Tejashwi Yadav's aggressive challenge opens up Bihar poll fight

News Network
October 27, 2020

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Patna, Oct 27: As Bihar readies for the first phase of voting on Wednesday, the NDA's sweep of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls appears to be a distant memory with the RJD-led opposition mounting a spirited fight against the nearly 15-year-old rule of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The ruling alliance and the incumbent chief minister, on the other hand, are repeatedly referring to what they call the 15-year misrule under the earlier RJD regime from 1990-2005.

Opposition's chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav's attack on Kumar over issues of "unemployment and corruption" and offer of "ummeed aur badlaav" (hope and change) seems to have struck a chord with a section of voters, opening up the electoral battle which many believed was done and dusted in the ruling alliance's favour till a few months back.

Seventy one seats in the southern and parts of central Bihar are going to the polls in the first phase of the elections to the 243-seat state assembly.

The National Democratic Alliance, which also has Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM(S) and Mukesh Sahani's Vikassheel Insaan Party besides the BJP and the JD(U) in its fold, hold 37 of these constituencies, while the 'mahagathbandhan' of RJD-Congress-Left has 34 sitting seats in the first phase.

When the two alliances had last squared off against each other in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the NDA had won 39 of 40 Lok Sabha seats and over 53 per cent of votes, while the opposition could only win one seat and manage barely 30 per cent of votes.

Since then, a couple of smaller parties from the opposition camp, which has been joined by the CPI(ML) and two other Left parties, has switched to the NDA, while Chirag Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party has broken away from the ruling alliance to fight on its own.

As the pivot of the polls has shifted from national to local issues, and Kumar's stewardship of the state and not Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership of the country came into focus during the assembly poll campaign, the opposition has sniffed a chance.

"This election is between Bihar and Nitish Kumar. The trend of the election is very clear. People want change," RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha says.

The mood in the ruling JD(U) camp is of cautious optimism, as the party's task has become more difficult in many seats due to the challenge from the LJP, which is not contesting against the BJP.

JD(U) general secretary Afaque Ahmad says the people of Bihar are politically astute and will back Kumar whose work is all about "good governance and development".

Asked about the big crowds Yadav is drawing as he goes after Kumar, he does not accord it much importance.

He says Ram Manohar Lohia, a socialist icon and then the most vocal critic of Jawaharlal Nehru, used to attract a huge audience when he fought against the first prime minister from Phulpur in 1962.

 "Lohia Ji still lost badly. There is no match between Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav. Kumar will again be chief minister," Ahmad says.

NDA sources point out that the gap between their alliance and the RJD-led opposition has always been too big, and asserted that it will be hard to bridge.

Various opinion polls have suggested that the NDA will get a majority and the opposition alliance may fall short of the three-digit mark while highlighting the much narrower difference in vote share -- from 6-8 per cent -- between the two groupings compared to the Lok Sabha polls.

The RJD camp believes that it has gained among Dalit votes with its alliance with the CMI(ML), the strongest of the Left parties in the state, while the NDA has been hit by Paswan deserting it.

Yadav's promise of several sops, including 10 lakh government jobs, for the youth, and his focus on the alleged petty bureaucratic corruption under the Kumar government has swayed a large section of youths, his party argues, expressing confidence that the momentum is in its favour.

With the 30-year-old scion of the jailed RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav's family often mocking Kumar (69) as a "tired" leader who needs rest, the incumbent chief minister has been spending a considerable part of his poll speeches in reminding voters of the party's alleged misrule between 1990-2005 and the changes he has ushered since then.

 "What was there? Did they (Lalu and wife Rabri Devi who replaced him as CM) build any school, any hospital? Could your daughter go out after dusk fell?" he asked people at a rally on Monday.

Kumar is credited with restoring law and order after coming to power in 2005 and heralding a focus on development projects, an agenda that has won him three successive victories in the assembly polls.

The opposition, however, has sought to build a campaign over the perceived anti-incumbency against his 15 years of rule and to put him on the defensive over lack of employment in what remains a poor and backward state, his handling of the recent migrant crisis and alleged corruption to argue that the state needs new leadership. 

Many ruling alliance's leaders have cited Tejashwi's lack of formal education, he has studied till class nine, to attack his leadership credentials.

Political circles in Patna are abuzz with various theories about a hint of anger and asperity in the speeches of Kumar, generally known for his measured words, as he hops across the state to fend off the challenge and seeks one more term to carry out his development agenda.

Modi had held three rallies on October 23 and is likely to speak at nine more in the days ahead including three on Wednesday, seeking to consolidate votes in the favour of the NDA.

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News Network
December 2,2020

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Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has ordered an inquiry into the deaths of eight children at a government hospital in Shahdal district within three days. These children were admitted to the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) and Pediatric Integration Care Unit (PCU) of Shahdal District Hospital. Two more children, aged two and three, died on Monday night, Shahdal’s chief medical and health officer Rajesh Pandey said on Tuesday. These children from Anuppur district were brought there for treatment.

In addition to the deaths of these two children, eight children aged four months died between November 2 and November 30. These children were admitted to the SNCU and PCU of the district hospital. Pandey said 33 children are currently admitted in the SNCU and PCU of the district hospital. Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has ordered an inquiry into the whole matter after the deaths of two children on Monday night.

Chauhan asked the officials whether the children had died due to the negligence of the medical staff. Chouhan said medical specialists should send Shahdol from Jabalpur to treat the children if necessary. Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Prabhuram Chowdhury Chowdhury on Tuesday said the Additional Chief Secretary of the Health Department has been asked to investigate the deaths of the children and submit a report soon.

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News Network
November 22,2020

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Bengaluru, Nov 22: New 1,704 cases surpassed 1,537 recoveries on a single day across Karnataka, taking its Covid tally to 8,73,046, including 24,868 active cases, said the state health bulletin on Sunday.

“With 1,537 discharged on Saturday, recoveries rose to 8,36,505 so far in the state, while 13 succumbed to the infection, taking its death toll to 11,654,” said the bulletin.

As epicentre of the pandemic, Bengaluru registered 1,039 fresh cases, taking its tally to 3,63,665, including 18,172 active cases, while recoveries rose to 3,41,424, with 669 discharged from across the city in the last 24 hours.

With only 10 succumbing to the infection in the last 24 hours, the city’s death toll due to the virus rose to 4,068 since the pandemic broke on March 8.

Of the 470 patients in the intensive care units (ICUs), 237 are in Bengaluru hospitals, 29 in Tumakuru and 27 in Mysuru.

Out of 1,26,904 tests conducted on Sunday, 20,399 were through rapid-antigen detection and 1,06,505 were through RT-PCR method.

“Positivity rate was 1.34 per cent and case fatality rate was 0.76 per cent for the day,” added the bulletin.

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Agencies
November 19,2020

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New Delhi, Nov 19: Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail in two terror cases by a court in Pakistan, news agency PTI reported.

This was not the first time that Hafiz Saeed, chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a front organisation for the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), was sentenced in a terror case by a Pakistani court. In February, Hafiz Saeed and some of his aides were convicted and sentenced to 11 years in jail in a terror-financing case.

He is wanted in India for planning the 2008 attack in Mumbai, when 10 terrorists killed 166 people and injured hundreds more. Hafiz Saeed is also known as a "global terrorist" both by the United Nations and the US, which put a $10 million bounty on his head.

Hafiz Saeed was arrested in Pakistan in July last year in connection with terror-financing cases after international pressure built up on Pakistan to come clean.

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