Aadhaar-electoral rolls linking rules may be issued soon; sharing details voluntary: CEC

News Network
May 14, 2022

New Delhi, May 14: Rules on linking Aadhaar with the electoral rolls may be issued by the government soon, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra has said, adding that sharing Aadhaar details will be voluntary for voters, but those not doing so will have to give "sufficient reasons".

Chandra also said that the poll panel played a key role in intensifying the vaccination drive in the five states where assembly elections concluded in March this year to ensure that voters and those involved in election duty were safe from the coronavirus.

In an interview with PTI, he said two major electoral reforms which took place in his tenure as the CEC are the provision of four dates in a year instead of one to enrol those turning 18 as voters and the linking of Aadhaar with electoral rolls to check duplicate entries in the voters' list.

"Earlier, only January 1 of every year was the cut-off date. We convinced the government that this reform is very essential and these people should be enrolled as soon as they turn 18. With this reform now, there will be four dates in a year to get these people registered when they complete 18 years of age. This reform was pending for the last 20 years," Chandra said.

The four cut-off dates for enrolment is part of a Bill passed by Parliament a few months back to allow linkage of Aadhaar with the electoral rolls.

As of now, those turning 18 on or before January 1 can be registered as voters. Those who turn 18 on January 2 or later have to wait for one year to register as a voter. But once the rules are issued, young people can get registered as voters on four different dates every year.

"The second biggest reform is the linking of Aadhaar with electoral rolls to check duplicate entries. It will make the voter list pure. It will make the electoral roll more robust," he said.

Asked when the rules will be notified by the government, Chandra said "I think very soon because we have already sent draft proposals in this regard. We have also sent the forms which are to be changed and they are with the (law) ministry. Very soon, I think they will be cleared. We will also have to tone up our IT system."

On whether sharing Aadhaar details will be voluntary, he replied in positive. "It will be voluntary. But sufficient reason will have to be given by voters for not giving their Aadhaar numbers. The reason may include not having an Aadhaar or not having applied for one or any other reason they can think of. I can not think of any other reason," the CEC said said.

Chandra was of the view that sharing Aadhaar number will help the EC purify the voter list. It will also ensure that the poll panel is able to give more services to the voters through its communication system, he added.

"If we know about the voter more clearly, then we can give more services such as when the elections will be held and booth (details) on their phone numbers... We should know clearly that he/she is the right person," Chandra said.

Asked about the biggest challenge he has faced as the CEC, he said the "toughest" one was to conduct elections in five states and various bypolls during COVID-19.

"Because when these elections were coming near, we never thought at that time that Covid will intensify. Suddenly, we came to know about the onset of Omicron. We had to prepare as nobody knew much about this variant.

"So suddenly, we had to gear up to make the voting process and the election machinery safe," he added.

During this period, the EC intensified the vaccination process and ensured booster (precaution) doses for its polling personnel, including security forces.

"We had to take the unusual step of stopping campaigning in physical form. Initially, we said only door-to-door campaigning with just five people will be allowed and there will be more emphasis on digital campaigning," Chandra recalled.

"We had regular meetings with health secretaries and chief secretaries of the states. We asked them to intensify vaccination and we kept a close watch every week. We were giving a very graded response to our campaigning methodology. We opened it gradually. By the time electioneering started, the vaccination rate was very high in all the five states, and the voters had been given the first or the second doses as per protocol," he added.

Chandra replied in positive when asked whether it was the EC which had in a way been responsible for intensifying the vaccination drive in the five states.

"Definitely. In states where it was especially less like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, we reviewed the situation and asked the chief sectaries and the health secretaries to boost the vaccination drive.

"Each and every person should have taken at least the first dose. If the first dose had been administered, then the second should be given. In Uttar Pradesh, the first dose coverage was 100 per cent. The percentage of vaccination in Punjab and Manipur also went up. We took each and every step possible to check the spread of Omicron during the elections in these states so that the voters and the voting process can be safe," he said. 

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News Network
May 6,2022

Bengaluru, May 6: As BJP sets its focus on southern Karnataka, where it is traditionally weak, with an eye on the 2023 assembly polls, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Friday said there is a wave in favour of the party in the region, as he hinted that leaders from other parties will be soon joining the organisation.

He said the party is having discussions about holding a large-scale public meet in Mandya, which comes under the old Mysuru region or south Karnataka belt. "From various parts of the state many people are eager to join the party, especially Kolar, Mandya and other places, they will be inducted batch by batch," Bommai said in response to a question.

Speaking to reporters here, he said there is a huge liking among people, especially youths, towards BJP in the Southern Karnataka region. "So in Mandya and in the region, a new and young leadership is likely to emerge and there is a wave in favour of the BJP there....we are talking to several people, whoever agrees with the party and its ideology, we will speak to them," he added.

The old Mysuru region, comprising the southern districts of Karnataka, is dominated by the Vokkaliga community and has traditionally been a bastion of Congress and JD(S), where they contest as arch rivals. BJP has been making consistent efforts to make inroads, aimed at reaping political dividends.

In the 2018 polls, the BJP managed to win one seat in Hassan; later in a high-voltage 2019 bypolls, it managed to win the KR Pet seat, its first victory in Mandya district, and also won Chikballapur, another first. Creating history of sorts, the party bagged the Sira assembly segment in Tumakuru district for the first time in November, 2020 bypolls.

State BJP Vice-President and former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa's son B Y Vijayendra, who is widely credited for the paty's victory in K R Pet and Sira, has recently stated that he is interested in working in the region, if the party decides. The Chief Minister on Friday met former External Affairs Minister and former CM S M Krishna, who hails from Mandya, and held discussions with the veteran leader. Bommai, however, termed it as a courtesy visit to greet Krishna, who recently turned 90.

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News Network
May 15,2022

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Indian cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, who found himself getting unwittingly involved in the 'Monkeygate affair' when it unfolded during the second Test at Sydney in 2008, termed former Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds -- who died in a car crash in Queensland on Saturday -- as a "live-wire" on the cricket field.

"Andrew Symond's demise is shocking news for all of us to absorb. Not only was he a brilliant all-rounder, but also a live-wire on the field. I have fond memories of the time we spent together in Mumbai Indians. May his soul rest in peace, condolences to his family and friends," Tendulkar tweeted on Sunday morning.

Symonds, 46, was the sole passenger in the crash just outside of Townsville in his home state of Queensland and police confirmed that a 46-year-old died at the scene of the mishap.

During the infamous Sydney Test in January 2008, which Australia won by 122 runs, Tendulkar was at the non-striker's end when the altercation between India spinner Harbhajan Singh and Symonds took place, which later came to be called the 'Monkeygate affair'.

Symonds accused Harbhajan of calling him a 'monkey', which triggered a war of words between the two sides. In fact, India even threatened to cancel the tour and return home after the spinner was initially suspended for three Tests.

Initially, Tendulkar denied hearing anything, but the legendary cricketer later insisted that Harbhajan had actually said a Hindi slang which was a long way from being a racist remark.

The then Australian skipper Ricky Ponting complained to match referee Mike Procter about the India spinner calling Symonds a 'monkey'. Ponting then pressed charges against Harbhajan despite the then India skipper Anil Kumble's request to apologise.

Harbhajan was then slapped with a three-Test ban, which brought the two powerful cricket boards on a confrontation path -- and left the series in jeopardy.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) appointed New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen to hear Harbhajan's ban appeal after the Test series. The tour continued and Hansen later trusted Tendulkar's testimony to conclude lack of evidence to press racism charges against Harbhajan.

Harbhajan Singh mourns Andrew Symonds' death

India spinner Harbhajan Singh, who was involved in one of the biggest on-field controversies that threatened to spoil the relationship between the Australian and India cricket boards, on Sunday paid his tribute to legendary all-rounder Andrew Symonds who was killed in a car crash in Queensland on Saturday.

The off-spinner took to twitter to pay his tribute to the 46-year-old former Australian all-rounder, saying the cricketing great went too soon.

"Shocked to hear about the sudden demise of Andrew Symonds. Gone too soon. Heartfelt condolences to the family and friends. Prayers for the departed soul. #RIPSymonds," tweeted Harbhajan.

The charismatic all-rounder played 26 Tests for Australia, scoring 1,462 runs at 40.61 and picking up 24 wickets with his off-spin and gentle medium-pace.

During the second Test of the series between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January 2008, Symonds scored an unbeaten 162 in the first innings that helped the hosts to a 122-run victory.

However, the Test would later be mired in controversy over the 'Monkeygate affair'. Symonds accused Harbhajan of calling him a 'monkey', which triggering a war of words between the two sides. In fact, India even threatened to cancel the tour and return home after the spinner was initially suspended for three games.

Symonds had then lodged a complaint that he had been racially abused by Harbhajan. The case then went to match referee Mike Procter, with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) lodging a protest over their player's suspension.

However, later the racism charge against Harbhajan could not be proved and the three-Test ban was lifted.

Symonds also featured in 198 ODIs -- scoring six centuries and 30 half-centuries -- while also contributing 133 wickets with his more than handy off-spin and medium pace.

It was at the 2003 World Cup where Symonds burst onto the stage with perhaps his greatest innings as he smashed Pakistan with an unbeaten 143 in Johannesburg early in the tournament and helped Australia remain unbeaten and defeat India in a one-sided final.

The right-hander was also part of the victorious World Cup side at the 2007 World Cup in West Indies as Australia claimed their fourth 50-over World Cup title.

Symonds also played 14 T20I for Australia, managing 337 runs and eight wickets. 

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News Network
May 9,2022

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Colombo: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as his loyalists went on rampage today, injuring more than 100 anti-government protesters in Colombo. A ruling party MP was killed in the clashes, many were hospitalised.

Here are the latest developments:

>> MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala opened fire and critically wounded two people blocking his car in Nittambuwa, and was later found dead after trying to take refuge in a nearby building, officers said. Athukorala, an MP from the Polonnaruwa district, was surrounded by anti-government groups at the north western town of Nittambuwa, the police said. The protesters said the bullets were fired from his SUV first. Following this, when the angry mobs toppled the car, he fled and took refuge in a building and committed suicide by pulling his own revolver, the people said.  Later, the lawmaker and his personal security officer were found dead, the police said.

>> Mr Rajapaksa, 76, had sent his letter of resignation to his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, clearing the way for a "new unity government".

>> "I am resigning with immediate effect so that you will be able to appoint an all-party government to guide the country out of the current economic crisis," the Prime Minister said in the letter, reported news agency AFP.

>> The cabinet now stands dissolved. The largest opposition party has refused to join any government headed by a member of the Rajapaksa clan.

>> The biggest clashes since the economic crisis hit the island nation started this morning when supporters of the Rajapaksa family went on the rampage.

>> The loyalists had attacked unarmed protesters camping outside the President's office in downtown Colombo since April 9.

>> In a first, the riot squad was called in to reinforce the police. Earlier, soldiers were pressed into service to protect deliveries of fuel and other essentials but never to prevent clashes.

>> At least 100 injured people have been hospitalised, police sources have said.

>> The police fired tear gas shells and water cannon and declared an immediate curfew in Colombo, which was later widened to span the country of 22 millon people.

>> Sri Lanka has suffered months of blackouts and dire shortages of food, fuel and medicines in its worst economic crisis since independence, sparking weeks of overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government demonstrations. 

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