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New government of Hasina to be sworn in on Monday

Special Correspondent
 
President Abdul Hamid on Thursday invited Awami League President Sheikh Hasina to form the new government after her party’s massive victory in the 11th national election.
The President extended the invitation after Sheikh Hasina met him at Bangabhaban on Thursday afternoon
Meanwhile, new members of the cabinet headed by Sheikh Hasina will be sworn in on Monday.
The ceremony to administer oath to the new ministers will begin at the Bangabhaban at 3:30pm, said a spokesman for the official residence of the Bangladesh president.
Full Story
Special Correspondent
 
President Abdul Hamid on Thursday invited Awami League President Sheikh Hasina to form the new government after her party’s massive victory in the 11th national election.
The President extended the invitation after Sheikh Hasina met him at Bangabhaban on Thursday afternoon
Meanwhile, new members of the cabinet headed by Sheikh Hasina will be sworn in on Monday.
The ceremony to administer oath to the new ministers will begin at the Bangabhaban at 3:30pm, said a spokesman for the official residence of the Bangladesh president.
The announcement came soon after Awami League chief Hasina met President Md Abdul Hamid on Thursday and secured his approval for the formation of her new government.
Earlier  in  the morning, Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was reelected Leader of the House unanimously for the 11th parliament.
The new MPs of Awami League reelected Hasina Leader of the House for the third consecutive term at the maiden meeting of the AL Parliamentary Party (ALPP) held at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban after their oath taking on Thursday.
However, the Deputy Leader of the House was not picked at this first meeting of the ALPP.
Tofail said Obaidul Quader proposed the name of AL president Sheikh Hasina for electing her the Leader of the House, while AL Advisory Council member Amir Hossain Amu seconded the proposal.
Later, all the AL MPs supported the proposal and greeted Sheikh Hasina with big claps.
Tofail said Hasina is going to be the Prime Minister for the fourth time as an internationally renowned politician and the leader of the mass people of Bangladesh. “With this, Bangladesh is going to enter the golden age for the next five years,” he added.
Noting that the people of Bangladesh had long been waiting for December 30, Tofail said people recognised Sheikh Hasina as the leader of mass people by casting votes for ‘Boat, the electoral symbol of Awami League, on December 30 the way they attained independence by voting for Boat in 1970.
Obaidul Quader mentioned that they only elected the Leader of the House at the meeting and said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked all to work together.
 
Jatiya Party decides to join Grand Alliance govt
Meanwhile,  Parliamentary Party of   Jatiya Party on Thursday decided to join the Awami League-led Grand Alliance government to ‘contribute’ to the country’s further development under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Party cochairman GM Quader came up with the announcement after its parliamentary party’s meeting in Parliament.
“All of our MPs wanted us to join the Grand Alliance to form its government, and we also carried out our electioneering in that way,” he said.
He said their party delegation will soon meet the Prime Minister to discuss the issue with her.
Asked which party will be there in the Opposition if they join the government, the Jatiya Party cochairman said it is not their concern. “The way people cast their votes there is no situation for making any party the opposition.”
He said their leaders and activists worked together with Awami League to ensure the victory of the Grand Alliance and form a government together. “So, people may not accept it if we now play the role of the opposition. It’s a practical problem.”

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SPECTACULAR ELECTION RESULTS
Even AL may not have expected such absolute victory
Faruque Ahmed
 
The nation witnessed a spectacular election last week in the 300 seat national parliament in which Awami League led grand alliance has won 288 seat including 20 by its alliance partner Jatiya Party. It will now form government in third consecutive term. 
However the tall score figures by all ruling party candidates hitting near around five lakhs votes in some areas has opened a big controversy while the opposition candidates were nowhere in the race. It raised question if the opposition has no support base why the government was using police and court to jail its leaders and workers to keep them away from election. 
Full Story
Faruque Ahmed
 
The nation witnessed a spectacular election last week in the 300 seat national parliament in which Awami League led grand alliance has won 288 seat including 20 by its alliance partner Jatiya Party. It will now form government in third consecutive term. 
However the tall score figures by all ruling party candidates hitting near around five lakhs votes in some areas has opened a big controversy while the opposition candidates were nowhere in the race. It raised question if the opposition has no support base why the government was using police and court to jail its leaders and workers to keep them away from election. 
If election is a choice for voters to select people to run the country such one way election is not a remedy. It is clear the political system we have now aims at serving group interest of the powerful people instead of taking people’s verdict to run the nation. Unless there is a change it will only destroy all democratic institutions and further endanger peace and stability of the nation.        
Results shows the major opposition alliance Jatiya Oikyajore has bagged only seven seats in this election – five by BNP in the Rajshahi division—home of BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam and two by OIkyafront candidates. Others won four seats while election to one seat remained suspended following the death of a candidate. 
The major opposition plan to gather before the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday to demand the scrapping of the election and a new one under a caretaker government is set to fail from the outset. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has already ruled out it saying elections were free and fair and is acceptable to the people. Over 80 percent voters’ turnout was reported in this election which never happened before.
Oikyafront chairman Dr Kamal Hussain said the ghost figure suggests no fair election will be possible without a neutral government.  Sadly he is going to the EC where he saw outrageous behavior of the CEC only two weeks ago when he led a delegation to protest police arrest of the opposition leaders and workers from election campaign only days ahead of the election. He had blamed the CEC on that occasion for sheltering police excesses and use of election machine to secure easy victory for the government.
BNP secretary general and Oikyaafront spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam made similar opinion saying election results this time showed BNP’s boycott of 2014 election was a correct decision. This election proved no fair election is possible under this government. 
Awami League leaders however said people voted to continue development work of the government. One leader said if people had so massively voted for the party it shows the mass support for it at all level. HT Imam said if we had an unelected government in 2014, we have an over-elected government this time.      
Awami League won such spectacular victory after 1973 election in which the party had won over 95 percent control of parliament. It was a different time but people had expected a change this time in this election or at least a bigger return of the opposition in parliament left almost without a viable opposition after 2014 election BNP had boycotted.  
This change didn’t happen and rather the election has passed the entire country to the hands of Awami League without BNP nowhere to speak for the people. The major opposition has been uprooted in this election. The crisis of a functional opposition in parliament will be more acute this time like the one the nation had witnessed in the outgoing parliament with Jatiya Party in the government and also playing the role of the opposition.   
Many believe Jatiya Party is not a political party in real sense, it is more inclined to political horse trading for money amounting to betrayal to the nation. Bikalpadhara showed even worse. Even Awami League itself has used the election to befool the nation denying voters their right to freely vote. 
The unusual election results has put the credibility of the entire election process to question. The widespread view that the elections were totally controlled by the government can’t be denied. 
It seems voting was largely peaceful with sporadic clashes, gun shoots and violence at many places. So far 25 were killed. But inside the polling center polling was systematically rigged. People were denied unrestricted access to polling centers and absence of election agents of BNP in polling centers left the system unchallenged. 
Reports galore about the systemic rigging as polling officials had tactfully slowed the voting process leaving voters in long queue when party men sealed ballots inside the polling centers and staffed them to the ballot boxes. 
At many places false ballots were sealed. Opposition candidates said ballots were sealed in the night before in thousands and stuffed next day in the ballot box with the help of polling officers. 
Report from Sylhet-1 said ballot boxes were removed from the ground floor of a polling center when polling officers went for launch. They were returned stuffed with rigged ballots before polling officers resumed taking votes. 
At another place presiding officer was reportedly found stuffing ballots in a closed door room at noon. This was a common scene all over. The law enforcers either saw rigging in silence or extended help to rigging. Army deployment was able to contain violence outside the polling centers but the massive rigging reportedly took place inside the polling centers.    
The CEC’s claim that over 80 percent voters had cast votes is totally confusing. Report said voters’ turnout were 45.82 percent in areas EVMs were used for balloting. How then voters’ turnout was reported over 80 percent remains a big question.   At one place bagging of 490 thousand votes by a candidate is totally ridiculous. It seems no ballot papers was left unused.

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Amid widespread violence, Bangladesh’s ruling party re-elected

Vimal Perera
 
The national election was held yesterday in Bangladesh amid widespread violence mainly instigated by the ruling Awami League which was determined to return to power for a third consecutive term by suppressing the opposition parties.
More than 100 million voters were to elect 299 representatives to parliament. According to unofficial results reported last night, the Grand Coalition led by the Awami League was heading for a “landslide win.” The full official results are due to be released this afternoon.
Full Story
Vimal Perera
 
The national election was held yesterday in Bangladesh amid widespread violence mainly instigated by the ruling Awami League which was determined to return to power for a third consecutive term by suppressing the opposition parties.
More than 100 million voters were to elect 299 representatives to parliament. According to unofficial results reported last night, the Grand Coalition led by the Awami League was heading for a “landslide win.” The full official results are due to be released this afternoon.
The opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and its allies in the National Unity Front (NUF) have condemned the election as “farcical” and demanded a “fresh election under non-partisan administration.” Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wajed has already rejected the request.
By yesterday evening, 17 people had been killed in election-related violence by Awami League and BNP supporters, while thousands were injured. Last Thursday, the BNP-led alliance alleged that eight of their activists had been killed, 12,588 injured, and 9,202 arrested.
A collective of 16 human rights organisations, including the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Asian Network for Free Elections, issued a statement on Saturday accusing the government of conducting the election under a “restrictive electoral environment” and “cracking down on civil society, the opposition and the media.”
From Saturday, the government deployed about 600,000 security personnel including soldiers across the country to intimidate political opponents and voters. In what was tantamount to censorship, the government deliberately slowed 3G and 4G internet services, saying it was a measure to counter “false propaganda.”
The crackdown on political opponents underscores Prime Minister Hasina’s nervousness about the growing opposition to her government. The Awami League won the 2014 election in a “landslide” as its chief rival, the BNP, which is also notorious for thuggery and violence when in power, boycotted the election.
The BNP decided to participate in this election in a bid to retain its voter base. Its leader and former prime minister, Khalida Zia, has been charged and jailed for 17 years over graft, thus disqualifying her from contesting the election. Many BNP leaders have also been jailed or are living in exile.
Leaders of the Islamic fundamentalist Jamaat e Islami, a BNP ally, have been tried for war crimes during the 1971 secessionist uprising against Pakistan. The party has been banned and several of its leaders hanged. Awami League’s campaign against war crimes is mainly aimed at whipping up nationalist sentiment and suppressing political opposition.
The Hasina government has also increasingly attacked media freedoms. In October, it passed a new “Digital Security Act” under the pretext of strengthening defamation laws. In reality, the legislation is to suppress criticism and dissenting views and silence the media.
Police arrested photojournalist Shahidul Alam in August for exposing police violence against students in an interview with Al Jazeera and was released only after a local and international outcry.
Hasina and her ministers have ridiculed criticism over the government’s human rights record. In a recent interview with the New York Times, she said: “If I can provide food, jobs and health care, that is human rights… What the opposition is saying, or civil society or your NGOs—I don’t bother with that.”
Hasina has above all suppressed strikes and protests by workers in order to attract foreign investors. Big business has praised the government for driving sound “economic growth” during its decade of rule.
Analysts cite the increases in Gross Domestic Product growth from 5.57 percent for the 2009-2010 financial year to 7.28 percent in 2016-2017, in per capita GDP from $US500 to nearly $1,800, and in export income from $16 billion to $35 billion. In its election manifesto, the Awami League promised to increase growth to 9 percent and turn the country into a middle-income economy by 2024.
The economic growth, however, has only benefited a small wealthy elite, including the politicians. The Centre for Policy Dialogue, a prominent think-tank, said the top 5 percent of income earners took home 121 times more income than the bottom 5 percent of the population in 2016.
The Awami League government has faced growing opposition and unrest over deteriorating living conditions from workers, teachers, youth and students.
Strikes of garment workers erupted sporadically since early December over demands for a rise in monthly wages of 16,000 taka or $190, as compared to the government’s recommended increase of 8,000 taka. Workers in 20 factories in Mirpur and Gazipur and adjoining districts have stopped work.
Secretary General of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council Salahuddin Shapon declared: “Along with the government, we the trade union leaders also requested workers not to hold any demonstration before national polls, but unrest continues in the sector.”
The government and trade unions fear a major eruption of protests among the country’s four million garment workers and other sections of the working class.
In June, thousands of teachers held protests demanding the nationalisation of non-government educational institutions and for pay to be determined by the government salary scheme.
In July, students and youth held protests against unemployment and the reactionary quota system for recruiting employees for the state sector jobs. Though the overall official unemployment rate is about 4 percent, youth joblessness stands at 11 percent.
The election was also intertwined with the growing rivalry between the US and China throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Despite nominal expressions of concern about election violence, the US and its strategic partner India have backed the Awami League government as a means of undermining Chinese influence.
An article in the Dhaka Tribune entitled “Why India prefers Hasina in Office” reported that India’s ambassador Harsh Vardean Shringla had met with political leaders even while claiming to have nothing to do with the election.
The newspaper pointed out that the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had provided Dhaka with $9 billion in credit and aid in a bid to undercut China. The Hindu supremacist Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organisation of Modi’s Bharatiya Janatha Party, recently praised Hasina as India’s “most trusted and tested ally.”
For its part, Beijing has offered Bangladesh $30 billion for infrastructure investment as part of its massive “Belt and Road Initiative” plans to integrate Eurasia more closely with China and undermine American influence.
The new Awami League government will inevitably face a worsening crisis as it is drawn more closely into the cauldron of geo-political rivalry on the one hand, and resorts to increasingly autocratic methods of rule, on the other, to try to crush rising discontent and opposition from working people.

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Khaleda’s “No comment” on election

Special Correspondent
 
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on Thursday declined to comment on the latest national election.
“No comment,” is what she said when reporters asked her about the December 30 polls after the Niko corruption case hearing at Dhaka central jail court room 
Awami League-led Grand Alliance won 96 percent seats in the 300-member parliament. Khaleda Zia’s BNP joined hands with Jatiya Oikyafront to contest the election but they won in only seven constituencies.
Full Story
Special Correspondent
 
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on Thursday declined to comment on the latest national election.
“No comment,” is what she said when reporters asked her about the December 30 polls after the Niko corruption case hearing at Dhaka central jail court room 
Awami League-led Grand Alliance won 96 percent seats in the 300-member parliament. Khaleda Zia’s BNP joined hands with Jatiya Oikyafront to contest the election but they won in only seven constituencies.
Khaleda was produced  in a wheel chair  before the special judge court around 12:10pm. When newly-appointed Judge Sheikh Hafizur Rahman of Dhaka Special Judge Court-9 arrived, the BNP chief complained about inadequate sitting arrangement.
The judge ordered providing enough chairs for everyone and said he would talk to the authorities to take necessary steps.
Several moments later, the former prime minister warned that she would not appear before the court “if this situation continues.” “Punish me  as you desire” she said  with anger. 
The court fixed January 13 for the next hearing.
ACC filed a case on December 9, 2007, accusing Khaleda and four others of causing the state a loss of Tk 137.77 billion by signing an oil-gas exploration deal with Canadian company Niko when the BNP was in office.
Police submitted a chargesheet against the accused on May 5 the next year, reports UNB.

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Indian Forces Kills 4 Freedom Fighters in Kashmir

TeleSur
 
Indian Occupied Kashmir faces more bloodshed as armed forces killed four youth during a gunbattle in Pulwama district last week.  
Fresh clashes erupted in Pulwama, a district in the south of Indian Occupied Kashmir, Saturday, killing four Kashmiri youth.
Indian troops murdered the four boys during a cordon and search operation (CASO) in Rajpora area of Pulwama. CASO is a common occurrence in the occupied territory where Indian troops cordon off an area and then start searching for suspected pro-freedom militants.
Full Story
TeleSur
 
Indian Occupied Kashmir faces more bloodshed as armed forces killed four youth during a gunbattle in Pulwama district last week.  
Fresh clashes erupted in Pulwama, a district in the south of Indian Occupied Kashmir, Saturday, killing four Kashmiri youth.
Indian troops murdered the four boys during a cordon and search operation (CASO) in Rajpora area of Pulwama. CASO is a common occurrence in the occupied territory where Indian troops cordon off an area and then start searching for suspected pro-freedom militants.
Kashmiris often protests against CASO while India retaliates by killing protestors. 
When the civilians started protesting against the killing of the militants, the forces fired pellets and tear gas shells to disperse the protestors, injuring 11 civilians.
Demonstrations were held in all over Srinagar. Many sustained injuries due to the use of force by state police.
Pulwama is one of the most affected districts of Kashmir where regular CASO. Internet was suspended in the area to cut off contact.
Earlier in December, seven civilians were killed by armed forces in Pulwama, making this year the bloodiest in a decade.
Indian forces say they have killed 242 militants this year. In addition, 101 civilians and 82 state forces have  died, according to officials.
The occupation started in October 1947 when Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir, acceded the valley into Indian territory despite the opposition of Kashmiris.
Then-Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru after the accession of Kashmir to Indian territory promised a plebiscite to the natives. The promise has not been fulfilled yet by any of the successive administrations. Instead, the central government has allowed an increased body count of Kashmiris by Indian forces.
In 1987, insurgency rose in Kashmir after an election held in the India-controlled Jammu and Kashmir strengthened the standing of the pro-independence insurgency. The rigged election by the Indian government led to a series of protests which resulted in the Indian army’s deployment in Kashmir in 1989.
Since the 1990s Indian troops greatly increased military attacks on the insurgencies and acting with impunity under the banner of fighting the insurgency.
The brutal occupation of Kashmir, like the occupation of Palestine, is another example of a right-wing government occupying sovereign territories and committing massive human rights abuses.

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Venezuela lost billions as result of US-led sanctions: Maduro

TeleSur
 
Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro pointed out that the international sanctions applied by the United States and its allies against his country have caused multi-billion dollar losses in 2018 in an effort to suffocate the Venezuelan economy.
“We have a fierce battle against international sanctions that have caused Venezuela to lose at least 20 billion dollars in 2018,” said the Venezuelan leader.
Full Story
TeleSur
 
Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro pointed out that the international sanctions applied by the United States and its allies against his country have caused multi-billion dollar losses in 2018 in an effort to suffocate the Venezuelan economy.
“We have a fierce battle against international sanctions that have caused Venezuela to lose at least 20 billion dollars in 2018,” said the Venezuelan leader.
Maduro went on to say that the blockade is meant to persecute the Venezuelan government and its people.
”They hound our bank accounts around the world whenever we try to purchase any products. It is more than a blockade — it is a persecution of our bank accounts, of the businesses that Venezuela has in the world.”
The situation with the international company Euroclear is an example of this, said the Venezuelan president. “This company held Venezuela hostage in 2018. 1.4 billion dollars we had already committed to buying medicines, supplies, to buy food, but no one answers.”
Meanwhile, the president stressed that Venezuela has repeatedly denounced this persecution in the United Nations and to the secretary of that body, as well as in several agencies, without getting specific answers.
The Venezuelan head of state also noted that since August 2018, the Recovery, Growth and Economic Prosperity Program has been carried out, the purpose of which is to stabilize the country’s economy, control induced inflation, and increase the country’s production.

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Saffron dominates Assam rural polls

Nava Thakuria in Guwahati
 
For many, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is losing the poll-battles as more and more important States have gone under the control of Congress. Soon after the outcome of recently concluded Assembly polls in central provinces surfaced the political observes started making comments that the saffron party has started losing the game on the eve of general elections scheduled for early next year.  However, the nationalist party recorded an impressive victory in Assam Panchayat elections overcoming almost an uproarious situation because of Centre’s initiative to grant citizenship to the religious minorities from three neighboring countries including Bangladesh.
Full Story
Nava Thakuria in Guwahati
 
For many, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is losing the poll-battles as more and more important States have gone under the control of Congress. Soon after the outcome of recently concluded Assembly polls in central provinces surfaced the political observes started making comments that the saffron party has started losing the game on the eve of general elections scheduled for early next year.  However, the nationalist party recorded an impressive victory in Assam Panchayat elections overcoming almost an uproarious situation because of Centre’s initiative to grant citizenship to the religious minorities from three neighboring countries including Bangladesh.
As many as 70 State bodies were constantly raising voices against the citizenship amendment bills 2016 in Assam and they even urged the electorate to defeat the BJP in the rural polls.  But  the electorate perhaps did not consider the appeal as worthy and hence put the saffron party at the top of their preferred list of local representatives. The party, which came to power in Dispur with their prime allies namely Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)  and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) in the State Legislative Assembly polls 2016, maintained its winning spree.
According to the State election authority, the BJP gained over  40 % seats in the three-tier Panchayatiraj system at the village, intermediate and district levels, which was followed by the Congress, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), AGP that fought Panchayat polls alone and other political parties.
Elections were held in 26 districts of Assam, where 78,571 candidates were in the fray for altogether 26,808 seats under 21,990 Panchayat wards. Inspiring over 80 was recorded the polling percentage in the two-phase polls on 5 and 9 December 2018. Counting of ballots took place on 12 December with strict security arrangements and under the CCTV surveillance.
The State has 21 Zilla Parishads (district Panchayat),  185 Anchalik Panchayats (intermediate Panchayat)  and 2201 Gaon Panchayats (village Panchayat). Electorate were engaged at the task for electing 21 Zilla Parishad presidents & 420 ZP members, 185 Anchalik Panchayat presidents &  2201 AP members, 2201 Gaon Panchayat presidents  & GP 24222  members.
The BJP, after a lengthy process involving the counting of ballots, emerged victorious wining 11,325 out of 26,784 seats, where the Congress could win  8,970 posts followed by AGP (1,963 posts), AIUDF (1,319 posts) etc. 3,048 independent candidates also succeeded in the poll-battle.
The party  won 994 GP presidents followed by the  Congress (760), AGP (137), AIUDF (130), BPF (2),  NCP (1) and independent candidates (173). In GP members, the BJP gained 9,094 seats, followed by the Congress (7,292), AGP (1,689), AIUDF (1,024), BPF (54), CPM (33), CPI (3), TMC (5), CPI-ML (4), NCP (3) and independent candidates  (2,717).  It bagged 1,025 AP member seats, followed by the Congress (771), AIUDF (136), AGP (118), CPM (1), TMC (1) and independent candidates (142). Similarly, the party won 212 ZP members followed by the Congress (147), AGP (19), AIUDF (26) and independents (16).  Altogether 734 candidates were declared elected unopposed, where the BJP had the highest number (380) followed by the Congress (193), AGP (28), AIUDF (10), BPF (5) and CPM (1). 117 independent candidates were also declared elected without opposition in the local elections.  Business-typhoon Badruddin Azmal led AIUDF emerged as a loser in the rural polls, as the party could not retain its vote share among the Bengali-Muslim families living in Assam.  The AGP also lost its support bases among the mainstream Assamese Hindus as the regional party tries to nurture Muslim vote banks in Brahmaputra valley.  However, the Congress recorded a good show in the polls as it succeeded attracting the Muslim voters than AIUDF and AGP. The century old party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi had proved that its influence over the State electorate was growing even after the last Assembly poll-debacle.
The ruling party achieved significant supports from voters in Kamrup (Metro), Kamrup, Majuli, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Charaideo, Dhemaji, Sonitpur, Sivasagar, Golaghat,  Nalbari and Cachar districts. The Congress did good in Jorhat, Morigaon, Barpeta, Karimganj, Dhubri, Hojai, Bongaigaon districts.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to thank the electorate of Assam for their support to his party in rural polls. In a twit, Modi also added, “Over the last few years, the BJP and the NDA family have become the preferred choice of the northeast. We consider it our privilege that we have the honour of fulfilling the aspirations of the northeast and taking the region to new heights of progress.” Even though Assam enacted the Panchayat Act in 1948 and later adopted Assam Panchayat Act 1994 after few amendments, the Panchayat elections in the State were irregular and in most of the time the ruling party ignores its responsibility to hold rural poll-exercises on time.
The BJP led government in Dispur  was also reluctant for the Panchayat polls putting the reason that its 50,000 employees were engaged in the updation process of National Register of Citizens following the directive of Supreme Court of India. But Gauhati High Court directed the authority for Panchayat polls and subsequently the exercise passed on  successfully.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma  made the Panchayat poll-campaigning more expensive as they used helicopters for attending the public meetings.  In their poll-speeches Sonowal  emerged critical to the Congress, where Sarma went on censuring all opposition political parties including their ally AGP too.
[The author is a Guwahati based political commentator]

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India facing threat to territorial integrity, internal stability: Army Chief

Online Agencies
 
India is facing complex and dynamic security challenges along its borders, which are a threat to the country’s territorial integrity and internal stability, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat has said.
In a new year message to army personnel, he hailed the collective grit, determination and sacrifices of the troops in standing up to the challenges along the borders as well as in combating threats of terrorism.
Full Story
Online Agencies
 
India is facing complex and dynamic security challenges along its borders, which are a threat to the country’s territorial integrity and internal stability, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat has said.
In a new year message to army personnel, he hailed the collective grit, determination and sacrifices of the troops in standing up to the challenges along the borders as well as in combating threats of terrorism.
“We are facing complex and dynamic security challenges along our borders which threaten territorial integrity and internal stability of the nation,” Gen Rawat said.
He, however, did not mention about the situation along India’s nearly 4,000- km frontier with China or along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. 
“Our steadfast resolve to ensure territorial integrity has been evident from the collective grit, determination and sacrifice of our troops who have stood their ground under the most challenging, inhospitable and most hostile circumstances,” Gen. Rawat said.
The Indian army has been firmly dealing with infiltration bids and incidents of unprovoked firing by Pakistani army along the Line of Control (LoC) in J and K.
The army has also improved its vigilance in several key seats under 21,990 Panchayat wards. Inspiring over 80 was recorded the polling percentage in the two-phase polls on 5 and 9 December 2018. Counting of ballots took place on 12 December with strict security arrangements and under the CCTV surveillance.
The State has 21 Zilla Parishads (district Panchayat),  185 Anchalik Panchayats (intermediate Panchayat)  and 2201 Gaon Panchayats (village Panchayat). Electorate were engaged at the task for electing 21 Zilla Parishad presidents & 420 ZP members, 185 Anchalik Panchayat presidents &  2201 AP members, 2201 Gaon Panchayat presidents  & GP 24222  members.
The BJP, after a lengthy process involving the counting of ballots, emerged victorious wining 11,325 out of 26,784 seats, where the Congress could win  8,970 posts followed by AGP (1,963 posts), AIUDF (1,319 posts) etc. 3,048 independent candidates also succeeded in the poll-battle.
The party  won 994 GP presidents followed by the  Congress (760), AGP (137), AIUDF (130), BPF (2),  NCP (1) and independent candidates (173). In GP members, the BJP gained 9,094 seats, followed by the Congress (7,292), AGP (1,689), AIUDF (1,024), BPF (54), CPM (33), CPI (3), TMC (5), CPI-ML (4), NCP (3) and independent candidates  (2,717).  It bagged 1,025 AP member seats, followed by the Congress (771), AIUDF (136), AGP (118), CPM (1), TMC (1) and independent candidates (142). Similarly, the party won 212 ZP members followed by the Congress (147), AGP (19), AIUDF (26) and independents (16).  Altogether 734 candidates were declared elected unopposed, where the BJP had the highest number (380) followed by the Congress (193), AGP (28), AIUDF (10), BPF (5) and CPM (1). 117 independent candidates were also declared elected without opposition in the local elections.  Business-typhoon Badruddin Azmal led AIUDF emerged as a loser in the rural polls, as the party could not retain its vote share among the Bengali-Muslim families living in Assam.  The AGP also lost its support bases among the mainstream Assamese Hindus as the regional party tries to nurture Muslim vote banks in Brahmaputra valley.  However, the Congress recorded a good show in the polls as it succeeded attracting the Muslim voters than AIUDF and AGP. The century old party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi had proved that its influence over the State electorate was growing even after the last Assembly poll-debacle.
The ruling party achieved significant supports from voters in Kamrup (Metro), Kamrup, Majuli, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Charaideo, Dhemaji, Sonitpur, Sivasagar, Golaghat,  Nalbari and Cachar districts. The Congress did good in Jorhat, Morigaon, Barpeta, Karimganj, Dhubri, Hojai, Bongaigaon districts.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to thank the electorate of Assam for their support to his party in rural polls. In a twit, Modi also added, “Over the last few years, the BJP and the NDA family have become the preferred choice of the northeast. We consider it our privilege that we have the honour of fulfilling the aspirations of the northeast and taking the region to new heights of progress.” Even though Assam enacted the Panchayat Act in 1948 and later adopted Assam Panchayat Act 1994 after few amendments, the Panchayat elections in the State were irregular and in most of the time the ruling party ignores its responsibility to hold rural poll-exercises on time.
The BJP led government in Dispur  was also reluctant for the Panchayat polls putting the reason that its 50,000 employees were engaged in the updation process of National Register of Citizens following the directive of Supreme Court of India. But Gauhati High Court directed the authority for Panchayat polls and subsequently the exercise passed on  successfully.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma  made the Panchayat poll-campaigning more expensive as they used helicopters for attending the public meetings.  In their poll-speeches Sonowal  emerged critical to the Congress, where Sarma went on censuring all opposition political parties including their ally AGP too.
[The author is a Guwahati based political commentator]

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