Morning Digest | Congress U.P. chief Ajay Rai to take on PM Modi in Varanasi; AAP raises concern with CEC as Delhi Police block party office, and more

Here is a select list of stories to start the day

March 24, 2024 06:50 am | Updated 08:14 am IST

Congress on Saturday announced 45 names in its fourth list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls while one seat for the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) in Rajasthan. File

Congress on Saturday announced 45 names in its fourth list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls while one seat for the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) in Rajasthan. File | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

Congress names Digvijaya Singh from Rajgarh in Madhya Pradesh, Ajay Rai from PM Modi’s Varanasi seat in fourth list

The Congress on Saturday announced 45 names in its fourth list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls while one seat for the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) in Rajasthan. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh will contest the Rajgarh seat in the State while Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Ajay Rai has been fielded from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seat of Varanasi. Chhattisgarh Congress chief and sitting member from Bastar, Deepak Baij, has been dropped as the party named Kawasi Lakhma from the seat.

Electoral bonds linked to project clearances by BRS government in Telangana

The purchase of electoral bonds and subsequent encashment by the then ruling party in Telangana, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), seemed to be closely linked to the award of contracts and opening of new units by donor companies, if the report submitted to the Election Commission (EC) is to be believed .In Telangana, the BRS encashed the bonds donated by IRB Infra, which were purchased a few weeks after the Outer Ring Road (ORR) contract was awarded to the company. The BRS government gave a Letter of Acceptance (LoA) to IRB Infra on April 27, 2023, leasing out the ORR for 30 years for maintenance.

BJP made ‘bribes’ legal via electoral bonds: Congress

Alleging that the electoral bond (EB) scheme ensured that “prepaid, postpaid, and post-raid bribes” could be routed through regular banking channels, the Congress on March 23 reiterated its demand for a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the scheme .Addressing a press conference at party headquarters, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that an analysis of recently published State Bank of India (SBI) data has revealed that 38 corporate groups received 179 government contracts and projects worth ₹3.8 lakh crore after donating electoral bonds to the BJP.

AAP raises concern with CEC as Delhi Police block party office

Alleging that the Delhi police have blocked all routes to the Aam Aadmi Party’s office in the national capital after the arrest of the party’s national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP wrote to Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on March 23 seeking a meeting to present their urgent grievances.

Winter lacks bite in Munnar as frost gives the hill station a miss this year

Munnar, the hill station famed for its misty mornings from December to February, has deviated from its usual winter pattern this year. Officials say winter was marked by a total lack of frost, a first in the past two decades, which is unprecedented .Data from the United Planters Association of South India tea research centre in Munnar show that no sub-zero temperature was reported this year in Munnar town. “The lowest recorded temperature was 2°C on January 18 and 19 at Silent Valley Estate under Kanan Devan Plantations in Munnar. “This year, there was an absence of frosty conditions in Munnar compared to the past 20 years,” says a source.

Nitish shortlists JD(U) candidates for 16 seats in Bihar, many of them are sitting MPs

With the first phase of the upcoming Lok Sabha election less than a month away, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), has shortlisted candidates for its 16 constituencies in Bihar based on seat-sharing within the alliance. Barring a few seats, party president and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, it is said, has opted to repeat several candidates.

Now, Karnataka knocks on Supreme Court’s door seeking drought relief from Centre

As repeated appeals seeking funds under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) from the Centre have not yielded results, the Congress government in Karnataka has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Union government for denying financial assistance for drought management in the State .The move is expected to trigger a fresh political debate in the run-up to the two-phase Lok Sabha elections in the State. Earlier too, Karnataka raised the issue of “discrimination” by the Centre in devolution of funds, clearances to projects and financial assistance for schemes.

2024 Lok Sabha election | Prakash Ambedkar remains ambivalent over MVA tie-up; will clear stand on March 26

Continuing to maintain an ambivalent stance towards forging an alliance with the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) president Prakash Ambedkar on Saturday said his party would announce its decision on March 26 on whether it would contest the Lok Sabha election independently or go along with the MVA. Mr. Ambedkar again claimed that the MVA parties (which include Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena UBT, the Congress, and Sharad Pawar’s NCP-SP) had yet to resolve their seat-sharing problems and that it was wrong to point fingers at the VBA for acting as a roadblock in seat-sharing discussions.

2024 Lok Sabha election: U.P. BJP to depute minority party workers to counter ‘bogus’ voting

In a first of its kind move, the Uttar Pradesh wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will depute women members from the Muslim community as agents on minority dominant polling booths to keep a check on bogus voters for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. The BJP Minority Morcha, which planned this initiative, said the focus will be on parts of Western U.P. from where the party claims to have received reports of bogus voting in previous elections. 

IPL-17: KKR vs SRH | Russell, Salt fifties carry KKR to four-run win over SRH despite Klaasen’s heroics

Andre Russel’s all-round effort headlined Kolkata Knight Riders’ sweaty four-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in their IPL match here on Saturday .Russell’s brutal unbeaten 64 off 25 balls with three fours and seven sixes and Phil Salt’s more pragmatic 54 off 40 balls guided KKR to 208 for seven. Left-arm pacer T Natarajan was their most successful bowler with a three-wicket haul (3/32). At several points, SRH threatened to chase 208 down, particularly when Heinrich Klaasen (63, 29b, 8x6s) went berserk in the backend of the innings.

Hong Kong lawmakers pass new national security law, giving government more power to curb dissent

Hong Kong lawmakers passed a new national security law on Tuesday that grants the government more power to quash dissent, widely seen as the latest step in a sweeping political crackdown that was triggered by pro-democracy protests in 2019. The legislature passed the Safeguarding National Security Law during a special session Tuesday. It comes on top of a similar law imposed by Beijing four years ago, which has already largely silenced opposition voices in the financial hub.

BJP ends alliance with SKM; to contest Lok Sabha, Assembly polls in Sikkim alone

The BJP on March 23 called off its alliance with the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) and announced that the party would go alone in the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the Himalayan State. The SKM, on the other hand, did not rule out the possibility of a post-poll alliance with the BJP on the lines of a similar arrangement made after the 2019 polls. The announcement to fight the upcoming polls alone was made by State BJP president D.R. Thapa, who returned to Sikkim after attending a meeting with the party’s central leadership in Delhi on seat-sharing with SKM.

Israel says 170 Gaza gunmen killed in hospital raid

Israeli forces fighting in Gaza have killed more than 170 gunmen during their days-long raid at the Palestinian enclave’s main hospital, the military said on Saturday .Israeli troops entered Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City in the early hours of March 18 morning and have been combing through the sprawling complex, which the military says is connected to a tunnel network used as a base for Hamas and other Palestinian fighters. “Thus far, the forces eliminated more than 170 terrorists in the area of the hospital, questioned over 800 suspects, and located numerous weapons and terror infrastructure,” the military said.

Kejriwal seeks police officer’s removal from security; court orders for CCTV camera footage to be preserved

A local court has directed authorities to preserve CCTV camera footage on a plea filed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, seeking the removal of a Delhi Police officer deployed for security in the court for alleged misconduct .“Application has been filed on behalf of the accused [Kejriwal] stating that the security staff/in-charge responsible for bringing him for production before the court, namely ACP [Assistant Commissioner of Police] A.K. Singh, is unnecessarily harsh and mishandled the people around the courtroom,” Special Judge Kaveri Baweja noted.

2024 General elections | These are the Lok Sabha constituencies, Assemblies going to polls in Phase 1

The 2024 Lok Sabha Elections, which are set to commence from April 19, will see the country vote in seven phases as simultaneous elections also take place for four State Assemblies — Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh .A total of 102 Parliamentary constituencies in 21 States and Union Territories (UTs) will go to the polls in the first phase on April 19. The last date of nominations in Phase 1 for all 20 States and UTs other than Bihar is March 27. For Bihar, it is March 28 due to a festival.

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