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Chief Ministers and Deputy Minister sulk in backward Marathwada



Election Commission of India. (Facebook/@ECI)

Despite giving a Lok Sabha Speaker, several Union Ministers, three Maharashtra Chief Ministers and a Deputy Chief Minister, the Marathwada region of Maharashtra remains the most backward in the state.

As the eight Lok Sabha constituencies — Beed, Hingoli, Jalna, Latur, Nanded, Osmanabad, Parbhani – go to polls on April 18 and Aurangabad (April 23) — the dominant Marathas of the region – strain their eyes for the promised development of their lands that has eluded them since the country’s Independence in 1947.

Besides, the region is plagued by consistent drought due to scanty rains, insufficient irrigation facilities and lack of water for both humans and animals, problems of unemployment and absence of any major industries.

One of the reasons is that the powerful political lobbies from adjoining Western Maharashtra dominated over the Marathwada leaders and most chose to succumb instead of fighting back, leaving the area neglected for years.

“Even the powerful Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh could barely grapple with the Western Maharashtra chieftains and do little for his native region. As a consequence, all major industries, domestic or foreign investments and jobs kept going to Western Maharashtra,” said veteran political commentator A. Shaikh of Aurangabad.

Ditto with the father-son Chief Minister duo — the late Shankarrao B. Chavan and Ashok Chavan –- and also the late Gopinath Munde, a former Deputy Chief Minister and Union Minister.

Against this backdrop, the contest in Nanded – a Congress bastion which it has won 12 times – will be a keen one between Congress’ Ashok Chavan and BJP’s veteran legislator Pratap Chikhalikar. This was also one of the ‘safe seats’ being considered for Congress President Rahul Gandhi (who later selected Wayanad in Kerala) besides his traditional Amethi.

Along with Nanded, Hingoli was one of the two seats which weathered the ‘Modi wave’ of 2014 and elected Congress’ Rajeev S. Satav, though by a thin margin of around 1,600 votes. This time, Satav opted out for party work and Congress has nominated former Shiv Sainik Subhash Wankhede, who is pitted against the Shiv Senas Hemant Patil.

In Beed, BJP’s Pritam Gopinath Munde won in 2014 in a by-election after her father’s death, by 696,321, highest ever victory margin in India, where she’s pitted against Nationalist Congress Party’s Bajrang M. Sonawane.

This time, curiously, a NDA ally, Shiv Sangram Party’s MLC Vinayak Mete, has decided to support NCP’s Sonawane, ostensibly since Pritam and her sister, state minister Pankaja Munde had insulted him (Mete) several times in the past few years.

Jalna is another BJP bastion where sitting MP Raosaheb Danve-Patil, the state party President, will lock horns with Congress’ Vilas K. Autade, but BJP activists claim “there’s no fight in Jalna and Beed”.

An important contest is lined up in Osmanabad where two cousins from bitter rival political families are pitted against each other – the Shiv Sena’s Omraje Nimbalkar and the NCP’s Ranajagjitsinh Patil. The Sena may face a tough time as it dropped its sitting MP Ravind Gaikwad, famed for attacking an Air India staffer with a chappal.

The erstwhile bastion of the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, which earlier elected former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj V. Patil seven times, Latur is currently held by the BJP’ Sunil B. Gaikwad. But the BJP dropped him and nominated Sudhakar T. Shrungare, who is pitted against Congress’ Machhindra Kamant, who recently quit the NCP.

There’s Parbhani, a Shiv Sena bastion since 1989, except between 1998-1999, when it reverted to the Congress. The Sena has repeated Sanjay H. Jadhav, who is pitted against NCP’s Rajesh U. Vitekar and the Communist Party of India’s Rajan R. Kshirsagar.

Jadhav faced a huge embarrassment when the Parbhani District Election Officer ruled that all articles on him published in five newspapers should be treated as ‘Paid News’ and be accounted for in his election expenditure statement.

Going to polls in the third phase on April 23, Aurangabad – a Muslim-dominated city – is another Sena stronghold where sitting MP Chandrakant Khaire has been winning since 1999.

This time, he’s pitted against Congress veteran Subhash Zambad and the VBA-AIMIM nominee and local legislator Imtiyaz Jaleel. Earlier only once – in 1980 – was a Muslim, Qazi Saleem of the Congress was elected to Lok Sabha from here.

Though backward, Marathwada is at the domestic and global forefront renowned for the World Heritage Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad and Pathri village in Parbhani, which is the birth-place of the famous saint Saibaba of Shirdi.

After the Golden Temple, it’s the top pilgrimage centre for Sikhs with the Hazur Sahib Nanded Gurudwara; three of 12 Jyotirlings are in Aurangabad, Beed and neighbouring Nashik; the Bibi Ka Maqbara or mini-Taj Mahal; the Daulatabad Fort; Emperor Aurangzeb’s tomb in Khuldabad; and the mausoleum of Sufi Saint Zar Zari Zarbaksh or Shah Muntajabuddin, ar all in Aurangabad. The Sayed Shah Turabul Haq Dargah is in Parbhani, among many others.

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Top priority to Jewar airport: Yogi Adityanath




Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said on Monday that his government has accorded top priority to the development of the Jewar International Airport in Noida.

He said that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the speed, transparency and execution as per the schedule of this project has demonstrated the new work culture of the state. It has been decided to increase the number of airstrips from two to six at this airport, he informed.

The Chief Minister also appreciated the work of the Zurich Airport International AG, a developer selected for Jewar airport, and assured their representatives of all possible help to be provided by the government.

Adityanath was reviewing the progress of the project on Monday on the occasion of the signing of the ‘state support agreement’ between Yamuna International Airport Private Limited and Noida International Airport Limited, constituted by Zurich Airport International AG, the chosen developer for Jewar airport.

The Chief Minister recalled that the Jewar airport project was lying pending with the previous governments for almost 30 years.

“We decided in March 2017 itself that this project would be completed on priority in the interest of the country and the state,” he said.

In 2017, Lucknow and Varanasi had the only operational airports in the state. In just three years, five more airports, including in Gorakhpur, Hindon, Agra, Prayagraj and now Bareilly, have become operational.

There were only two international airports in the country’s largest state (Lucknow and Varanasi), but now there will be five international airports with the addition of Jewar, Kushinagar and Ayodhya to the list.

The Chief Minister said that he was of the view that good connectivity expedites the development process. “The process of operationalisation of 21 airports and seven runways is underway. The effort is to make Uttar Pradesh soar in the field of civil aviation,” he stated.

Reviewing the displacement and subsequent rehabilitation of the families affected by the construction of Jewar airport, the Chief Minister said that dialogue should be established with these families and they should have a better displacement mechanism.

He directed the concerned officials to address this issue within one week, saying that the process of allotment of plots to the displaced population should be conducted with complete transparency.

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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra begins poll campaign in Assam




Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra arrived here on Monday to campaign for the party in Assam, where the Congress-led seven-party alliance will take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led three-party coalition.

Priyanka soon after her arrival offered prayers at the famous Kamakhya Devi Temple, which was rebuilt in 1565 by Koch king Naranarayana and is one of the 51 holy and venerated sites in India.

Assam Congress Media Department Chairperson Bobbeeta Sharma said that during her Assam tour, Priyanka would hold interactions with party office bearers and diverse groups of people of the poll-bound Assam and address public meetings in Tezpur on Tuesday.

The Congress leader would launch a statewide campaign for the unemployed youths and hold interaction with tea garden women workers and Self-Help Group members.

Former Congress President and Lok Sabha member Rahul Gandhi on February 14 visited the state and addressed a public gathering in eastern Assam’s Sivasagar.

The Congress, which was in power in the state for 15 years (2001-2016) until the BJP-led alliance came to power in Assam in 2016, had formed the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (Grand Alliance) with three Left parties — CPI(M), CPI and CPI(ML) — as well as the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Anchalik Gana Morcha, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), three regional parties having a political base among the Muslims and indigenous people, respectively.

The BPF on Sunday joined the Congress-led grand alliance a day after snapping its ties with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP, after the Bodoland Territorial Council polls in December last year, had forged an alliance with new ally United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) after discarding incumbent partner BPF.

The BJP has decided to fight the polls in western Assam’s tribal dominated Bodoland area in alliance with new ally UPPL besides Asom Gana Parishad.

The elections to the 126-member Assam Assembly will be held in three phases on March 27, April 1 and April 6. The results will be declared on May 2.

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Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu takes home-grown jab in Chennai




After Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu has also announced that he has received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine at a government hospital in Chennai, kicking off an expansion of the country’s immunisation campaign that began in mid-January with healthcare workers.

“I took my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Government Medical College, Chennai today. I will be taking the 2nd dose after 28 days,” the Vice President said on Monday in a tweet.

The Vice President, 71, appealed to the people to come forward and receive the vaccine to defeat the deadly virus which has infected over 1,11,12,241 people and claimed the lives of 1,57,157 people so far.

“I appeal all the eligible people to get themselves vaccinated proactively and join in the fight against novel coronavirus,” Naidu tweeted.

The Vice President took the first jab of the Covid vaccine after Prime Minister Modi– the first prominent leader to take a Covid vaccine shot on Monday, as nationwide vaccination of persons above 60 and those over 45 with illnesses began.

The Prime Minister’s vaccination at Delhi’s AIIMS hospital featured symbols from states that will vote later this month as he wore a scarf from Assam and nurses from Kerala and Puducherry — Rosamma Anil and P Niveda– administered him the vaccine. Niveda administered the vaccine while Rosamma was assisting her.

India, which has reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world after the United States, has so far vaccinated more than 12 million health and front-line workers.

The country is now expanding its vaccination drive beyond healthcare and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk.

Those now eligible to be vaccinated include people over 60, as well as those over 45 who have ailments such as heart disease or diabetes that make coronavirus infections more dangerous.

The shots will be given for free at government hospitals and will also be sold at over 10,000 private hospitals at a price not more than Rs 250 per shot.

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