Assam's anti-CAA face Akhil Gogoi wins Sivasagar from inside jail

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May 2, 2021

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May 2: Akhil Gogoi's fight against the CAA on Assam streets landed him in jail in December 2019 and even invited sedition charge. His fight did not succeed then as BJP went ahead with the CAA despite the violent protests.

But the maiden electoral battle that Akhil fought from behind the bars brought success on Sunday when he was elected from Sivasagar Assembly constituency. Akhil, 46 defeated Surabhi Rajkonwari of BJP.

Sivasagar, the erstwhile capital of Ahom Dynasty (1238-1826), which witnessed strong protest against the CAA in 2019, was a Congress stronghold. Veteran Congress leader Pranab Kumar Gogoi was elected from Sivasagar four times (2001 to 2016). Gogoi died in February last year.

Surabhi came second in 2016 Assembly elections.

"Akhil Gogoi is a symbol of Assamese people's fight against the CAA. Though only Akhil won from the party, he will continue to fight for protection of identity and culture of the Assamese," a leader of Raijor Dal, Akhil's party said.

Akhil has been in judicial custody since December 2019 when the anti-CAA agitation turned violent in Guwahati and in other places. Akhil's case was handed over to the NIA, which booked him under sedition charge alleging his nexus with Maoists.

Akhil has been constantly vocal against BJP and its policies. Be it BJP's land swap deal with Bangladesh, big dam projects in the Northeast or disinvestment in the PSUs.

Akhil says the CAA would destroy the Assamese identity by giving citizenship to 1.90 crore post-1971 Hindu Bengali migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. BJP, however, rejected the charge.

Raijor Dal, the party he leads was constituted on October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti) last year with a target to cash on the anti-CAA sentiments against the BJP. The party contested in 32 of 126 seats and supported Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP), another anti-CAA party in a few other seats. 

AJP failed to win a single seat. Its president, Lurin Jyoti Gogoi, who also led the anti-CAA agitation lost in both Naharkatiya and Duliajan. Lurin lost to Taranga Gogoi of BJP in Naharkatiya and Congress' Dhrubajyoti Gogoi in Duliajan.

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News Network
April 29,2021

Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 29: Exit poll results from Kerala on Thursday appeared to give the edge to the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) coalition while the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) seemed to come in second. The BJP was seen winning a couple of seats as well.

An aggregate of five exit polls showed the LDF front is likely to win 85 of 140 seats - ahead of the half-way mark - and the Congress-led UDF at 53 seats, the polls say. The BJP is set to make its presence felt with two seats.

Exit polls often get the results wrong. Votes for the elections are set to be counted on Sunday, alongside other state and territory elections in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

In a state with a four-decades-old tradition of alternating between the two main coalitions every five years, the exit polls seem to show these elections bucking the trend.

After weeks of a stormy campaign with marathon rallies and mammoth roadshows, the state admired for its high governance and progress metrics, voted for a new administration on April 6 and picked from more than 900 candidates including high-profile leaders for its 140 assembly constituencies.

The two traditional coalitions - the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led LDF and the UDF sought another term in these polls while the BJP, long an outlier in the southern state, made attempts to wedge its way in.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Health Minister KK Shailaja, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, Power Minister MM Mani and Higher Education Minister KK Jaleel were among the prominent faces trying their electoral luck from the ruling side.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, senior leaders K Muraleedharan, PT Thomas and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, MK Muneer, VS Sivakumar were among those contesting from the UDF fold.

The elections were crucial for an array of BJP leaders including former Mizoram Governor Kummam Rajasekharan, "Metroman" E Sreedharan, who joined the party recently, state president K Surendran, senior leader Shobha Surendran, Rajya Sabha members Suresh Gopi and KJ Alphons among others.

As much as they are a test for one of the last remaining communist strongholds in the country, it is also a litmus test for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, an MP from the state who spent several days and took part in dozens of corner meetings and rallies across Kerala to campaign for the UDF.

Usually host to just one or two prominent national figures, this time Kerala saw multiple visits by leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and a dozen of their cabinet colleagues including Nirmala Sitharaman, Rajnath Singh and Prahlad Joshi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Sachin Pilot, AK Antony, Salman Khurshid and others.

In election manifestos influenced by the pandemic, all three fronts came out with populist promises including pension for housewives, raising of welfare pensions, free gas cylinders for the poor, free laptops for economically disadvantaged students.

In a state with a large Christian and Muslim population, the BJP pulled out all stops to draw Hindu votes, even promising a law to tackle "Love Jihad" - the rights wing conspiracy theory that Muslim men seduce Hindu women to make them convert.

Both UDF and the BJP also tried their best to highlight the contentious subject of women's entry to the Sabarimala temple and the controversial gold and dollar smuggling cases, in which the Chief Minister's office, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan and some other ministers were facing allegations.

The ruling LDF, meanwhile, strived to focus on the government's achievements in the development and welfare fronts in the last five years and its internationally acclaimed measures in tackling COVID-19 and flood management.

They also accused the Congress of adopting a soft stand towards the Hindutva agenda to pick a hole in their vote-bank. These allegations have been denied by the Chief Minister, as the centre and state governments have hit out each other over central probe agencies.

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April 25,2021

Mangaluru, Apr 25: Two prisoners suffered injuries in a clash among jail inmates at district prison in Mangaluru on Sunday.

According to City Police Commissioner N Shashi Kumar, the injured are Ansar who was arrested by Mulki police last month and Jainuddin who was arrested on the charges of dacoity in Moodbidri recently.

The accused Sameer had assaulted the duo using a spoon and other kitchenware. Ansar suffered injuries on his arm and leg, while Jainuddin has suffered injuries on his shoulders and back. 

The accused Sameer was arrested in a robbery case reported in Panambur and has been lodged in prison since last July. City police commissioner and other police officers have visited the spot.  

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News Network
May 3,2021

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She's the soldier, she the commander and she the army.

The distinction between Mamata Banerjee the leader and TMC the party evaporated into nothingness as she conquered West Bengal fighting the BJP's election war machine led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah almost single-handedly.

The victory for Banerjee, by far the biggest mass leader since the redoubtable Jyoti Basu who ruled West Bengal with an iron fist from 1977 to 2000, will not only help fortify her position in the state but also enhance her standing at the national level where voices from the opposition are getting feeble with time.

A masterful practitioner of modern-day politics, she has wielded considerable influence beyond her own state, in the corridors of power in New Delhi, for a long time, sewing up alliances with both the Congress and the BJP.

Since leading thousands of hungry, half-clad and angry farmers on the dusty streets of Singur and Nandigram over a decade ago, she ruled the state virtually unchallenged for eight years before the BJP vastly extended its influence and won 18 of the state's 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019.

For the 66-year-old spinster, the political journey from the restive alleys of Nandigram and Singur in 2007-08, when she waged a relentless battle against the Left Front government, to 'Nabanna', the seat of power in Kolkata, was as captivating as it was punishing.

Although she cut her teeth in politics as a young Congress volunteer in her student days and rose to become a minister in UPA and NDA governments, it was in the crucible of Nandigram and Singur movements against forcible acquisition of farm land by the Communist government for industrialisation that her destiny and that of the TMC took shape.

She founded the TMC in January 1998 after parting ways with the Congress and it was through struggles, big and small, against the Communist dispensation that her party grew.

In 2001, when the state had its first assembly polls after the launch of the TMC, the party bagged an impressive 60 seats in the 294-member House, while the Left Front clinched a staggering 192.

In its second outing in the 2006 assembly elections, the TMC's strength came down by half as it could pocket only 30 seats, while the Left scored a resounding victory with 219.

The four years that followed were the most momentous in the contemporary political history of West Bengal as she put up a spirited fight against the Left Front government over alleged excesses in Singur and Nandigram.

The assembly elections of 2011 were historic, as she decimated the Left in one of its longest-standing bastions. Banerjee's party ended the Left Front's 34-year unbroken stint in power, winning a whopping 184 seats, riding a massive public outrage against the communists, who were restricted to just 60 seats. It was then the longest-serving democratically elected communist government in the world.

But power has many pitfalls and rising aspirations is one of them. A string of influential TMC leaders including Suvendu Adhikari, the MLA from Nandigram and a minister, deserted Banerjee and joined the BJP.

Born into a Bengali Brahmin family, Banerjee, as a young Congress activist, formed 'Chhatra Parishad' unions in colleges.

She rose through the Congress ranks rapidly and was called a giant slayer when she defeated CPI-M heavyweight Somnath Chatterjee in Jadavpur in the 1994 Lok Sabha elections held in the aftermath of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination.

She lost the seat to Malini Bhattacharya in 1989, when an anti-Congress wave swept the country after the Bofors scandal came to light, the only time she lost an election.

She won the Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat in 1991 which she retained in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009.

As Minister of State for Sports in the P V Narasimha Rao government, the quick tempered leader announced her resignation and held a rally in Kolkata's Brigade Parade Ground against what she believed was government's neglect of sports. She was divested of all her portfolios including Women and Child Welfare and Human Resource Development in 1993.

In 1996, she accused the Congress of behaving like a "stooge" of the Left and founded the Trinamool Congress in 1998.

She joined the NDA in 1999 and was appointed the railway minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, and launched new trains and rail projects in West Bengal.

Banerjee quit the NDA in 2001 in the aftermath of the Tehelka expose, which brought under cloud several ministers in the Vajpayee government, and aligned with the Congress again the same year.

She was back in the NDA in 2003 and was appointed the coal and mines minister in 2004.

She contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 as part of the NDA and her party lost badly. She was the lone Lok Sabha MP of the TMC from West Bengal.

In 2006, the TMC fared abysmally in the state assembly elections.

Before the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, she joined the Congress-led UPA and the alliance won 26 of the state's 42 seats. She was beck as the railway minister.

As public outrage grew over the Left Front government's crackdown on protests in Nandigram that killed 14 people and injured scores more in police firing, Banerjee's popularity grew exponentially.

Singur and Nandigram became emblematic of mass resistance against the communist rulers, and in 2011 assembly elections, the TMC won a landslide. The TMC-Congress-SUCI alliance won 227 of the 294 seats.

After being sworn in as the chief minister on May 20, 2011, one of the first decisions of her government was to return 400 acres of land acquired by the governent for Tata Motors Nano project to the farmers. The Tatas had already exited Singur.

Banerjee launched a slew of welfare projects in health and education sector and for empowerment of women, and tried to strengthen the law and order machinery by setting up police commissionerates in Howrah, Bidhannagar, Barrackpore and Durgapur-Asansol.

The BJP, rapidly expanding its influence in the state at the Left's expense, accused her of minority appeasement after she instituted a stipend for thousands of imams and muezzins of mosques. The Kolkata High Court called it unconstitutional and stopped payment.

She earned the BJP's wrath when she banned the immersion of Durga idols in October 2016 till after observation of Muharram by Muslims.

Ministers in the Banerjee government and key TMC leaders got embroiled in the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scam cases. Quite a few were jailed.

Though these allegations indeed chip away at Banerjee's popularity reflected in the BJP's impressive showing in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, nothing stuck in the assembly elections.

'Didi' became the real 'Dada' as she got past the post, on a wheelchair and a foot in cast, a souvenir from the Nandigram battle against former protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari.  

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