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1,500 km from Singhu border, celebrations erupt in Maharashtra



Nearly 1,500 km away from the epicentre of the year-long farmers’ agitation, celebrations erupted in Maharashtra on Friday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi abruptly announced the yanking off of the three contentious farm laws, taking the nation by surprise akin to the demonetisation broadcast-blast.

Farmers and local leaders trooped out in places like Sangli, Palghar, Thane, Nashik, Satara, Kolhapur and other places to cheer the Prime Minister’s declaration — coming barely a week before the upcoming first anniversary of the peasants’ protests — by lighting fireworks, distributing sweets, dancing, hugging each other with joy, playing drums, offering thanksgiving prayers, and general revelry.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, currently convalescing, could not contain his excitement and said the farmers who are the breadwinners of the country deserved “3 Salutes” after their long struggle ended in victory.

“I welcome PM Modi’s announcement on Guru Nanak Jayanti. There was an atmosphere of strong opposition to the 3 laws all over India. But the breadwinners, who were victimised, showed their strength,” Thackeray said.

Chiding the Central government, he said the government should take into confidence all stakeholders including the Opposition before taking such decisions, and this would have prevented the “humiliation” of today.

Thackeray, the Shiv Sena President, also expressed optimism that the technicalities of the repeal process of the laws would be expedited since “the farmers’ agitation has still not ended”.

Maha Vikas Aghadi ally and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)president Sharad Pawar said he “salutes” the spirit of the peasants who braved the heat, cold, rains, labelled as ‘terrorists’ and inflicted other forms of humiliation, with many lives lost, but they finally achieved victory.

“The government rushed through the bills in Parliament without heeding to the Opposition demands for discussion… The government will have to pay the price for its mistakes… Elections are coming to Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and people were bound to question them on the three farm laws,” Pawar pointed out.

“We said in Parliament that agriculture is the soul of this country and economy… to solve the problems of hunger, and it (3 laws) must discuss in details while enacting the laws relating to the famers,” Pawar said.

State Congress president Nana Patole said that it was the fear of defeat in the coming elections that forced the “arrogant and dictatorial” government to bow before the united strength of the farmers.

“Not only the elections, the growing disenchantment among the masses has brought the BJP government to its knees. They are withdrawing the 3 laws. It is a historic victory for the farmers’ struggle. But the BJP will have to face the consequences,” Patole warned.

He said, in Maharashtra, the Congress had collected over six million farmers’ signatures and sent a memorandum to the President, the peasant protested on the border for a year under trying circumstances, but the Prime Minister had no time to meet them though over 700 lost their lives.

Patole said after the recent string of defeats in bypolls, the BJP reduced the petrol-diesel prices, now the farm laws, but the battle ahead will continue for other farmer-centric issues also.

Shiv Sena’s farmer-face and Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Samiti President Kishore Tiwari — accorded an MoS status — said that after the 12-month long struggle, the farmers and people of the country have understood the “real motives” of the BJP government and how it is working for a handful of big industrialists.

“Hundreds of farmers have been martyred to the cause. The country has lost faith in the Narendra Modi government, they will show the BJP its place in the next elections. The historic agitation has served its purpose, the government has suffered a huge setback,” Tiwari said.

However, he said that the unending farmers suicides will not end — Maharashtra being the highest in the country, as per official data — till the BJP government takes this opportunity to bring about fundamental changes in the existing setup to genuinely benefit the peasantry as a long term solution to the end bloodshed in farmlands.

Top leaders of MVA from Shiv Sena, NCP, Congress, Samajwadi Party, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, All India Kisan Sabha, farm activists and others have hailed Modi’s move, urging that now “it’s time to get back to business” and do something long-lasting for the cause of the country’s ryots.

Incidentally, Maharashtra had contributed by sending several bus-loads of people at various intervals to the farmers protesting outside Delhi borders, and many top leaders visiting and addressing.


Mumbai’s COVID-19 Cases Further Drop To 5,008 and 12 Die




Mumbai on Friday reported 5,008 new coronavirus cases, 700 less than the previous day, and 12 fresh fatalities linked to the infection, the city civic body said.

With this, the city’s COVID-19 tally rose to 10,28,715, while the death toll jumped to 16,512, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) bulletin said.

This was the third day in a row when daily COVID-19 cases have dropped in the financial capital.

On Thursday, 5,708 COVID-19 cases and 12 fatalities were reported in the city.

With 12,913 more patients discharged during the day, the number of recovered cases jumped to 9,95,338, said the bulletin.

Mumbai’s coronavirus recovery rate has increased to 97 per cent, while the case doubling rate has improved to 72 days, the BMC said.

As many as 50,032 new coronavirus tests were conducted in the metropolis as compared to 53,203 on Thursday. 

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Parrikar’s son to quit BJP, contest Goa polls as independent candidate




Rejecting the BJP’s efforts to arrive at a compromise, former Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar’s son Utpal Parrikar said on Friday that he would resign from the saffron party and contest as an Independent candidate for the February 14 polls from the Panaji Assembly constituency, which was formerly represented by his father.

Addressing a press conference here, Utpal Parrikar also said that his candidature was rejected by the party during the 2019 Panaji bypolls — facilitated after his father’s death — despite support from his constituents, adding that the BJP no longer looks like the party of which his father was a part.

“People of Panaji did not vote for Manohar Parrikar just because he was an MP. They voted for him because he stood for some values. The time has come for me to also stand for those values,” Utpal Parrikar said, adding that he would be resigning from the party and contesting as an Independent candidate.

“Last time, the organisation rejected my candidature despite popular support due to some special reasons. People know the circumstances… Now it does not look like a decision of Parrikar’s party,” Utpal said.

Manohar Parrikar’s elder son’s candidature has been rejected twice by the BJP, in the 2019 bypolls and now in 2022. In the express instance, the BJP has offered a ticket to sitting MLA Atanasio Monserrate.

When Monserrate had contested the 2019 bypolls as a Congress candidate, BJP leaders had slammed him citing the list of criminal offences registered against him, which included a rape charge of a minor girl, extortion and leading a mob attack on a city police station.

Monserrate had won the polls on the Congress ticket, but had joined the BJP soon after.

“I feel embarrassed to talk about the candidate put up by the party. In Panaji, where the party has grown over 30 years, (the party) has given a ticket to someone who joined just two years ago. I have no choice now. I have to go to the people,” he said.

“As far as a political party is concerned, the only party available to me is the BJP. The other platform is Independent, my own platform which I had to do unfortunately in these circumstances for the values I believe in,” he said, adding that he would not be joining any other political outfit.

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No MVA in Goa; Shiv Sena, NCP to go without Congress




The hope of stitching an MVA like alliance in Goa has not taken off as Congress is unwilling to ally with the Shiv Sena and NCP. The three parties have formed Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra but in Goa the Congress is already in alliance with Goa Forward Party.

The Congress is not willing to concede more seats to the allies and sources say it thinks that the NCP and the Shiv Sena in the fray will split BJP votes.

Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena MP said, “NCP and Shiv Sena tried to form an MVA like alliance in Goa but did not get positive response from the Congress.”

The Shiv Sena leader in the past had met Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for the same but things did not work out as Congress assessment is that people will vote for a change. NCP leader Praful Patel has said that his party will contest with Shiv Sena in the state.

The Congress had alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Trinamool Congress were contesting in Goa to split the opposition vote and help the BJP.

Congress Senior observer of Goa, P. Chidambaram said the people are voting either for the BJP or for a regime change.

Chidambaram in a statement said, “My assessment that the AAP (and the TMC) will only fracture the non-BJP vote in Goa has been confirmed by Mr Arvind Kejriwal. The contest in Goa is between Congress and BJP”.

“Those who want a regime change (after 10 years of misrule) will vote for the Congress. Those who want the regime to continue will vote for the BJP. The choice before the voter in Goa is stark and clear. Do you want a regime change or not? I appeal to the voters of Goa to vote for a regime change and vote Congress,” he added.

The Congress is facing a tough battle in Goa while trying to be ahead of the BJP as the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party are spoiling the grand old party’s game in the state.

The Congress is trying to put up a strong face and has denied any alliance talks with the Trinamool despite speculations in the political circles. Jittered by the Congress stance, the Trinamool has launched an offensive against the Congress.

“The Trinamool has been saying that they are open to alliances, but Congress is not willing to accept and behaving like an emperor,” Trinamool leader Mahua Moitra said, adding: “Need of hour in Goa is to defeat BJP – no one should be on their high horse. AITC will not, repeat not, shy away from walking the last mile.”

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