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With party's star campaigner Kejriwal behind bars, will AAP see changes in its poll strategy?

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New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) With the Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plea challenging his arrest by the ED and the trial court order remanding him to the agency’s custody in connection with the excise policy case, the lack of top-tier leadership is prompting the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to refocus on recalibrating its election strategy ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The AAP has so far launched two election campaigns.

The party kick-started its Lok Sabha poll campaign on March 8 from Delhi by raising the slogan ‘Sansad Mein Bhi Kejriwal, Tabhee Dilli Hogee Aur Khushahaal’ (Delhi will prosper with Kejriwal in the Parliament).

The second campaign launched on Monday revolves around the slogan ‘Jail Ka Jawab Vote Se’, a two-pronged initiative intended to rally support against Kejriwal’s arrest and to capitalise on the sympathy factor seeking the AAP supremo’s release.

The AAP is now banking on a mix of these factors, including sympathy votes, leveraging the narrative that Kejriwal’s arrest was orchestrated to stifle his electioneering strategy.

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Moreover, the party is also accusing the ED and the BJP of hatching a conspiracy to impede Kejriwal’s campaign in the election season, further complicating the political landscape in the national capital.

“Both the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are colluding to impede Kejriwal’s election campaign. His arrest was strategically timed to align with the Model Code of Conduct, and was deliberately orchestrated to sabotage the AAP’s poll prospects,” said a party leader.

Meanwhile, amid these tumultuous developments, the Supreme Court recently granted bail to senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh, who was also embroiled in the liquor policy case.

The AAP Rajya Sabha MP’s release has surely lifted the morale of the party with plans to bolster the campaign by involving Kejriwal’s wife, Sunita Kejriwal, and Singh, among others.

According to sources within the party, following the INDIA bloc’s rally at the Ramleela Maidan recently, there is a shift in focus towards the campaign, with Sunita Kejriwal expected to play a more active role in conveying the messages to the voters, while Singh is likely to take charge of the campaign in Delhi and other states where the party has fielded its candidates.

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Since March 21, Kejriwal has remained in judicial custody, initially under the ED’s jurisdiction before being sent to the Tihar Jail. His arrest has upended political equations, both locally and nationally, particularly impacting the AAP’s campaign efforts.

On the contrary, the BJP leaders in Delhi do not feel that Kejriwal’s arrest will benefit the AAP in the Lok Sabha elections in any manner. Instead, they view it as a pivotal moment in AAP’s political trajectory.

In response to AAP’s campaign, the BJP workers have mobilised to engage in grassroots outreach, elucidating their party’s developmental initiatives and dispelling the doubts surrounding the alleged liquor policy scam.

“We are fully aware that the AAP might seek to garner sympathy votes on the Kejriwal issue, but we are also ready to address it,” a BJP leader said.

Sources in the BJP said that the party leaders have received clear instructions to refrain from making any “derogatory or contentious” remarks against AAP leaders. Instead, they have been advised to highlight the “mismanagement and corruption” of the AAP administrations in Delhi and Punjab.

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(Shekhar Singh can be reached at shekhar.s@ians.in)

–IANS

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Delhi L-G, AAP accuse each other of hatching conspiracy to trouble voters

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New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Delhi Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena and AAP leaders late on Friday accused each other of hatching a conspiracy to trouble voters and vitiate the polling process in the national capital, where voting started on Saturday morning.

In a post on X, AAP Minister Atishi said, “Information has been received that the Delhi Lt Governor today (Friday) ordered Delhi Police to slow down voting in areas where there are a large number of INDIA bloc voters so that people face difficulty in casting their votes. Any such attempt by the administration to make the BJP win is illegal, undemocratic and unconstitutional. And I hope the Election Commission will take cognizance of this, and stop any such attempt.”

Replying to the post, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “This is shocking. EC should ensure smooth voting in Delhi.”

Later, the Lt Governor’s office issued a statement, saying: “Information has been received that on the orders of Arvind Kejriwal, who is out on interim bail till June 1, power and water minister Atishi Marlena has instructed the power companies and Delhi Jal Board to deliberately cut power supply and stop water supply tonight (May 24) and throughout the day tomorrow (May 25) so that the people of Delhi are troubled.”

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“The LG has directed that these orders of Kejriwal should not be followed. Information has also been received that Kejriwal is doing this so that he can habitually confuse and cheat the people of Delhi by blaming the Central government,” it stated.

In a post on X at 12.27 a.m. Saturday, the Lt Governor called Atishi’s statement unwarranted and false.

“You have made it a habit, Kejriwal sahab, to keep crying irrespective of the situation you may be in. I have taken a stern view of this unwarranted & false statement on the eve of election against a constitutional authority by a Minister, endorsed by you,” Saxena wrote.

–IANS

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Polling for 14 LS seats begins in UP; Maneka Gandhi, Nirahua in fray

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Lucknow, May 25 (IANS) Voting for 14 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh started at 7 a.m. on Saturday in the sixth and penultimate round of elections.

The Lok Sabha seats in the state on which polling is underway are Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Allahabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Shrawasti, Domariyaganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Lalganj, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Machhlishahr and Bhadohi.

According to the Election Commission, 2.70 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.

Sant Kabir Nagar has the highest number of 20.71 lakh voters, while the Allahabad (Prayagraj) constituency has the lowest 18.25 lakh registered voters.

Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Electoral Officer Navdeep Rinwa said that in all, 14 constituencies, including two reserved seats of Lalganj and Machhlishahr, there are 1.43 crore male voters, 1.27 crore female voters and 1,256 third gender voters.

A total of 162 candidates, including 16 women, are contesting in this phase with a maximum of 26 contestants from Pratapgarh and a minimum of six from the Domariyaganj seat.

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The key candidates in this phase include Maneka Gandhi in Sultanpur, who is seeking her ninth term in the Lok Sabha. She is contesting against Samajwadi Party’s Ram Bhual Nishad and Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Udraj Verma.

In Allahabad, Neeraj Tripathi, son of former West Bengal governor Kesari Nath Tripathi, is the BJP candidate competing against Ujjawal Raman Singh of the Congress. Singh is the son of Reoti Raman Singh, who represented the seat from 2004 to 2014.

In Azamgarh, incumbent MP Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirahua is seeking to retain his seat for the BJP, facing off against Samajwadi Party’s Dharmendra Yadav, who lost to Nirahua in the 2022 by-poll.

The seat was previously held by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav in the 2019 elections.

Jaunpur will see former Maharashtra minister Kripa Shankar Singh of the BJP competing with Samajwadi Party candidate Babu Singh Khushwaha and the incumbent MP Shyam Singh Yadav of the BSP.

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In Bhadohi, Lalitesh Pati Tripathi of the Trinamool Congress is in the race, while in Ambedkar Nagar, BJP’s Ritesh Pandey is up against former minister Lalji Verma of the Samajwadi Party.

In Sant Kabir Nagar, BJP incumbent Praveen Nishad is contesting against Samajwadi Party’s Pappu Nishad.

Meanwhile, police have made elaborate security arrangements for the sixth phase of polling taking place in the state.

DGP Prashant Kumar said, “To ensure successful conduct of voting, 8,840 inspectors/officers, 68,191 head constables/constables, 48,091 home guards, 49 companies of PAC, and 229 companies of Central Armed Police Force (BSF/ITBP/CRPF/CISF/ SSB/RPF) have been deployed. Additionally, 18,862 village guards and 443 PRD personnel have been mobilized as force multipliers.”

–IANS

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Polling for all 10 Lok Sabha seats begins in Haryana

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Chandigarh, May 25 (IANS) Polling started across all the 10 Lok Sabha seats of Haryana amid tight security on Saturday morning in the sixth and penultimate phase of the general elections.

Electors across the state could be seen reaching polling stations even before voting started at 7 a.m. The voting will be held till 6 p.m.

A total of 2,00,76,786 voters, comprising 94 lakh women, will decide the fate of 223 candidates, after weeks of heated campaign barbs.

“There has been no report of any delay in starting the poll process,” an electoral officer told IANS here.

The main contest is between the Congress and the state-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The polling will see some high-profile contestants in key battles. Among them are two-time Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is contesting his first Lok Sabha election from Karnal, Congress leader Deepender Hooda from Rohtak, and Union Ministers Rao Inderjit Singh from Gurugram, against whom the Congress has pitted actor Raj Babbar, and Krishan Pal Gurjar.

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Besides the Lok Sabha polls, there is a bypoll for the Karnal Assembly seat, the seat vacated by Khattar, where Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini, the outgoing Lok Sabha MP from Kurukshetra, is among the nine candidates in the fray. Saini had replaced Khattar as the Chief Minister in March.

Votes will be counted on June 4.

“Police are on high alert for any anti-social elements spreading rumours on social media. Strict action will be taken against offenders, who will face severe legal consequences,” said Director General of Police Shatrujeet Kapur.

Chief Electoral Officer Anurag Agarwal has appealed to the voters to exercise their franchise and ensure their participation in the biggest festival of the country.

A total of 20,031 polling stations have been set up in the state. These include 19,812 permanent and 219 auxiliary polling stations. As many as 5,470 polling stations have been set up in urban areas and 14,342 polling stations in rural areas.

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Agarwal said that 176 model polling stations have been established. There are 99 polling stations which will be operated entirely by women staff. Besides, 96 polling stations are manned by youth staff and 71 polling stations by persons with disability.

All basic facilities and necessary arrangements have been put in place in view of the heat wave.

He said that apart from the returning officers, more than 96,000 officers and employees (except security forces) will be on duty in the polling stations.

Also, flying squads, observers along with micro observers will be present at different polling stations.

In 2019, the BJP won all 10 constituencies, with a vote share of 58 per cent, improving its tally from 2014 when it managed to win seven out of the eight constituencies it had contested.

However, the BJP’s vote share slipped to 22 per cent in the Assembly polls in October 2019.

–IANS

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Voting begins for penultimate phase of Lok Sabha polls

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New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Voting began at 7 a.m. on Saturday for the penultimate phase of the Lok Sabha polls with over 11 crore voters in 58 seats across eight states/UTs eligible to seal the fate of the 889 candidates in the fray.

Polling is being held in all the 10 seats in Haryana and seven constituencies in Delhi, eight seats in Bihar, four in Jharkhand, six in Odisha, 14 in UP, and eight seats in West Bengal, apart from the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency in Jammu and Kashmir, where the election was deferred from the third phase on May 7.

Voting for 42 seats of the Odisha Assembly is also being held in the state’s third phase of simultaneous polling.

Among the prominent BJP candidates in this phase are Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan from Odisha’s Sambalpur, former Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar from Karnal, late Union Minister Sushma Swaraj’s daughter Bansuri Swaraj making her electoral debut from New Delhi, former Union Minister Maneka Gandhi from UP’s Sultanpur, and former Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Gangophadhyay from West Bengal’s Tamluk.

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Kumari Selja from Haryana’s Sirsa, Raj Babbar from Gurgaon, former JNUSU chief Kanhaiya Kumar from North East Delhi (all Congress), PDP President and former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti from Anantnag-Rajouri, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin Dharmendra Yadav from UP’s Azamgarh and actor-politician Deepak ‘Dev’ Adhikari of the Trinamool Congress from West Bengal’s Ghatal are also in the fray.

The Election Commission said that 11.4 lakh polling officials have been deployed to facilitate voting by 11.13 crore voters – 5.84 crore male, 5.29 crore female and 5,120 third-gender – across 1.14 lakh polling stations.

In view of the soaring temperatures, the poll panel said that CEOs and state machinery concerned have been directed to take adequate measures to manage the adverse impact of hot weather or rainfall wherever predicted, while assured minimum facilities like shade, water, toilets, volunteers, and wheelchairs have been arranged.

The Election Commission has called upon voters to turn out in greater numbers, with the electorate of urban centres like Delhi, Gurugram, and Faridabad especially reminded about their right and duty to vote and break the trend of urban apathy.

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With this phase, Delhi, Haryana, and J&K will join the 25 states/UTs where polling has already been concluded in the earlier five phases and contests will be over in 486 constituencies.

–IANS

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Army man attacked by group of five in Karnataka's Tumakuru

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Tumakuru, May 25 (IANS) The Karnataka Police on Friday registered a case against five individuals for attacking a soldier of the Indian Army with a beer bottle at a village under the Koratagere police station limits here.

The injured soldier, Govindaraju (30), is admitted to Koratagere government hospital.

Govindaraju, posted in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, had returned to his hometown in Rayawara village on vacation

According to the police, the incident occurred at Bhyrenahalli while Govindaraju was returning home after visiting someone in the village.

A group of five individuals stood in the road, blocking Govindaraju’s path. When he asked them to allow him to pass through, the group enraged and started abusing him. Later, one of them smashed Govindaraju’s head with a beer bottle. Others in the group also attacked him.

The accused individuals have been identified as Bharath, Puneeth, Gourishankar, Shiva, and Dileep.

Following the soldier’s complaint, the Koratagere police have filed a case against the accused individuals and launched a hunt to apprehend them.

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The Koratagere Assembly constituency is represented by Karnataka Home Minister G. Parameshwara.

–IANS

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