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New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has asked Indian Commission in Pakistan to send a report on two Hindu girls who were abducted and converted to Islam in Pakistan’s Sindh province on Holi eve. “I have asked Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan to send a report on this,” tweeted the Union Minister, quoting a news report.
Notably, two minor Hindu sisters Raveena (13) and Reena (15) were allegedly kidnapped by a group of “influential” men from their home in Ghotki district and forcibly married after being converted to Islam in the neighbouring country, triggering protests by the minority community. An FIR was filed by the victims’ brother, alleging that their father had an altercation with the accused sometime ago and on the eve of Holi they armed with pistols forcibly entered their home and took the sisters away.
Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown solemnising the Nikah (marriage) of the two girls. Later another video surfaced in which the two sisters claimed they embraced Islam themselves and no one forced them to covert or get married.
Following the incident, the Hindu community in Pakistan has carried out massive demonstrations calling for strict action to be taken against those responsible, while reminding Prime Minister Imran Khan of his promises to the minorities of the country.
Sanjesh Dhanja, President of Pakistan Hindu Sewa Welfare Trust, an NGO, called on Prime Minister Khan to take note of the incident and prove to everyone that minorities were indeed safe and secure in Pakistan. “The truth is minorities suffer from different sorts of persecution and the problem of young Hindu girls being kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to convert to Islam or get married to much older men is widespread in Sindh”, he said.
A Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA Nand Kumar Goklani, who had initially moved a bill against forced conversions, urged the government to get the law passed immediately. “We demand the government to take up my bill and get it passed without any delay,” he said, adding,”The fact that the two girls were underage confirmed it was a crime and they couldn’t show free will on getting married or conversion to Islam.”
Meanwhile, police has arrested one of the accused and conducting raids to arrest others involved in the incident.
Panaji: After several social media posts emerged suggesting four Hindu priests performed a ‘shuddhikaran’ or purification ceremony at Kala Academy, where late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s mortal remains had been kept, Goa’s Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude ordered an investigation into the same.
On the day of the funeral, Parrikar’s body was kept at Kala Academy for state honours.
In a Facebook post, Gaude had said, “I have taken a strong note of some activities carried out in the Academy premises as rituals today. I have ordered an inquiry into it. We cannot promote or patronise unscientific activities inside government buildings.”
The State Art and Culture Minister further said, “Kala Academy does not allow for such rituals. Further, no permissions or letters were sought before doing this. The academy or the ministry hasn’t issued a single penny for any such ceremony. I am hearing the word ‘shuddhikaran’ (purification) but I cannot comment yet. It could be Shanti Karan or ‘shuddhikaran’, but we need to first probe.”
Initial investigations revealed that three staffers wanted to do chanting of Om ceremony. “These were Brahmin men who are staffers in our academy. When I entered in the morning I saw these staffers performing a ritual. They asked me to participate without saying anything more than Om. I have asked the three staffers to explain it,” said member secretary of Kala Academy Gurudas Pilernekar.
Reports of ‘shuddhikaran’, went viral on social media in Goa, were first tweeted by a local resident. Thereafter, a video of the ceremony emerged.
New Delhi: Launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the deadly Pulwama terror attack, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi asked if he ‘ate beef biryani and slept‘, while the attack took place.
“Indian Air Force dropped bombs in Balakot. On this BJP chief Amit Shah said 250 dead and Rajnath Singh said NTRP tapped 300 cell phones. You can see that 300 cell phones were there in Balakot, but you failed to see how 50 kg RDX was moved to Pulwama under your nose,” ANI quoted Owaisi as saying.
He added,”I want to ask PM Modi and Rajnath Singh whether they ate beef biryani and slept.” (ALSO READ – UNSC Ban on JeM Chief Masood Azhar Likely? India, US to Hold Talks Soon Over Pulwama Attack)
At least 40 CRPF personnel were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir when a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus last Thursday.
More than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, many of them returning from leave to rejoin duty in the Valley, were travelling in the convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Latoomode in Awantipora in south Kashmir.
Furthermore, the AIMIM chief, who will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections 2019 from Hyderabad said that his fight is against the forces who are trying to end secularism and brotherhood in the country.
“If anyone says that there are two national parties in India, I will say not to them because one national party is BJP and the other is 1.5 BJP. There is no difference between BJP and Congress,” he asserted.
Mumbai: A rail block is expected on Sunday on the Kurla-Vashi Up and Down harbour lines in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai from 11.10 AM to 3.40 PM. This is likely to cause inconvenience to commuters. All Down harbour line services departing from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CST) to Vashi / Belapur / Panvel from 10.34 AM to 3.08 PM and all the Up harbour line services departing from Panvel / Belapur / Vashi towards CST from 10.21 AM to 3.00 PM will remain cancelled, stated a report.
Special services are expected to remain in operation during the block period on Panvel to Vashi and Kurla to CST sections. An official was quoted by a leading daily as saying, “Harbour line passengers are permitted to travel via the mainline and trans-harbour line from 10 AM to 4.30 PM.” The official added that there will be a rail block on the main line, Thane-Kalyan Down slow line from 10.30 AM to 4 PM on Sunday.
Meanwhile, on March 14 the Central Railways issued a statement saying that a mega block was scheduled the day after in Mumbai for maintenance of the rail tracks. The maintenance work was to be undertaken since the damaged rail track may disrupt trains on the Central and Harbour lines.
Due to the maintenance of the rail tracks, which is essential for the infrastructure upkeep and safety, the suburban trains were more crowded than usual. Therefore, the Central Railways requested the passengers to be a little cautious while travelling.
New Delhi: Vice President Venkaiah Naidu asked the youth to strive to build up a New India which will be free of fear, corruption, hunger, discrimination, illiteracy, poverty, caste barriers and urban-rural divide.
“The overhauling of the education system is long overdue. We must eliminate totally colonial mindset, teach real history, ancient civilisation, culture & heritage and instill values of nationalism among students,” Naidu told students of Delhi University who called on him at his residence in national capital.
While talking about nationalist and patriotism, Naidu said,”Nationalism does not mean ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai Ho’ to that photo. Sabke liye jai ho, that’s patriotism. If you discriminate people on the basis of religion, caste, urban-rural divide then you are not saying ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai Ho’.”
Meanwhile, he also called upon the youth to develop a constructive attitude and focus on achieving perfection in whatever they do. “Learn to preserve traditional values, shun negativism, develop a positive attitude, be socially conscientious, peace-loving and affectionate”, he asserted
Observing that India was being recognised and respected for its tremendous growth and age-old civilization values, the Vice President said the adoption of UN resolution declaring June 21 as ‘The International Day of Yoga’ by 177 countries was a testimony to India’s growing influence.
New Delhi: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) issues Aadhaar card to Indians which carries a 12-digit unique identification number. It is very essential to hold an Aadhaar card to avail the various welfare schemes of the government. However, users need not visit a centre to obtain a reprint of their Aadhaar card.
Follow the steps below to reprint your Aadhaar card online:
Step 1: Visit the official UIDAI website – uidai.gov.in.
Step 2: Under ‘My Aadhaar’ menu, select the ‘Aadhaar services’ section. Now click on the link that says ‘Order Aadhaar reprint (Pilot Basis)’.
Step 3: You will be directed to a new page. Now enter all the essential details such as Aadhaar number or the virtual ID.
Step 4: Fill the system-generated security code after which you should click the ‘Send OTP’ button.
Step 5: Enter the OTP that you receive on your Aadhaar-registered mobile number.
Step 6: Now you have to pay a reprint fee of Rs 50 through the payment gateway. The payment can be made through credit or debit cards, Net banking, or UPI.
Step 7: After the successful payment of the charge, you will be directed to an acknowledgement page. Download the acknowledgement receipt in PDF form for future reference.
Note: Your reprinted Aadhaar card will be sent to your residential address.
According to an official tweet from UIDAI, your reprinted Aadhaar is handed over to the Department of Post for delivery to your residential address within 5 working days of placing the reprint request.
London: Thousands gathered on Saturday to march through London calling for a second European Union (EU) referendum, as MPs search for a way out of the Brexit impasse.
Demonstrators from the “Put It To The People” campaign will march from Park Lane to Parliament Square, followed by a rally in front of the Parliament, the BBC reported.
It comes after the EU agreed to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will ditch plans for another vote on her Brexit deal if enough MPs don’t support it.
Unless that deal is passed by the MPs, the UK will have to come up with an alternative plan or else face leaving without a deal in April.
Meanwhile, a record-breaking online petition on Parliament’s website calling for Brexit to be cancelled by revoking Article 50 has attracted more than 4.18 million signatures.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the petition could “give oxygen” to the campaign for another Brexit referendum.
Speakers at the rally will include Labour party’s deputy leader Tom Watson, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Independent MP Anna Soubry and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve.
Sturgeon said now was “the moment of maximum opportunity” to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Watson is expected to promise to back May’s deal if she agrees to hold a referendum on it.
Soubry said: “It’s intolerable the situation that we’re in and I’m afraid Theresa’s the problem.
“I’m not saying the government should go because that’s the last thing we want, but I think she has to go and we need some temporary prime minister who can reach out, put the country first, get this back to the British people – that’s what we’re all marching for today, a people’s vote.”
If May’s deal is approved by MPs next week, the EU has agreed to extend the Brexit deadline until May 22. If it is not – and no alternative plan is put forward – the UK is set to leave the EU on April 12.
In a letter to all MPs on Friday evening, May offered to talk to them over the coming days “as Parliament prepares to take momentous decisions”.
Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that failing to support May’s deal would lead to a “meltdown in our politics, not just for the Conservative party but for all parties”.
The march comes as the pro-Brexit March to Leave, which started in Sunderland a week ago, continues towards London.
Mozambique: The death toll in Mozambique floods reached 417 after Cyclone Idai devastated the southern region of Africa, flooding thousands of square kilometres (miles), said the government on Saturday. A week after the incident, a dam in Zimbabwe overflowed due to the flooding, posing a threat to the riverside populations.
Spokesman Herve Verhoosel of the World Food Program reportedly stated that the ‘alarming news’ of the flooding of the Marowanyati dam in Zimbabwe in heavy rains have put populations in the region at risk. The 400,000 displaced people were “in urgent need of life-saving assistance” in Mozambique’s Beira and the flooded areas along the Pungue and Buzi rivers, said UN Food aid agency. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross tweeted on Friday about the devastating effects of the cyclone.
Cyclone Idai has devastated Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Buzi, a town in Mozambique, has reportedly disappeared, with the water as high as the palm trees.
Already over a million people are suffering.
Stream and rivers continue to burst their banks. More rain is expected. pic.twitter.com/GKCFfDQ0sS
— ICRC (@ICRC) March 22, 2019
Last week on Friday, the cyclone hit the coast of central Mozambique, flooding eastern Zimbabwe due to the hurricane-force winds and rains. “Most of the bodies were washed into Mozambique and because they were in a really bad state, they could not keep the bodies,” said Defense Minister of Zimbabwe Oppah Muchinguri adding, “So they ended up burying them.”
The floods in one of Africa’s poorest countries have already destroyed 5,756 homes, affecting 15,467 households and 141,325 people. There are 111 people with injuries, 18 hospitals destroyed, 938 classrooms destroyed and 9,763 students affected. More than 168,000 hectares of crops were also destroyed, added a government spokeswoman on March 13.
(With agency inputs)
The ruling BJP in Assam has axed five sitting MPs from contesting the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls and selected new faces instead. The BJP’s first list of candidates dropped three sitting MPs including Bijoya Chakravarty (Guwahati), Ramen Deka (Mangaldai) and Kamakhya Prasad Tasa (Jorhat). The party has given tickets to Queen Ojah in Guwahati, Dilip Saikia in Mangaldai and State Minister Tapan Gogoi in Jorhat.
The second list of the saffron party announced on Friday axed sitting Lok Sabha MP from Tezpur constituency, Ram Prasad Sarmah, and named State Minister Pallab Lochan Das to contest from the constituency.
Although the party is yet to name its candidate for the Nowgong Lok Sabha constituency in Central Assam, sources in the party on Saturday confirmed the name of sitting legislator from Nowgong Sadar Assembly constituency Rupak Sarmah to contest the Lok Sabha polls this time from Nowgong.
While the party leadership seemed to have axed Chakravarty due to her age, she is 79; Deka and Tasa were replaced due to poor performance.
Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain withdrew his name from the race due to charges of rape and molestation filed against him by a woman last year. Ram Prasad Sarmah was axed after his name cropped up in the multi-crore cash-for-jobs scam in Assam where one of his daughters was also found to be involved.
Ram Prasad Sarmah had allegedly bribed the Chairman of the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) along with many others to get his daughter selected for the Assam Police Service Commission — a major scam unearthed after the BJP-led government in Assam took over in 2016 and got over 30 selected candidates jailed for their involvement in the cash-for-job scam. His daughter is one of them.
Gohain lobbied hard in New Delhi to get a ticket for his wife Rita Gohain in Nowgong but to no avail as, according to sources, the party has selected Rupak Sarmah.
Well-known fashion designer Agnimitra Paul joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kolkata on Saturday.
Paul, who has designed clothes for a number of Bollywood films such as Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche and Via Darjeeling, entered the BJP during a party programme held at the National Library auditorium.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh welcomed her to the party by presenting her a scarf while Union Minister Babul Supriyo gave her a bouquet. Former state BJP president Rahul Sinha and the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Rupa Ganguly were also present on the occasion.
Paul could be made a BJP candidate for the Lok Sabha polls, according to sources in the party. The BJP has so far declared its nominees for 29 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats.
Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) supremo and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda will contest from the Tumkur Lok Sabha constituency in south Karnataka, a party official said on Saturday.
“Deve Gowda will file his nomination on March 25 at the deputy commissioner’s office at Tumkur as a joint candidate of the JD-S-Congress alliance,” said JD-S spokesman Ramesh Babu in a statement.
Tumkur is about 70 km northwest of the state capital Bengaluru.
The 85-year-old Gowda has shifted his parliamentary constituency from Hassan, about 180 km from Bengaluru, after representing it for a record six times since 1991 to pave the way for his grandson Prajwal to contest in his place for the first time.
Prajwal, the only son of Deve Gowda’s second son and state PWD Minister HD Revanna, filed his nomination on March 22 from the Hassan parliamentary seat, which is the traditional bastion of the Gowda clan.
Polling in Tumkur and Hassan will be held in the first phase on April 18 along with 12 other seats in the central and southern regions of the state. Polling in the remaining 14 seats will be held in the second phase on April 23. Vote count in all the 28 Lok Sabha seats across the state will be on May 23.
Former Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and veteran Congress leader PJ Kurien on Saturday expressed anguish at the widespread speculation in the media circles and in the social media that he is all set to join the BJP, which he has dismissed as rubbish and baseless.
“When I was the deputy chairperson, the present government had given me huge offers. At the moment, I will not reveal it. It pains me a lot of the recent developments of the baseless news that I am joining the BJP. I will say such reports are baseless and rubbish,” said a peeved Kurien to the media in Pathanamthitta.
One reason for the speculation is that the BJP is yet to announce the name of its candidate for the Pathanamthitta constituency, which incidentally is Kurien’s home turf. The BJP is contesting 14 out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala.
Kurien, whose term in the Rajya Sabha ended last year, was hoping for a fresh term. But he got a shocker when Congress leaders in Kerala led by Oommen Chandy gave the seat to KM Mani’s party, the Kerala Congress (M).
Since then Kurien has been cut off from most of the state Congress leaders.
Kurien, who on March 31 turns 78, has been a Lok Sabha member from 1980 to 1999 and then was in the Upper House from 2005 till last year.
“I really wish that those who are behind this smear campaign against me are exposed,” added Kurien.
Since his retirement from the Rajya Sabha, Kurien spends all his time at his residence.
Indicative of a tough fight, the Congress has decided to field former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh from the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency, it was announced here on Saturday. Bhopal is one of the four seats the party has not been able to wrest from the BJP for the past three decades.
The Congress is yet to release its list of nominees, but Chief Minister and PCC chief Kamal Nath made the announcement during a chat with reporters in Bhopal on Saturday. Among all the leaders of various Congress factions, Digvijay Singh is seen as the only one with an all-Madhya Pradesh connect.
Indore, Vidisha and Damoh are the other constituencies the Congress has not been able to wrest from the BJP for the past 30 years. The proposal to field Digvijay Singh follows Kamal Nath’s suggestion that the party must field its best candidates from such BJP strongholds. The move is also seen as a way to stymie Digvijaya Singh, who has often embarrassed the party with his utterances.
Two other senior leaders, Jyotiraditya Scindia and former Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Ajay Singh, might be fielded from Gwalior and Sidhi respectively.
The party had conducted a statewide survey and decided to reshuffle its pack for the upcoming elections. The Congress holds three of the state’s 29 seats in the outgoing Lok Sabha – Chhindwara, Guna and Ratlam.
The BJP, which swept 27 seats in 2014, later lost Ratlam in a byelection to Kantilal Bhuria, a former PCC chief. Scindia may shift to Gwalior after reports of possible dissensions within the party over his current Guna constituency. Bhuria would again contest from Ratlam. Though new Congress ally Jai Adivasi Yuva Sangathan (Jayas) has staked its claim for four tribal seats, including Ratlam, it might settle for two and Bhuria would thus stay put in Ratlam.
Kamal Nath, who has represented Chhindwara for the past nine terms, would contest a by-election from the Chhindwara assembly seat. His son Nakul Nath might contest the Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat.
Digvijaya Singh, who was keen to join the fray from Rajgarh, is projected as a winning proposition from Bhopal. With nearly two million votes at stake, Digvijaya Singh could provide a strong challenge to the BJP, which has retained the constituency for five terms.
Dogged by factionalism, the Congress has remained out of power for three terms in Madhya Pradesh. Through the Assembly elections, Digvijaya Singh was, therefore, tasked to eliminate factionalism from the party and he travelled through the state to bring about rapprochement among diverse groups.
Digvijaya had announced self-exile from electoral politics for ten years after the Congress lost power in 2003. His critics termed the ‘sanyas’ a delusional tactic.
After his exile ended in 2013, Digvijay Singh was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2014.
Digvijaya Singh had commenced his Narmada Yatra on September 30, 2017, declaring it a private, religious journey. In six months, he covered 90 Asssembly constituencies and “friends” from the BJP also welcomed him at various places.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday released its fourth list of candidates for 11 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Muslim woman, Mahfuza Khatun, has also been given the ticket by the saffron party from West Bengal’s Jangipur. Mahfuza, who left the Communist Party of India to join the BJP recently, is the first Muslim candidate announced by the BJP so far.
The party also announced six candidates from Telangana, three from Uttar Pradesh and one in Kerala.
In Telangana, the BJP announced Soyam Babu Rao (Adilabad); S. Kumar (Peddaptile); Banala Laxma Reddy (Zahirabad); Bhagwant Rao (Hyderabad); B. Janardhan Reddy (Chelvella) and Vasudev Rao (Khammam).
In Kerala, K. Surendran will contest from Pathanamthitta. In Uttar Pradesh, Pradeep Choudhary will contest from Kairana, which the BJP had lost in the bye-polls, while Yeshwant has been fielded from Nagina and Bhola Singh from Bulandshahr.
New Delhi: When the Kerala unit of Congress asked party chief Rahul Gandhi to contest Lok Sabha elections from there instead of his traditional constituency of Amethi, little did they know what a storm it would kick up. Soon after, the Amethi unit of the Congress welcomed the offer.
Union minister Smriti Irani, quick on the uptake, had a field day on Twitter as soon as she learnt of the development. Posting a note reportedly from the Congress’ Amethi unit, she tweeted how Rahul was being cast away by Amethi. Taking a jibe at the Mahagathbandhan attempts by the grand old party, she said the grand old party also pretended to be in talks with everyone.
However, she said, the public had rejected the Congress so ‘Rahul ji’ should vacate the throne as the ‘janta’ would have its way.
अमेठी ने भगाया,
जगह-जगह से बुलावे का स्वांग रचाया,
— Chowkidar Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) March 23, 2019
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Smriti had challenged Rahul in his Amethi bastion. However, Rahul managed to defeat her by a margin of over one lakh votes in the last Lok Sabha polls. His victory was far less impressive than in most of the earlier Lok Sabha elections in Amethi.
The Congress’ vote share was reduced to 46 per cent in 2014 as against its earlier shares of 71 and 66 per cent in the 2009 and 2004 elections, respectively. Meanwhile the BJP, whose vote share in Amethi remained in the single digits in 2004, garnered 37 per cent of the votes cast in 2014.
Abdul Sattar A Nabi, a senior Congress legislator from Maharashtra’s Sillod Assembly constituency, quit the party on Saturday to contest as an Independent in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
“I have tendered my resignation to the party today. I will try my luck in the parliamentary elections from the Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat,” Sattar, 54, told the media.
However, Sattar assured that he was “not disgruntled or unhappy with anybody either in the party or the leadership” which could have prompted him to leave the party.
“I am very keen to do something for the Muslim community, help solve their problems and achieve their aspirations. I feel it can be done on a larger platform through a Muslim elected to Parliament.”
He added that members of all communities were keen that he should take the plunge in national politics for the betterment of all the people of Aurangabad and he had decided to bow before their wishes.
“Not only will I contest, I will not withdraw and I hope to definitely win the Lok Sabha elections,” said Sattar, who is a two-time legislator, adding that he would give a tough fight to all the other candidates in the fray.
When contacted, an aide to state Congress President Ashok Chavan said they would await details before commenting on the matter.
In July 2018, Sattar was among five legislators from various parties who had resigned from their Maharashtra Legislature seats in support of the Maratha quotas agitation.
However, after the state government finally cleared the 16 per cent reservations for Marathas in November, the issue was resolved amicably and their resignation issue also ended.
Top Congress leaders in Kerala, including AICC general secretary Oommen Chandy and leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, on Saturday, urged AICC president Rahul Gandhi to contest from the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat in Kerala.
Speaking to the media in Kottayam, Chennithala said that he has already spoken to Gandhi when he visited Kerala earlier this month.
“Today, we have again put forward our request and I have already spoken to the Wayanad district Congress president, who also evinced huge interest,” said Chennithala.
The Congress has nominated Kozhikode district Congress president T. Siddique to contest from the Wayanad seat.
Chandy told the media that this is the request from Congress workers and “we wish and want that Gandhi contests from Wayanad”.
“Siddique has already been informed about this and he has welcomed it. Gandhi, if he decides to accept our request, then it would not only be a massive boost for the party in Kerala, but across South India,” Chandy told the media.
The Wayanad seat was formed in 2009 and is one of the strongest constituencies for the Congress party. Both in 2009 and 2014 it was won by senior Congress leader M.I. Shanawaz, but he passed away last year and since then the seat has been lying vacant.
“If Gandhi decides to contest from Wayanad, I will be leading his campaign. Gandhi will win with the biggest margin in the country,” said Siddique.
Reacting to the news about the Kerala Congress’ plea to Gandhi, CPI-M Kerala state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that they do not fear such things.
“We do not fear if Gandhi contests from Kerala. This move shows a loss of confidence of the Congress party. He should now let all know which constituency he would give up – Amethi or Wayanad,” said Balakrishnan to the media.
Former Mizoram Governor and BJP candidate from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, Kummanem Rajasekheran, said it’s now clear that Rahul Gandhi has lost hope of retaining Amethi or northern India.
“Since he is afraid, he is moving to a state considered safe and he would also have got the concurrence of the Left. Now what the Left should do is to withdraw their candidate from Wayanad,” said Rajasekheran.
PP Suneer of the CPI has been selected to contest from Wayanad constituency.
Wayanad is a hilly district located in North Kerala that shares borders with both the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address seven public rallies in West Bengal ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, including a rally at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground on April 3, a source close to the state BJP leadership said on Saturday.
“Modi ji is expected to address seven rallies in Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. His first public meeting will be in North Bengal’s Siliguri. He will also attend BJP’s Brigade rally on April 3,” the source said.
“The dates for the rest of the rallies have not been fixed yet,” he added.
Modi held three rallies in Bengal’s Thakurnagar, Durgapur and Jalpaiguri in February, where he launched a scathing attack on the Mamata Banerjee government, accusing it of unprecedented violence, corruption and extortion across the state.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that currently holds two Lok Sabha seats in the state, is eyeing a victory in at least 22 of the 42 seats in Bengal.
West Bengal will see seven-phased polling from April 11 to May 19.
The Congress on Saturday declared 34 more candidates for the Lok Sabha polls, fielding Uttar Pradesh unit chief Raj Babbar from Fatehpur Sikri, whose candidature was earlier announced from Moradabad.
The party has also fielded former Union Minister Renuka Chowdhury from Khammam parliamentary constituency in Telangana while the son of veteran Congress leader Karan Singh, Vikramaditya Singh, will stand from Udhampur (Jammu and Kashmir) against Union Minister Jitendra Singh.
The list comprises four candidates from Chhattisgarh, two each from Jammu and Kashmir, Tripura and Odisha, five from Maharashtra, eight from Tamil Nadu, nine from Uttar Pradesh and one each from Telangana and Puducherry.
Among the nine candidates announced for Uttar Pradesh, the party has nominated Babbar from Fatehpur Sikri. His candidature was earlier announced for the Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh) seat where Urdu poet Imran Pratapgarhiya is now being nominated from.
The party nominated former Uttar Pradesh Minister Nasimuddin Siddique from Bijnor (Uttar Pradesh). Siddique, once a close aide of Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, has replaced Indira Bhatti.
Bal Kumar Patel, a former Samajwadi Party (SP) MP from Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh) has been fielded from Banda (Uttar Pradesh). He joined the Congress on Friday in the presence of party President Rahul Gandhi and General Secretaries Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Patel, who was a prominent face for the SP from the Kurmi community, was elected as an MP from Mirzapur in 2009. In 2014, the party changed his constituency from Mirzapur to Banda, where he lost by a narrow margin.
The party has fielded Trilokiram Diwakar from Hathras, Preeta Harit from Agra, Praveen Aron from Bareilly, Virendra Kumar Verma from Hardoi and Girish Chandra Pasi from Kaushambi.
In Chhattisgath, the party has fielded Atal Srivastava from Bilaspur, Bholaram Sahu from Rajnandgaon, Pramod Dubey from Raipur and Dhanendra Sahu from Mahasamund.
Among the three candidates announced from Jammu and Kashmir, the party has fielded Raman Bhall from Jammu.
The Congress has fielded Vinayak Bagade from Chandrapur in Maharashtra where he will contest the polls against Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir. Vilas Keshavrao Autade will contest from Jalna, Subhash Zambad from Aurangabad, Suresh Kashinath Taware from Bhiwandi, Machhlindra Kamant from Latur.
Eight names figured in the list of candidates for Tamil Nadu which includes two former state party heads Su Thirunavukkarasar (Tiruchirappalli) and EVKS Elangovan (Theni).
The other six are K. Jayakumar (Tiruvallur), A. Chellakumar (Krishnagiri), MK Vishnu Prasad (Arani), Selvi Jothi Mani (Karur), Manickam Tagore (Virudhunagar) and H. Vasanthakumar (Kanyakumari).
The obvious miss in the list was its candidate from the Sivaganga constituency. In 2014, Karti Chidambaram, the son of former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, fought and lost in Sivaganga. In the 2009 and 2004 elections, P. Chidambaram represented the constituency.
V. Vaithilingam will represent the lone Puducherry seat.
As part of the DMK-led alliance, the Congress got a total of 10 Lok Sabha seats — nine in Tamil Nadu and the lone Puducherry seat.
The party has reposed its faith in Renuka Chowdhury. In Telangana, the party had earlier announced candidates for 16 seats and only Khammam was pending which has now been given to Chowdhury.
Her name was announced a day after Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) fielded Nama Nageswara Rao from Khammam. He quit the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and joined the TRS. Chowdhury, who was elected from Khammam in 1999 and 2004, lost to Nageswara Rao of the TDP in 2009.
Subal Bhowmick will contest from Tripura West and Pragya Deb Burman from Tripura East, according to the list.
West Bengal’s ruling All India Trinamool Congress has dropped the ‘Congress’ from its new logo earlier this month and added dollops of blue, white and green colour to it besides giving it a catchy slogan in a bid to make the party one with the people of the eastern state. Observers said it could also be Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s way of distancing her party completely from the Indian National Congress.
The Trinamool was formed on January 1, 1998, by Banerjee who came out of the Congress complaining that it was “hand-in-glove with the CPI-M-led Left Front” then in power in Bengal.
Thereafter, Banerjee and her new party went hammer and tongs at the CPI-M for over a decade and finally managed to ride to power by allying with the Congress and defeating the Left Front in the 2011 Assembly polls.
All these years, Banerjee never shied away from harping on her Congress past, and instead repeatedly projected her party as the “real Congress”.
Despite tying up with the Congress twice — briefly before the 2001 Assembly polls and also between 2009 and 2011 — Banerjee aggressively expanded her party’s base across the state, mainly at the cost of her old party.
Many of the one-time heavyweights of the Congress are now with the Trinamool and occupy important positions.
Banerjee’s close associates point out that no other leaders in the past were able to decimate the Congress in their respective states the way she has done in Bengal.
“The name Trinamool is enough. It resonates in the hearts of all our workers and supporters,” said a Trinamool Lok Sabha member.
Another party leader pointed out that it was only Indira Gandhi who was successful in splitting the Congress and ensuring that her party emerges as the real Congress.
“As such, Banerjee does not need the Congress background anymore. She is very much a leader in her own right and the Trinamool has its own identity,” he said.
Banerjee has time and again spoken about a non-Congress, non-BJP Federal Front over the past two years, stressing on a greater role for the regional parties after the Lok Sabha polls.
The logo has used a blue-white colour combination in a big way surrounding the party’s twin flower symbol. There is also a very careful use of green colour in composing the font of the word ‘Trinamool’.
“Blue-white is Banerjee’s favourite colour. All government buildings, police stations and bus stands have this colour combination. The use of the same combination in the logo makes it an extension of the theme Bengal,” said the leader.
“Trinamool is a vibrant party, a party of the future, of the youth. The colour green signifies that. Blue-white is now Bengal’s theme colour,” the MP said.
The slogan “Amar, Apnar, Banglar” (mine, yours, Bengal’s) is said to be an effort to project the party as the representative of Bengal, and the only political outfit capable of fulfilling the wishes and desires of all sections of people in the state.
Trinamool leaders said the party would continue to be registered as the All India Trinamool Congress with the Election Commission.