After Congress-TMC break up, BJP bets on Ram Mandir, CAA for 35 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal

News Network
February 11, 2024

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Kolkata, Feb 11: Struggling to gain political traction on issues of corruption, the West Bengal BJP is shifting its focus to emotive topics such as the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in a bid to achieve its target of securing 35 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from the state.

The BJP's strategy is buoyed by the decision of the Trinamool Congress to contest alone in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, breaking away from the I.N.D.I.A. bloc in the state.

This move has raised hopes within the saffron camp of consolidating anti-TMC votes, a trend evident in the party's surge from a 17 per cent vote share in 2014 to 40 per cent in 2019, resulting in 18 Lok Sabha seats.

Despite facing internal strife and electoral setbacks since its defeat in the 2021 assembly polls, the BJP's attempts to capitalise on corruption allegations against the Mamata Banerjee government have fallen short. With a target of winning 35 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP is now banking on emotive issues like the Ram Temple and CAA.

"Both inauguration of Ram Temple and implementation of CAA are core issues of the party," Agnimitra Paul, BJP state general secretary told PTI.

She emphasised the party's resonance with voters in Bengal by saying, "Both the issues are emotive, and people can connect with it."

An idol of the new Ram Lalla was consecrated at the Ayodhya temple on January 22, the event coming just months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and 34 years after BJP veteran L K Advani's iconic 'Mandir Wahin Banayenge' speech during his Rath yatra that shaped Ram Mandir politics.

Echoing this sentiment, BJP MP and former state president Dilip Ghosh underscored the emotive appeal of these issues, asserting their historical significance in uniting Hindu voters and addressing refugee concerns, particularly among the Matua community.

"The promise of implementing the CAA has played a significant role in BJP's electoral successes," said Ghosh.

"The Ram temple issue has benefitted the BJP in the past, and this time too, it will help us to unite the Hindus across the country, including Bengal," the BJP leader said during whose tenure as state president from 2015 to 2021 the party had witnessed a meteoric rise in the state.

The Matuas, a significant portion of the state's Scheduled Caste population, have been migrating to West Bengal since the 1950s, fleeing religious persecution in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

Their cohesive voting behaviour makes them a valuable voting bloc, particularly in alignment with the BJP's stance on the CAA.

Riding on the promises of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Matua community in 2019 voted en masse for the saffron camp in the state.

The CAA, enacted by the BJP-led central government in 2019, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim migrants, including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 31, 2014.

Union Minister and Matua leader Shantanu Thakur had recently said the CAA will be implemented soon, amidst reports that rules of the legislation would be framed before the Lok Sabha polls.

While the BJP aims for over 35 seats, insiders indicate a more pragmatic goal of 24.

Speaking on the issue of BJP resorting back to Ram Mandir and CAA to win the election in the state, party leaders said it reflects an 'acknowledgement of organisational challenges and a desire to counter the Trinamool's narrative of Bengali sub-nationalism'.

"Organisationally, we are not in a very good situation where we can claim that we will win 35 seats in the state. Second, as this is the Lok Sabha election, the TMC's pitch of Bengali sub-nationalism won't blunt our narrative, unlike the assembly polls," a senior state BJP leader said.

The TMC has fanned the 'Bengali pride' and had created a poll narrative of sub-nationalism to counter BJP's identity politics in the 2021 assembly polls.

The party also pointed out that the break-up of the INDIA bloc in Bengal with TMC deciding to fight alone will further help in consolidation of the anti-TMC votes in BJP's account.

"After the Left and Congress alliance fell apart in West Bengal in 2019, it had led to a four-cornered contest with BJP bagging the entire chunk of the anti-TMC votes in the state. This time too, we are hopeful that despite the Left-Congress alliance, we will gain the most," a BJP leader said.

Responding to the BJP's strategy, the Trinamool Congress remains confident in its appeal to voters, dismissing BJP's communal politics as ineffective.

TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said "voters will support Mamata Banerjee to thwart BJP's divisive tactics in Bengal."

Political analyst Maidul Islam suggested that the BJP's reliance on emotive issues stems from its organisational weaknesses.

"Issues like the Ram Temple, Uniform Civil Code (UCC), and CAA will dominate the narrative in upcoming Lok Sabha polls in Bengal, with polarisation and counter-polarisation at play," he said.

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News Network
February 26,2024

Mangaluru: The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation's Mangaluru and Puttur divisions will introduce eco-friendly electric buses on prominent routes in Dakshina Kannada district as well as inter-district destinations soon.

The state govt has sanctioned 45 electric buses to Mangaluru division and 40 buses to Puttur division. The process of handing over the vehicles is under progress.

Rajesh Shetty, senior divisional controller, KSRTC Mangaluru division said that the new electric buses sanctioned by govt are expected to arrive soon.

“Govt has sanctioned AC and non-AC electric buses. Based on a survey, we are planning to introduce the electric buses on the Mangaluru-Dharmastala, Mangaluru-Manipal and Mangaluru-Kasaragod routes. The buses will have the capacity to run about 200km after each recharge cycle of nearly two hours. Hence, it will be difficult to introduce electric buses on long- distance routes like Bengaluru and Mysuru,” he said, adding that the division also expects the arrival of more buses in the near future.

“The division has been preparing to set up charging stations at various depots and a tender process in this regard has also been initiated. While a station with the capacity of five charging points will be set up in Mangaluru depot at Bejai, another with 15 points will be opened at Kuntikana,” he said.

“Meanwhile, Dakshina Kannada district has been selected under the PM-eBus Sewa Scheme too. Accordingly, 100 electric buses will be sanctioned to the district and it is likely to arrive by next year. 

Meanwhile, Mangaluru division is also likely to receive non-AC Ashwamedha Classic buses from the state govt in the next phase. The state govt is likely to sanction at least 20 Ashwamedha Classic buses to the division,” he added.

Jayakar Shetty, KSRTC Puttur divisional controller, said the 40 eco-friendly electric buses sanctioned to the division will be introduced on Subrahmanya-Dharmastala and Dharmastala-Mangaluru routes.

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News Network
February 22,2024

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The global affairs team of Elon Musk's X (formerly Twitter) in a post shared on Thursday revealed that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Indian government had issued "executive orders" asking the platform to take actions against specific accounts and posts.

In compliance with the government's orders, the social media giant announced they would be withholding these accounts and posts in India, despite the platform's disagreement with the move.

"We will withhold these accounts and posts in India alone; however, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts," the post read.

X said that while they had already provided the affected users with a notice as per their policies, they are yet to file a petition challenging the government's blocking orders.

Even though the platform acknowledged that making the executive orders public was essential for transparency, they were unable to do so owing to legal restrictions.

"This lack of disclosure can lead to a lack of accountability and arbitrary decision-making," the post concluded.

It is significant to not that in 2022 when Elon Musk took over Twitter (now X), India clarified that it would expect the platform to adhere with the policies of the country irrespective of who owns it.

"Our rules and laws for intermediaries remain the same regardless of who owns the platforms," Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s minister of state for electronics and information technology had said. "So, the expectation of compliance with Indian laws and rules remains," Chandrasekhar had further clarified.

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News Network
February 28,2024

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An Indian businessman and philanthropist donated 1 million dirhams (approximately Rs 2.5 crore) to secure the release of 900 prisoners from jails across the Gulf nation since the beginning of 2024. He aims to get 3,000 prisoners released this year.

Firoz Hussain Merchant, 66, owner of Pure Gold Jewellers, donated 1 million dirhams to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities. He is based in Dubai.

This is a message of humility, humanity, forgiveness and kindness ahead of Ramadan, Firoz Merchant's office said.

"Prominent Dubai-based Indian businessman and philanthropist Firoz Merchant of Pure Gold has donated close to Rs 2.25 crores (AED 1 million) to ensure the release of 900 prisoners from jails across the Arabian nation," said the statement from his office.

Merchant, known for his 'The Forgotten Society' initiative, has already facilitated the release of 900 prisoners since the beginning of 2024.

This included 495 prisoners from Ajman, 170 prisoners from Fujairah, 121 prisoners from Dubai, 69 prisoners from Umm Al Quwain, and 28 from Ras Al Khaimah, according to Maagulf news portal.

Merchant also paid their debts and provided airfare for them to return home, aiming to reunite families and offer a second shot at life, according to Maagulf, an online news portal for the Telugu community residing in the Gulf.

His goal for 2024 is to help over 3,000 prisoners go free.

In conjunction with the Director Generals of Police at the Central Jails across the UAE, Merchant's initiative has helped over 20,000 prisoners over the years, earning him accolades from government officials and prisoners alike.

"I am grateful for the collaboration with the government. The Forgotten Society believes that humanity knows no borders, and we work together to offer these individuals the chance to reconcile with their families and communities," said Merchant.

Colonel Mohammed Yusuf Al-Matrooshi, a UAE official, commended Merchant's dedication to prisoner rehabilitation.

"He has helped countless individuals, and his quiet generosity offers genuine hope to those struggling to pay their fines," Al-Matrooshi said.

Who is he?

Born in 1958 as one of the nine children of Gulam Hussain and Malekbai in Mumbai, Merchant had a childhood of struggles after his father's real estate business failed. At the age of 11 Merchant dropped out of school to help his family financially. 

He found his calling in the gold business during a trip to Dubai at the age of 22 and established the first Pure Gold Jewellers in 1989, which has now grown to more than 120 outlets.

Pure Gold Group consists of FGM Holding, Pure Gold Jewellers, Pure Gold Real Estate Development, La Moda, and Pure Gold Manufacturing.  

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