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Barrage of rallies in Punjab much before arrival of elections

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Chandigarh: It may not be election time in Punjab, but the state is witnessing a spate of political rallies as major parties in the state are already in a poll mode.

The lead has been taken by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which announced ‘Sadbhawna rallies’ in Bathinda, Moga, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Khadoor Sahib and a ‘mega rally’ in Patiala.

The Akali Dal’s alliance partner, BJP, which was exploring options to go solo in the next assembly polls in the state, has done a re-think after the recent Bihar poll results and has joined the Akali Dal in the rallies.

The Akali Dal was forced to hold the rallies to avoid eroding its traditional vote bank of farmers and people in rural areas after recent incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib led to protests and violence and radical Sikh elements and organizations were able to cash in on the situation and blame the Parkash Singh Badal government for not restoring order.

The opposition Congress, which had been grappling with its internal power struggle and factionalism in the past one year, is also setting itself for a course correction with former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh being finally made the state unit president.

The big showdown between the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress is slated for December 15 when the Congress organises its first big rally in Bathinda town where Amarinder Singh will formally take over as the state Congress president.

Akali Dal president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has announced that the party will hold its biggest rally on the same day in front of the Moti Bagh Palace of Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala).

The Congress chose Bathinda for Amarinder’s coronation after Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal recently challenged its leadership to hold a rally at the same ground where the Akali Dal organised its first ‘Sadbhawna rally’ on Nov 23.

Bathinda is the Lok Sabha constituency of Sukhbir Badal’s wife, union minister Harsimrat Badal.

“We will hold a big, historic rally in Bathinda which will be attended by all Congress leaders. People will join the rally on their own, unlike the Akalis who misused government machinery for their rally,” Congress leader Sunil Jakhar said.

After the Bathinda rally, the Congress is likely to plan more rallies in coming days.

Not the one to be left behind, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has four Lok Sabha MPs from Punjab, is making its presence felt with its own series of meetings across the state. The AAP has announced that its leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will camp in Punjab some time next year to strengthen the party’s base.

The AAP is preparing itself to be the third major force in the state. The party knows that it has a substantial vote bank of people who are disenchanted with the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress.

Elections to Punjab’s 117-member assembly will be held in Feb-March 2017.

(Jaideep Sarin, IANS)

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Democrats in Congress Ready To Take Control

This is about us lifting up the voices, the stories, the struggles, the innovation and the ideas of the people that we represent.

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Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, speaks at a small rally outside an orientation meeting for incoming members of Congress at Harvard University. Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, right, and Rep.-elect Lori Trahan, second from right, look on in Cambridge, Mass. VOA

Incoming members of the Democratic Party’s new U.S. House majority say they’re ready to turn the energy of their campaigns into real power on Capitol Hill.

Rep.-elects Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and a handful of other liberal-leaning incoming Democrats used an orientation event for freshman lawmakers Tuesday sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics to stake out some of their top issues – from gun violence to health care to climate change.

They say they’re ready to leverage their victories at the ballot box into victories in Congress — an institution that prizes seniority.

Pressley said power is about more than just how many terms a lawmaker has served.

“It’s a confluence of things. It’s about the committees that we’ll be appointed to. It’s about the values- and issues-based caucuses that we’ll serve on. And it’s about us simply leveraging the platform that we have available to us as well as our social media networks,” Pressley said.

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Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar reacts after appearing at her midterm election night party in Minneapolis, Minnesota. VOA

Pressley won election to the House by beating a fellow Democrat – longtime U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano – in a September primary.

Ocasio-Cortez said like-minded incoming Democratic members of the House have the numbers needed to press their case for change.

“We have a magic number in the House … and it’s 218,” she said. “Two hundred and eighteen is the magic number to get things done and how many member Democratic freshmen do we have? Sixty Three. Sixty-three of that 218 is brand new and 35 of that 63 have rejected corporate PAC money, 35 of that 63 is not funded by opioid companies, not funded by the NRA, not funded by for-profit health care, not funded by fossil fuels. Thirty-five are independent of the interests of corporate influence.”

Like Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez also won election by defeating another veteran Democratic incumbent – Joe Crowley – in New York’s June primary.

Ocasio-Cortez said Democrats have to fight back against an opposition she said “is predicated on us being turned against each other, of us accepting the idea of zero-sum thinking that one community’s gain must be another community’s loss.”

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Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat-New York, talks during a news conference with members of the Progressive Caucus in Washington. VOA

“We know that all of our issues are tied and are the same,” she added. “There is no health care justice without gun violence reform.”

Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley have both pledged to support Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker after Democrats take control of the House in January.

Other new and incoming Democratic House members who spoke at Tuesday’s event include Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania and Andy Levin of Michigan.

Pressley said the timing of Tuesday’s press conference wasn’t meant as a rejection of the Harvard orientation event.

Also Read: Political Ads Under Scrutiny By Google Before The EU Elections

On its website the school says the sessions are designed to help incoming House members “forge bipartisan relationships and learn practical skills of lawmaking just one month prior to taking the oath of office.” Since 1972, the program has hosted nearly 700 current and new member of Congress.

“There is nothing adversarial,” Pressley said. “This is about us lifting up the voices, the stories, the struggles, the innovation and the ideas of the people that we represent. So I think it’s a good thing.” (VOA)