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Triangular contest on cards in Tamil Nadu

DMK alliance aims to replicate 2019 success, while BJP vigorously campaigns with new allies. AIADMK faces pivotal test post-NDA split…reports Asian Lite News

Tamil Nadu goes to polls for all its 39 parliamentary constituencies in the first phase of Lok Sabha polls with a triangular contest on the cards in the southern state.

While DMK-led alliance is hopeful of repeating its 2019 performance, the BJP has put all its might in the polls and has held hectic campaign after stitching an alliance. The polls are also crucial for AIADMK which came out of BJP-led NDA in September last year.

The state is witnessing interesting battles on several seats with some key leaders in the contest.

In Coimbatore, state BJP chief K Annamalai is pitted against DMK’s Ganapathy P Rajkumar, a former mayor, and AIADMK’s Singai Ramachandran. Jharkhand Governor CP Radhakrishnan, who was the BJP candidate from Coimbatore in the past two Lok Sabha elections of 2019 and 2014, had suffered back-to-back defeats. The seat is held by CPI’s PR Natarajan.

K Annamalai released a manifesto for the Coimbatore constituency for the Lok Sabha elections. The promises include the establishment of the Indian Institute of Management, the offices of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in Coimbatore city.

Ganapathy P Rajkumar has also exuded confidence of his victory and alleged that the BJP has done nothing for Coimbatore.

DMK’s Kanimozhi is contesting against AIADMK’s R Sivasami Velumani in the Thoothukudi Lok Sabha seat. Kanimozhi comfortably won the seat in 2019 Lok Sabha polls and defeated former Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan by over 3.47 lakh votes.

Tamilisai Soundararajan is contesting this Lok Sabha poll from Chennai South Lok Sabha seat. DMK leader Thamizhachi Thangapandian is the sitting MP from the seat. AIADMK has fielded Jayavardhan, who came a distant second in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Vidhya Rani, the daughter of slain sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, is in the fray from Krishnagiri constituency and has been fielded by Naam Tamilar Katchi. She is facing BJP’s C Narasimhan and Congress leader K Gopinath, a three-time MLA.

Congress’ Dr A Chellakumar won the previous two Lok Sabha elections from Krishnagiri constituency.

Former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran is recontesting from Chennai Central seat. He is facing BJP’s Vinoj P Selvam and DMDK’s B Parthasarathy.

DMK’s A Raja, a former union minister, is in the fray from Nilgris, He is up against Union Minister and BJP leader L Murugan. AIADMK has fielded Lokesh Tamilselvan.

Nilgiris has six assembly segments – Udhagamandalam, Cuddalore, Coonoor, Mettupalayam, Avanashi, and Bhavanisagar and has 14,18,914 voters.

Sivaganga constituency will witness three-cornered contest with sitting Congress MP Karti Chidambaram taking on BJP’s Devanathan Yadav, a businessman, and A Xavierd of AIADMK.

Karti, son of former Union Minister P Chidambaram, is seeking victory from the seat for the third time.

In 2019 general elections, the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance, comprising the Congress, VCK, MDMK, CPI, CPI(M), IUML, MMK, KMDK, TVK, and AIFB, registered a landslide victory, winning 38 of the 39 seats in the state.

In Ramanathapuram, BJP is supporting former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who is contesting as an independent candidate against AIADMK’s Jayaperumal and K Navaskani from the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of the DMK. Naam Tamilar Katchi has fielded Chandraprabha.

The contest in Virudhunagar constituency is between incumbent Congress MP B Manickam Tagore and two high-profile candidates- actor and producer Radikaa Sarathkumar of the BJP; and V Vijayaprabhakaran of the DMDK, who is the son of late actor Vijayakant.

The constituency known as the birthplace of K Kamraj, one of the tallest leaders in Tamil Nadu politics, lies adjacent to Madurai and is home to many cracker manufacturing units, matchbox and handloom units as well as offset printing presses. Tagore has won twice from the constituency. Radikaa and Vijayaprabhakaran have conducted an intense campaign to wrest the seat from him.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held roadshows and rallies in Tamil Nadu to boost prospects of party candidates.

INDIA bloc, which includes DMK and Congress, is hoping for a repeat of 2019 performance. (ANI)

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Polling begins in Bengal under tight security cover

Reports of tension had started surfacing from certain pockets in the Cooch Behar constituency, which is under the scanner of the Election Commission of India…reports Asian Lite News

Polling for Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal started on Friday morning under tight security cover.

However, in the first 30 minutes since the polling began, reports of tension had started surfacing from certain pockets in the Cooch Behar constituency, which is under the scanner of the Election Commission of India.

Voters were seen lining up in front of the polling booth in all three constituencies in the early hours.

Interacting with the media persons, early voters said that the two reasons that prompted them to reach polling stations early were to avoid the heat as well as the long queues in the latter part of the day.

The polling began with a tragedy at Mathabhanga in Cooch Behar district, where a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawan, who was admitted to a hospital, died early Friday morning. The said jawan, identified as Nilesh Kumar Nilu (42), was admitted to a local hospital on Thursday night after he complained of uneasiness. He was a resident of Bihar.

Governor C.V. Ananda Bose on Friday told media persons that he will be keeping a watch on the developments throughout the day from the Peace Room within the premises of the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata.

Polling is continuing in 2,043 booths at Cooch Behar, 1,867 in Alipurduar and 1,904 in Jalpaiguri.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also held a public meeting in Cooch Behar earlier this month and attacked the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal for “protecting the accused” in the Sandeshkhali incidents that rocked the state.

He asserted that only BJP can stop atrocities against women, adding that the party has resolved to ensure punishment for the accused in the Sandeshkhali incidents.

In the 2019 elections, the BJP marked a strong improvement, taking its tally from 2 in 2014 to 18 against the TMC’s 22. The Congress’s tally dropped to just 2 seats, while the Left scored a blank.

The BJP, on the other hand, is aiming to make further inroads in the state after rising to the rank of main Opposition party in the state in the Assembly elections in 2021.

‘People of Bengal deserve peace, harmony’

After an alleged incident of stone pelting at a Ram Navami procession in East Medinipore district, West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose on Friday said that the people of Bengal want and deserve peace and harmony.

He said that it is the responsibility of the Election Commission to book and stern actions against the perpetrators.

“Peace and harmony are something that the people of Bengal want and the people of Bengal deserve. It is after the authorities to ensure that there is law and order in the state, especially during the elections. Any perpetrators of violence should be booked and stern action should be taken, that is the responsibility of the Election Commission,” the Governor said.

The Governor, on Friday, visited the iconic Kalighat Kali Temple in South Kolkata and offered prayers for peaceful polls in the three constituencies of the state.

While coming out of the temple, he told the media that throughout the day he would be at the Peace Room within the premises of Raj Bhavan in Kolkata keeping a watch on the developments of the day.

Initially, the Governor had plans to camp at Cooch Behar on the polling day considering that this constituency had the maximum records of poll-related violence. However, following the insistence of the Election Commission as well as a complaint filed by the Trinamool Congress with the Commission, the Governor shelved his plans to camp at Cooch Behar.

BJP candidate from Medinipore, Agnimitra Paul, and party workers also staged a protest against the alleged stone pelting incident by putting up a road blockade.

“Hindu brothers and sisters in the Ram Navami rally got attacked by Jihadis in EGRA tonight but those who attacked got spared but the ones who were attacked got arrested by EGRA PS Entire night the Bjp karyakartas protested. Our fight against @MamataOfficial APPEASEMENT POLITICS is ON,” the BJP leader posted on X on Thursday.

State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had slammed the BJP for linking her party to the clases in Murshidabad, “”I am challenging and saying that BJP orchestrated the incident that happened the other day… If I ask the BJP commission why they removed their DIG one day before Ram Navami,? Was it to plan this?”

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Will I.N.D.I.A. stop BJP juggernaut in Northeast?

As the Bharatiya Janata Party has continued to expand its footprint in the north-east, it will be looking forward to continuing with its dominance, while the INDIA bloc which is aiming to stop the BJP juggernaut from seeking a third consecutive term, will try to inflict as much damage as possible to the ruling party in the region.

The eight north-eastern states — Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh – are currently in the first phase of polls, either fully or in phase.

Assam

The north-eastern state that sends the maximum number of MPs to the Lok Sabha — 14, undergoes polls in three phases starting on April 19. Out of 14, five seats will go to polls tomorrow namely: Dibrugrah, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Kaziranga and Sonitpur.

BJP is contesting on 11 out of 14 seats in Assam, while its ally parties, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), are contesting in two seats (Barpeta and Dhubri) and UPPL in one seat (Kokrajhar), respectively.

Among the seats going to poll in the first phase Jorhat and Dibrugarh are of most significance because of high-profile contests on the seats.

While in Jorhat, Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi has decided to challenge BJP MP Topon Kumar Gogoi, the Dibrugarh presents another big clash with former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal taking on INDIA candidate Lurinjyoti Gogoi.

Notably, the BJP has expanded its footprint in the state. From winning 5 seats in Assam in 2009, it has risen to 7 in 2014 and 9 in 2019. The party is also in power in the state since 2016.

Mizoram

Voting to elect the only MP Mizoram sends to the Parliament is taking place in the first phase on April 19.

Mizo National Front (MNF), which currently holds the seat, has fielded Vanlalvena this time from the only seat the state sends to the Parliament.

In 2019, MNF’s C Lalrosanga won the seat against the INC’s Lalnghinglova Hmar by a margin of 8140 votes.

Candidates of several major parties in the poll fray in the state, eyeing the sole LS seat; including Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM)’s Richard Vanlalhmangaiha, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Lalbiakzama, Mizo National Front’s K Vanlalvena and Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC), which has fielded Rita Malsawmi.

The election comes in wake of issues of border fencing with Myanmar and suspension of Free Movement Regime between New Delhi and Naypyidaw.

These issues are expected to play big role as in February, the Mizoram Assembly unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Centre’s decision to fence the India-Myanmar border and scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR) with the neighbouring country.

Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced for “immediate suspension of Free Movement Regime (FMR)” between India and Myanmar to ensure the internal security of the country and to maintain the demographic structure of India’s north-eastern states bordering Myanmar.

In this regard, Union Home Minister Amit Shah also announced that the government has decided to construct a fence along the entire 1643-kilometre-long Indo-Myanmar border to facilitate better surveillance and ensure a patrol track along the border.

The assembly polls were also conducted recently in the state, in which ZPM-led by Lalduhawma overthrew the MNF rule by registering a massive victory winning 27 out of 40 seats.

Tripura

The state of Tripura is another crucial front in the north-east, where the BJP will be looking forward to continue its recent momentum.

There are two parliamentary seats in Tripura. The West Tripura parliamentary constituency will go to the polls on April 19 and polling for East Tripura is slated on April 26.

Notably, BJP won both seats in the 2019 elections. The party is also in power in the state since 2018, when it formed the government under the leadership of Biplab Deb.

The party decided to change the Chief Minister in 2022, and Manik Saha took over the post. BJP also won the 2023 assembly elections in the state winning 32 out of 60 seats.

This time, BJP has fielded a strong face in former Chief Minister Biplab Deb from West Tripura. He is up against Congress’ Asish Kumar Saha, who left BJP in 2022 and was made party’s state chief.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha said this week that 2024 Lok Sabha elections holds high significance in re-electing Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister for a third term and in making a corruption-free and developed nation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recently emphasised the importance of north-east region and said that it is an issue of ‘priority’ for him and not just ‘poltiics’.

“North East plays a major role in making India ‘Viksit’. After years of Independence and during the rule of Congress justice was not done with the capabilities of the states in North East.

Communists ruled in Tripura and they just destroyed the people of Tripura. But, today in Delhi there is a government that continuously thinks about North East and Tripura. North East ‘mere liye politics ka nahi, prem aur prathmikta ka vishay hai,” he said during a rally in Agartala.

Arunachal Pradesh

The state of Arunachal Pradesh also presents a high-profile contest with Union Minister Kiren Rijiju in the poll fray.

The state has two parliamentary constituencies, Arunachal East and Arunachal West. The Assembly elections will be held concurrently with the Lok Sabha elections for these two seats in Arunachal on April 19. The votes will be counted on June 4.

The Minister of Earth Sciences is up against Nabam Tuki from the Indian National Congress (INC).

Rijiju, a prominent figure in Arunachal Pradesh politics, has held this seat since 2014. Meanwhile, Nabam Tuki, a veteran leader and former state chief minister, is the candidate representing the Congress.

BJP won one seat in 2014 while upped its tally and came out victorious on both seats in 2019.

The state is going to polls at a time when neighbouring China has came up with its co-called renaming of 30 places in the state.

Beijing’s action has received strong condemnation from New Delhi. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar have repeatedly asserted that irrespective of what China does, Arunchal Pradesh is and will remain an ‘integral’ part of India.

Sikkim

Sikkim is another state which undergoes Lok Sabha elections and assembly polls simultaneously on April 19.

In 2019, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM)’s Indra Hhang Subba won the lone Lok Sabha seat from the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The SKM also won 17 out of 32 seats in the Assembly polls while the Sikkim Democratic Front won 15 seats.

This time, SKM has repeated Subba from the seat. BJP has fielded Dinesh Chandra Nepal while the Congress candidate from the seat is Gopal Chhetri. SDF, on the other hand, has fielded Prem Das Rai.

Meghalaya

Meghalaya has two Lok Sabha constituencies: Shillong and Tura, and polling is underway in both the places.

Key political parties and alliances in Meghalaya include the INDIA bloc represented by the Indian National Congress, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the Regional Democratic Alliance.

The state will witness a multi-cornered contest for its two Lok Sabha seats, with 10 candidates vying for victory. The BJP is not contesting and NDA will be represented by National People’s Party (NPP).

In 2019, Congress’ Vincent Pala and National People’s Party candidate Agatha Sangma won the two seats in the state.

This time Congress has repeated Pala from Shillong and fielded Saleng Sangma from Tura.

NPP has repeated Agatha Sangma from Tura and fielded Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh from Shillong.

TMC has also fielded its candidate Zenith M Sangma from the Tura constituency.

Nagaland

The state of Nagaland sends only one MP to the Lok Sabha. In 2019, the NDPP-BJP coalition secured a significant victory over the Indian National Congress, emerging as the winner.

The seat is currently being held by Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tokheho Yepthomi.

However, he has not been repeated from the seat. NDPP has fielded Chumben Murry as the NDA candidate from the seat. The Congress party has fielded Supongmeren Jamir from the seat.

Earlier, BJP exuded confidence that their alliance would register a huge victory from the lone seat.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had visited Kohima as part of his Bharat Jodo Naya Yatra in January this year.

Manipur

The north-eastern state, which has been grappling with ethnic violence for close to a year, will also participate in the country’s festival of democracy, but in a special manner.

Manipur will poll in two phases, with Inner Manipur voting on April 19 and Outer Manipur in both phases, on April 19 and 26.

While there is no official word on the rationale behind holding the polls in Outer Manipur in both the phases, it is believed that the decision was taken after assessing security concerns in the violence-hit state.

A total of 15 assembly segments will see polling for the Lok Sabha on April 19, while another 13 assembly segments will poll on April 26.

Significantly, the district of Churachandpur, which was epicentre of the ethnic violence that erupted last year, leaving many dead while displacing still more in the face of rampant violence and arsoning, will also go to polls in the opening phase on April 19.

Currently, the two constituencies are held by Minister of State Rajkumar Ranjan Singh (Inner Manipur) and Naga People Front’s Lorho Phoze (Outer Manipur).

This time, however, the NPF is going into the polls as a partner in the BJP-led NDA. The BJP, earlier, announced its support for NPF candidate for Outer Manipur, Kachui Timothy Zimik.

Zimik is up against Congress MLA Alfred K Arthur, who is the joint Opposition candidate of the INDIA bloc.

BJP has fielded Thounaojam Basanta Kumar Singh from Inner Manipur and decided against repeating its MoS Rajkumar Ranjan Singh. He is up against Congress’ Angomcha Bimol Akoijam.

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections to elect the 543 members of the 18th Lok Sabha will be held in seven phases, from April 19 to June 1. The results will be announced on June 4.

The Bharatiya Janata party will aim to hold and expand its dominance in the north-east while seeking a third consecutive term at the Centre.

In its election manifesto, the party has said that it will continue its effective efforts to establish peace in the North-East and phase out the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

“We will continue our efforts to address the issues in the disturbed areas and remove AFSPA in a phased manner. We will further work towards the resolution of inter-state border disputes amongst Northeastern states through sustained efforts,” the party said in its manifesto.

Meanwhile, the INDIA bloc, mainly led by Congress, will be looking to inflict some damage to NDA in these states riding on regional issues especially the situation in Manipur. (ANI)

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Shah holds massive roadshow in Gandhinagar

Home Minister Shah, who is scheduled to file the nomination paper on Friday, advised the crowd to vote in the first half, before 10:30 a.m., to avoid the heat….reports Asian Lite News

Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a massive roadshow through Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar on Thursday.

The roadshow began with chants of “Jai Shri Ram” and concluded on the same note. Thousands of people gathered just to get a glimpse of the Home Minister.

Highlighting achievements of the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi such as the construction of the Ram Mandir, the abolition of Triple Talak, and “enhanced” national security, he said: “We aim to win all 26 seats in Gujarat.”

“People gave Narendrabhai Modi 10 years, and today, you can see the Ram Mandir, the removal of the Triple Talak, the Uniform Civil Code, and above all, the country is protected under him… under the Sonia-Manmohan government, daily anyone would enter our country from Pakistan… But now, Gujarat’s son, Narendra Modi, leads the country. Narendrabhai worked to protect the country,” he added.

Home Minister Shah, who is scheduled to file the nomination paper on Friday, advised the crowd to vote in the first half, before 10:30 a.m., to avoid the heat.

He traversed significant areas of Gandhinagar, including Sanand, Kalol, Sabarmati, Ghatlodiya, Naranpura, and Vejalpur, to bolster support within the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency — a pivotal seat in Gujarat’s political landscape. His son and BCCI Secretary Jay Shah was also present at the Sanand event.

Historically, Gandhinagar has served as a launching pad for notable political figures such as former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Since its establishment in 1967, the constituency has evolved into a BJP stronghold, witnessing the electoral battles of various distinguished leaders.

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Maharashtra’s political titans lock horns

Five Lok Sabha seats in Phase 1 include Chandrapur, Bhandara-Gondiya, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Ramtek, and Nagpur…reports Asian Lite News

Polling is underway in five parliamentary seats in Maharashtra in the first phase of polling, in which as many as 95.54 lakh registered voters will decide the fate of 97 candidates.

Maharashtra, the second-largest state after Uttar Pradesh (80), which contributes 48 seats in 543-member Lok Sabha, will witness a fierce contest between the two major state coalitions – the Mahayuti (Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena, and Nationalist Congress Party) and the Maha Vikas Aghadi (Congress, Shiv Sena (UBT), and NCP (SP)).

Five Lok Sabha seats include Chandrapur, Bhandara-Gondiya, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Ramtek, and Nagpur.

However, Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA has also fielded some candidates, making it a three-cornered fight on some seats.

Among these voters, there are 48.28 lakh males, 47.26 lakh females, and 347 transgender persons.

To facilitate the electoral process, the ECI has established 10,652 polling stations, each equipped with 21,527 ballot units, 13,963 control units, and 14,755 VVPAT machines.

Nagpur will see the contest between senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari and Vikas Thakre, who is currently the Nagpur West MLA.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Nitin Gadkari registered victory with a massive vote share of 55.7 per cent. He defeated the current Maharashtra Congress President, Nana Patole, with a victory margin of 2,16,009 votes. Gadkari also defeated Congress leader Vilas Muttemwar by a margin of 2,84,828 votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Chandrapur in Maharashtra was the only seat, out of the total 48 in the state, that Congress managed to win. But this time, the fight may not be easy for it as the BJP is sparing no effort to win back the constituency and fielded a state minister from there.

From the Congress’s side, Pratibha Dhanorkar, the wife of Suresh alias Balu Dhanorkar who died last year, is in the fray, while the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given a chance to Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is the Minister of Forests, Cultural Affairs in the state.

An intriguing three-way contest is on the cards in Maharashtra’s Ramtek (reserved for SC), which goes to polls on Friday.

Ramtek is the only seat being contested by Shinde-led Sena in the first phase of general elections on April 19.

Congress, a constituent of Maha Vikas Aghadi, has fielded Shyamkumar Dault Barve from Ramtek.

With the Returning Officer of Ramtek constituency declaring the nomination of Congress candidate Rashmi Barve as invalid, her husband Shyamkumar Barve became the official candidate of Congress.

Now, the contest between Congress’s Shyamkumar Barve and Shinde-led Shiv Sena’s candidate Raju Parwe has become a litmus test for Shinde-led Sena.

In Gadchiroli-Chimur, the largest Lok Sabha constituency in terms of area in Maharashtra and with a huge region affected by Naxal violence, the Congress party has fielded Namdeo Dasaram Kirsan against Ashok Mahadeorao Nete of the BJP. Nete is the sitting Member of Parliament (MP), who won Lok Sabha polls from the same constituency two consecutive times in 2014 and 2019.

Marotrao Kovase of the Congress defeated Nete in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009. But Nete had won the state Assembly elections from Gadchiroli seat twice, in 1999 and 2004.

After 25 years, the Congress has fielded a candidate, Prashant Padole, in the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha constituency in the eastern Vidarbha region. The BJP has fielded sitting MP Sunil Mendhe from the seat.

In the last 25 years, the Congress always played the role of an alliance partner, leaving the Bhandara-Gondia constituency to the undivided NCP led by Sharad Pawar, with senior leader and former Union minister Praful Patel becoming the face of the Congress-NCP in Bhandara-Gondia.

Meanwhile, the MahaYuti partners on Thursday expressed confidence that the alliance will win more than 45 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, asserting that the performance of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led state government will bring success.

MahaYuti leaders comprising Maharashtra Cabinet ministers Hasan Mushrif, Ravindra Chavan and Aditi Tatkare, and several legislators had gathered at the time of filing of nomination by NCP nominee Sunil Tatkare from Raigad constituency where he is pitted against Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate and former Union minister Anant Geete. The polling is slated for May 7.

Tatkare said that the Lok Sabha elections will strengthen the country’s ranking in the world, especially when a slew of development projects are being done under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“MahaYuti will win more than 45 seats in Maharashtra,” he added.

“After getting elected, I will work as an MP of MahaYuti for the next five years. Various schemes of the Central government have been pending for many years to be implemented in Raigad seat. I am committed to complete the long-pending works and new projects after the grand coalition comes to power for the third time in the country under the leadership of Narendra Modi,” said Tatkare.

He declared that he would win by a bigger margin than the 2019 elections.

Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats, the second-largest after Uttar Pradesh. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won 23 out of 25 seats it contested in alliance with the undivided Shiv Sena. Elections to the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra will be held in five phases on April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13, and May 20. (ANI)

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Only 9% candidates are women in Northeast states

Only six women (9.83 per cent) out of 61 candidates are contesting on 10 seats in six states, a report by Sujit Chakraborty

Like previous Parliamentary elections, there are very few women candidates contesting in the 18th Lok Sabha elections in the six northeastern states, where filing of nominations were completed.

According to the Election Commission data, only six women (9.83 per cent) out of 61 candidates are contesting on 10 seats in six states — Arunachal Pradesh (2), Manipur (2), Meghalaya (2), Tripura (2), Mizoram (1) and Nagaland (1).

This time two women each contesting in Meghalaya and Tripura while one each in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram.

Like 2019, there is no woman candidate in Manipur and Nagaland.

In a historic development in April 2022, 45-year-old S. Phangnon Konyak belonging to the BJP became the first woman Rajya Sabha member from Nagaland.

Matrilineal society exists in Meghalaya, where the youngest daughter of the family inherits all ancestral property. After marriage, husbands go to live in their wives’ homes. If the situation arises, the wife may live independently or with her mother.

Children take their mother’s clan surname.

In the 17th Lok Sabha polls in 2019, out of the total of 67 candidates in six of the eight northeastern states, six candidates fought the elections with only one in Tripura — Pratima Bhowmik (BJP) — won her Tripura West Lok Sabha seat.

Once again this poor representation of women in the Parliamentary elections frustrated the women leaders and activists despite 27 years after the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in Parliament in September last year to amend the Constitution and provide one-third reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.

Women are always in the leading position in the northeastern states in various sectors, including societal issues, anti-drug movements and farming.

Like previous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, women voters have once again outnumbered men voters in the electoral rolls in four northeastern states – Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, who is also the National President of the National People’s Party (NPP), has been on a hectic campaign trail across the state to stimulate support for sitting Tura MP and his sister, Agatha Sangma, and his cabinet colleague Ampareen Lyngdoh for the Shillong Lok Sabha seat.

Lok Sabha member from the prestigious Shillong seat, Vincent H. Pala of the Congress has been campaigning hard to retain his Lok Sabha seat for the fourth consecutive term.

Though the BJP is supporting Congress-turned-NPP leader Lyngdoh, the Shillong seat has been with the Congress for 30 years.

Lone candidate in the Parliamentary polls Toko Sheetal, representing the Gana Suraksha Party, is contesting from Arunachal West seat.

The BJP, which has fielded candidates in all the 60 Assembly constituencies, has just given four seats to women leaders, while the Congress, which has fielded 19 candidates, have given three seats to women.

The NPP, which has the second highest number of candidates with 20, has scored a zero, and so has the People’s Party of Arunachal, the Arunachal Democratic Party, and the Lok Janshakti Party – the other political parties in the election.

Of the total 60 Assembly seats in the state, BJP candidates in 10 seats, including Chief Minister Pema Khandu (Mukto seat) and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein (Chowkham seat), won unopposed.

Of the ten BJP candidates elected uncontested, lone woman nominee Dasanglu Pul was elected unopposed from the Hayuliang Assembly constituency.

Dasanglu Pul’s nomination went uncontested following the withdrawal of her sole opponent, Bafutso Krong of the Congress. She is the wife of former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul.

In Tripura, the ruling BJP this time dropped sitting MP and Union Minister Pratima Bhowmik and nominated former Chief Minister and party’s sitting Rajya Sabha member Biplab Kumar Deb in the Tripura West Lok Sabha seat.

However, the party fielded Tripura’s royal scion Kriti Devi Debbarman, elder sister of Tipra Motha Party Chief Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma, in the Tripura East parliamentary constituency replacing sitting Lok Sabha member Rebati Tripura.

In Mizoram, Mizoram People’s Conference has nominated Rita Malsawmi, a Mizo singer and lyricist, in the lone Mizoram Lok Sabha seat.

Writer and social activist Nandita Datta said that with the reservation of seats for women in the rural and urban civic bodies, women are now either playing a leading or active role in all important aspects of society.

She said that despite their lesser academic background there are many women, due to their political consciousness, who have been playing decisive and active roles in many non-political aspects too, including prevention of drug menace.

“Male leaders should genuinely and considering the future of the society, must change their mindset towards women’s role then only women would be more successful. Men can help and guide the women in governance, but they should not dominate women in governance,” Datta told IANS.

She said that there are many instances in Tripura where women belonging to the tribals, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Communities became successful leaders with their devotion to work, seriousness and honesty.

Polling would be held in the first phase of elections on Friday in 15 (including partly in outer Manipur) of the 25 seats in eight northeastern states.

ALSO READ: Indian Mother Fights for Children’s Custody in Pakistan

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-Top News Asia News Politics

Challenges Loom as Pakistan FM Eyes India Trade Resumption

Dar said that the business community of the country had expressed its willingness to reopen trade routes with India…reports Hamza Ameer

Pakistan Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar has revealed that he has started internal consultations with the country’s business community on the revival of trade activities with India.

The latest statement from the Foreign Minister is an extension of his previous statement in which he expressed the desire to re-open trade with India.

Dar, while speaking with mediapersons at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, said that the business community of the country had expressed its willingness to reopen trade routes with India.

He said that trade of general commodities and medicine is already being done through different routes, including Dubai, which increases the cost of trade and business.

He added that his earlier statements in which he expressed his aspiration to reopen trade routes and trade with India were based on the strong recommendations and demands of the business community.

The Minister said that he is working on a plan that includes having discussions and approval from the relevant quarters.

The Foreign Minister’s statement comes at a time when his own party colleague and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had said that there was zero possibility for trade with India due to the ongoing Kashmir dispute.

Experts say that while Dar’s statement is heartening, it still remains uncertain if it would sail through approvals from the military establishment and the other relevant ministries, including the Cabinet that has maintained a rigid position on matters related to India.

“Pakistan’s official position is that it will not have any talks with India on trade until the issue of Kashmir is not given top priority. Keeping this in view, I do not think that re-opening of trade would be a very easy step to take for Pakistan,” said senior political analyst Adnan Shauqat.

“Ishaq Dar has had a fair share of criticism from all sides when he gave such a statement after taking over as Foreign Minister. Secondly, consultation with the business community may just be far easier than trying to present the same to the Cabinet and especially the military establishment for approval,” he added.

Islamabad-based senior journalist Kamran Yousaf said that the concerns of the business community are justifiable because the cost of trade with India through the Wagah-Attari border would be far much cheaper than routing it through Dubai.

“The business community is right to demand the reopening of the India-Pakistan trade route through Wagah because it is cheaper than using a third country like Dubai for trade of basic commodities,” he added.

“However, we have to keep it in mind that, according to Dar, it is just an initial phase of consultation being done with the business community and there is a lot more to be done before getting any tangible outcome. Secondly, India is in a phase of elections at the moment and until that is over, there would be no clarity on the issue,” he said.

ALSO READ: Indian Mother Fights for Children’s Custody in Pakistan

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India News Politics

EC halts proposed visit of Bengal Guv to Cooch Behar

An Election Commission communique was sent to Governor’s office, suggesting the visit would amount to a violation of the model code of conduct…reports Asian Lite News

West Bengal Governor C.V. Ananda Bose has announced his intent to camp in the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha constituency in north Bengal on April 19, the day the constituency goes to polls in the first phase, but the poll panel has urged him to refrain.

Sources said that the Governor took the decision after considering the record of poll-related violence in previous elections.

As per the schedule, said Raj Bhavan sources, the Governor will start for Cooch Behar from Kolkata on Thursday morning and will leave the constituency in the evening after the elections are over.

However, later in the day, a communique was sent from the Election Commission to the Governor’s office, suggesting he refrain from being in Cooch Behar on the polling day, since that would amount to a violation of the model code of conduct.

However, there was no reaction from the Governor’s House yet to the EC message.

Besides Cooch Behar, two other Lok Sabha constituencies, namely Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar, are also going for polls on the same day. However, the Governor decided to be in Cooch Behar considering the sensitivity of the constituency going by the past reports of poll violence there.

On March 16, the day the Election Commission announced the polling schedule, the Governor said that he would be on the field from day one. “I will hit the streets at 6 a.m. I will be available to the people. The political ‘holi’ with human blood that happened in the panchayat elections last year should not be allowed anymore,” he had said then.

Last month, a new portal was also launched at the Raj Bhavan through which the Governor could directly interact with the common voters in the state and address their grievances about the polls. The portal has a dedicated email through which any voter in the state can directly register their grievances.

Violence reported

Campaigning for the three Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal which will go to the polls in the first phase on April 19 concluded on Wednesday with reports of violence coming from Dinhata in Cooch Behar, one of the three constituencies where polling will be held on Friday.

In the closing hours of campaigning on Wednesday, tension flared up in a market area in Dinhata following clashes between Trinamool Congress and BJP workers.

The local Trinamool leadership accused the BJP supporters of launching an unprovoked attack on the ruling party workers which left two injured.

The Trinamool also claimed that those who launched the attack are close associates of the BJP candidate from Cooch Behar, Union Minister Nisith Pramanik.

“The attack was launched in front of the police and CAPF personnel. I request West Bengal Governor C.V. Ananda Bose to take up the matter with the Election Commission of India so that the central forces could search the residence of Nisith Pramanik where anti-social elements are hiding,” alleged Trinamool MLA from Dinhata and state minister, Udayan Guha.

However, the BJP’s district leadership rubbished the claims of the ruling party as “baseless”.

“The clashes were the fallout of the enmity between two rival groups within the Trinamool,” alleged district BJP General Secretary, Biraj Bose.

Earlier in the day, Pramanik had appealed to the Election Commission requesting restrictions on the movement of Udayan Guha on the polling day.

Other than Cooch Behar, the two other constituencies that will go to the polls on Friday are Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar. Incidentally, Cooch Behar is perceived as the most sensitive among the three constituencies.

A total of 112 companies of CAPF will be deployed in Cooch Behar on Friday, followed by 75 companies at Jalpaiguri and 63 companies at Alipurduar. The special police observer for West Bengal will also camp in Cooch Behar on the polling day.

Didi says there can be no mission without vision

On the day when the Trinamool Congress (TMC) released its manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that there cannot be any “mission” without a “vision” which her party has shared with people on Wednesday.

“There can be no mission without a vision. Today, we are proud to share that vision with the people,’ the Chief Minister said in a post on ‘X’.

Banerjee said that her party’s manifesto drafted after “extensive consultations” caters to the need of every section of the society.

“Based on extensive consultations, our Manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections caters to the needs of every section of society and prioritises people’s welfare over everything,” the Chief Minister said.

“From healthcare, education, and social security to agriculture, industry, employment and women empowerment, our manifesto sets out the roadmap to take every sector forward, uplift every community and create holistic development,” she added.

Promising to implement what she has promised in her party’s manifesto, Banerjee said, “I take a solemn shopoth (oath) to rededicate ourselves to the needs of Maa, Mati, Manush.”

The Trinamool Congress (TMC), which is contesting solo in West Bengal after failing to reach a seat-sharing agreement with its INDIA bloc partners in the state, released its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Kolkata on Wednesday.

The TMC which is in staunch opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), whose Rules were recently notified by the central government, promised to do away with the controversial legislation once it comes to power at the Centre along with the INDIA bloc.

Among the big-ticket promises, the TMC announced 10 gas cylinders free of cost every year to Below Poverty Line families and free 5 kg ration to very ration card holder.

“Every BPL family will get 10 gas cylinders free of cost every year. This will also ensure environmental friendly cooking. Every ration card holder will get 5 kg ration free of cost. It will be provided to every ration-holder’s doorstep free of cost,” Amit Mitra announced.

Promising 100-days employment and houses for all poor families, Mitra said, “All job card holders will be guaranteed 100-days work and all labourers throughout the country will get minimum Rs 400 daily wage. Every poor family will get guaranteed cemented and disaster-resilient houses.”

The TMC also promised legal guarantee of Minimum Support Prices to all farmers as per Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations. The MSP will be set at a minimum of 50 per cent higher than the average cost of production of all crops, the party said.

Though the TMC is part of the INDIA bloc, it does not have a seat-sharing arrangement with the other parties in the alliance, like Congress and the Left parties in the state.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the TMC won 34 seats in the state, while the BJP had to settle for just 2 seats. The CPI (M) won 2 seats, while the Congress bagged 4.

However, the BJP came up with a much-improved showing in the 2019 polls, winning 18 seats against the TMC’s 22. The Congress’s tally dropped to just 2 seats, while the Left scored a blank. (ANI)

ALSO READ-April 19 is day of second freedom struggle: Stalin

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India News Kerala Politics

Pinarayi slams Congress’ ‘silence’ over CAA

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that there is no also mention of the CAA in the Congress manifesto…reports Asian Lite News

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday again attacked Congress MP Rahul Gandhi over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), asking why is he and his party silent over the issue.

“Why is Congress, especially Rahul Gandhi silent over CAA? Congress should admit that they are on the same page with Sangh Parivar over CAA,” Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said while addressing a mammoth election rally in Palakkad.

He said that people and different organisations all over the world are critical of the controversial CAA but surprisingly Congress is silent on such a pressing issue.

“When we pointed out that Rahul Gandhi did not take up the CAA issue during his nationwide yatra and nor in Wayanad, they (Congress) started attacking us,” the Chief Minister said.

He said that the CAA was announced when the country was in the election mode.

“There is no also mention of the CAA in the Congress manifesto. When we asked about it, Leader of the Opposition (LoP) V. D. Satheesan said it’s there in the manifesto but despite our best efforts, we were unable to find it. Ironically, Congress-led UDF Convener said that they are not bothered about CAA,” the Chief Minister said Vijayan.

He said that his government has decided that they will not implement the CAA in the coastal state. “We have also approached the apex court against the CAA,” he said.

“When the CAA issue was raised in the parliament there were 18 MPs from Congress-led UDF. Why did they not speak against it,” the Chief Minister asked.

Congress calls for CBI probe

 Three days after the Leader of Opposition, VD Satheesan demanded a CBI probe into Kerala Fibre Optic Network (K-Fon), a pet project of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, K-Fon authorities on Wednesday pointed out that the project was on the verge of becoming self-sustainable after fulfilling its financial liabilities.

VD Satheesan’s outburst came at a time when the state goes to Lok Sabha polls on April 26.

The Opposition had gone hammer and tongs against CM Vijayan for failing to implement the much-hyped project even after seven years of announcing it.

The Opposition parties alleged that one company that belonged to Vijayan’s relatives was the only beneficiary as it got the contract for it.

In their statement issued on Wednesday, K-Fon authorities pointed out that even though the initial cost was pegged at Rs 1,482 crore, the project was being operated only at a cost of Rs 791.29 crore.

“The project became operational with Rs. 488.40 crore from KIIFB instead of the originally earmarked Rs. 1,061.73 crore, Rs. 217.85 crore instead of Rs. 336 crore from the State Government and Rs. 85 crore from the Central Government. This feat was achieved through cost and network optimisation. The allocation from KIIFB was strictly based on the presentation of bills of expenses actually incurred,” said the K-Fon statement.

They further pointed out that K-Fon now aims to achieve sustainable operational success through Internet leased line, leasing of dark fibre, household commercial connections and connections to government offices.

“Out of the total practical possibilities of 28,888 km, 96 per cent of the cable laying has been completed. The Network Operating Centre (NOC) at Kakkanad and the 375 points of presence (POP) that ensure uninterrupted functioning have been fully operational,” K-Fon further pointed out.

K-Fon added that they could lease 10 to 14 core surplus fibres of the 48F OPGW/ADSS fibre laid for the network.

“This provides another revenue stream to K-Fon. Around 4,300 km dark fibres have been leased to various companies in this manner. The goal is to hit the 10,000 km landmark by September 2024 fetching anticipated revenue of Rs. 50 crore,” added the statement.

The authorities also pointed out that work was underway for offering connectivity to economically-backward households.

So far, free connections with a speed of 15 mbps have been made available to 5,734 households though Kerala Vision, which has agreed to meet its promise of covering 7,000 households.

ALSO READ-What’s Rahul Gandhi up to: Pinarayi

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INDIA 2024 India News Politics

April 19 is day of second freedom struggle: Stalin

The TN CM accused the BJP of “creating divisions” in the country with their “hate politics” and said if the BJP returns to power, it will “destroy” the whole country…reports Asian Lite News

Launching a scathing attack at the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin said that the polling day of the state is “war for the second freedom struggle of country”, while also affirming confidence that the INDIA bloc will win all 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

He accused the BJP of “creating divisions” in the country with their “hate politics” and said if the BJP returns to power, it will “destroy” the whole country.

Addressing a public meeting, Stalin accused the BJP of misusing the central agencies and said, “We will win 40 out of 40 seats…Jharkhand CM and Delhi CM are in jail, the reason you know? It is because of the fear of the elections. He knows that if election takes place in an equal race, he will be defeated. That’s why he has done such things.”

“Day after tomorrow is a war for second freedom struggle of the country,” he added.

The Tamil Nadu CM further alleged that the BJP works only for corporations and does not care for the people.

“They (BJP) do not think about the people, they only think of the corporates…All parties are getting election funds, that’s not an issue, but BJP is getting via CBI, ED, and IT raids,” he stated.

Further attacking the BJP, he said that if BJP returns to power, the country will be “destroyed” with ‘divisive policies’ and urged people to vote wisely.

“Whenever he (PM Modi) opens his mouth, he speaks on religion, caste, and divides people and does hate politics. Yesterday he went to West Bengal and said hateful things. If Modi comes to power, he will divide people and destroy India. There will be no democracy. Ambedkar’s law will be thrown away and RSS law will be implemented,” Stalin said.

“I appeal young voters to think and vote. If you vote for BJP, then India will be destroyed and BJP will make it Gujarat model, which has flopped and our Dravidian model is shining.,” he further added.

He also attacked AIADMK chief Edappadi Palaniswami, calling him the “B team of BJP”.

“Edappadi Palaniswami is B team of BJP. On one hand, he says he is not in alliance with BJP but he can’t oppose BJP…he has betrayed Sasikala, OPS (O Panneerselvam) and TTV Dinakaran,” he said.

The INDIA bloc in Tamil Nadu is led by the DMK and includes the Congress, Left parties, IUML, VCK, actor-politician Kamal Haasan’s MNM, Vaiko’s MDMK, and the Gounder community-based KMDK.

The principal opposition party in the state, AIADMK, which recently severed its ties with the BJP, has put together an alliance of minor parties, including the DMDK, Puthiya Tamilagam (PT) and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).

All 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and the only seat from Puducherry will be polled in the first phase of the general elections on April 19, and the counting of votes, along with those from other phases, has been scheduled for June 4.

During the 2019 general elections, the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance registered a landslide victory, winning 38 of the 39 seats. The Congress, which was also a part of the alliance, bagged 8 seats out of the nine contested.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on the other hand, won only one seat while BJP failed to open its account. (ANI)

Owaisi declares support to AIADMK

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslilmeen (AIMIM) has decided to extend support to AIADMK in Tamil Nadu for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

This was announced by AIMIM President and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi on Tuesday.

He said AIMIM’s Tamil Nadu unit president T. S. Vakeel Ahmed and other leaders met AIADMK General Secretary and former Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswamy, who gave an assurance that his party will not have an electoral alliance with the BJP even in future.

“He has assured us that AIADMK will oppose CAA, NPR and NRC that is why our party AIMIM has entered into an electoral alliance with the AIADMK,” Owaisi said in a video message.

Owaisi, whose party is not part of either the NDA or INDIA alliance, appealed to the people of Tamil Nadu to exercise their vote in favour of AIADMK wherever it has fielded its candidates.

Owaisi said he wanted to visit Tamil Nadu and meet people and AIADMK leadership but he was unable to do so as he was busy with the campaign for his party candidates in other states.

AIADMK, which snapped ties with BJP-led NDA late last year, is contesting the Lok Sabha polls in alliance with DMDK, Puthiya Tamilagam and the Social Democratic Party of India.

Of 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is contesting 32 seats, leaving five seats to DMDK and one each to Puthiya Tamilagam and the Social Democratic Party of India.

Polling for all Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu is scheduled on April 19.

ALSO READ-Stalin says India on brink of most critical election