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Rise above caste, religion; vote for clean candidates: Former EC chief KJ Rao


Patna: People should rise above caste and religious lines and not vote for politicians known for muscle and money power if they have to cleanse the system, former Election Commission chief KJ Rao says.

Rao said in an interview here that it was no easy task for the poll panel to ensure free and fair polls in Bihar although the situation had greatly improved in the past decade.

Speaking before the start of Bihar’s staggered assembly elections from Monday, Rao said it was important for voters to pick candidates with clean image.

“People should rise above caste, religion, to use their secret franchise to elect their representatives. They should not vote for ‘bahubalis’ and ‘dhanbalis’,” he told IANS referring to terminologies used for politicians in Bihar with muscle and money power.

Rao, who retired from the Election Commission in 2006, said money power was influencing the Bihar elections this time more than ever before. He said if people felt threatened by political leaders who used muscle and money power, they must vote for NOTA on the voting machine — None Of The Above.

“It is people and only people who have to decide whether they should vote for facilities like education, health, jobs, basic infrastructure or to vote for his or her castemen or ‘bahubalis’.”

KJ Rao is general secretary of the Foundation for Advanced Management Election founded by former chief election commissioners S.Y. Quraishi, J.M. Lyndoh, T.S. Krishnamurthy and N. Gopalswami.

Rao was here in connection with the release of the list of candidates with criminal cases.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said in its report that a third of the candidates for the second phase of the Bihar polls on October 16 had criminal cases registered against them.

Most such candidates belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

“We have tried to create awareness among the electorate to vote sincerely and not get influenced by money, muscle power, caste or religion,” said Rao.

He admitted that it was a big challenge for the Election Commission to ensure free and fair polls in Bihar.

Although the poll panel had initiated certain measures, it still was no easy task.

“In the last one month the Election Commission has strictly dealt with money power, muscle power and caste politics to ensure that everyone, particularly the poorest of the poor, can vote.

“No doubt the situation has improved in Bihar. It is not like in 2005 when people were afraid of muscle power, booth capturing and other malpractices.”

He said the number of candidates with criminal background had declined due to the intervention of the apex court.

“For many, election is like a business. Invest huge sums for heavy returns.

“The political parties have to blame themselves for fielding tainted ‘bahubalis’ and the rich. All this increases the chance of use of black money in elections.

“Politicians and leaders are not bothered about electoral reforms. Political parties are free to use huge sums of money. There is no check on their expenditure during elections.”

Rao added: “There should be a ceiling on expenditure by political parties. But political parties have not come forward to check the flow of money during elections.

“In fact there is no inner democracy in most political parties.”

He said that if the huge amount of cash seized by police in the last 20 days was any indication, then it was clear that the use of black money was rampant in Bihar.

“Going by what I have observed during my visits to rural Bihar, the use of money is likely to influence voters.”

(Imran Khan, IANS)

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Durga Puja Pandal Decoration Catches Cinema Style, Baahubali Palace Will Be In Cruise This Year In Kolkata

The Baahubali Palace will be the home to Goddess Durga Maa. Given the popularity of the film series, it surely will be a big crowd-puller and also showcase a slice of the variety in Indian culture.

Durga Puja
Goddess Durga Idol

Kolkata, September 20, 2017: Let your Durga Puja travelogue be a medley of cinema, sensitization and emotion this year.

Walk through the palace of Mahishmati, the ancient kingdom portrayed in “Bahubali 2”, let specialists answer your queries on IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), or learn about the life and work of the Kumartuli potters, whose creations — the famed clay Durga Puja idols — symbolise the very spirit of eastern India’s biggest carnival of piety, fun, food and fiesta.

Teeming with over 3,000 Durga Puja (marquees), the city is all set to welcome the goddess and her children. It is also suitably decked up to shock and awe visitors — both domestic and international.

For starters, in the northeastern fringes of the city, a 100-foot-high marquee, mirroring the set of Mahishmati, is to come up at the Sreebhumi Sporting Club’s venue.

“Given the popularity of the film series, we thought it will not only be a big crowd-puller but also showcase a slice of the variety in Indian culture,” D.K. Goswami of the club told IANS.

Preferring to keep the budget under wraps, Goswami, however, doled out the basic design of the pandal.

The entry would be through a giant archway where an elephant with its raised trunk will be standing atop pedestals. Amarendra Bahubali would be seen climbing along the trunk — as in the sequel’s posters.

“The entire pandal would be made of plywood and fibre and the figures would be life size. The goddess would don gold jewellery in the style of the film. It is worth Rs 10 crore,” Goswami said.

Also along the city’s fringes, on the EM Bypass arterial stretch connecting east and south Kolkata, is the Purbalok Sarbojanin (community puja) which is dabbling in IVF and test-tube babies as its theme.

“The prime motivation for us was to dispel myths surrounding the procedure and also generate awareness on fraudulent practices,” Kuntal Choudhury of Purbalok Sarbojanin told IANS.

ALSO READ: This Durga Puja Brings Narratives of Communal Harmony.

Budgeted at Rs 28 lakh, the pandal, shaped like a uterus, is coming to life with over 4,000 glass test tubes, beakers, burettes and other paraphernalia narrating events leading to a genesis of life with respect to the IVF procedure.

IVF specialists, including Baidyanath Chakraborty and others, are expected to be present to deal with the FAQs surrounding the procedure.

Meanwhile, the 86-year-old Kumartuli Sarbojanin adjacent to the potters’ quarters, is busy dealing with another fact of life. They are showing the inception of the goddess Durga from straw and clay to adorning her with the prettiest of clothes and jewellery to bidding her adieu on the fifth and last day of the festival through the customary immersion.

The marquee houses a Durga idol on a trolley, idols of her children ferried by labourers and a truck outside the structure signifying the final journey of the goddess to the immersion ghats.

The marquee is fabricated with the items the craftsmen use to bring the goddess to life — bamboo, wood, straw and clay.

“We craft the idol with reverence as we think of her as our own daughter. When the Durga puja ends and the goddess departs (immersion), the feeling is the same when your own daughter sets off with her husband after marriage for a new life,” said Babu Pal, a spokesperson for the idol makers. (IANS)