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Andhra Pradesh CM blasts Election Commission for turning polls into ‘farce’




A day after polling in Andhra Pradesh, which was marred by the malfunctioning of some EVMs, Chief Minister and TDP President N. Chandrababu Naidu on Friday blasted the Election Commission for what he called “turning the elections into a big farce”.

Declaring war on the poll panel, Naidu said its insistence on use of a non-reliable technology, refusal to count VVPAT slips, transfer of officials and its other moves at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised serious questions over its credibility.

At a news conference, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief said that he had never seen such an insensitive, irresponsible and useless Election Commission.

He said he was ready to go to any extent in his struggle to save democracy, which he said, was being endangered by relying on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which can be manipulated.

Accusing the EC of bias, Naidu wondered why democracy should be at the mercy of machines.

Claiming that 35 per cent of the EVMs malfunctioned during the polling in the state on Thursday, Naidu said the voters had to suffer as some of them waited till the early hours of Friday to cast their votes.

“Polling at many booths started at 1 p.m. and ended at 6 p.m. Some people voted at 3.30 a.m. Do you have commitment towards the country. Do you care for democracy vote. The Election Commission should answer.”

He took strong exception to Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha calling the EVM malfunctioning a small issue and said at one stage 4,600 EVMs were not functioning.

“Your own CEO (Chief Electoral Officer) could not vote. What about the common man. What do you say about this,” Naidu asked.

The TDP leader also questioned the EC about the qualification and credibility of technicians it recruited to repair the EVMs. “Who are these people? How were they recruited. What is the guarantee that these people are not doing any manipulation in the EVMs,” he asked.

Naidu said since the EVMs are ‘manageable’ and can be tampered with, 22 parties had urged the EC to revert to the system of paper ballot to bring transparency in the system. When the poll panel ruled this out, they demanded counting of all Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips.

The Chief Minister disputed the EC’s claim that it will take six days to count VVPAT slips. “This can be done in six hours. I am ready to prove this. Remember, how long it was taking to count of ballot papers, maximum 24 hours.”

The Supreme Court, while hearing a petition by these parties, had directed the EC on April 8 to increase the random matching of the VVPAT slips with the EVMs to five polling booths per Assembly segment, from one at present. The court, however, did not agree to the demand by the parties for matching at least 50 per cent of the VVPAT slips with the EVMs.

Naidu said he would visit Delhi on Saturday for filing a review petition in the Supreme Court for counting of at least 25 per cent of the VVPAT slips.

He slammed the EC for holding the elections in Andhra Pradesh in the first phase. “Last time, the elections were held in the last phase and this time in the first phase. What is the logic behind it. Did you have a jumbling system or a lottery system or did you consult the parties. What it indicates. You did it because, Modi wanted this,” he said.

Naidu came down heavily on the poll panel for the transfer of officials including the Chief Secretary and alleged that it was all done to favour the YSR Congress Party. He reiterated that the EC shunted out the Kadapa Superintendent of Police as he was probing the murder of Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, the uncle of YSRCP chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.

He pointed out that Vivekananda Reddy was murdered at home and the evidence on the crime was erased. “You did what the criminals wanted. Where will be the law and order,” he asked alleging that the poll violence was pre-planned.

He also asked the EC why it failed to give to the state police the IP addresses of those who tried to delete 7 lakh votes under a conspiracy and alleged that the poll panel shielded the criminals.

National News

Like in 2018, Kamal Nath launches poll drive from Ujjain




Former chief minister and Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath arrived here for ‘Darshan’ of Mahakal before the start of his campaign for the mini-midterm elections involving 24 assembly seats in the state.

The Ujjain visit was due on July 3 but was washed out due to heavy rains.

There are striking similarities between his present campaign and the one he led in 2018 to bring the Congress back into power after 15 years. He had started the campaign with a ‘pooja’ at Ujjain. The key difference of course is the absence of Jyotiraditya Scindia, who blindsided him and his departure with a big chunk of the party caused the current campaign. Scindia was the campaign convener then.

Kamal Nath has few more pilgrimages lined up in the next few days before he gets to the war-room to be set up in Gwalior, the Scindia bastion.

Shortly after the ‘pooja’ and meeting with the party colleagues, Kamal Nath left for Badnawar to address the first rally — ‘Loktantra Bachao’ (save democracy) rally.

Though Scindia and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh were the senior leaders in the party, Jyotiraditya was presented as the youth face to draw the electorate. Singh was asked to bring about patch up between various factions. Kamal Nath was thus the key campaigner. He retains that status. Kamal Nath who drew good crowds in 2018 under Shivraj Chouhan’s rule has made a striking start with Ujjain Congress leaders responding in large numbers despite the lockdown curbs. The temple town, once part of the Gwalior state has responded with hundreds of billboards greeting him.

Kamal Nath plans to list the achievements of his party and development works during the 15-month rule to seek return to power.

Kamal Nath held a one-on-one discussion with prospective candidates to set the selection process rolling. The party plans to have 24 call centres, one in each constituency that will witness the by-elections. The party workers will receive voters’ feedback and inputs for the prospective candidates and the agenda to be set on local issues. The same strategy will be adopted in all 24 constituencies this time also.

Unlike in 2018 when the main war room was at Bhopal, the party is expected to hire a bungalow in Gwalior where Kamal Nath plans to move to lead the campaign.

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Make call records of Vikas Dubey public: Samajwadi Party



Vikas Dubey.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) has demanded that the call detail records of gangster Vikas Dubey, the main accused in the killing of eight policemen in Kanpur, should be made public.

“The state government should make the call details of the gangster public so that people can know the names of leaders who were in touch with the criminal. Vikas Dubey is now being termed as a terrorist and it is important for everyone to know about those leaders who were giving him protection,” said SP MLC Sunil Singh Sajan.

Sajan claimed that the police had failed to trace Dubey even after five days of the killing of police personnel.

“He could be hiding in the house of a BJP leader for all you know. Thorough searches must be carried out and his links must be made public without delay,” he said.

The SP leader said that the fact that Vikas Dubey’s name was not included in the top criminal list of Kanpur, shows that he enjoyed patronage from the ruling party.

It is noteworthy that in a video clip that went viral on Monday, Dubey was seen talking about his links with BJP MLAs Abhijeet Sanga and Bhagwati Sagar.

He said that the two leaders had helped him when he faced police action in 2017.

Abhijeet Sanga has vehemently denied having any links with the gangster. “My constituency is Bithoor in Kanpur and people from the adjoining village come to me for help. In fact, several times I have recommended action in cases where Vikas Dubey was supporting the other parties,” he said.

Sanga further said that it was typical of Dubey to align himself with political leaders belonging to the ruling parties.

Bhagwati Sagar, BJP MLA from Bilhaur, meanwhile, said that he had not pleaded in any case against Dubey. He said that this was an attempt to malign his image.

Both the MLAs said that Dubey video should be investigated.

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Why has status quo ante not been insisted on, asks Rahul Gandhi




Amid reports of Chinese troops withdrawal from the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has raised a set of questions, saying when the national interest is “paramount”, government’s duty is to protect it, and why the status quo ante is not being insisted on?

Taking to Twitter, he asked when national interest is Paramount then “why has status quo ante not been insisted on?”

He also raised questions, why was China allowed to “justify” the murder of 20 unarmed jawans in our territory? and Why is there no mention of the territorial sovereignty of Galwan valley?

The Congress has been targeting the government on the Chinese incursions in the Galwan Valley for quite some time.

Indian and Chinese troops on Monday retreated two kilometres each along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley, where 20 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in a violent face-off last month.

The disengagement between India and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) happened as per the agreed terms in the Corps Commander’s meeting.

With the retreat from both sides, a four kilometre no-man zone has been created. “Four kilometres in the highly mountainous terrain like Galwan valley, deprives both sides to see each other’s installations and reinforcements,” sources said.

The two sides have also agreed, sources said, not to do any aerial surveillance of the retreated area, to rebuild trust which was badly damaged due to the June 15 bloodbath.

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