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Barbs, insults, abuses galore as Bihar goes to polls

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Patna: Some 66.8 million people would be eligible to vote from Monday in staggered Bihar assembly polls as the biggest popularity test is set to take place in the country after the Delhi thrashing of BJP and Congress in February.

After weeks of no-holds-barred campaigning in which the key players hurled real and perceived abuses at one another, the Bihar clash will show whether or not Prime Minister Narendra Modi still retains his charisma.

If pre-election surveys are to be believed, it will be no cakewalk for anyone including the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as well as the Grand Alliance of the ruling JD-U, RJD and Congress.

Some surveys have forecast a narrow win for the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led coalition in the 243-seat assembly. Others predict a win for the four-party alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP allies are Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the RLSP of union minister Upender Kushwaha and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM).

The five-phase elections end on November 5. The vote count is due on November 8.

The Left parties have ended their long bonhomie with the JD-U and RJD, and are on their own, but unlikely to make a big impact. There is also a Third Front led by the Samajwadi Party. And, although it has put up only six candidates, the MIM of Asaduddin Owaisi is making waves.

However, everyone agrees that the main battle will be between Modi and Nitish Kumar, who once sailed in the same boat but are now bitter foes.

Modi is taking no chances. He is poised to set a record by addressing around 40 rallies in the state – the most by any prime minister.

Socio-political analyst Soroor Ahmad said no prime minister before Modi had visited Bihar more than two-three times during assembly elections.

“Modi’s credibility and charisma will be in doubt if the BJP suffers a defeat,” warned Jai Prakash, an activist.

After leading the BJP to a sensational victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Modi had been on a winning spree even in states.

That was till February 2015 when the Aam Aadmi Party stunned the BJP and Modi by winning 67 of the 70 seats in the Delhi assembly. The BJP was left with just three seats.

BJP leaders admit that the need for a win in Bihar was important if only to prove that the Delhi rout was a fluke.

Backing Modi’s aggressive campaign are 13 of his 26 ministers, mostly from Bihar.

And BJP’s allied groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini are actively campaigning for the party.

The BJP is contesting 160 of the 243 assembly seats, its allies the LJP 40, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) 23 and the HAM 20 seats.

Bihar is equally important for the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which have come together after years of hostility along with the Congress.

The JD-U and RJD have fielded 101 candidates each, and the Congress 41.

The main electoral planks on which all parties are seeking votes include economic development, job quotas and battle against corruption.

But political activists admit that in many places, caste equations will influence the voters more than any other issue.

Of the total 66.8 million voters, 13.5 million are eligible to decide the fate of 586 candidates in the first round of polling covering 49 constituencies on Monday.

Drones will be used for the first time for surveillance, officials said.

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms and the National Election Watch, as many as 130 candidates in the first round of polls face serious criminal charges including murder.

(Imran Khan, IANS)

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Karnataka Polls: BJP On The Way to Win, Congress May Get Hard Defeat

Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.

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A state of 60 million people, Karnataka is home to the Information Technology hub of Benguluru and was ruled by the BJP once before.
Congress may have to taste defeat in Karnataka, VOA

The BJP was on Tuesday set to return to power in its southern bastion Karnataka as its candidates crossed the half-way mark in vote count, stunning and ousting the ruling Congress and leaving the JD-S at the third spot.

Noisy celebrations broke out in party offices in Bengaluru, New Delhi and across Karnataka as Bharatiya Janata Party nominees were on the victory lap in 118 of the 222 constituencies which voted on Saturday.

This was a dramatic jump from the 40 seats the BJP won five years ago.

The Congress, desperate to retain power in the state amid shrinking appeal nationally, suffered major blows and was ahead only in 62 seats, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah trailing in both the constituencies he contested: Badami and Chamundeshwari.

The Congress leader was way behind G.T Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal-Secular in Chamundeshwari, Election Commission officials said. And after leading initially, Siddaramaiah fell behind B.R. Sriramulu of the BJP in Badami.

In contrast, the BJP’s Chief Ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa was ahead of his Congress rival by more than 11,000 votes in Shikaripura.

Energy Minister and Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar said that the numbers indicated that his party was on the way out after five years in power.

Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.

The BJP was overjoyed. “We are in a jubilant mood because we have crossed the half-way mark. We are confident of winning,” spokesman S. Shantharam told IANS.

BJP activists and leaders celebrated noisily in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, waving party flags and shouting slogans hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their main vote-getter, and party President Amit Shah.

There were also celebrations outside the residence of Yeddyurappa, who has been Chief Minister earlier too.

Of the 2,654 candidates in the fray for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, at least 883 are crorepatis and 645 have criminal cases against them, said two watchdogs after analysing their affidavits filed with the Election Commission (EC).
Karnataka Polls counting suggests big win for BJP, wikimedia commons

The Janata Dal-Secular of former Prime Minister H.D. Dewe Gowda, which has been expected to play the role of a kingmaker in the event of a hung Assembly, was leading in 40 seats — the same number it won five years ago.

As the vote count progressed, BJP leaders became assertive, saying they were confident of taking power again in Karnataka while Congress leaders began to speak about the possibility of an alliance with the JD-S.

BJP leader and Union Minister Sadanand Gowda said that there was no question of any alliance.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is in charge of Karnataka, met BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi.

Analysts said the BJP was leading in Lingayat dominated seats and the JD-S in Vokkaliga dominated areas.

Expectations of a BJP victory in Karnataka lifted the key Indian equity indices during the mid-morning trade session on Tuesday.

Modi’s Performance: Survey Reports That Significant Number of People Rate Performance of Modi Government as Below Expectations

According to market observers, broadly subdued Asian indices and disappointing macro-economic inflation data points released on Monday capped some gains.

Sector-wise, healthy buying was witnessed in banking, capital goods, metals, consumer durables and automobile stocks.

The Sensex has so far touched a high of 35,993.53 points and a low of 35,498.83 points during the intra-day trade. (IANS)