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Chhattisgarh defies Maoists, records 70 per cent turnout

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Raipur: Defying Maoist threats, Chhattisgarh voters notched up an impressive 70 per cent turnout in the first phase of Assembly polls in 18 constituencies , even though the day began with Naxal attacks to scare away voters. At least six Naxals were reportedly killed and five security personnel were injured in encounters in Bijapur and Sukma districts.

Chhattisgarh chief electoral officer (CEO) Subrat Sahu said barring stray incidents of Maoist violence, the first phase of Assembly elections in the state was “by and large peaceful”.

The 18 constituencies where voting took place in the first phase are spread across eight Naxal-hit districts — Dantewada, Bijapur, Sukma, Bastar-Jagdalpur, Rajnandgaon, Kanker, Kondagaon and Narayanpur. In 2013, the Congress had won 12 seats and the BJP had bagged six. A total of 31.80 lakh voters were eligible to vote for 190 candidates in the first phase of election.

 

Despite the boycott call given by Naxals, tribals thronged the polling booths in large numbers in their respective areas to cast vote.

According to figures made available in the evening, the highest turnout of 72 per cent was recorded in Khuiji constituency while the lowest was 49 per cent in Dantewada. Kondagaon recorded 61.47 per cent, Keshkal 63.51 per cent, Kanker 62 per cent, Bastar 58 per cent, Khairagarh 70.14 per cent and Dongargarh and Dongargaon saw 71 per cent each.

Deputy election commissioner Umesh Sinha said, “Since there were queues outside several polling stations at the end of the scheduled voting time, the exact number of votes polled will be known later… It may match or surpass the 2013 figures.”

In the corresponding 18 constituencies, a turnout of 75.06 per cent was recorded in the 2013 elections, he said.

Earlier, Maoists ambushed a search party of security personnel at Pamed in Bijapur district leaving five CRPF jawans injured and triggered two improvised explosive device (IED) blasts at Tumakpak in Dantewada district to scare away voters.

Official reports said that the rebels stormed around a dozen villages in Dantewada district and held the local tribals hostage to prevent them from exercising their franchise.

Two troopers of Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA), a counterinsurgency with of CRPF, and three jawans of CRPF were injured when armed guerrillas ambushed a search party in Pamed in south Bastar district of Bijapur, said sources in the state intelligence bureau (SIB).

At least four Maoists were reportedly killed and some CRPF personnel suffered bullet wounds as a gun battle broke out when the troopers were on foot patrol in a forested area near Bijapur’s Majiguda village. “Four-five Naxals are reported to be dead but their bodies could not be collected due to continuous exchange of fire,” said D.M. Awasthi, special director general of police, anti-Naxal operations.

Two Maoists were killed in an encounter with District Reserve Guard (DRG) in Sukma district. “The encounter took place at 5.30 pm when DRG security parties were coming back from Chitolnar after giving cover to polling parties,” said Mr Awasthi.

Naxals triggered two IEDs at Tumakpak under Dornapal police limits in Datnewada district to scare away the tribal voters who reached local polling booths. However, there were no reports of casualty or injury to anybody in the incident.

The security forces recovered two IEDs weighing 10 kg and 5 kg from Kodkesa under Kanker district.

Earlier, malfunctioning of voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines and electronic voting machines (EVMs) were reported in several polling booths. Seventy VVPAT machines and 40 EVMs were replaced.

VVPAT machines were used for the first time in Chhattisgarh in the polls.

As many as 190 candidates are in fray in 18 Assembly seats in the first phase of election. Prominent leaders whose fates were sealed in EVMs in the first phase of polling on Monday included chief minister Raman Singh, his ministerial colleagues Kedar Kashyap and Mahesh Gagda and former Prime Minister late Atal Behari Vajapyee’s niece Karuna Shukla who has been pitted against the chief minister by Congress.

In the morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted and urged people to come out in large numbers to vote in the assembly polls.

“It’s the first phase of polling in Chhattisgarh. I request all voters to participate in the great festival of democracy with enthusiasm and come out in large numbers to vote,” Mr Modi tweeted.


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National

85 pc loot during Congress regime plugged:PM Modi

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Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday described NRIs as India’s brand ambassadors and said they were the symbols of the country’s capabilities.

The Prime Minister was inaugurating the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas convention in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi. “I consider NRIs India’s brand ambassadors.

They are the symbols of our capacities and capabilities,” he told the gathering.

 

“People of Indian origin are in leadership roles in countries such as Mauritius, Portugal and Ireland,” he said.

PM Modi also alluded to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s comment that only 15 paise of Re 1 reaches masses and said the Congress government had done nothing to stop the leakage.

The Prime Minister added that his government had stepped in to rectify the situation. The “85 per cent loot” taking place during the Congress regime had been plugged “100 per cent” through technology, he said.

“We have given about Rs 5,80,000 crore to people, transferred to their bank accounts through various schemes. Imagine, if the country was being run on the older system? Then Rs 4,50,000 crore would have vanished,” PM Modi said.

Continuing his attack on the Congress, he said efforts to stop the “leakage” could have been made earlier as well but there was no intention and will power. “Our government is moving towards ensuring that the aid given by government is directly transferred to beneficiary accounts through direct benefit schemes,” he said.

Mauritian Premier Pravind Jugnauth, who is the chief guest for the three-day event, also spoke on the occasion. He hailed the Prime Minister for India’s transformation through initiatives such as the Skill India and the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao schemes. He also praised PM Modi’s global stewardship in promoting clean energy and for setting up the International Solar Alliance.

Jugnauth announced that his country will hold a Bhagwad Gita Mahotsav next month and a Bhojpuri Festival next year.

For the first time, the three-day convention is being organised from January 21 to 23 instead of January 9 to allow participants to visit the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad and attend the Republic Day parade in the national capital.

The theme of this year’s convention is ‘Role of Indian diaspora in building new India’.

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National

‘Madrasas promote ISIS ideology, shut them’: UP Shia board chief to PM Modi

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New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board chief Waseem Rizvi on Tuesday said that madrasas promote ISIS ideology.

Rizvi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to shut Islamic seminaries across India so that Muslim children are not influenced by it.

“If madrasas across the country are not shut down soon then after 15 years half of the Muslims will start favouring the ISIS ideology. It has been observed across the world that ISIS is targeting children and asking them to follow them,” Rizvi wrote in the letter.

 

The UP Shia Board chief added that Muslim children should study with students of other religions in schools so that they are able to get better education.

The comments are likely to irk several Islamic clerics and scholars.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Rizvi cited the example of Kashmir to substantiate his point

“In Kashmir, ISIS supports can be seen in huge numbers. In rural areas, Madrasas are destroying the future of our children being run on donations as their owners are hungry for money,” he stated.

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National

Yashwant throws his hat in PM race, calls self ‘closest’ person to deliver on job creation

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New Delhi: Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha threw his hat in the race for prime ministership when he declared himself as the “closest” person who could deliver on job creation, building roads, townships and industries.

Sinha, a former finance minister during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led previous NDA government, also said that Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari would not succeed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he and BJP chief Amit Shah will “not retire” even if the BJP fell below the 200-seat mark in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The former BJP lawmaker said the problem in the country was non-creation of crores of jobs and millions of kilometres of roads. India needs a leader who can make agriculture profitable and set up irrigation projects, townships and industries, he said.

 

“We have to do a lot of work in this country… We will have to find somebody who is prepared to buy this theory and start doing it,” he said.

Asked who the person could be, Sinha told a news channel, “There is nobody in my mind.”

Asked who was closest to deliver all this, he said, “The closest is me, myself, what I am,” leading to a laughter in the audience of the event hosted by the channel.

“I am very close behind him,” said CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, seated next to him, when asked if he endorsed Sinha.

Various opposition parties are seeking to unite to put up a united front to defeat the Modi-led BJP in general elections, with the BJP taking a swipe at them saying all are prime ministerial aspirants in the opposition camp.

About speculation on whether Gadkari would succeed Modi, the disgruntled former BJP MP said, “There is no hope in hell for that.”

Sinha said what he is saying is “because I know the kind of vice-like grip the current prime minister and the party president have over the BJP and even after the loss in elections where they could be below 200, they will not retire from their leadership.”

“It is a very fond hope that some media people are nursing that Gadkari might succeed Modi,” he said, negating the possibility.

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