state that has sent nine prime ministers to the Lok Sabha.

The Congress faces the challenge of working out political equations and evaluating winnability as it selects its candidates for 17 out of 80 seats it is contesting in alliance with the Samajwadi Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The foremost challenge for the Congress is not only to defend Rae Bareli but also to increase its tally in Uttar Pradesh.

The party is yet to announce candidates for two key parliamentary (Amethi and Rae Bareli) constituencies. It is not yet known if a member of the Gandhi family will contest these seats.

Sonia Gandhi was the only Congress candidate who won in Uttar Pradesh in 2019. She got 55.78 per cent votes in Rae Bareli. Rahul Gandhi with 43.84 per cent votes lost to Smriti Irani in Amethi five years ago. Irani won with 49.69 per cent votes.

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Sonia Gandhi has since taken the Rajya Sabha route to parliament through Rajasthan.

Congress fortunes have been going downhill since 2009 when the party won 21 seats.

It won only two seats in 2014 and one in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Of the 17 seats given to the Congress for the 2024 election, the party had won only six in 2009 — Rae Bareli, Amethi, Kanpur, Maharajganj, Jhansi and Barabanki.

The Congress, so far, has named candidates for three of the six seats – Alok Mishra in Kanpur, Tanuj Punia in Barabanki and Pradeep Jain Aditya in Jhansi.

Initial reports say that Congress candidates in Saharanpur (Imran Masood) and Amroha (Danish Ali) have taken an early lead and with the caste arithmetic favouring them, they could help the Congress increase its tally.

A former UPCC president, who spoke to IANS on condition of anonymity, said that the problem is that no one in UP is there to guide the candidates or address their problems.

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“The UPCC President Ajay Rai is a candidate himself. Besides, there is no direction to the campaign. All other parties have their campaigns ready but our candidates are groping in the dark,” he said.

With every electoral arithmetic pitted against the grand old party, can Congress do the impossible and revive its tally in an all-important state of the country?

–IANS

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Security beefed up in Kanyakumari ahead of PM Modi's visit

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Chennai, May 30 (IANS) Security has been beefed up in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit who is scheduled to arrive at around 4.45 p.m. in a helicopter from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.

The Prime Minister is visiting Kanyakumari for a three-day meditation at Vivekananda Rock Memorial from May 30 to June 1.

Around 3,000 police personnel are in place for the Prime Minister’s visit.

PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to reach the government guest house in the district from the helipad and after that, he will visit the Kanyakumari Devi temple where he will offer prayers.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to travel to the Vivekananda Rock memorial on a ferry and will be in the meditation hall of the Rock memorial for close to 45 hours.

Restrictions are in place in the district and in the Kanyakumari Devi temple where the Prime Minister will reach in the evening for prayers.

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Meanwhile, Congress has opposed the Prime Minister’s three-day stay for meditation. Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K. Selvaperunthagai wrote a letter to the Election Commission of India not to grant permission for the visit as it violated the model code of conduct. The Congress leader said that this was a silent election campaign.

–IANS

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Seychelles patrol vessel leaves for home after GRSE completes refit in record time

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Kolkata, May 30 (IANS) There was cheer all around as fast patrol vessel SCG PS Zoroaster set sail from the Rajabagan Dockyard of Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Ltd in Kolkata on Wednesday after completion of its maiden short refit.

The refit was to last 90 days but GRSE added yet another feather to its cap by completing the process in just 60 days. SCG PS Zoroaster was built by GRSE and handed over to the Seychelles Coast Guard by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 8, 2021.

In keeping with modern shipbuilding practices, GRSE — a Defence PSU that has delivered over 100 warships to the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard — not only builds warships but carries out refits, repairs and upgrades on them as and when required.

Accordingly, the refitting of SCG PS Zoroaster began on March 22 this year and was completed on May 24. According to a senior GRSE official, this was possible through meticulous planning and an advanced execution strategy.

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“This is in keeping with India’s Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision. Undertaking such a refit for a foreign nation was a unique endeavour for GRSE that will go a long way in strengthening collaborative efforts between India and Seychelles towards enhancing regional stability and security,” the official added.

An Indian Navy team of experts from the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam carried out sea safety checks after the refit. River trials of the ship’s machinery were also successfully carried out. The team will continue with the checks at sea till the SCG PS Zoroaster stops by at Visakhapatnam before sailing for the Seychelles.

“The ship’s stay at Kolkata was supported by the Indian Navy through INS Netaji Subhas. The crew of the vessel was seen off by the Indian Navy and GRSE and will carry fond memories of their stay in the City of Joy,” the Navy has posted on X.

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–IANS

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J&K: 7 killed, 28 injured after bus falls in gorge in Akhnoor

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Jammu, May 30 (IANS) Seven people were killed and 28 injured on Thursday after a bus carrying pilgrims fell into a deep gorge in J&K’s Akhnoor area on the Jammu-Poonch highway.

Officials said that seven people have died and 28 others were injured after a bus carrying pilgrims went out of the driver’s control near Chungi Morh at Chowk Choura in the Akhnoor area on the Jammu-Poonch road.

The bus was reportedly carrying pilgrims from Hathras, Uttar Pradesh.

The injured have been shifted to Akhnoor Hospital from where those with critical injuries have been referred to the government medical college hospital in Jammu city, officials added.

A massive relief and rescue operation is underway.

–IANS

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Local issues, not national, dominated campaigning for 42 LS seats in Bengal

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Kolkata, May 30 (IANS) With campaigning in the last and seventh phase of polls for nine Lok Sabha constituencies set to end within a few hours, a quick look back shows that local issues took precedence over national matters during the campaigns for the 42 seats in West Bengal.

Although the electorate is voting to elect the government at the Centre, the focus of all political parties in the fray is still on state-centric issues and how the results of the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal will determine the longevity of the ruling government in the state, which is officially scheduled to continue till 2026.

For instance, the BJP has focussed on issues like corruption cases against the state government and Trinamool Congress leaders, charges of sexual harassment of women at Sandeshkhali and misuse of funds released under centrally-sponsored projects.

Interestingly, this line of campaigning has not just been followed by prominent BJP leaders in the state like President Sukanta Majumdar or the Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, but even by the party’s national leadership.

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The campaign speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah were full of references of state-specific issues.

Although both PM Modi and HM Shah touched upon national issues like India’s social and economic progress in the last 10 years, the time allotted for the same was too less compared to the references to state-specific issues.

For instance, in the campaigns for the last two phases, PM Modi focussed on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s observations, accusing a section of the monks of Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission and ISKCON of acting on behalf of the BJP.

On the other hand, Trinamool Congress leaders, especially Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the party’s General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee devoted most of the time in either defending the allegations made by the BJP or in explaining how the saffron party has deprived the state government of its legitimate dues under different centrally-sponsored schemes.

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In addition, both leaders have dedicated much time on how the NRC, CAA and UCC will be against the interest of the Muslim community and how determined the Trinamool Congress is to block these in West Bengal.

Similarly, in the campaign meetings for the last two phases, CM Banerjee has devoted substantial time in explaining that her comments on the iconic religious institutions were being misinterpreted and she had never been against such entities.

However, one interesting similarity in the campaigns of the BJP and the Trinamool Congress has been their take on the CPI(M) and the Congress.

Both BJP and Trinamool Congress have accused the CPI(M) and the Congress of having a covert understanding with their political rival in the state.

This slur war was kicked off by CM Banerjee when she started describing CPI(M) and the West Bengal unit of the Congress as clandestine partners of the BJP in the state.

Soon the BJP leadership, including PM Modi launched a counter-campaign describing CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress as “enemies in Bengal but partners in Delhi.”

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Surprisingly, even the Congress-Left Front alliance in West Bengal has focussed on state- specific issues while campaigning.

The alliance leaders have mainly talked about three issues, namely cases of corruption, clandestine understanding between BJP and Trinamool Congress and attempts to polarise voters in the state on religious lines by the BJP and Trinamool Congress.

An interesting factor in the Trinamool Congress’ campaign for these General Elections has been the constantly-shifting stand of CM Banerjee on the INDIA bloc.

After claiming that the INDIA bloc will end the tally with over 300 seats, with the BJP stopping at a little over 200, the CM said that she would give outside support to any probable Union government formed by the Opposition alliance.

Within days she shifted her stand and claimed that she is very much a part of the INDIA bloc and will take the lead role in any probable Opposition-led government at the Centre.

–IANS

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Now, a 3-day 'Dharavi Premier League' cricket tourney to kickstart on May 31

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Mumbai, May 30 (IANS) The Dharavi Redevelopment Project Pvt Ltd (DRPPL), a joint venture of Maharashtra Government and Adani Group, will unveil the first three-day cricket tournament, Dharavi Premier League (DPL) to salute the spirit of over one million souls residing in Asia’s largest informal settlement, as per an official statement here on Thursday.

The tourney will be divided into six phases, with the first featuring 14 teams and over 200 players from Sector 1 of Dharavi, which is the largest geographically and population-wise, covering areas of Matunga Labour Camp, Shahu Nagar, Sat Chawl, Valmiki Nagar and Kamala Nagar.

The matches will be played in a 10-over format on a knockout basis at the RPF Grounds in Dharavi under floodlights and shall be governed by the ICC rulebook for T20 cricket, including a third umpire and an equal number of referrals available to both competing teams, on the lines of the professional matches.

The 14 teams from Sector 1 are: Thunder Boltz, Strikers, Valmiki Giants, Team Spirit, Vicky Panthers, Matunga Warriors, Young Boyz, Shahunagar Singhams, Hibah Ke Fighters, Meghdoot Blasters, Ashtavinayak Squad, Morya Boyz, Samrat and Lions Cricket Club.

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The match, with replays, including decisions referred to the third umpire, will be broadcast live on big LED screens and on DPL’s YouTube handle @dharavipremierleague.

The DPL is being organised by the people of Dharavi, who will also provide in-match entertainment, music and food.

Apart from the players, the match referees, umpires, and groundsmen are all residents of Dharavi.

There will be cash prizes for the lucky winners and runners-up, and categories like the man of the match and the player of the series, besides spot prizes for the viewers who come to cheer their favourite teams.

–IANS

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