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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.

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Amit Shah to visit poll-bound Puducherry, Tamil Nadu on Sunday




Union Home Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Amit Shah will visit poll-bound Puducherry and Tamil Nadu on Sunday to participate in various poll-related programmes of the party.

In a statement, BJP Rajya Sabha MP and media in-charge Anil Baluni said, “The Union Home Minister will leave for Tamil Nadu today and reach Chennai by 10:45 pm tonight. He will participate in various important programmes tomorrow.”

Baluni further stated that Shah will attend BJP’s Puducherry core committee meeting at Karaikal.

“After the core committee meeting, he will address a public rally at Karaikal. After the public rally, the Home Minister will attend the BJP Puducherry mandal and office bearers meeting in the afternoon,” he said.

After Puducherry, Shah will then reach Villupuram in Tamil Nadu where he will attend the BJP Tamil Nadu core committee meeting at the Theivanai Ammal College for Women.

“In the evening, he will address a Vijay Sankalp rally at Jankipuram, Villupuram (Tamil Nadu). After that, he will participate in the BJP Tamil Nadu mandal and office bearers meeting at Theivanai Ammal College for Women,” Baluni said.

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Ramdas Athawale demands 15% reservation for Kshatriyas in Uttar Pradesh




Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale on Saturday demanded 15 per cent reservation for the Kshatriya community in Uttar Pradesh. Speaking to the media in Lucknow Athawale said, “People of any community who live below the poverty line should be given reservation.”

Commenting on the farmers’ protest, Athawale said the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is not against the farmers, adding that we fully support them.

He said the demand for repealing the Union farm laws is unfair. If a law is withdrawn today, then there would be more similar demands made in the future. Taking a dig at the farmer leaders, he said the farmer leaders are causing inconvenience to the farmers.

Apart from advocating the ethnic population census, Athawale said the Marathas in Maharashtra, Jats in Rajasthan and the Kshatriyas in Uttar Pradesh are demanding reservation. He is demanding from the Central government that all these communities must be given 10-15 per cent reservation.

National President of the Republican Party of India (RPI), Ramdas Athawale launched a blistering political attack on Congress National General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s visit to Varanasi on Saturday. He said whether Priyanka visits a temple or any other place, there can’t be any progress for the Congress till her brother Rahul Gandhi is in the party.

The Union Minister appealed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to give his party RPI a total of five to six seats in UP in the upcoming Assembly elections. At the same time, he demanded to conduct a caste census and said that it will not increase casteism.

He said the assembly elections are going to be held in five states across the country and his party will contest the polls in all the states. The chairman of RPI, an ally of the NDA government, said that there are talks over seat sharing with the BJP in all the poll-bound states. Wherever there is no compromise over seat-sharing, the RPI will support the NDA. He said the BJP’s victory in four states is almost certain and the party could win in Kerala as well.

Asked about Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad’s activism in Uttar Pradesh, Athawale said he would not create any significant impact. If he wants, he could join the RPI. Also if Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Chief Mayawati also merges with the RPI, then she would be elected as the party’s National President.

The Union Minister said he is also going to meet Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday.

Asked about the rising inflation in the country, Ramdas Athawale said the Central and state governments should reduce some taxes.

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RSS has destroyed institutions and free press: Rahul Gandhi




Congress leader and former AICC president Rahul Gandhi has charged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) has destroyed the free press and institutions in the country in a systematic manner over the past six years. He was addressing a meeting of advocates at VO Chidambaram college hall, Tuticorn, on Saturday.

He said the nation is held together by institutions including elected institutions like Lok Sabha,Vidhan Sabhas and Panchayats and institutions like the judiciary and a supporting free press. Pointing out that all these institutions and a free press hold the nation together, Rahul Gandhi stated that democracy in India is dead. He went on to say that democracy does not die in a day but in a systematic manner and alleged that the RSS was instrumental in destroying the democracy of the country.

Gandhi, who is an MP from Wayanad constituency in Kerala, said that the RSS combined with capitalists has destroyed the balance of the country. He also charged that when the institutional balance of the country is lost, states don’t have equal say.

Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly, he said “The question is not that the PM is useful or useless but to whom is he useful? It’s like Hum Do Hamare Do”.

On the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Congress leader said that it is discriminatory and added that the farm laws passed by the parliament, are against the poor farmers of the country.
Rahul Gandhi also said that the people cannot rely on the institutions to protect democracy and added that people’s power is the only power that can protect democracy and democratic institutions.

The Congress leader is on a three-day visit to Tamil Nadu where assembly elections are being held on April 6, along with Puducherry and Kerala. He had visited Puducherry before embarking on the Tamil Nadu visit.

It may be noted that the Congress party has been staking claim to contest in 45 assembly seats in the DMK-led alliance but the DMK has been sticking to its stand of allowing only 22 assembly seats to the grand old party.

Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was deputed by the Congress high command to have a one to one meeting with DMK supremo MK Stalin but a consensus was elusive even in that meeting.

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