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Himachal Pradesh

Modi poised for huge win in Gujarat, Congress wrests Himachal from BJP

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared set for a third straight term in office as the Bharatiya Janata Party headed towards a huge win in the state but it lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress as counting of votes progressed in the Assembly elections in both States today.

 
Counting begins in Gujarat, BJP secures early lead

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared set for a third straight term in office as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headed towards a huge win in the state but it lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress as counting of votes progressed in the Assembly elections in both states today.

As results and counting trends became available for all the 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly, the BJP had won 52 and was leading in 65 others, making for a total of 117 seats, the same number that it has in the outgoing house.
 
The Congress had won 27 seats and was leading in 32 others. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an ally of the Congress, had won two seats while the Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, was leading in one constituency. Other parties were ahead in three seats.
 
Adding to the Congress' misery in Gujarat, its state unit chief Arjun Modhwadia and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Shaktisinh Gohil lost their seats.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the ruling BJP conceded defeat as the Congress won 34 seats in the 68-member Assembly and was leading in two others. The BJP had won 23 and was ahead in another three, while others had won four and were leading in two more.
 
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal admitted his party had lost and congratulated the winners. He said the reasons for the BJP's defeat, despite his government's good record of governance, would be analysed at party fora in due course.
 
In Gujarat, Mr Modi retained his own seat, Maninagar, bagging 120440 votes against 34097 secured by his nearest rival, Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
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The controversial former Minister of State for Home, Mr Amit Shah of the BJP, won from Naranpura, garnering 103988 votes against the 40653 secured by his rival Jitubhai B Patel of the Congress.
 
In the Ellis Bridge constituency in Ahmedabad, Ms Jagruti Pandya, widow of assassinated former Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya, ended up in the third place. Ms Pandya, a candidate of the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) floated by former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, could muster only 9075 votes against Mr Raesh Shah of BJP, who got 106631 votes. Mr Kamleshkumar Shah of the Congress got 29959 votes.
 
Mr Modhwadia lost in Porbandar, getting only 60458 votes against the 77604 votes secured by Mr Babubhai Bokhiria of the BJP. Mr Gohil lost from Bhavnagar (Rural) to Mr Purshottam Solanki of the BJP. Mr Solanki got 83980 votes as against 65426 secured by Mr Gohil.
 
The BJP had won 117 seats in the Gujarat Assembly in the last elections in 2007, while the Congress had 59 seats.
 
Counting of votes began in both states at 0800 hours today and all the results are expected by this evening.
 
Elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly were held in two phases on December 13 and 17, when a record 71.3 per cent of the 38 million voters had exercised their franchise.
 
Polling for the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh assembly was held in a single phase on November 4, and about 74.7 per cent of the 4.60 million voters had cast their votes.
 
The supporters of Mr Modi, who has been in office since 2001, are hoping that, with yet another big win, he would be propelled to the centrestage of national politics and become the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
Exit polls had predicted a huge win for Mr Modi again this year, while they had given a slight edge in a close contest in Himachal Pradesh.
 
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Cabinet approves setting up of new AIIMS at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh

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The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for establishment of a new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY). 
 
The cost of the project is Rs. 1351 crore and it will be completed in a period of 48 months with a pre-construction phase of 12 months, construction phase of 30 months and stabilization and commissioning phase of six months, an official press release said.
 
The Institution will consist of a hospital with a capacity of 750 beds and trauma center facilities. It will have a medical college with an intake of 100 MBBS students per year, a nursing college with an intake of 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) students per year, residential complexes and allied facilities and services, broadly on the pattern of AIIMS, New Delhi.
 
The hospital will have 20 speciality and super-speciality departments including 15 operation theatres. It will also have an AYUSH department with 30 beds for providing treatment facilities in traditional systems of medicine, the release said.
 
Under this scheme, AIIMS have been established in Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Patna while work of AIIMS Rae Bareli is in progress. Also, three AIIMS in Nagpur (Maharashtra), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) have been sanctioned in 2015, two AIIMS have been sanctioned at Bathinda and Gorakhpur in 2016 and an AIIMS in Kamrup (Assam).
 
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BJP's Jai Ram Thakur sworn in as new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh

 
Jai Ram Thakur takes oath as 14th CM of Himachal Pradesh
Five-time legislator Jai Ram Thakur of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh at the head of a 12-member Council of Ministers.
 
Mr. Thakur, 52, and the 11 other Ministers were administered the oaths of office and secrecy by Governor Acharya Devvrat at a ceremony at the historic Ridge Ground here.
 
The Ministers who were sworn in are Suresh Bhardwaj, Anil Sharma, Govind Thakur, Mahender Singh, Sarveen Chaudhary, Ram Lal Markandaye, Vipin Parmar, Rajeev Saijal, Bikram Thakur, Kishan Kapoor and Virender Kanwar.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of several BJP-ruled States were present on the occasion.
 
Mr. Thakur's family, including his 80-year-old mother, and hundreds of BJP workers and others were also present.
 
Mr. Thakur has become the 14th Chief Minister of the State, though only the sixth person to hold the position because some of the previous Chief Ministers have served multiple terms.
 
He has succeeded Mr. Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, who has had five terms as Chief Minister. The BJP had named two-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial candidate, but he ended up losing the elections, in which polling was held on November 9 and votes were counted on December 18.
 
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Power has alternated between the Congress and the BJP in Himachal Pradesh in recent decades. In the elections this time, the BJP wrested power from the Congress by winning 44 seats in the 68-member State Legislative Assembly. The Congress ended up with just 21 seats, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) got one and two seats went to independent candidates.
 
Mr. Thakur was elected as the leader of the BJP Legislature Party here at a meeting of the party's newly elected legislators on December 24.
 
Born on January 6, 1965, Mr. Thakur has an M. A. from Punjab University. He has been a member of the state legislative assembly since 1998 and had served as Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj in the Prem Kumar Dhumal government during 2007-12.
 
He was active in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP, during the 1980s and became the president of the State BJP Yuva Morcha during 1993-95. He was president of the state BJP during 2006-09.
 
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BJP retains Gujarat with reduced numbers, wrests HP from Congress

The BJP on Monday extended its 22-year reign in Gujarat for another term and wrested power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

 
BJP workers celebrate as party heads for wins in Gujarat, HP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today extended its 22-year reign in Gujarat for another term and wrested power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
In Gujarat, the BJP ended up with 99 seats in the 182-member assembly, lower than the 115 seats it had won in the last elections in 2012 and the 111 seats that the mean of alll exit polls had given it and much below the party's oft-repeated claim through the campaign that it would win 150 seats.
 
The Congress finished with 77 seats, and drew satisfaction from the fact that it had significantly improved its tally from 61 in 2012 and more than the 70 seats that the exit polls had given it.
 
Of the remaining six seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won one seat, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) two seats and Independents three.
 
The BTP, headed by former JD (U) MLA Chotubhai Vasava is an ally of the Congress, while one of the Independents, Jignesh Mewani, a Dalit activist, was backed by the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where power has, in the last few decades, alternated between the two parties every five years, the BJP bagged 44 seats in the 68-member House. The ruling Congress won 20 and was ahead in one more, making a total of 21. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) won one seat and one Independent candidate had won a seat and another was in the lead.
 
The BJP had won 115 seats and the Congress 61 in the last Assembly elections in Gujarat in 2012, when the Chief Minister of the State was Mr. Narendra Modi, who went on to become the Prime Minister of the country in May, 2014.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress had won 36 of the 68 seats in the 2012 elections and the BJP 26.
 
For the Congress, though it ended up on the losing side, the Gujarat performance will considerably boost the confidence of its new president Rahul Gandhi and the entire party as it begins preparations for equally important elections in various states before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.
 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani won from Rajkot (West) with a huge margin of 53,755 votes over Indranil Rajyaguru of the Congress, the richest candidate in the elections, while Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel won by 7137 votes over his nearest rival, Jivabhai Patel of the Congress in Mehsana. 
 
Gujarat BJP chief Jitendra Vaghani won from Bhavnagar West by a margin of 27,185 votes against Dilipsinh Gohil of the Congress but his colleague and former Minister Jayanarayan Vyas lost to Chandanjit Thakor by 17,260 votes in Sidhpur.
 
Senior Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil lost from Mandvi, Arjun Modhvadia from Porbandar and Siddharth Patel, son of former Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel, from Dabhoi.
 
Alpesh Thakor, the OBC leader who joined the Congress just ahead of the elections, won from Radhanpur, while Dalit activist Jignesh Mewani, who contested from Vadgam as an independent candidate with the support of the Congress, also sailed through.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, while the BJP scored a resounding win, its chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost to Rajinder Rana of the Congress by 2933 votes in Sujanpur.
 
Outgoing Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh won from Arki and his son Vikramaditya Singh emerged victorious from Shimla Rural.
 
Counting of votes began at 8 am in the two states.  The BJP took an early lead, but it had a scare for a brief while around mid-morning when the Congress suddenly surged ahead before the ruling party regained its lead.
 
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Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
The elections were seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat. In particular, the Congress kept up the focus on demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) as well as on issues like jobs, education and healthcare.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party on December 16. Mr. Gandhi can look back with satisfaction on a fairly well-crafted campaign that seemed to have rattled the BJP at one stage before Mr. Modi flew in for the last few days and managed to garner considerable support for his party by citing alleged insulting remarks made by Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar of the Congress against him, a son of Gujarat, and also a dinner hosted by the former Union Minister for former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. Mr. Modi suggested at election meetings that there was something conspiratorial about the gathering at which dignitaries like former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari, former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, former Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor, several former diplomats and senior journalists were also present.
 
Questions were also raised about Mr. Gandhi's visits to dozens of temples across Gujarat during the campaign and whether he is a Hindu or not, and when the Congress President asserted that he indeed was one, the BJP promptly accused him of practising "soft Hindutva". 
 
As the Congress and its spokespersons tied themselves up in knots on these and other issues, the campaign was over. On the last day of the campaign, the local authorities denied permission for road shows planned in Ahmedabad by both Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi. Mr. Gandhi addressed a press conference, and Mr. Modi took a much-publicised seaplane ride to the famous Ambaji temple from the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad.
 
On the eve of the second phase of polling on December 13, the Election Commission stepped in and stopped television channels from telecasting interviews with Mr. Gandhi. On the day of polling, Mr. Modi seemed to stage a short road show and the Congress protested loudly to the Election Commission. By then, of course, the elections were over.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the exit polls gave 48 seats to the BJP and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
While the BJP made every effort during the campaign to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. 
 
With today's win, the BJP or its allies are now in power in 19 states across the country, while the Congress has only two major states -- Karnataka and Punjab -- in its kitty, apart from Union Territories such as Puducherry.
 
Many of these states, including Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Assam, have been won since Mr. Modi became Prime Minister in May 2014 and Mr. Amit Shah took over as BJP President. It is sharing power with senior partner PDP in Jammu and Kashmir.
 
It lost Delhi and Bihar, but then managed to get back JD (U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar back on its side after he ended the ruling alliance with the RJD and the Congress. The BJP and JD (U) are now in a coalition government in Bihar.
 
The party is now in power in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Goa, though it could not make any progress in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. Earlier this year, it lost Punjab after sharing power with senior partner Shiromani Akali Dal for ten years.
 
Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram are some of the states that will go to the polls ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
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BJP leads in Gujarat, heads for big win in HP

The BJP was poised to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat for another term and set to wrest power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed on Monday in the elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

 
BJP workers celebrate as party heads for wins in Gujarat, HP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was poised to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat for another term and was set to wrest power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed today in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
As counting trends poured in all 182 constituencies in Gujarat, the BJP had won 84 seats and was ahead in 15 more, adding up to 99 seats. The Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, had won 70 and was leading in 7 more, taking its likely tally to 77 seats.
 
Of the remaining six seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had won one seat, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) two seats and Independents had won one seat and were ahead in two others. The BTP, headed by former JD (U) MLA Chotubhai Vasava is an ally of the Congress, as is independent Jignesh Mewani, a Dalit activist, who was backed by the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where power has, in the last few decades, alternated between the two parties every five years, the BJP had won 23 seats and was ahead in 21 more, adding up to 44. The ruling Congress had won 14 and was ahead in seven more, making a total of 21. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) won one seat and one independent candidate had won and another was in the lead.
 
The BJP had won 115 seats and the Congress 61 in the last Assembly elections in Gujarat in 2012, when the Chief Minister of the State was Mr. Narendra Modi, who went on to become the Prime Minister of the country in May, 2014.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress had won 36 of the 68 seats in the 2012 elections and the BJP 26.
 
The trends so far have made it clear that the BJP is nowhere close to achieving its 2012 tally of 115 seats in Gujarat or the average figure of 111 projected by various exit polls on Thursday, at the end of the second and final phase of polling in the state. The tally is also much lower than the 150 seats that its leaders claimed they would win during the election campaign.
 
For the Congress, though it ended up on the losing side, it has improved its 2012 tally significantly and, to that extent, the Gujarat performance will considerably boost the confidence ot its new president Rahul Gandhi and the entire party as it begins preparations for equally important elections before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.
 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani won from Rajkot (West) with a huge margin of 53,755 votes over Indranil Rajyaguru of the Congress, the richest candidate in the elections, while Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel was leading by more than 8,000 votes over his nearest rival, Jivabhai Patel of the Congress in Mehsana. 
 
Gujarat BJP chief Jitendra Vaghani won from Bhavnagar West by a margin of 27185 votes against Dilipsinh Gohil of the Congress but his colleague and former Minister Jayanarayan Vyas lost to Chandanjit Thakor by 17260 votes in Sidhpur.
 
Senior Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil lost from Mandvi, Arjun Modhvadia from Porbandar and Siddharth Patel, son of former Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel, from Dabhoi.
 
Alpesh Thakor, the OBC leader who joined the Congress just ahead of the elections, won from Radhanpur, while Dalit activist Jignesh Mewani, who contested from Vadgam as an independent candidate with the support of the Congress, also sailed through.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, while the BJP scored a resounding win, its chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost to Rajinder Rana of the Congress by 2933 votes in Sujanpur.
 
Outgoing Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh won from Arki and his son Vikramaditya Singh emerged victorious from Shimla Rural.
 
Counting of votes began at 8 am in the two states and all the results are expected to be in by late this evening. The BJP took an early lead, but it had a scare for a brief while mid-morning when the Congress suddenly surged ahead before the ruling party before it regained its lead.
 
Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
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The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party on December 16.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the exit polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
While the BJP made every effort during the campaign to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats in Gujarat, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad last Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
In Himachal Pradesh, five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
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BJP leads in Gujarat, heads for comfortable win in Himachal Pradesh

The BJP had established a comfortable lead in Gujarat and was poised to wrest power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed today in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

 
BJP workers celebrate as party heads for wins in Gujarat, HP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had established a comfortable lead in Gujarat and was poised to wrest power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh with a big win as counting of votes progressed today in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
In Gujarat, the BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, was ahead in 99 of the 182 seats, while the Congress was leading in 71.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where power has, in the last few decades, alternated between the two parties, the opposition BJP had surged ahead in 37 of the 68 seats, while the ruling Congress was leading in 22 constituencies.
 
The BJP had won 115 seats and the Congress 61 in the last Assembly elections in Gujarat in 2012, when the Chief Minister of the State was Mr. Narendra Modi, who went on to become the Prime Minister of the country in May, 2014.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress had won 36 of the 68 seats in the 2012 elections and the BJP 26.
 
Counting of votes began at 8 am in the two states and all the results are expected to be in by this evening.
 
Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party on December 16.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, and 70 to the Congress.
 
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In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the exit polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
While the BJP made every effort during the campaign to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats in Gujarat, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad last Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
In Himachal Pradesh, five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
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Counting of votes begins in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections

Counting of votes began on Monday morning in the crucial elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the results of which are expected to have a major bearing on national politics in the run-up to the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

 
Counting of votes began this morning in the crucial elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the results of which are expected to have a major bearing on national politics in the run-up to the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
 
Officials at counting centres across the two states began the process of counting of the votes at 8 am and all the results are expected to be out by this evening.
 
Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party on December 16.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the exit polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
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While the BJP made every effort during the campaign to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats in Gujarat, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad last Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
In Himachal Pradesh, five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Of the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Counting of votes in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh on Monday

Counting of votes will be taken up in the crucial elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh on Monday morning and all the results are expected to be in by evening.

 
Counting of votes will be taken up in the crucial elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh tomorrow morning and all the results are expected to be in by evening.
 
Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
The results of the elections will have a major bearing on national politics in the run-up to the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party yesterday.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
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Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
While the BJP made every effort to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats in Gujarat, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad last Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
In Himachal Pradesh, five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Of the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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IMD forecasts widespread rainfall, snowfall over J&K, Himachal during next 24 hours

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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) today said that fairly widespread rainfall or snowfall was very likely over Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh during the next 24 hours under the influence of a fresh Western disturbance as an upper air cyclonic circulation over Pakistan and neighbourhood.
 
A press release from the IMD said that, under the influence of the above system, scattered rainfall was also very likely over Uttarakhand during the next 24 hours.
 
The release said the minimum temperatures were likely to fall by 3-5 C during the next four days, thereby resulting in cold wave conditions over Jammu division, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat from December 16 to 18.
 
It said dense to very dense fog was very likely at many places over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and north Rajasthan on December 14 and at a few places over the same region on December 15, especially during morning hours.
 
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74% polling recorded in Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections

 
Himachal assembly polls: Voters queue up to cost their ballot
More than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters turned up to exercise their franchise in the single phase polling held today to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh, official sources said.
 
Election Commission officials said the final voting percentage was expected to be slightly hour because there were queues of voters at several polling stations when polling ended at 5pm.
 
Polling had begun at 8 am amidst tight security, and was by and large peaceful in all constituencies, with no untoward incident reported from anywhere.
 
Himachal Pradesh had recorded 73.51 percent polling during the last assembly elections in 2012 and 64.45 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender were eligible to exercise their franchise in today's polling.
 
In all, 337 candidates, including 19 women, were in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, had both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
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Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There were 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission had set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, today's election is the first time that VVPAT units had been deployed at all polling booths in a state.
 
The Commission had also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll, with more than 24,000 security personnel deployed across the state.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Polling begins in elections for new Himachal Pradesh Assembly

 
Himachal assembly polls: Voters queue up to cost their ballot
Polling began this morning amidst tight security to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The single-phase polling began at 8 am and will end at 5 pm in all 68 constituencies.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise in today's polling.
 
In all, 338 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, have both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There are 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission has set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, today's election is the first time that VVPAT units have been deployed at all polling booths in a state.
 
The Commission has also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Himachal Pradesh to vote on Thursday to elect new Assembly

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Polling will be held in a single phase amidst tight security tomorrow to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise in tomorrow's polling.
 
In all, 338 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, have both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There are 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission has set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, tomorrow's election will be the first time that VVPAT units will be deployed at all booths in a state.
 
The Commission has also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Rahul Gandhi questions Modi's silence on corruption charges against BJP leaders

 
Rahul Gandhi hits out at Modi on corruption, jobs
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for remaining silent on allegations of corruption against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and accused him of only making long speeches while doing nothing on the real challenges facing the country such as joblessness.
 
Addressing a public meeting at Paonta Sahib, Sirmour in Himachal Pradesh ahead of the November 9 elections to the state legislative assembly, he said Mr. Modi had his own interpretation of a saying in the Bhagvad Gita and claimed credit for work done by others.
 
"The Gita says, 'you should do your work and not worry about the fruits of your labour', but Modiji has his own interpretation of this. He enjoys the fruits of others' labour and does not worry about doing any work," he said.
 
The meeting was the first of three that Mr. Gandhi was scheduled to address in the poll-bound state, a day after Mr. Modi addressed a series of meetings on Saturday in which he said that the absence of the top leadership of the Congress in the campaign so far indicated that the party had virtually accepted defeat and realised that it would not return to power here in the near future.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that his grandmother, late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, used to say that there are two types of people -- those who work silently and those who do not work but take credit. "She used to say that it is better to be in the first category, because there is less competition there," he said.
 
The Congress Vice-President said Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who, at 83, is seeking another term in office, belonged to the first category of silent workers who had done a lot of good work in the past five years in Himachal Pradesh.
 
He said the NITI Aayog had said that Himachal Pradesh was the least corrupt state in the country and that it was ranked number five in health and education infrastructure. He said Himachal Pradesh was at the top in cleanliness, electrification and had outperformed states like Gujarat in employment creation.
 
Ridiculing the BJP's claims about the success of the so-called "Gujarat model" of development, Mr. Gandhi cited official figures to say that Himachal Pradesh was far ahead on parameters such as creation of government jobs, unemployment allowance, opening of medical colleges, opening of government schools and colleges, widows pension, housing, health centres and so on. "This is Narendra Modi's Gujarat model, the Gujarat government does not do any work, but he makes long speeches," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the BJP government at the Centre and in the States ruled by it had failed to act on corruption charges against its leaders and its allies, and cited the examples of the alleged Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, the Lalit Modi case, the allegations against the Badals in Punjab, and the induction of tainted leaders such as Narayan Rane and Mukul Roy and readmission of former Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa into the BJP in recent times. "Modiji does not utter a word on these matters," he said.
 
Similarly, he questioned Mr. Modi's silence on the recent allegations against BJP President Amit Shah's son Jay Shah.
 
"Modiji had said 'Na Khaoonga, Na Khaane Doonga. He had said that he was a 'chowkidaar'. You are not a 'chowkidaar' but a 'bhaagidaar'," he said.
 
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Mr. Gandhi, who has also been campaigning extensively in Gujarat, where elections are due to be held on December 9 and 14, dwelt at length on affairs in that state and alleged that the BJP worked for only a few top industrialists while ignoring the aspirations of the poor, the youth, women, farmers, small traders and small and medium industries.
 
He also spoke about the November 8, 2016 demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes and the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) from July 1 this year, and said the two moves had inflicted huge suffering on the common man and caused incalculable losses for small traders, SMEs, farmers and the whole economy.
 
Mr. Gandhi alleged that demonetisation had helped some people to convert thousands of crores of rupees of black money into white.
 
On GST, he said that if his party were voted to power at the Centre in the 2019 elections it would carry out major changes in the GST system to bring it in line with what the Congress had originally intended to implement during its tenure.
 
Mr. Gandhi also said that creation of jobs was the single biggest challenge before India and on which the Government should focus. He said China was creating 50,000 new jobs every day, while India was creating only 450 jobs every day. "What China is doing in just two days, India does in one year," he said, reminding the people that Mr. Modi had, in the run-up to the 2014 elections, promised that he would create 2 crore jobs a year.
 
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BJP names Prem Kumar Dhumal as its Chief Ministerial nominee in Himachal Pradesh

 
Amit Shah names Dhumal as BJP's CM face in HP
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah has named former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal as the party's chief ministerial nominee ahead of the  crucial November 9 elections to the state legislative assembly.
 
Mr. Shah made the announcement about Mr. Dhumal at an election rally in Himachal Pradesh yesterday.
 
Mr. Dhumal, 73, who has served twice as Chief Minister of the state and three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha, representing Hamirpur, is widely credited with having expanded the BJP's base in Himachal Pradesh in the last two decades.
 
He will turn 74 in April, 2018, when he will be just a year short of the BJP's unofficial cut-off age of 75 for its leaders to retire from occupying ministerial positions. The rule has been applied both at the Centre and in the States.
 
Referring to Chief Minister and Congress leader Virbhadra Singh's repeated questions to the BJP as to who its chief ministerial nominee is, Mr. Shah said that, across the entire country, the party was fighting under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
"But if you want to know under whose leadership the BJP is contesting in Himachal Pradesh, then I want to make it clear today. Vibhadraji, the BJP will fight under Dhumalji’s leadership in Himachal. I want to say that we will fight these 2017 polls in the name of our senior leader Dhumalji. I also want to say that Dhumalji is currently a former chief minister and the leader of the opposition, but after December 18 he will be the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh."
 
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Mr. Dhumal, currently the leader of the Opposition in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, has served as Chief Minister from March 24, 1998 to March 5, 2003 and then from January 1, 2008 to December 25, 2012.
 
The party had initially decided to go to the polls without a chief ministerial face, but it has changed its strategy with just nine days to go for the polls. There was speculation at one stage that Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda could be its chief ministerial candidate.
 
Mr. Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur, former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is currently serving his third term as a member of the Lok Sabha from Hamirpur.
 
"Dhumal Ji is among our senior most leaders with rich administrative experience in Himachal. He will once again make a wonderful CM," Prime Minister Modi said on Twitter.
 
"BJP’s focus is politics of development. We want to make Himachal corruption-free & initiate record development initiatives in the state," he added.
 
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Sonia Gandhi admitted to Delhi hospital with upset stomach

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Congress President Sonia Gandhi was admitted to the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here this evening after suffering a stomach upset while on a private visit to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh.
 
"Mrs Sonia Gandhi has been brought to the hospital today evening at 5 pm. She has been found to be suffering from stomach infection," a brief statement issued by Dr. D. S. Rana, Chairman of the hospital's Board of Management, said.
 
"Mrs Gandhi has been admitted for observation," he added.
 
Sources said Mrs. Gandhi was flown into Delhi from Shimla in an air ambulance.
 
"Ma was in Shimla & caught a stomach bug so we got her back. Nothing to worry, she's much better. Thanks for the tremendous love and concern," Congress Vice-President and Mrs. Gandhi's son Rahul Gandhi said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
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Two minor earthquakes shake Mandi, Chamba regions of Himachal Pradesh

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Two earthquakes of slight intensity shook the Mandi and Chamba regions of Himachal Pradesh today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
An IMD bulletin said the first quake, measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale, shook the Mandi region at 0807 hours. It had its epicentre at latitude 31.3°N and longitude 77.2°E and occurred at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
The second tremor, measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale, occurred in the Chamba area at 1424 hours. It had its epicentre at latitude 32.5°N and longitude 76.4°E, and occurred at a focal depth of 10 km, the bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Mandi region of Himachal Pradesh

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale, shook the Mandi region of Himachal Pradesh this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 31.3°N and longitude 77.2°E, occurred at 0807 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections to be held on November 9

Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti along with Election Commissioners O.P. Rawat and Sunil Arora addressing the press conference in New Delhi on October 12, 2017.
Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti along with Election Commissioners O.P. Rawat and Sunil Arora addressing the press conference in New Delhi on October 12, 2017.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) today said general elections would be held in a single phase on November 9 to elect a new Legislative Assembly in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018 and the Commission is required to hold elections to constitute the new assembly before expiry of its present term.
 
The notification for the elections would be issued on October 16 and the last date for filing nominations is October 23. Nominations will be scrutinised on October 24 and the last date for withdrawal of candidatures is October 26.
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly are also due, but the Commission has not announced dates for them, but Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti told newspersons today that they would be held before December 18.
 
"Polling in Gujarat will take place before December 18 so that in no way the results of Himachal can affect the voting in Gujarat. We will, in a few days, announce the dates for Gujarat elections, but I can say for sure that voting in Gujarat will happen before December 18," he said.
 
There are 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assemby, of which 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. While five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, is expected to be the Chief Minsiterial candidate of the Congress, the BJP is making a strong bid to return to power in the state.
 
The release said the electoral rolls of all the existing Assembly Constituencies in Himachal Pradesh are being revised, with reference to 01.01.2017 as the qualifying date. 
 
The total number of electors in the state, as per the final roll on September 15, 2017, is 49,05,677 (49.05 lakh). Photo electoral rolls will be used during the elections. The Commission will set up 7479 polling stations for the elections.
 
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The Commission has directed that, to the extent possible, all-women managed polling stations shall be set up in two polling stations for each Assembly constituency where the entire polling staff, including the police and security personnel, shall be women. A total of 136 women-managed polling stations will be set up in the state for the first time.
 
The poll in the state will be conducted at all polling stations using electronic voting machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units.
 
As in recent elections, there will be a button below the name of the last candidate on the balloting unit for NOTA (None of the above) option so that electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their option by pressing the button against NOTA. The Commission has provided a new symbol for the NOTA option, which was designed by National Institute of Design (NID). 
 
In  order  to help electors  in  identifying candidates,  the Commission has prescribed an additional measure by way of adding provision for printing the photograph of candidate also on the ballot to be displayed on the EVM (Ballot Unit) and on Postal Ballot Papers. This will also help avoid likely confusion when candidates with same or similar names contest from the same constituency. 
 
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Virbhadra Singh to be Congress's CM candidate in HP: Rahul Gandhi

 
Unemployment is biggest challenge facing nation: Rahul Gandhi
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today kicked off his party's campaign for the elections to the Himachal Pradesh Legislation Assembly, expected to be held later this year, and announced that Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh would again be its chief ministerial candidate.
 
Addressing a public meeting at Mandi, Mr. Gandhi lashed out at the Narendra Modi government at the centre and accused it of causing untold misery to farmers, labourers and the youth because of its economic policies, especially demonetisation and the "hasty" implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST).
 
Mr. Gandhi dwelt at length on the issue of unemployment and said that the Prime Minister had failed to deliver on his promise of creating 2 crore jobs every year. He said that, at a time when about 30,000 youth were entering the job market every day, the government was able to provide only 450 jobs.
 
He said that, at a time when jobs were the single biggest challenge facing the country, it was said that a Union Minister, Mr. Piyush Goyal, had said that job losses were a good sign because it indicated that more youth were turning entrepreneurs.
 
Mr. Gandhi said anger was building up amongst the youth and farmers across the country because they saw no future for themselves under the present dispensation.
 
He said wherever the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power, farmer suicides were up as the government had failed to ensure a fair price for their produce.
 
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Mr. Gandhi said Mr. Modi talked about the "Gujarat model" of development and often claimed that his state was ahead of other states on various parameters. 
 
The Congress Vice-President went on to provide details of the Virbhadra Singh government's performance in Himachal Pradesh in the last five years and compared it with that of the BJP government in Gujarat. He said that on several parameters, such as creation of jobs, payment of unemployment allowance and opening of government schools, colleges and health centres, the performance of the Himachal Pradesh government was much better than that of the Gujarat government.
 
"Virbhadra Singhji, you spoke about how this was your sixth term as Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. You will be Chief Minister for the seven time. We will bring the Congress back to power in the state," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi urged the people to vote the Congress back to power in the state. 
 
He said a country like India could not be ruled by a person who did not listen to or take advice from anyone. He said India needed a leader who listened to the people's views and understood their aspirations.
 
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Modi lays foundation stones for AIIMS at Bilaspur, IIIT at Una in Himachal Pradesh

 
Modi lays foundation stones for AIIMS, IIIT in Himachal Pradesh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today laid the foundation stone for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The 750-bed hospital will be built at a cost of approximately Rs. 1350 crore, an official press release said.
 
In addition to healthcare, it will also provide medical education at the under-graduate and post-graduate level, besides nursing. The Prime Minister also unveiled a plaque to mark the launch of Digital Nerve Centres for primary healthcare. 
 
Mr. Modi also laid the foundation stone for the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), at Una. 
 
He also inaugurated a Steel Processing Unit of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), at Kandrori, Kangra. 
 
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Minor earthquake recorded in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale, shook Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) steps.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 32.5°N and longitude 76.7°E, occurred at 1632 hours at a focal depth of 5 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, shook the Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 32.8°N and longitude 76.2°E, occurred at 1636 hours at a focal depth of 5 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Solar technology to heat up homes in Zanskar Valley

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Scientists have fabricated solar panels that can withstand the harsh environmental conditions that prevail in the upper reaches of Himalayas. These panels have been deployed in the Zanskar Valley area to meet energy needs of people living there.
 
The panels have been designed to provide either warm water or help heat up the people’s homes. They work on the simple principle of solar energy absorption by black coated galvanised iron sheet and aluminum alloy pipe coil through a normal window glass to heat the water or the air. Each panel can heat 100 to 120 litres of water per day. The space heating panels can heat up the air and blow it into living spaces at temperatures of up to 65-70 degrees Celsius.
 
A total of 158 panels have been transported from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh traversing eight mountain passes including Tanglangla - the second highest pass in the world at an altitude of 17, 582 feet.
 
The project has been implemented by the Shimla-based Himalayan Research Group of the Ministry of Science and Technology, and Highland Agricultural Research and Extension Station at Padum, under the Technology Intervention for Mountain Ecosystem: Livelihood Enhancement through Action Research and Networking (TEAM-LEARN) programme.
 
At present, residents of the area use the dung from their livestock as the source of heat. Women had to spend nearly three to four hours every day. With the induction of the solar technology, this drudgery would be saved. In addition, it would mitigate the pollution problems caused by burning of dung indoors and help improve the productivity of their farms as the dung would be available as manure.
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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Jaitley, Javadekar appointed as BJP's election in-charges for Gujarat, Karnataka assembly polls

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Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Prakash Javadekar have been appointed as the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) in-charges for the coming legislative assembly elections in Gujarat and Karnataka, respectively.
 
A press release from the BJP said party president Amit Shah had also appointed Union Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot as the in-charge for the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls.
 
Mr. Jaitley will be assisted in Gujarat by Union Ministers Narendra Singh tomar, Nirmala Sitharaman, Jitendra Singh and P P Chaudhary as co-in-charges, the release said.
 
In Karnataka, the co-in-charge will be Union Minister Piyush Goyal, the release added.
 
While the crucial Assembly elections in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state, are expected to be held later this year, they are likely to be held early next year in Karnataka. The elections in Himachal Pradesh are also due later this year.
 
All three states will witness a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress. While the BJP is in power in Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh are ruled by the Congress.
 
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Two minor earthquakes shake Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh

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Two minor earthquakes shook the Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The first quake, measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale, had its epicentre at latitude 32.7°N and longitude 76.4 °E and occurred at 0853 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
The second tremor, measuring 4.1 on teh Richter scale, had its epicentre at latitude 32.7°N and longitude 76.3 °E and occurred at 0856 hours at a depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
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