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West Bengal

Extremely severe cyclone Fani to hit Odisha coast on Friday afternoon

The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, on Friday afternoon, the India Meteorological Department said on Thursday.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, tomorrow afternoon, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said here today.
 
The IMD has already issued a cyclone warning for the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal and Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh.
 
In a bulletin issued at 1230 hours today, the IMD said Fani had moved further north-northeastwards with a speed of about 16 kmph in the previous six hours and lay centred at 1130 hours IST near latitude 16.7°N and longitude 84.8°E, about 360 km south-southwest of Puri (Odisha), 190 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and 550 km south-southwest of Digha (West Bengal). 
 
"It is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross Odisha Coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri by the afternoon of 3rd May with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph," the bulletin said.
 
The cyclone is being tracked by Doppler Weather Radars Vishakhapatnam & Machilipatnam.
 
The bulletin said light to moderate rainfall would occur over most places in North Andhra Pradesh with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts and isolated heavy to extremely heavy falls (>20 cm) over Srikakulam district today.
 
There could be heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over Srikakulam district tomorrow, it said.
 
In  south coastal and adjoining interior Odisha, the IMD said there could be light to moderate rainfall at most places today, with heavy to very heavy rainfall and extremely heavy falls over Ganjam & Gajapati districts at isolated places.
 
"It is likely to increase with moderate rainfall at most places and heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places over coastal Odisha and adjoining districts of interior Odisha on 3rd. Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places over Balasore, Mayurbhanj districts of north Odisha on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin also forecast light to light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places very likely over coastal and adjoining districts of West Bengal tomorrow; and heavy to very falls at isolated places over Gangetic West Bengal on May 4.
 
"Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy falls at isolated places over sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin said Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya would experience light to moderate rainfall at most places, with isolated heavy to very heavy falls on May 4 and 5. There could be isolated extremely heavy falls over Assam and Meghalaya on May 4.
 
There could also light to moderate rainfall at many places over Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura on May 4, with isolated heavy falls.
 
The bulletin said gale winds, with speed reaching 180-190 kmph, gusting to 210 kmph, were very likely to prevail over westcentral Bay of Bengal around the system centre during the next 24 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
It said squally winds, with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely to prevail along and off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha Coasts and become gale wind, speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph, from tonight. It is very likely to become 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph, along and off south Odisha and adjoining north Andhra Pradesh (Srikakulam district) coasts; and 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph along and off remaining districts of coastal Odisha and north Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram Districts) by tomorrow forenoon for the subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
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"Squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is very likely along & off West Bengal coast from 2nd May evening. It is very likely become gale wind speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph from 3rd May afternoon and become 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph from 4th May early morning for subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter," it said.
 
The sea condition will be phenomenal over westcentral Bay of Bengal, off north Andhra Pradesh coasts, till tomorrow and over northwest Bay of Bengal off Odisha and West Bengal till May 4.
 
Sea conditions are very likely to be very rough to high off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, along and off south Andhra Pradesh coasts till May 3.
 
The bulletin warned that storm surge of 1.5 metre height above astronomical tide was very likely to inundate low-lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha at the time of landfall.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into deep sea areas and those out in deep sea in the above aeas were advised to return to the coasts.
 
The bulletin said the cyclone could cause extensive damage to kutcha houses and old pucca and badly managed pucca structures in Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha.
 
It said there could be extensive uprooting of communication and  power poles. There could also be disruption of rail and road links and extensive damage to standing crops, plantations and orchards. Large boats and ships may get torn from their moorings.
 
The IMD suggested total suspension of fishing operations, extensive evacuation of people from coastal areas, and diversion or suspension of rail and road traffic. People in affected areas have been advised to remain indoors.
 
The cyclone could also cause damage, on a lesser scale, in Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Balasore districts of Odisha and east and west Medinipur, south and north 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogli, Kolkata districts of West Bengal and Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh, the bulletin added.
 
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Opposition slams Modi government at Mamata rally, calls for BJP ouster

Leaders of more than 20 opposition parties attended a massive rally in Kolkata organised by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and joined her in giving a clarion call for the ouster of the BJP government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre in the coming elections.
 
TMC rally: Opposition unites in a show of strength
Leaders of more than 20 opposition parties attended a massive rally in Kolkata organised by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) Chairperson Mamata Banerjee and joined her in giving a clarion call for the ouster of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre in the coming elections.
 
All the leaders who were present at the "United India Rally", which attracted thousands of people, spoke of the problems being faced by the poor and vulnerable sections across the country because of the present regime's policies and measures and urged the people to vote it out in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
Ms. Banerjee also said the question about the Prime Ministerial candidate could be decided later, stressing the immediate task was for all of them to come together and oust the BJP from power.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) did not attend the rally but sent their representatives. Mr. Gandhi also sent a message in which he extended his support to "Mamata Di" on the show of unity and hoped that they send a powerful message of a united India together.
 
"Across India, there are powerful forces afoot. Forces that are fanned by the anger and disappointment of hundreds of millions of Indians who have seen through the false promises and lies peddled by the Modi government," he said in the message.
 
"These forces are moved by the hope of a new tomorrow; a tomorrow filled with the idea of an India in which  the voice of every man, woman and child will be heard and respected no matter what their religion, economic status or region.
 
"The entire opposition is united in our belief that true nationalism and development can only be defended on the tested pillars of democracy, social justice and secularism, ideas that the BJP and Mr. Modi are intent on destroying.
 
"We commend the great people of Bengal who have historically been at the forefront of defending our ideas," he said.
 
Those present at the rally included former Prime Minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) chief H D Deve Gowda, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Singhvi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, Karnataka Chief Minister and JD-S leader H D Kumaraswamy, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmy Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav,  former Union Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers and National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang.
 
Others present included Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) chief Sharad Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M K Stalin,  Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, senior BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra, former BJP Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Ram Jethmalani, dissident BJP MP and actor Shatrughna Sinha, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhary, Patidar leader Hardik Patel, Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Hemant Soren.
 
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"A new dawn is coming. We have taken the pledge to work together," Ms. Banerjee told the huge crowd.
 
"Some people are trying to destroy the country. As Arvind Kejriwal said, what Pakistan could not do in 70 years, the Government at Centre managed to do in just five years. They have managed to drive a wedge between communities. They have destroyed all the institutions. They have started politics of hate. They have destroyed the country’s economy," she said.
 
"Jan Dhan, NPA, Rafale, insurance are big scams. There are other big scams as well. Those who are dishonest are preaching about integrity. They are talking about honesty? How much money did they have five years ago and how did their wealth increase? I don’t want to make personal comments but they initiated it. I believe in politics of courtesy but they do not care about it. They crossed the Lakxman Rekha. They tried to implicate Sonia ji, Lalu ji, Akhilesh, Mayawati ji and even me. Why will they expect to be spared?" she asked.
 
"People are asking who will be the leader. There is no dearth of leaders here. Their party is leaderless, so there is just one Prime Minister. In our gathbandhan, we all are leaders, we all are workers, we all are the subjects and we all are the kings. This is democracy. We will later finalise who will be the Prime Minister. The time has not yet come," she said.
 
"Enough of Achhe Din, it is time to bid goodbye to BJP. It is time for change at Centre. For the sake of youths, farmers, labourers, and people of the country, we have to defeat the BJP," shhe said.
 
"We are against divisive politics. We are against hate. We do not want bloodlust. We are against discrimination. We want constructive politics, not destructive agenda.
 
"Hindu stands for sacrifice, Muslims represent integrity. Christians stand for love and Sikhs represent validaan. This is our country. A person who can work for all, without discrimination, will be the leader of the nation," she said.
 
Addressing the rally, Congress leader Kharge appealed to all parties to unite to save the Constitution and democracy. He said the BJP had promised two crore jobs every year, but has only helped its corporate friends.
 
"A rainbow of 22 parties is replacing dark clouds hovering over the country," Mr. Abhishek Singhvi said.
 
Mr. Chandrababu Naidu said Mr. Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had betrayed the nation. He said the public mandate that brought them to power also had the strength to overthrow them.
 
"If BJP tries to victimize our leaders and harass the public, it will pay a heavy price. We will fight fearlessly to save democracy," he said.
 
"All the leaders forming the Mahagathbandhan have one ambition, ‘Save India, Save Democracy'. Since coming to power, the BJP govt has used every strategy to divide the people. We have united India and a new Prime Minister will rise out of this union," he said.
 
Mr. Kumaraswamy said the government at the Centre was headed by "undemocratic persons". He said demonetisation had hit the poor in the country hard, especially in the rural areas. He said it was sad that the Union Government had turned a deaf ear to the needs and woes of the people.
 
Mr. Stalin said the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would be the second war of independence. He said Mr. Modi was sure that he would not get a second term as Prime Minister and that is way he was fiercely attacking the Opposition at every opportunity.
 
"He is afraid of our unity. We must come together to protect India," he said.
 
Dr. Farooq Abdullah said there was a need to save India from the BJP, which  was dividing people on religious lines. He said the parties present must fight the elections together, pointing out that the question of who should become the Prime Minister could be decided later.
 
Mr. Tejashwi Yadav said the opposition parties were united in their diversity and would not be scared by the government's intimidation tactics.
 
Mr. Arun Shourie said no Government had said so many lies or undermined institutions as the Modi regime had done. "We all should have one aim, of removing BJP from the Centre," he said. He said the Opposition must ensure a single candidate against the BJP in all constitutuencies and urged them to hold rallies in every corner of the country.
 
Mr. Yashwant Sinha said it was not about removing one man from power but about coming together to defeat an ideology.
 
Shatrughan Sinha said people kept asking him why he spoke against the BJP when he was still in the party. "The mood of the nation is for 'parivartan' (change). People want a new leader," he said.
 
"If speaking truth is rebellion then you should consider me a rebel. Along with truth, I also don't compromise with principles," he said.
 
Mr. Jayant Chaudhary said Ms. Banerjee had united the Opposition and said it was imperative to get rid of Mr. Modi from the Centre.
 
Hardik Patel, who was invited to be the first speaker, said, "Subhas Chandra Bose had given a slogan to fight against ‘goro’ (Britishers), we are fighting against ‘choro’ (thieves),” he said.
 
Mr. Jignesh Mevani said the country was facing an unprecedented crisis with the exploitation of the poor, minorities and Dalits under the present regime.
 
Mr. Pu Lalduhoma of Zoram Nationalist Party of Mizoram said minorities felt unsafe under the BJP-led NDA government.
 
Mr. Hemant Soren said the BJP must be uprooted from not just the Centre but the States, too.
 
Thousands of people turned up for the rally. The TMC put up flexes and posters with photographs of the visiting leaders on roads leading to the venue of the rally from the airport.
 
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Kolkata bridge collapse: Rescue operations on, suo motu case lodged

Rescue operations continue on Wednesday after a portion of a 40-year-old bridge collapsed in south Kolkata a day earlier, even as a suo motu case has been lodged against the persons responsible for the accident. Two persons are still reported missing.
 
Kolkata bridge collapse: rescue efforts on
 
 
Rescue operations continue on Wednesday after a portion of a 40-year-old bridge collapsed in south Kolkata a day earlier, even as a suo motu case has been lodged against the persons responsible for the accident. Two persons are still reported missing.
 
A part of the Majherhat Bridge between Taratala and Mominpur collapsed around 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday in south Kolkata, crushing a person to death and injuring 19 others.
 
"Two persons are still missing and a suo motu case has been lodged under IPC 304 and 308 against responsible persons," police said.
 
Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), fire brigade and personnel of disaster management teams are at the spot.
 
Cranes have been deployed and gas cutters are being used for the rescue operation. Three columns of army personnel are also present at the spot.
 
"Our team is still working on the rescue. Overnight and this morning, we tried to dig holes in the concrete slab decks that caved in to find out whether anyone is still trapped underneath.
 
"Cameras are also being used to find out what remains below the debris. Removing the rubble would take more time," a member of the rescue team said on Wednesday.
 
The West Bengal government has initiated a probe into the incident. "Investigations are going on. At this point, we cannot come to any conclusion regarding the possible reasons behind the accident," a member of the forensic team said.
 
Pedestrians and commuters in buses and cars who were on the collapsed structure were rescued.
 
The bridge was the main connector between central and southwest part of the city. Due to the partial collapse of the bridge, traffic has been diverted. Tram services on some routes have been withdrawn, a Kolkata Traffic Control official said.
 
Goods vehicles' movement has been restricted on some of the arterial roads between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
 
State government will pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Soumen Bagh, who died in the accident.
 
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State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said on Tuesday that heavy construction work of the metro project beside the collapsed bridge could have weakened its pillars.
 
City metro railway authority, however, ruled out any such possibility.
 
Amid blame game over the partial collapse of the bridge, the Eastern Railway said it was not conducting any maintenance work at the accident site.
 
However, experts said the bridge was very old and as such structural defect or use of inferior quality material cannot be cited as the reason for the collapse.
 
They said the bridge has been withstanding heavy vehicles for more than 40 years and that the only reason that may have triggered the collapse could be "lack of maintenance".
 
According to a state official, the 40-year-old bridge was constructed by the Kolkata Port Trust and maintained by State Public Works Department.
 
However, a Kolkata Port Trust official said it does not have any records that show the bridge was constructed by it.
 
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Heavy turnout of voters in first phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal, Assam

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security on Monday.
More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security today.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in both the states, with no major untoward incident reported from anywhere, official osurces said.
 
In West Bengal, voting was held today in 18 constituencies in Phase IA of polling. They include six seats in Paschim Medinipur, nine in Purulia and three in Bankura district.
 
These constituencies have a total electorate of 40,09,171 voters, including 20,47,202 men and 19,57,453 women. There are 4500 service electors in these constituencies.
 
There were a total of 133 candidates in these constituencies, including 11 women.
 
The Election Commission had set up 4945 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth poll in these constituencies.
 
As many as 65 constituencies went to the polls in the first phase of voting in Assam. There were 566 candidates in all, including 44 women. Prominent candidates in the fray included Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress, who is seeking a fourth conseccutive term, and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
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16 dead, 63 injured as under-construction flyover collapses in Kolkata

At least 16 persons died and 63 others suffered injuries when an under-construction flyover, which has been more than six years in the making, collapsed in the busy and congested Bura Bazaar area of north Kolkata on Thursday.
 
Kolkata: 10 dead in under-construction bridge collapse
 
At least 16 persons died and 63 others suffered injuries when an under-construction flyover, which has been more than six years in the making, collapsed in the busy and congested Bura Bazaar area of north Kolkata today.
 
Police sources told NetIndian that the 16 dead included 14 men and two women, all of whom were crushed under the tonnes of concrete and steel that came crashing on them around 1215 pm today without any warning.
 
They said nearly 60 others had been taken to various hospitals in the city for treatment of injuries.
 
Officials feared the number of casualties could increase as search and rescue teams made their way through the mangled steel and concrete through the night.
 
Army personnel and teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) joined the local police, the fire brigade, other agencies and hundreds of volunteers in a massive rescue effort with specialised equipment, sniffer dogs and so on.
 
Several people were feared trapped below the debris of the bridge and frantic efforts were being made to reach them without loss of time. As people dug through the rubble, they found cars, taxis and other vehicles trapped under the concrete.
 
Hundreds of people of the locality and passers-by rushed to the spot and began trying to remove the debris with their bare hands, using whatever equipment they could lay their hands on, even as the authorities made arrangements to rush cranes, gas cutters and other machinery as well as ambulancesto the scene. 
 
Scores of witnesses told journalists at the scene that they heard a loud rumble and then a massive thud as the huge bridge suddenly came down without any warning.
 
Footage from a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera in the area showed people going about their normal business and traffic moving as usual under the flyover when it suddenly came crashing down.
 
Traffic in the entire area came to a total standstill and there were traffic snarls in several nearby areas as a consequence.
 
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was campaigning for the state assembly elections outside Kolkata, rushed back to the state capital and visited the scene of the tragedy.
 
She said stringent action would be taken against officials of the construction company, the Hyderabad-based IVRCL Limited, or any others found guilty of negligence.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently in the United States on an official visit, took stock of the situation and expressed shock and grief over the incident.
 
“Shocked and saddened by collapse of under construction flyover in Kolkata. Took stock of the situation and rescue operations. 
 
"My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in Kolkata. May the injured recover at the earliest," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was touring West Bengal as part of the BJP's election campaign, asked the Director General, NDRF, Mr. O.P.Singh, to rush rescue teams to the spot.
 
An official press release said seven NDRF teams had been deputed to the site and two more teams were being mobilized for the rescue operations.
 
"I am deeply saddened to know that precious lives have been lost in the Kolkata accident," he added.
 
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Modi invokes spirit of Team India; says Centre, states must work together

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday described the Central government and the 29 state governments in the country as "30 pillars of Team India" which would together take the country forward.
 
Delhi alone will not run nation: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today described the Central government and the 29 state governments in the country as "30 pillars of Team India" which would together take the country forward.
 
Addressing a public meeting after dedicating to the nation the 2.5 million tonne modernised and expanded IISCO steel plant at Burnpur in West Bengal, he mentioned various instances of cooperative federalism of recent months, including the setting up of the NITI Aayog, and the devolution of additional revenues to the States through acceptance of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. 
 
He also mentioned that the decades-old land boundary issue between India and Bangladesh had been successfully resolved through the same spirit of Team India, with all state governments concerned and political parties coming together to support a solution of the problem.
 
He said the nation would move ahead faster when the Centre and the states worked together.
 
"Sadly Centre-State relations were tensed for a long time. I have been Chief Minister for a long time and I know that such behaviour will not be good. We have brought in a change, we focused on co-operative federalism. Delhi alone will not run the nation," he said.
 
"India will not change without a 'Team India'. The Prime Minister and Chief Ministers are one team that will take India ahead. The nation is bigger than any party," he said.
 
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Mr Modi said the time had now come for India to address the issue of "geographical imbalance" along with the economic and social imbalances. He said that eastern India, too, should develop as fast as western India is developing, and for that, development of West Bengal is essential. 
 
"The eastern part of India has immense potential. The people are also skilled," he said.
 
He said District Mineral Foundations would be set up to help speed up progress and welfare of the poor in mineral-rich districts. He said that, within a year, the atmosphere of gloom in the country had lifted, and all global rating agencies were now agreed that India is among the world's fastest growing economies.
 
"A year ago the world had a different perception about India. Now the world says in one voice that India is a fast growing economy," he added.
 
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Modi "deeply concerned", asks for report on Nadia nun's gang-rape, Hisar church attack

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced deep concern about the alleged gangrape of an elderly nun at Nadia in West Bengal recentlyand the attack on a church at Hisar in Haryana and sought an immediate report on the incidents.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced deep concern about the alleged gangrape of an elderly nun at Nadia in West Bengal recentlyand the attack on a church at Hisar in Haryana and sought an immediate report on the incidents.
 
"PM is deeply concerned about the incidents in Hisar, Haryana and Nadia, West Bengal," the Prime MInister's Office (PMO) said on micro-blogging site Twitter today.
 
"PMO has asked for immediate report on facts & action taken regarding the incidents in Haryana and West Bengal," it added.
 
A 71-year-old nun was allegedly gang-raped by dacoits at a convent in Nadia district in the early hours of Saturday. The incident has triggered protests in West Bengal and the state government has ordered a probe by the CID in the case.
 
In the second incident, a church under construction at Kaimri village near Hisar in Haryana was vandalised by a group of people on Sunday.
 
Both the incidents have evoked widespread condemnation across the country, with the Christian community expressing serious concern about the safety of churches and other institutions.
 
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Polling underway for 41 seats in final phase of LS elections

Polling was underway on Monday amidst tight security in 41 constituencies spread over three states -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal -- in the ninth and final phase of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.
 
Ninth phase of 16th LS polls underway
Polling was underway today amidst tight security in 41 constituencies spread over three states -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal -- in the ninth and final phase of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.
 
Thousands of voters turned out to exercise their franchise in these constituencies and long queues of voters  were seen at many polling stations despite the sweltering heat,
 
All eyes were, however, on Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, the second constituency from which BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is trying to make his maiden entry into the Lok Sabha. His main rivals in Varanasi are Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal and local Congress leader Ajay Rai.
 
Mr Modi is also in the fray from Vadodara in Gujarat, where polling was held on April 30.
 
Around 1.6 million people are eligible to cast their votes in Varanasi in what is clearly the keenest contest of the 2014 elections. There were long queues of voters outside polling stations in most areas of the city.
 
The authorities have deployed around 45,000 security personnel to ensure free and fair polls in the constituency. More than 12,000 polling booths were put under surveillance with CCTV cameras and proceedings at more than 300 polling stations were being videographed.
 
The Election Commission has deployed Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar as a special observer for the constituency following complaints of bias against the local election officials by the BJP. Several senior police officers of Uttar Pradesh are also camping in the city.
 
The constituencies that voted today included 18 in Uttar Pradesh, 17 in West Bengal and six in Bihar. They have a total of 66.13 million voters and there were 606 candidates in the fray.
 
The first phase of polling in the long drawn out election process was held on April 7. Counting of votes for all constituencies will be taken up on May 16 and all results are expected by that evening. Two members in the 545-member Lok Sabha are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian community.
 
Other prominent candidates in the fray in Uttar Pradesh include Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo and former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav from Azamgarh and UP Legislative Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey from Doomariaganj.
 
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Union Minister of State for Home Affairs R P N Singh is contesting from Kushinagar and popular Bhojpuri film actor Ravi Kishan from Jaunpur, both on the Congress ticket. Veteran BJP leader Kalraj Mishra is contesting the Deoria seat. Quami Ekta Dal (QED) leader Mukhtar Ansari, who withdrew from the contest in Varanasi and later announced his support for the Congress, is in the contest from Ghosi.
 
In Bihar, the prominent candidates include well-known Hindi filmmaker Prakash Jha, who is trying his luck yet again, this time as a Janata Dal (United) candidate, and former Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
 
In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has fielded former Union Ministers Sudip Bandopadhyay, Dinesh Trivedi in Barrackpore and Sougata Roy in Dum Dum and actors Dipak Adhikari (Dev) from Ghatal and Tapas Paul in Krishinagar.
 
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has put up Ms Subhashini Ali against Mr Trivedi in Barrackpore, while the BJP has fielded well-known magician P C Sorcar (Junior) in Barasat. West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury is the party's candidate in Berhampore.
 
The TMC had won 14 of the 17 seats that went to the polls today in West Bengal in the 2009 elections, while the CPI, SUCI and Congress had won one each. The TMC and the Congress were in an alliance then. The CPI (M) had not won a single seat from these in 2009.
 
There are a total of 328 candidates, including 18 women, in the 18 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, which have a total electorate of 31.6 million voters.
 
In Bihar, more than 8.8 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the six constituences which have a total of 90 candidates in the fray.
 
The 17 constituencies that went to the polls in West Bengal have a total electorate of  25.61 million and 188 candidates in the fray.
 
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Bengal verdict: BJP wins 13, Trinamool 15 seats

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West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress has won 15 Lok Sabha constituencies and is leading in seven while the BJP has bagged 13 seats and is leading in five. The Congress is leading in two Lok Sabha seats.
 
Babul Supriyo of the Bharatiya Janata Party defeated his nearest rival Trinamol Congress' Moon Moon Sen by 1,97,637 votes in Asansol.
 
Trinamool's veteran and state minister Subrata Mukherjee lost to BJP's Subhas Sarkar in Bankura constituency.
 
S. S. Alhuwalia of the BJP defeated Trinamool Congress' Mamtaz Sanghamita by 2,439 votes in Burwan-Durgapur.
 
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee's nephew and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee is leading by over 3,20,678 votes over BHP's Nilanjan Roy
 
Congress MP Adhir Ranjan is leading in Baharampur by 79,694 votes over his nearest Trinamool candidate Apurba Sarkar
 
Trinamool's veteran Sisir Adhikari retained the Kanthi seat by margin of 1,11,668 votes defeating BJP's Debasis Samanta.
 
Kolkata South's Trinamool nominee Mala Roy won by 1,55,192 votes, defeating Chandra Kumar Bose of BJP, Deepak Adhikari (Dev) of Trinamool Congress defeated BJP's Bharati Ghosh by 10,79,973 votes in Ghatal. Rose Valley chit fund scam accused and Trinamool MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay retained Kolkata North seat by a margin of 1,27,095 votes defeating BJP's Rahul Sinha
 
In Barrackpore, BJP's Arjun Singh was leading by 14,857 votes over Trinamool's outgoing MP Dinesh Trivedi.
 
Trinamool's Nusrat Jahan Ruhi is leading over BJP's Sayantan Basu by 3,50,369 votes in Basirhat.
 
Birbhum's Trinamool MP and Bengali actress Satabdi Roy won by 88,924 votes, defeating BJP's Dudh Kumar Mondal.
 
BJP's Sukanta Majumdar defeated Balurghat's Trinamool MP Arpita Ghosh by a margin of 33,293 votes.
 
Soumitra Khan of the BJP defeated Trinamool Congress' Shamyal Santra by 78,047 votes in Bishnupur. 
 
Trinamool's MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar retained her Barasat seat by over a margin of 1,09,983 votes defeating BJP's Mrinal Kanti Debnath.
 
Sougata Roy of Trinamool Congress defeated BJP's Shamik Bhattacharya 53,002 votes in Dumdum. Locket Chatterjee of the BJP defeated Trinamool Congress' Ratna De Nag by 73,362 votes in Hooghly.
 
IANS
 

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Naidu meets Mamata in Kolkata to discuss post-poll strategy

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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee met here on Monday to discussed the prospects of the post-poll alliance of the opposition parties against the BJP, sources said.
 
However, neither of them talked to the media following the around 45-minute-long meeting that was held at Banerjee's residence in south Kolkata's Kalighat.
 
On his arrival, Naidu was welcomed by Banerjee's nephew and Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim.
 
According to the sources, the two leaders discussed the importance of uniting all the anti-BJP parties under one umbrella and constituting a common minimum agenda.
 
Naidu also briefed Banerjee regarding his meetings with Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Sunday, sources said.
 
IANS
 

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Former Kolkata police chief moves SC for protection from arrest

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Former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar on Monday moved the Supreme Court on Monday seeking protection from arrest by the CBI in the Saradha scam chit fund case.
 
With the top court last week granting seven days to Kumar to approach the competent court for legal remedies, Kumar's counsel told the vacation bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Sanjiv Khanna that the matter requires urgent listing, as lawyers in Kolkata courts are currently on strike. 
 
The counsel said that time is running out for his client and in the wake of this strike, Kumar may eventually miss the deadline. Therefore, the seven-day period is not enough, and more time is required, the counsel argued. 
 
The court, however, told the counsel since the earlier order was passed by a three-judge bench, it will be appropriate to approach the court's Registrar General for setting up of such a bench. The court told the counsel that the CJI is the master of the roster.
 
On May 17, the Supreme Court had vacated the interim protection from arrest by the CBI granted to Kumar on February 5.
 
The investigating agency has accused Kumar of tampering with the evidence in the chit fund scam to shield powerful politicians. 
 
The court has expressed concern over the manner in which the chit fund scam case has panned out, while vacating its February 5 order.
 
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna had said: "We would withdraw the protection given to Mr Rajeev Kumar, former Commissioner of Police, Kolkata, vide our order dated February 5, 2019, restraining the CBI from arresting him and thereby, leave it open to the CBI to act in accordance with the law." 
 
The court, however, granted seven days to Kumar for appropriate legal remedies. "At the same time, we direct that the interim order dated February 5, 2019, would continue for a period of seven days from the date of pronouncement of this order to enable Kumar to approach competent court for relief, if so advised," it said.
 
IANS

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Poll code violation: TMC complains to EC against PM

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The Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Sunday lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of India (ECI) against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) on polling day.
 
"Though the campaign for the last phase of polling for 2019 Lok Sabha elections got over on May 17 at 6 p.m., Narendra Modi's Kedarnath Yatra is being covered and widely reported in local media as well as the national media for the last two days. This is a gross violation of the Model Code Of Conduct," said Derek O'Brien, leader of the TMC Parliamentary Party in the Rajya Sabha. 
 
Modi announced that the "Master Plan" for the Kedarnath Temple was "ready" and he also addressed the public and the media at Kedarnath, O'Brien alleged. "It is absolutely unethical and morally incorrect," he said in a letter written to the ECI.
 
He sought immediate action to "stop telecast of such surreptitious and unfair campaign".
 
The Rajya Sabha member also alleged, "It is unfortunate that the Election Commission, the highest body and the eyes and ears of the democratic process, remains blind and deaf to the gross violation of the MCC."
 
IANS

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SC lifts stay on ex-Kolkata Police chief's arrest

The Supreme Court on Friday vacated the interim protection granted to former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar from arrest by the CBI in the multi-crore chit fund scam cases.
 
The investigating agency has accused Kumar of tampering with evidence to shield powerful politicians.
 
The court, however, granted seven days time to Kumar to take appropriate legal remedies.
 
While vacating its February 5 order granting the interim protection to Kumar, the apex court also expressed concern over the manner in which the chit fund cases panned out.
 
IANS
 
 
 

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Final phase of campaigning ends in Bengal

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With the Election Commission of India (ECI) curtailing the campaigning time by invoking the Constitution's Article 324 for the first time, canvassing ended at 10 p.m. on Thursday in nine parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal that will vote in the final phase of the Lok Sabha elections on May 19.
 
The political parties re-scheduled and wound up big rallies, road shows, street corner meetings and last minute door-to-door contact with voters that had reached a peak over the past couple of days in Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata South and Kolkata North constituencies.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, the party's celebrity candidates Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury were among the star campaigners.
 
Shah's roadshow in the heart of the city on Tuesday faced strong protests from Trinamool's student union members as the procession crossed the College Street area. The clash between activists of the two parties led to violence and vandalism following which the poll panel on Wednesday stepped in to curtail the campaigning.
 
An electorate of around 1,49,10,643 will decide the fate of 111 candidates in the nine seats.
 
Chief Minister's nephew cum sitting MP Abhishek Banerjee, former Kolkata Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, BJP's former state President Rahul Sinha, celebrity candidates Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty are among the star candidates in this phase.
 
According to an analysis done by the West Bengal Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, 30 candidates have assets worth over Rs 1 crore and 23 have declared criminal cases against themselves.
 
In 2014, Trinamool had won all the nine seats but this time BJP is giving them a strong fight.
 
IANS
 

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Opposition approaches EC over early end of campaigning in WB

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A delegation of opposition parties on Thursday met the Election Commission and urged it to reconsider its decision to end the campaigning early in West Bengal in the wake of violence during BJP President Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata on Tuesday.
 
The delegation, led by Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi and comprising the Aam Aadmi Party's Sanjay Singh and the Telugu Desam Party's K. Rama Mohan Rao, also sought action against those responsible for the violence during the roadshow.
 
"We urge that the Commission re-considers its decision and penalize the one who propagated the violence and violated its electoral laws in such a blatant manner. Punishing those who are innocent by taking such an arbitrary decision will result in a grotesque precedent being set," the delegation said in its memorandum submitted to the commission.
 
Later, talking to reporters, Singhvi said they didn't receive any satisfactory answer from the electoral body.
 
"The violence has been done by the people of the BJP and we have not got a satisfactory answer from the Election Commission. We reserve our options...," he said.
 
He said the non-BJP and non-NDA parties have alleged that breaking the statue of social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and the "riots" during the roadshow was the direct responsibility of the BJP.
 
The Congress leader said without any quasi-judicial procedure, the Election Commission had cut short campaigning in West Bengal.
 
In an unprecedented step, the Election Commission curtailed the poll campaign in the state by a day as it ordered stoppage of electioneering from 10 p.m. on Thursday in the remaining nine Lok Sabha constituencies going to the polls on May 19.
 
The poll body invoked for the first time Article 324 of the Constitution which gives it special powers to control and give directions for holding elections.
 
IANS
 

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EC decision taken at BJP's direction, says Mamata

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said the Election Commission's decisions to curtail election campaigning and remove two senior officers have been taken on the direction of the BJP, its President Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
She also claimed that RSS people have been inducted into the Election Commission.
 
Mamata wondered if the directives were due to the "threat" issued to the poll panel by Shah during a media meet in New Delhi on Wednesday morning.
 
Addressing a media meet here, the Chief Minister said: "Some emergency situation has arisen due to some directions of the Election Commission. I don't consider these as EC's decision. These have been taken as per the direction of the BJP, Modi and Amit Shah."
 
"In the morning, Shah held a press conference in Delhi, where he threatened the Election Commission.
 
"Is this a fallout of that?" she asked.
 
Banerjee said Bengal was being targeted as Modi knew that she was challenging him. 
 
"I am challenging him, talking against him, we are countering him on every point. Modi is afraid of Bengal, afraid of me."
 
Banerjee said she had remained mum despite so many incidents that occurred during the election proess. 
 
"With due respect, I tell the Election Commission that so many incidents have happened, I did not utter a single word."
 
She also accused Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain of making all arrangements for Shah's road show. "He had given a letter. It is with Kolkata police. I also have a copy".
 
Taking umbrage against the EC relieving her favourite police officer and presently ADG CID Rajeev Kumar from the post and asking him to report to the Union Home Ministry in Delhi, she asked: "Why are they so cut up with Rajeev Kumar? Is it because he has been intercepting hawala money?"
 
"How can EC send somebody to central deputation? This is the state's prerogative. IPS and IAS officers are under the state government. How can they interfere like this? EC is doing whatever the BJP is telling it to do. Never in my life have I seen such an Election Commission."
 
Banerjee declared she would not be silenced, and said the decision taken under section 324 of the Representation of the People Act to curtail the campaign period was not legal as there was no law and order problem in her state.
 
Banerjee questioned why the EC did not issue a  show cause notice to Shah who, she said, had "orchestrated the May 14 violence".
 
She alleged the directives were issued to deflect people's attention as a big sentiment had developed in Bengal over the vandalisation of Vidyasagar's bust.
 
"The decision is unconstitutional, unprincipled, unethical, and smacks of political bias," she said.
 
IANS
 

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Trinamool hands over Kolkata violence video to EC

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A four-member Trinamool Congress (TMC) delegation of Rajya Sabha MPs on Wednesday handed over to the Election Commission (EC) some video clippings of the violence that occurred during BJP President Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata on Tuesday in which a statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was vandalised at the college named after the social reformer.
 
The delegation, comprising Derek O'Brien, Manish Gupta, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and Nadimul Haque, also requested the Commission to take necessary steps over the incident which it claimed was orchestrated by supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 
 
"What happened yesterday was very bad. Outsiders were brought in. They did not accept the democratic protest carried out peacefully by the students with black placards in Kolkata... They jumped over the gate and vandalised Vidyasagar's statue. There are credible video footages to show that," O'Brien told the media after visiting the EC. 
 
The Trinamool leader further said that it was the saddest moment ever for his party which has been in existence for the last 20 years. 
 
"The greatness of Vidyasagar as an educationist, social reformer and a great human being is known not only in Bengal but everywhere in India. Today we are not only angry but also disappointed. Everyone in the state learns Bengali alphabets by studying the 'Bornoporichoy', which was the creation of the great man."
 
He said that Amit Shah's press conference on Wednesday once again proved that he was a "liar". 
 
"The video footage we showed to the Election Commission today has evidence. Proof number one is that everybody who jumped the gate in the Vidyasagar College belonged to the BJP, which could be made out from the colour of their clothes. 
 
"The second proof is that they were caught on camera breaking the statue. Do not believe what I am saying, believe what you see in the videos we presented before the Election Commission," O'Brien said.
 
He also mocked Shah for saying in an election rally 10 days ago that Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was born in Birbhum in West Bengal. "He (Shah) did not know that Tagore was born in Jorasanko in Kolkata."
 
Slamming the BJP President for saying Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had turned 'sonar' (golden) Bangla into 'kangal' (pauper) Bangla, O'Brien said: "We live in the hope that the people of Bengal will see through (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and Shah. They are trying to use the same trick they used in Gujarat everywhere."
 
Referring to Modi calling Mamata Banerjee a "speed breaker", the Trinamool leader said: "For once I agreed with Modi. Mamata Banerjee is a speed breaker. She was a speed breaker for him in 2014, when despite sweeping all over the country, the BJP stumbled in West Bengal. Mr Modi, you are right. She is again a speed breaker for you this time." 
 
IANS
 

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Bengal violence: ECI cuts short campaign period, removes two officials

The Election Commission on Wednesday cut short the campaign period in West Bengal by a day, ahead of the last phase of polling on May 19 in the Lok Sabha elections, in a sharp response to the violence that has marked polling and electioneering so far in the state.
 
Exercising its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution for the very first time, the Election Commission of India (ECI) today cut short the campaign period by a day, ahead of the last phase of polling on May 19 in the Lok Sabha elections, in a sharp response to the violence that has marked polling and electioneering in the state.
 
Accordingly, campaigning in these constituencies, which would have in normal circumstances concluded in the evening of May 17, will now end at 10 pm tomorrow.
 
By a separate order, the Commission relieved Mr. Rajeev Kumar, Additional Director General of Police, CID, of his responsibiities and asked him to report to the Ministry of Home Affairs here by 10 am tomorrow.
 
It also relieved Mr. Atri Bhattacharya, Principal Secretary, Home & Hill Affairs, Government of West Bengal, from his current charge immediately for "having interfered in the process of conducting the election by directing CEO, West Bengal vide his D.O. letter dated 13.5.2019". The Chief Secretary, West Bengal, shall look after the charge of Home Secretary, West Bengal, also, the order said.
 
The decisions came a day after the violence that marred the roadshow by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah in Kolkata yesterday during which some miscreants also vandalised the statue of Bengal Renaissance figure Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.
 
The incident has become a major poll issue in the state, with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP, making a strong bid to increase its presence in the state, both blaming each other's activists for yesterday's violence.
 
In a six-page order on cutting short the campaign period issued here this evening, the Commission said it was of the considered opinion that some special measures were urgently needed to arrest the prevailing situation in the nine Lok Sabha constituencies where the elections are to be held on May 19.
 
The order said the measures were also needed to create such law and order situation as may be conducive to holding free, fair and peaceful elections in these constituencies.
 
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Accordingly, the ECI directed that "no person shall (a) convene, hold, attend, join or address any public meeting or procession in connection with an election; or (b) display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus; or (c) propagate any election matter to the public by holding, or by arranging the holding of, any musical concert or any theatrical performance or any other entertainment or amusement with a view to attracting the members of the public thereto, in connection with these elections; and no spirituous, fermented or intoxicating liquors or other substances of a like nature shall be sold, given or distributed at a hotel, eating house, tavern, shop or any other place, public or private, within polling areas in these nine Parliamentary Constituencies .... from 10 pm on 16.05.2019 and till the conclusion of poll on 19.05.2019."
 
The constituencies in Bengal where polling is slated to be held on May 19 are Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar (SC), Mathurapur (SC), Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar.
 
The order noted that there had been growing incidents of disruption and violence during campaigning and processions in the state during the elections.
 
It said that the Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of West Bengal had visited the state on May 13 and taken stock of the situation.
 
In his report, he said that, while logistics arrangements were mostly on track, there was "distinct resistance and non-cooperation" from the district administration and district police when it came to providing level playing field to all candidates and an environment free of fear and threats to the voters.
 
The report said the ECI observers had pointed out that the fear psychosis came out during their interactions with the public.
 
"They pointed out that utterances of the AITC senior leaders on the lines of 'Central Forces will leave after the elections while we will remain' sends a chilling message among the officers as well as voters alike," it said.
 
The Observers also informed the ECI about other incidents of violence and the cases registered after the violence of yesterday.
 
The order noted that, during the last 24 hours, representatives of various political parties had met the Commission and expressed their concern on the prevailing conditions of law and order.
 
The ECI said that, on the basis of these reports and inputs, it was concerned about the safety and security of the general electors.
 
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Vidyasagar statue vandalism becomes poll issue in Bengal

As the Lok Sabha battle in West Bengal reaches the home stretch, Bengal Renaissance figure Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar has now become a poll issue following the vandalism of his statue during BJP President Amit Shah's roadshow here.
A view of the damaged statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar which was vandalised at Vidyasagar College in the clashes that broke out during BJP President Amit Shah's roadshow, in Kolkata, on May 14, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
A view of the damaged statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar which was vandalised at Vidyasagar College in the clashes that broke out during BJP President Amit Shah's roadshow, in Kolkata, on May 14, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
As the Lok Sabha battle in West Bengal reaches the home stretch, Bengal Renaissance figure Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar has now become a poll issue following the vandalism of his statue during BJP President Amit Shah's roadshow here.
 
The desecration of the polymath's bust has caused severe resentment among a huge section of the Bengal society, where he is revered for his contribution to women's education, widow remarriage and various other social and educational reforms.
 
With nine remaining constituencies in Bengal are set to go to polls in the seventh and final phase on Sunday, all major parties are going all out to make capital out of the incident that occurred during the clashes between activists of the ruling party's student wing, the Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
 
It all started with the TMCP members of Calcutta University positioning themselves outside its College Street gate to show black flags to Shah, who was leading a road show from Shahid Minar to Swami Vievekananda's house onn north Kolkata's Simla Street.
 
As the rallyists came close to the university, they tried to prevent the students from showing black flags to Shah by putting up giant cut-outs to block their view. Music was also played at a very high level so that the students' slogans against Shah ('Gali gali me shor hain, Amit Shah chor hai') became inaudible.
 
The TMCP activists alleged that water bottles, stones and bricks were pelted at them, resulting in a number of them getting injured. On the other hand, the BJP alleged that rallyists were attacked with stones and bricks, a version seconded by no other than Shah himself.
 
The clashes broke out after the rally passed the area, with the two groups fighting pitched battles with bricks, stones, iron rods and sticks.
 
The violence also spread to the nearby Vidyasagar College where also a large group of TMCP members had camped to protest against the road show.
 
Motorbikes were set ablaze, and the clashing groups flung chairs and guard rails on each other.
 
While the students alleged that BJP members vandalised the college, and also shattered Vidyasagar's bust, the BJP pointed fingers at Trinamool.
 
Addressing the media in Delhi on Wednesday, Shah claimed there were three attacks targeting his road show, but the state police remained mere spectators. He also accused Banerjee of conspiring to vandalise Vidyasagar's statue in an effort to gain sympathy.
 
"The gate of the college was closed and the BJP workers were outside. Trinamool goons were pelting stones from inside. This was a conspiracy and drama by Mamata Banerjee to gain sympathy," he said, showing video clips and photos purportedly taken in the aftermath of the trouble to claim that the bust was unharmed till then.
 
In an angry outburst after the incident, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed the BJP for trying to destroy Bengal's heritage.
 
"We are ashamed that Vidysagar's bust was vandalised. Do they (BJP) know who Vidyasagar was? I will not spare anyone if Bengal's heritage is destroyed," she said.
 
She first directed state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee to rush to the spot, and later went there herself.
 
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Chatterjee also cited a video to buttress his point that the BJP members had broken open the gate. "Can they show that anyone is throwing stones from inside the gates? Just see the dresses the people are wearing in this video, everything will be clear."
 
Banerjee, accusing the BJP of bringing "miscreants" from other states for the road show, also announced an inquiry into the matter, while city Police Commissioner Rajesh Kumar said around 100 people had been rounded up.
 
On Banerjee's instruction, all Trinamool leaders made Vidyasagar's image their profile picture on all social media platforms - WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.
 
Trinamool leaders and intellectuals also took out a protest march in north Kolkata, while the party took out protest rallies in Hooghly, Howrah, Bankura and West Burdwan districts.
 
Not to be left behind, the Left Front held a rally led by CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose from Vidyasagar Uddyan in central Kolkata's College Square to Azad Hind Bag near Hedua.
 
The Congress condemned the incident and said no party with a minimum sense of democracy could have caused such an incident. "Those who vandalised Vidyasagar's bust, can't be called political workers. This is yet another prove that the political culture of Bengal has been destroyed," said state Congress chief Somen Mitra.
 
Defending his party, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said: "The disturbance was the result of instigation."
 
However, a political analyst said the matter would have little impact on the final phase of polls.
 
"The political parties are making it an issue. But I think it will have a little impact on the voters. It might have impacted the intellectuals but Bengalis are rational and they will think logically before casting their votes," analyst Bimal Shankar Nanda told IANS.
 
IANS
 

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Trinamool to meet EC on vandalism after BJP's roadshow

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A Trinamool Congress delegation will meet the Election Commission on Wednesday in the wake of vandalism in college and destruction of Bengali polymath Vidyasagar's bust during BJP President Amit Shah's roadshow, according to party officials.
 
"Trinamool Parliamentary team comprising @derekobrienmp, @Sukhendusekhar, Manish Gupta, Nadimul Haque seeks meeting with EC on May 15 in aftermath of attack on Bengal's heritage after Shah roadshow in Kolkata. BJP outsider ruffians resort to arson & break Vidyasagar's bust," All India Trinamool Congress tweeted.
 
Earlier, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had condemned the attack and mentioned that an inquiry will be done.
 
"It is a very unfortunate incident and an entire college was vandalised. A bust of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was broken. I have kept broken parts of the bust where the original statue was there. I have never seen such political violence in Kolkata," Banerjee said after visiting the college.
 
IANS

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One killed, many injured as violence hits Bengal in LS polls

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A BJP activist was killed in West Bengal's Jhargram district early on Sunday as a number of violent incidents and clashes rocked the state in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls.
 
Eight parliamentary constituencies spread across five districts in West Bengal voted on Sunday.
 
A BJP activist, Ramen Singh (30) from Jhargram constituency's Gopiballabpur, sustained a grievous head injury after allegedly being hit with an iron rod. He was rushed to a hospital where he was declared dead, police said.
 
The BJP accused miscreants backed by the Trinamool Congress for the crime.
 
Incidents of sporadic violence were reported from Midnapore constituency where the saffron party's state unit chief Dilip Ghosh is engaged in a high profile battle with Trinamool Congress' Rajya Sabha member Manas Bhunia.
 
At least four Trinamool Party activists had to be hospitalized after being attacked with sharp weapons allegedly by BJP supporters. The condition of one person was critical.
 
Meanwhile, a number of saffron party supporters got injured in the constituency's Datan area following a clash with Trinamool workers.
 
Former IPS officer and BJP candidate from West Midnapore district's Ghatal, Bharati Ghosh, was stopped from entering a polling booth by a group of women Trinamool Congress workers who accused her of influencing the voters.
 
Ghosh accused the ruling party of organised violence and demanded that the offenders be immediately arrested.
 
"I am a candidate. I can always enter a polling booth. Those who are trying to stop me should be arrested. They (Trinamool) is resorting to organised violence against me," Ghosh said before leaving the spot.
 
Later, bricks were pelted on her convoy near Keshpur, injuring one of her security guards.
 
IANS
 

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Chandrababu Naidu to meet Mamata Banerjee

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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu will meet his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee on Thursday as part of his efforts for closer coordination between the opposition parties after the Lok Sabha election results are declared on May 23.
 
He is likely to have a meeting with Banerjee at Kharagpur in West Bengal and will join her at a joint rally at Talbagicha High School ground. 
 
Naidu, who was here to attend the Supreme Court hearing on a review petition seeking 50 per cent random physical verification of EVMs using VVPATs, had met Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday.
 
The opposition parties are keen to have closer consultations so that they do not lose time in forming an alternative if the results on May 23 present such an opportunity.
 
Naidu, along with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, has engaged in parleys with various opposition parties for closer coordination to oust the Modi government.
 
The opposition parties are also planning to hold a meeting on May 21 after the exit polls to discuss various possibilities about the election results. 
 
Naidu has indicated that the Congress and Banerjee will have a role to play in formation of an alternative government. He was in West Bengal on Wednesday, addressed rallies in support of Trinamool Congress in Jhargram and Tamluk. 
 
IANS
 

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NYAY surgical strike on poverty: Rahul Gandhi

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Describing the ambitious Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) promised by his party as a "surgical strike on poverty", Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said an amount of Rs 3.60 lakh would be given to each of the five crore poor families if his party was voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections.
 
"I give a guarantee that Hindustan's next government will give the amount to each of the 5 crore families -- that is 25 crore people in the next five years," Gandhi told an election rally here in support of Congress candidate from Purulia Nepal Mahato.
 
"Wah wah, this a surgical strike on poverty," Gandhi exclaimed.
 
Turning to farmers' issues, Gandhi said the law will be changed to ensure that farmers were not jailed for failing to repay bank loans.
 
"If India's farmer takes a loan of Rs 20,000 and fails to return, then are they sent to jail or not?" he asked.
 
Gandhi said he doesn't find it right when rich people are not jailed after taking big amounts while the farmers are caught if they take loans.
 
"Do you think there is Nyay (justice)? No farmer belonging to Bengal or any state will be sent to jail if they fail to pay the bank loans.
 
He promised that the new government to be formed after the Lok Sabha elections will have a separate budget for the farmers.
 
"After 2019, there will be two budgets, first, the farmer's budget will be made.
 
"In the beginning of the year, the farmers will know the amount of money allotted by the government, the number of food processing units, how many storage facilities will be there and what kind of technology will be given for the farmers. 
 
"In the very first year, they will be told about their earnings and profits," he said.
 
He slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for failing to provide employment and ensuring fair price for farmers.
 
Gandhi said the BJP's only aim was to ensure Modi becomes Prime Minister again.
 
"But I tell you no power can make him the PM, as the citizens are going to hit a sixer this time," he said.
 
Mocking Modi, he said Modi earlier talked about his 56-inch chest, but now "two glasses are fixed that are known as teleprompters. He is warned that he should not speak about unemployment and farmers as the public can become angry".
 
IANS
 

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Violence mars nearly 74% voting in Bengal

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Amid attacks on two BJP candidates, Arjun Singh and Locket Chatterjee, and also on polling agents of oppositions parties in West Bengal along with cases of intimidation, violence, bombings and EVM glitches, nearly 74 per cent of electorate in seven constituencies in the state voted till 5 p.m. on Monday in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha polls.
 
Polling was highest in Uluberia (77.57 per cent) followed by Bongaon (76.18), Hooghly (76.14), Arambag (75.73), Sreerampur (73.31), Barrackpore (71.28) and Howrah (67.59).
 
In the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress had won all these seven seats. 
 
Violence erupted in North 24 Parganas' Barrackpore earlier in the day where former Railway Minister and sitting MP Dinesh Trivedi is taking on his erstwhile "election-manager" Arjun Singh.
 
Singh had crossed over to the BJP in March after he was denied ticket by the Trinamool leadership.
 
The new BJP leader sustained minor injuries on his face after being attacked allegedly by Trinamool supporters outside a polling booth in the Aamdanga Assembly segment.
 
"The truth will be captured by the media and monitored by the Election Commission (EC). Moreover, Singh is a 'Baahubali', how can anyone attack him," Trivedi said when asked about Singh's allegations.
 
In this Assembly segment, CPI-M agents were also allegedly not allowed to sit inside polling booths by Trinamool supporters.
 
Some media persons were injured in the incident and their vehicles were vandalised.
 
In Naihati, Singh was chased away by Trinamool workers who shouted "Go back, Arjun Singh". He had reached the spot after he heard that outsiders were scaring away voters.
 
In Hooghly constituency, BJP nominated actress-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee who accused the Trinamool Congress of conducing proxy voting in Dhanekhali area.
 
Alleging that her car was vandalised, Chatterjee said the Central forces were "not deployed properly" and there were Trinamool agents inside the polling booth in the area, while her party agents were not allowed inside.
 
"About 90 per cent of booths in Dhanekhali were captured and we are demanding a re-poll. I will not allow anyone to use their influence in voting. I am not at all happy with the deployment of Central forces as they are being misguided by the state police.
 
"It is not humanly possible to keep running to different booths wherever such problems arise," she said.
 
However, Trinamool activists and polling officials accused her of creating disturbances and vandalising voting machine at booth number 159 at Dhanekhali.
 
In Gayeshpur under the Bangaon constituency, Central forces were seen actively dispersing people near the polling booths. Outsiders trying to hide in the houses of the locals were also caught by them.
 
Protesting alleged incidents of bombs being hurled at by BJP activists at the Hingli area in Bangaon, Trinamool supporters blocked an arterial road. They claimed two persons, including one police officer, were injured in the incident.
 
Later, Central forces and police personnel were deployed to bring the situation under control.
 
In Sreerampur constituency, BJP candidate Debjit Sarkar's assistant was allegedly beaten by state's ruling party supporters.
 
Voters at a booth in Bijpur under the Barrackpore constituency, were summoned back from their homes for casting their votes a second time as the presiding officer revealed that the mock poll results were not removed, leading to the recall of voters.
 
Also, in a booth in Tarakeshwar under the Arambag constituency, a local Trinamool leader was seen influencing voters and entering the booth. As per Election Commission sources, the presiding officer of that booth was removed immediately.
 
Several clashes between state's ruling party and BJP workers took place outside booths in Howrah and Ulubaria constituencies.
 
Star candidates among others whose fate would be decided during the day are sitting Trinamool MPs Kalyan Banerjee (Sreerampore) and former footballer Prasun Banerjee (Howrah) and senior journalist Rantidev Sengupta (Howrah).
 
An electorate of over 1.16 crore, including 60.04 lakh men, 56.86 lakh women and 211 belonging to the third gender, are eligible to choose their representatives from among 83 candidates (71 male and 12 female).
 
After reports of violence and the death of a voter during the previous phase, the EC deployed Central forces at all the polling stations in the state.
 
Altogether, 578 companies of Central forces have been deployed to assist the state police.
 
According to an analysis done by the West Bengal Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, 15 candidates in this phase have assets worth over Rs 1 crore, while 23 have criminal cases registered against them.
 
The subsequent phases of polling in the state will take place on May 12 and May 19. Polling in 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal has been completed in the first four phases.
 
The votes will be counted on May 23.
 
IANS

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Cyclone Fani weakens, likely to enter Bangladesh around noon

Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to batter the Indian sub-continent in decades, has weakened into a "cyclonic storm leaving no more major threat" for West Bengal on Saturday.
A view of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata in the wake of cyclone Fani, on May 3, 2019. (Photo: Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS)
A view of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata in the wake of cyclone Fani, on May 3, 2019. (Photo: Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS)
Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to batter the Indian sub-continent in decades, has weakened into a "cyclonic storm leaving no more major threat" for West Bengal on Saturday.
 
At present, the cyclone, which is situated at Shantipur in Nadia district about 60 km north of Kolkata, is likely to enter Bangaldesh around noon on Saturday.
 
Trees were uprooted in the coastal cities in the state and a few places in Kolkata as the cyclone entered Bengal post-midnight hours after making landfall and causing havoc in Odisha on Friday.
 
No loss of life or any injury has been reported so far in  Bengal.
 
After all flights from Bhubaneswar and Kolkata airports were grounded on Friday, the NSC Bose airport here resumed operations at 9.57 a.m. on Saturday.
 
According to a special weather bulletin of Regional Meteorological Centre's (RMC), Fani is "decaying rapidly".
 
"It is very likely to move further north-northeastwards and emerge into Bangladesh on Saturday around noon as a deep depression with wind speed 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph," RMC's Deputy Director General Sanjib Bandyopadhyay said.
 
According to weather expert J. K. Mukhopadhyay, the area of influence of the cyclone has shrunk.
 
"In Midnapore and other coastal areas, the wind speed was around 75 kmph and caused destruction along with rains. Kolkata received rains but the wind speed did not rise that much," he said.
 
 
Indian cyclone terrifies students as high winds shatter glass doors
The severe cyclonic storm Fani entered Bengal at 12.30 a.m. through Odisha's Balasore. It crossed Kharagpur packing wind at 70-80 kmph, gusting to 90 kmph.
 
In the sea resort of Digha, the wind speed reached 70 kmph in some areas. In Frazerganj, the wind velocity was between 60 and 70 kmph.
 
The administration has switched off electricity to prevent any accident as the storm passed through a particular point in the state.
 
According to the Meteorological Department, the extremely severe cyclonic storm relatively weakened after entering coastal Odisha and transformed into "very severe" storm as it approached West Bengal.
 
Fani lashed cities and towns in coastal Bengal including Digha, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Sandehskhali and Contai while the effects of the storm could also be felt in cities like Kharagpur and Burdwan as trees were uprooted and metal hoardings gave way.
 
Parts of Kolkata and the suburbs also received moderate to heavy rainfall since Friday afternoon.
 
IANS
 

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