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Canadians head to polls, Justin Trudeau fights to retain power in tight race with Andrew Scheer


Ottawa [Canada]: Canadians headed to polls on Monday (local time) to vote in a tight race being seen as a litmus test for the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Polling stations on the eastern side of the country opened at 8:30 a.m. (local time), Al Jazeera reported.

After winning a strong majority in 2015, Trudeau is now hoping for a second term but polling indicates a neck-and-neck fight between his Liberal Party and Andrew Scheer's Conservatives. The New Democratic Party (NDP) and Bloc Quebecois also saw surges in popularity last week, meaning they could steal seats from the two main parties.

The Canadian Parliament has 338 seats and the party that wins the majority of those seats - 170 or more - forms a majority government and can easily pass legislation. But the polls predict no party will win a majority this election. In that scenario, the parties must team up to form a government and pass legislation.

In the last 40 days, party leaders crisscrossed the country talking to voters, focusing on regions where support could swing in their favour - especially Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. In the final 24 hours, party leaders flocked to Vancouver to make their final pitches. Trudeau cast his ballot in Papineau riding in Montreal, a district he has held since 2008. His son Hadrian helped him put his ballot in the box.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer told voters, "We want Canadians to send Conservative MPs to Ottawa so we can start the work to undo the damage that Justin Trudeau has caused, to return to balanced budgets, to lower taxes and help Canadians get ahead." During the last elections, the Liberals had swept Toronto and are winning every district in what was dubbed the "red tide". This election, the Conservatives are closing in on Liberal territory in the suburbs, while the NDP is fighting Liberal candidates in the downtown area.

 
 
 



Rain plays spoilsport in Kerala bypoll even as voters turn up to exercise their franchise


Heavy rains lashed Kerala on Monday where bypolls are being held. Braving heavy rains, early voters queued up at polling stations in the five assembly constituencies in Kerala.

A total of 9.57 lakh voters are expected to participate in the bypolls being held in Vattiyoorkavu (Thiruvananthapuram), Aroor (Alapuzha), Konni (Pathnamthitta), Ernakulam and Manjeshwaram (Kasaragod). A total of 896 polling stations have been set up in the constituencies.

According to TNIE Kerala, heavy rain and flooding caused worries to Ernakulam by-poll. Only 2.7 per cent polling in the first hour. Early reports also suggested, except Manjeshwaram, it is raining heavily in the four other constituencies. Most polling booths at Vattiyoorkavu had a deserted look in the initial hours of polling. In Vattiyoorkavu, only 4.99 % till 9 am. Earlier, reports suggested that voting in Ernakulam constituency could be postponed but later people started queueing up in polling booths.

All schools in Kochi are closed today, following heavy rainfall in the city. An orange alert has already been issued for the next two days, reported news agency ANI.

The ruling CPI(N)-led LDF, the main opposition Congress headed UDF and the BJP-NDA had put up a stiff fight to woo voters in all the five constituencies — four of which were held by the UDF and one by the LDF.

 
 
 



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‘Enrich festival of democracy’: PM Narendra Modi urges voters to turnout in record numbers


New Delhi: As voting is underway for Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly elections, and by-elections in several states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday urged voters to "turnout in record numbers".

Taking to Twitter, Modi tweeted, "Elections are taking place for Haryana and Maharashtra assemblies. There are also by-polls taking place in various parts of India. I urge voters in these states and seats to turnout in record numbers and enrich the festival of democracy. I hope youngsters vote in large numbers."

 
 

Elections are taking place for Haryana and Maharashtra assemblies. There are also by-polls taking place in various parts of India. I urge voters in these states and seats to turnout in record numbers and enrich the festival of democracy. I hope youngsters vote in large numbers.

 
 
 

Polling for 90 seats of Haryana and 288 constituencies of Maharashtra began at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm in the evening. The electoral fate of over 4400 candidates- 1169 in Haryana and 3237 in Maharashtra will be sealed in EVMs by the voters who will exercise their democratic franchise in the assembly elections. In Haryana, 19,578 polling stations have been set up whereas there are 96,661 polling booths in Maharashtra for citizens to cast their votes.

Besides Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, voting is also underway at 51 Assembly constituencies spread across 17 states of the country. Bypolls are also taking place at two Lok Sabha seats one each in Maharashtra (Satara) and Bihar (Samastipur).

 
 
 



Mumbai: Godown in Bhiwandi catches fire


Maharashtra: A major fire broke out at a godown in Maharashtra's Bhiwandi city on Monday morning.

Fire tenders immediately rushed at the spot to douse the flames.

No injuries or casualties have been reported in the incident so far.

The reason behind the fire is yet to be ascertained.

More details are awaited.

 
 
 



Maha Election 2019: Nitin Gadkari prophesies Fadnavis' return, says BJP-Sena will smash records


Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday said that BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will form the next government in Maharashtra with a "record- breaking victory".

Gadkari, who was among the early voters in Nagpur, said people will vote on the basis of the five-year performance of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Devendra Fadnavis-led dispensation in Maharashtra. "The BJP-Sena will have a record-breaking victory and Fadnavis will be the chief minister again," he told reporters after casting his vote. He also urged people to come out to vote and strengthen the democracy, and said NOTA (none of the above) was not a good option in democracy.

A total of 3,237 candidates from a host of parties besides Independents are in the fray in which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine is hoping to return to power for a second consecutive term against the opposition Congress-NCP alliance.

The state has a total electorate of 8.97 crore, comprising 4.68 crore men and 4.28 crore women, plus 2,634 transgender voters. The Election Commission has set up 966,661 polling stations and deployed a total number 135,021 VVPAT-EVMs for voting in the state.

(Inputs from Agencies)

 
 
 



Rahul Gandhi to replace Sonia Gandhi as speaker at Mahendragarh rally


New Delhi: Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi will not address the election rally in Haryana's Mahendragarh on Friday, and will be replaced by Rahul Gandhi as the speaker there, the party said.

Sonia Gandhi had not campaigned in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections due to her ill health. This was to be her first rally after returning as interim Congress president.

The party had even released a detailed programme, which said she will address a public meeting at Government College Khel Parisar in Mahendragarh on Friday.

However, she will not be able to attend it due to her poor health, said a party source. "Rahul Gandhi will be addressing the public meeting at Mahendragarh at 2 p.m.," the party said. Haryana goes to polls with Maharashtra on October 21.

 
 
 



Despite IMF projections, India still among fastest growing economies: Nirmala Sitharaman


Washington: India remains among the fastest growing economies of the world and efforts are being made to make it grow faster, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected a reduced growth rate for India, but the country's economy is "still growing as the fastest", she told a group of Indian reporters on Thursday. The minister is here to attend the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank. Sitharaman said she is "certainly not risking a comparison" with China, even though the two countries growth rates have been projected at 6.1 per cent in a latest IMF report.

"The IMF (in its latest projections) reduces the growth (rate) for all the global economies. It reduces the growth for India too. But even otherwise, even with that India is still growing as the fastest growing economy," she said. As against India's real growth rate of 6.8 per cent in 2018, the IMF in its latest World Economic Outlook released on Tuesday, projected the country's growth rate at 6.1 per cent for 2019 and noted that the Indian economy is expected to pick up at 7 per cent in 2020. With all that being said, "the point cannot be missed" that India is still "growing the fastest" in the given global scenario, Sitharaman observed.

"I wish it can be more. I wish it can grow faster. I'll make every effort to make it grow faster. But the fact remains that it is still growing faster. "It's one of the fastest growing economies too. But that's not going to make me complacent," she said. Observing that several things about the economy are sentiment driven, the Union finance minister said so obviously the narrative is "it's not growing as much as it used to grow earlier".

"It's not eight. It's not seven. I it's come down to six and so on. Yes, all these are very important. But I don't want to underestimate the potential that India is showing even in this adverse circumstance," Sitharaman said. To a question, Sitharaman said at this stage she is "not looking at how long", but expecting if she is looking at green shoots. She said at this stage, it is "my duty to hear every sector and respond as much as they would want us to respond from the government side". "So, my business is now just to go on listening and making sure that the grievances or their demands are addressed," Sitharaman said.

"I'm not spending any time at this stage to analyze," she said. When asked if the slowdown of Indian economy is cyclical or structural, Sitharaman said it may be both, may not be both, may be partly one or may be partly the other. "I'm not getting into that at this stage. I don't have the luxury of sitting and looking at which way it is going," she said. "On the contrary, I have all the time to know what people want me to do and (I) respond to them accordingly," Sitharaman said.

Asked if the government is still on track to maintain the fiscal deficit target to 3.3 per cent of the GDP, she said: "Fiscal deficit, I am not reviewing it now." "At this stage, do not want to allow that to worry me. I'm more keen on getting to addressing the issues which industry wants me to address," Sitharaman said. The Union finance minister said "you will get to know if there is any", when asked whether there is a move to lower personal income tax.

(By Lalit K Jha/PTI)

 
 
 



Ochre optics: BJP relies on Yogi to win Maharashtra for Devendra Fadnavis


Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, in his quest for a second term, embarked on a state-wide ‘mahajanadesh yatra’ in August. By now, he has held several rallies, worn various costumes and turbans, taken bullock cart rides, sidelined some of his colleagues and vigorously attacked opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar, all in a bid to win over voters.

Almost all big leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, have campaigned in Maharashtra, tomtomming the 'achievements' of the Modi government, such as the revocation of Article 370 in Kashmir and triple talaq as the chief poll planks.

There are hardly any talking points when it comes to Fadnavis’s performance in the last five years. Drought, floods, farmers' woes, economic slowdown, the closure of the PMC bank and environmental issues are conspicuous by their absence from the discourse.

Amid such nationalistic fervour, the entry of the poster boy of BJP’s Hindutva - Yogi Adityanath - in the last leg of the Maharashtra poll campaign is quite interesting.

The monk-cum-chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has been touring this state as never before. He has already covered big cities like Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Nashik, Yavatmal and Jalgaon, to canvass for the BJP and Shiv Sena candidates.

To make his point on Article 370, Kashmir and Pakistan, Adityanath repeatedly invokes Ram and the epic Ramayana. He ends his aggressive speeches with 'Jai Shri Ram', a cry which reportedly makes his audience jubilant. This is Adityanth's USP; he can divide votes on communal grounds in a way that Fadnavis and other leaders cannot match.

North Indians or the Hindi-speaking community from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, constitute a significant vote bank (estimated 15%) in the state but the BJP’s Maharashtra unit doesn’t have any North Indian leader face with mass appeal. Adityanath fills the gap well.

His assertion of his religious identity, his extraordinary love for cows and the inability to deal with criticism often leads to bad press but these are the very reasons his supporters love him.

Interestingly, Marathi-speaking voters also attend these meetings, to see and hear the saffron-clad leader. Perhaps he reminds them of the late Bal Thackeray, the Hindutva mascot who changed Maharashtra politics forever.

Cheers and applause aside, can the UP CM really make any difference in Maharashtra when his own track record in Uttar Pradesh is questionable?

On most socio-economic indicators, UP is ranked at the bottom. On law and order and atrocities committed by police, the northern state is the most notorious. In fact, three BJP leaders and one Congressman were gunned down in broad daylight in UP last week, as Adityanath campaigned in Maharashtra.

“Yogi’s appeal among North Indians, especially those who hail from eastern Uttar Pradesh, is almost intact. The lower and middle-classes, employed in industry or engaged in milk supply or taxi-driving are hardly concerned about these issues. They are simply in awe of him,” BJP insiders say.

However, UP voters don’t vote en bloc. Observers say, at the most, Adityanath can garner votes of the upper-caste Thakur and Brahmin communities, to an extent.

“His appeal is not just limited to the North Indian community. The BJP uses him in Maharashtra to woo the entire Hindu community, including the Maharashtrian, Gujarati and South Indian population who believe in right-wing ideology,” says senior journalist Rajkumar Singh.

In a closely fought assembly contest, where victory margins are often thin, the transfer of even a few hundred votes matters. Hence, Adityanath’s presence is crucial for the BJP and the Shiv Sena both, a senior BJP leader insists.

The BJP insists that the success rate of Adityanath in Maharashtra has so far, been encouraging. From the Palghar bypoll in May 2018 to the general elections in April to the state polls on 21 October, Adityanath has been a regular visitor to Maharashtra, ever since he bagged the top post in India’s most populous and politically significant state, two-and-a-half years ago.

For the same reason, UP’s deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya has also been sweating it out in Mumbai, as ‘coordinator’ for the Maharashtra polls. He is busy engaging the attention of UP natives in satellite towns such as Virar, Nalasopara, Kalyan and Thane. The softspoken OBC leader recently launched a helpline at his official residence in Lucknow, to address the issues of UP people living in Maharashtra.

The trend of UP CMs campaigning in Maharashtra began in the nineties. After the Babri masjid demolition, then UP CM Kalyan Singh had campaigned in the 1995 assembly polls of Maharashtra. This was the first time that the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance came to power in the state.

Akhilesh Yadav (Samajwadi Party) and Mayawati (Bahujan Samaj Party) too had campaigned for their respective outfits when they ruled Uttar Pradesh.

Nevertheless, Mumbai is missing Nitish Kumar this time. The Bihar CM was a regular until his Janata Dal (United) drifted from the Rashtriya Janata Dal to the BJP.




Congress backs scrapping of Art 370: Manmohan Singh but not BJP’s high-handedness


Mumbai: After the Maharashtra BJP promised Bharat Ratna to VD Sawarkar, the Congress has made it clear that it is not opposed to Swarkar as a person, but is opposed to his ideology of the Hindutva. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh cleared his stand at a meet with intellectuals on Thursday.

Sawarkar was an accused in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, but was acquitted. Referring to the Hindu Mahasabha leader with a reverential “Savarkar-ji”, Singh said former Congress prime minister, late Indira Gandhi had issued a postal stamp in Savarkar’s memory.

“(But) we are not in favour of the Hindutva ideology that Savarkarji patronised and stood for. As far as the issue of giving Bharat Ratna, the government should take into consideration this aspect,” he said.

The Congress’s stand can be termed as a cautious and balanced one keeping in mind Maharashtra’s sentiment for Sawarkar. The party chose not to directly oppose Sawarkar, but expose his ideology which was against secularism of the country.

“The Congress does not need a certificate of patriotism from anyone, especially the RSS, which did not take part in the freedom struggle,” he said, while replying to criticism by the BJP for the Congress stand on Article 370.

Pointing out that it voted in favour of the abrogation of Article 370, but opposed the high-handed way in which it was done.

Addressing a press conference in Mumbai on Thursday, Singh said the Congress opposes the “high-handedness” with which Article 370 of the Constitution — which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir — was introduced in Parliament.

Earning goodwill of the people of Jammu & Kashmir was necessary before such a move, the former prime minister said.

“Congress voted in favour of the move (the abrogation) in Parliament, not against it. Congress feels that the Article 370 is a temporary measure, but if a change is to be brought, it has to be with the goodwill of the people of J&K,” he said.

Singh also hit out against the NDA government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill, calling it a divisive move that discriminates against the Muslims by facilitating Indian citizenship for persons of all faiths except Muslims.

He also claimed that for the first time in the history of Parliament such a divisive bill has been tabled.

On the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, the former prime minister said that the BJP expected that it will exclude Muslims, but 12 lakh out of the 19 lakh people who could not establish their citizenship status were Bengali Hindus.

There is a need to look at things in an objective manner in matters such as the NRC, and while people would want to identify foreign nationals and ensure they do not get any benefits, we need to look at the issue with full sympathy as a “human problem”, Singh said.





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