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Bengal Govt Likely to Propose Deferring 4 Civil Polls by 2 Weeks After Court Gives EC 48 Hours to Decide

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The West Bengal government may propose to the State Election Commission to postpone elections to four municipal corporations in the state after the Calcutta High Court asked the poll panel to take a call within 48 hours.

Sources told News18.com that the government may send a proposal to the State Election Commission to defer the civic polls by two weeks amid rising cases of Covid-19 in the state. The poll panel is scheduled to hold a meeting on the issue with state government representatives and officials from the state disaster management response team in Kolkata.

The Calcutta High Court had on Friday asked the West Bengal State Election Commission to consider postponing the civic elections in Asansol, Bidhannagar, Siliguri and Chandannagar by at least four to six weeks, giving it 48 hours to come out with its stand.

The division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava was hearing a PIL filed by one Bimal Bhattacharya, who argued that considering the escalating Covid-19 situation, the civic polls should be postponed.

The PIL was filed after the state’s poll panel announced that elections in the four municipalities would be held as scheduled on January 22, and counting would take place on January 25. Sources said the state government is likely to propose that voting be deferred to February 12.

Political parties, too, had demanded that the polls be deferred in view of rising Covid-19 infections in the state.

“The court has almost stated that the state EC should postpone the polls. Let’s see what happens… We have given a letter to the EC twice to postpone elections because in this situation, it’s not possible to continue with elections,” said BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya.

TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, too, had stated recently: “Right now, nothing should take place in the coming two months. I personally feel that our priority now should be fighting Covid.”

On Friday, West Bengal recorded 22,645 new Covid-19 cases with the positivity rate at 31.14%. The ongoing Gangasagar Mela is feared to further push up the numbers.

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Cong Tries to Buy Peace with Tickets, AAP Goes for Winnability, BJP-Captain Search for New Narrative

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Let’s keep everyone happy. This seemed to be the underlying message of the first Congress list of 86 candidates declared for Punjab on Saturday. Being publicly abrasive for state chief Navjot Singh Sidhu or seen loyal to former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh or facing a corruption charge — nothing seemed to have mattered.

It is not as if things are rosier in the camp of the other leading contender in Punjab — the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Here, over 50 seats have been given to leaders who joined the AAP from other parties, sparking a mini-rebellion of sorts in the ranks, but AAP seems focussed on winnability rather than just pure loyalty. The party also fears the two farmer political outfits eating into its votes. AAP’s chief ministerial face could finally surface this week after a referendum. In the Congress camp though, no CM face is expected to be declared.

Congress Battle

Increasingly, Punjab seems a direct contest between the ruling Congress and the main challenger, AAP. The Congress list of candidates leaves little to imagination that the party’s high command has decided to ebb the bitter fight in its ranks by giving tickets to all factions.

No chief ministerial face may be declared, though there are claimants officially through public statements now in sitting Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and party’s state chief Navjot Singh Sidhu — both have projected their own ‘Punjab Model’ for the next five years.

Sample the Congress candidate list. Channi, Sidhu and former state party chief Partap Singh Bajwa are all candidates from their traditional seats.

But it is not so that those averse to Sidhu haven’t got tickets. Minister Rana Gurjeet Singh, who publicly took on Sidhu and called him a “political mercenary” and “unstable and eccentric”, has got a ticket. So have at least five loyalists of former CM Captain Amarinder Singh like Sadhu Singh Dharamsot who was removed as minister after Channi took over and also faces allegations in a scholarship scam.

Sukhpal Khaira, who Captain brought from the AAP to the Congress, is in Patiala jail in a money laundering case but he has got a ticket too.

It is this approach of placating all and ensuring that there is no exodus to the Captain camp that is expected to stop the Congress from also going into the election with a declared CM face.

Sidhu took a cue to say he was not fighting for any post. The party is already on the back-foot as it could not act against the Badals in the sacrilege cases over five years and its move to book Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia in the drugs case also did not yield much results as the latter got anticipatory bail.

Sidhu, the champion of both causes, has not missed out the chance of putting CM Channi in the dock, saying the Guru (god) did not get justice and the drug traffickers were not punished in five years.

‘Confident’ AAP Smells Conspiracies

After alliance talks with Balbir Singh Rajewal’s political outfit of farmer groups did not fructify, the AAP now feels the two farmer parties could eat into its votes and is going to declare a chief ministerial face this week after a referendum to change the narrative.

AAP co-incharge of Punjab, Raghav Chadha, told News18.com in an interview that AAP may be the only party to do so in these elections. If the candidate is Bhagwant Mann as anticipated, the party could see a groundswell in the important Malwa region which sends a bulk of MLAs to the Assembly, with Mann being a two-time MP from Sangrur.

But trouble seems to be brewing in the AAP, too, as Chadha faced at a recent event in Punjab with cadre resorting to violence over tickets. Local AAP leaders say nearly half of the tickets in Punjab (the count is put at 56) have been given to leaders who came from other parties, including some who joined just a few days ago, rather than to party loyalists. The AAP is quelling such rebellion saying it is going by the sheer winnability of candidates as all polls show it ahead.

Players Searching for Narrative

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP-Captain-Dhindsa alliance is, meanwhile, desperately searching for a new narrative in the state to appeal to the voters. The BJP has tried to do so by getting rebels from other parties on board to show Sikh faces still trust in the BJP as well as milking the security lapse issue during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Punjab.

Captain Amarinder Singh’s party could contest around 30 seats in an alliance with the BJP, but may not fare that well as many loyalists of the Captain are not likely to jump ship since many have got tickets from the Congress.

The SAD has used the bail given to Majithia as a stick to beat the Congress with, alleging political vendetta. The party’s old war-horse, 94-year-old Parkash Singh Badal is back to campaigning, but all that may be too little, too late for the party.

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Expelled from BJP, U’khand Minister Harak Singh Rawat May Join Cong Today; Yogi in Delhi

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The party fielded Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur Urban seat, a decision that put to rest speculation he may contest from Ayodhya, as the five-time Lok Sabha MP enters the state poll fray for the first time from his home turf.

Releasing its first list of 107 candidates in which it aims to counter rivals’ OBC pitch after the Samajwadi Party accused it of being anti-backward castes, the BJP also chose Keshav Prasad Maurya, one of the two deputy chief ministers, from his birthplace Sirathu in Kaushambi district.

While Gorakhpur Urban seat will go to vote in the sixth phase on March 3, Sirathu figures in the fifth phase on February 27. Sitting BJP legislators–four-time MLA Radha Mohan Das Agarwal and Sheetla Prasad–have made way for Adityanath and Maurya respectively.

Except for Adityanath and Maurya, all the names are for 105 of the 113 seats which will go to the polls in the first two phases on February 10 and 14. As many as 44 OBC names, including 16 Jats, figure in the list followed by 43 from upper castes and 19 from Scheduled Castes, sources said.

The BJP on Sunday expelled Uttarakhand minister Harak Singh Rawat from the party for six years for anti-party activities. The move comes after the Uttarakhand minister had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, sources said.

Rawat was seeking Congress ticket for his daughter-in-law from Lansdowne assemble seat. There were reports over the past few weeks about the minister being unhappy with the BJP leadership.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami has also written to the governor about expelling Harak Singh Rawat from the cabinet. Rawat is likely to join Congress ahead of the assembly polls in the state.

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Harris’ new communications director to meet with Latino lawmakers after old tweets surface

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Vice President Kamala Harris’ new communications director is set to meet this week with Latino lawmakers to explain past tweets about immigrants as he continues to face pressure from Latino leaders and organizations to explain himself.

Jamal Simmons took on the new role last week and is scheduled to meet virtually on Thursday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, people familiar with the plans tell CBS News.

A White House official confirmed that Simmons and Latino lawmakers are set to speak Thursday as part of “a mutually agreed upon meeting.”

A day after his new role was announced, immigration rights advocates unearthed tweets from 2010, when Simmons commented on the appearance of two “undocumented folks” who appeared on MSNBC.

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Jamal Simmons joined Margaret Brennan for a political panel on the 2020 race on “Face the Nation” in Washington, DC Sunday March 31, 2019. Photo: Chris Usher/CBS © 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Chris Usher


“Why wouldn’t ICE pick them up?” Simmons asked, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Simmons, a longtime Democratic Party consultant who also served as a political analyst for CBS News during the 2020 presidential campaign cycle, apologized for his past remarks.

“As a pundit I tweeted+spoke A LOT,” he tweeted in his explanation on January 7. “At times I’ve been sarcastic, unclear or plainly missed the mark. I apologize for offending ppl who care as much as I do about making America the best, multiethnic, diverse democracy+I’ll rep the Biden-Harris admin w/humility, sincerity+respect.”

Simmons has plunged right into his new role, traveling last week with President Biden and Harris to Atlanta for their remarks on voting rights. But the revelations about his past comments come at a fraught time for the Vice President, who faces unprecedented scrutiny as the first woman and minority to serve as in the number two role, but also faces questions and criticism from across the Democratic Party about her utility and effectiveness.

Harris is also in the process of restocking her staff after a series of year-end departures, including senior advisers, communications aides and head of her press advance team.

News of Thursday’s scheduled meeting was first reported by Axios.

Tim Perry contributed to this report. 





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