Sunday February 25, 2018
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TMC registers massive victory in civic polls, Opposition cries foul

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NewsGram Staff Writer

Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress juggernaut in West Bengal continued with the party registering a landslide victory in the civic polls on Saturday.

The Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool won overwhelmingly in all the three municipal bodies – Bidhannagar in North 24 Parganas district, Asansol in Burdwan district and Bally in Howrah district.

The Trinamool bagged 37 of the 41 wards in Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation and annihilated the opposition in the 16 wards of the erstwhile Bally municipality where an election was necessitated after the civic body was amalgamated with the Howrah Municipal Corporation.

In the Asansol Municipal Corporation, the candidates from the ruling party have either won or are leading with wide margins in at least 70 of the 106 wards.

The Left Front managed just 16 while the Bharatiya Janata Party bagged eight wards. The Congress emerged victorious in just three.

At Bidhannagar, the Communist Party of India-Marxist led Left Front and the Congress won two wards each. Among the heavyweights to lose from here was veteran Marxist and former state minister Asim Dasgupta.

“This is not a reflection of the people mandate rather an evidence of the electoral malpractices indulged in by the ruling party,” Dasgupta told reporters.

The opposition had alleged violence and rampant rigging in the municipal polls, and demanded re-elections in all the wards of the three civic bodies.

There was high drama as State Election Commissioner (SEC) SR Upadhyay deferred the vote count slated for October 7 and then put in his papers on Tuesday allegedly succumbing to pressure from political parties.

The state government appointed transport secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay as the interim commissioner, who ordered re-poll on October 9 in 11 booths; 9 in Bidhannagar and two in Asansol.

Angry opposition parties boycotted the re-polling.

A case was also filed challenging Bandopadhyay’s appointment, and the Calcutta High Court on Friday directed that all steps initiated by the SEC under the new interim commissioner would be subject to the court’s final verdict on the writ petition, but turned down a plea to give any interim stay.

Justice Dipankar Datta sought affidavits from the West Bengal government and the SEC backing their observations by November 17. The petitioner Amitava Majumdar was directed to file the affidavit in opposition by November 19.

November 23 has been fixed as the next day of hearing.

“Trinamool may have won the polls but it has been a moral defeat for them. It’s not humans, rather thousands of ghosts cast votes for the Trinamool. It’s a disgrace,” said Leader of Opposition and CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra.

(With inputs from IANS)

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.