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NEW DELHI: The BJP with its strong numbers in the state legislatures is likely to sweep the forthcoming Rajya Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand where it is tipped to get 10 out of 11 seats.

Ten seats from Uttar Pradesh and one from Uttarakhand will witness the contest on November 9.

The one name that is certain to be renominated is Union Minister of Urban Development (Independent Charge) Hardeep Singh Puri. Following Manohar Parrikar’s resignation, who quit as the Defence Minister after becoming the Goa Chief Minister, Puri was elected unopposed in a bypoll to a Rajya Sabha seat from Uttar Pradesh in 2018. His term comes to an end this November 25.

Another leader, who is very likely to be renominated and whose term is also coming to an end, is BJP leader Arun Singh. The BJP leader, who was a General Secretary in Team Amit Shah has been retained even in the new team. “Singh has proven to be quite useful as far as his organisational duties are concerned. Given the sustained faith the leadership has shown in him, it is highly unlikely that he will be denied a renomination,” said a BJP functionary, working in Delhi.

Another name that is nearly certain to get a nomination is Neeraj Shekhar. Shekhar, son of former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, quit his Rajya Sabha and left the Samajwadi Party (SP) to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in July last year.

His joining had a stamp of BJP’s top echelons as soon after his induction, he got to meet Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah, something that is reserved for select inductees. The BJP will field him for the bypoll to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh. With his term also coming to an end this November, his renomination is almost certain.

Meanwhile, another name which is doing the rounds in Uttar Pradesh who may be given a Rajya Sabha candidature is former state chief of BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit — Laxmi Kant Bajpai.

BJP sources credit him for the ‘hard work’ he had put in the 2017 Assembly poll in the state. The four time MLA from Meerut may have played a key role in the BJP’s thumping victory in the state, but he lost from the Meerut city seat. Those who have worked closely with Amit Shah in the 2014 General Election in Uttar Pradesh that fetched 71 out of 80 seats also acknowledge Bajpai’s “contribution”. Moreover, his upper caste background may work in favour of the BJP’s caste calculus in a state where the Congress has floated organizations to tap that particular vote bank.

There are speculations that Ram Madhav, who was recently dropped as the party’s national general secretary, may get the Upper House candidature so that he can be accommodated in the next cabinet reshuffle. However, no BJP functionary has either confirmed or denied this.

The biennial elections to 11 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on November 9 are set to change the political dynamics as the BJP is set to gain more seats. The party is inching towards a majority in the Upper House of Parliament along with allies and supporting parties.

The Rajya Sabha members due to retire on November 25 are Chandrapal Singh Yadav, Javed Ali, Ravi Prakash Verma, Ram Gopal Yadav (all from Samajwadi Party), Veer Singh and Rajaram (Bahujan Samaj Party), Raj Babbar and PL Punia (both from Congress), and Neeraj Shekhar, Hardeep Singh Puri, and Arun Singh (all from BJP). Only Raj Babbar was elected from Uttarakhand whereas the rest represented Uttar Pradesh in the Upper House.

As per the current configurations in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, the Samajwadi Party (SP) can win only one seat. The SP will ensure that Ram Gopal Yadav wins that seat.

One possibility in Uttar Pradesh is of the opposition contesting one more seat, depending on the surplus votes available. However, as the opposition is not united, a joint opposition candidate is not likely to be fielded from the state. Hence, in the given scenario, the BJP is set to win the remaining nine seats from Uttar Pradesh. The lone seat from Uttarakhand is set to go into the BJP kitty too.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

India calls for complete ceasing of support to terrorist forces in Middle East

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UNITED NATIONS: India has called on all concerned parties to completely stop supporting terrorist forces, like the ISIS, while urging all stakeholders in the Middle East to work constructively for peace, stability and development.

India underscored that it has invested considerably in the peace and stability of the region by deploying its personnel as part of UN peacekeeping forces, through humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, capacity building, and will continue contributing towards peace-building in the Middle East.

“India calls on concerned parties to completely stop support to terrorist forces, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and others. India also urges all parties in the region to work constructively and in good faith to promote peace, stability and development for the benefit of all people in the Middle East,” India said in a written statement on Monday on the Security Council’s open debate on ‘The Situation in the Middle East’.

India said the truce between Israel and the Hamas has eased the humanitarian situation in Gaza and expressed hope that the temporary truce is converted into a permanent ceasefire, which can save precious human lives on both sides and create a conducive environment for talks.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the interlinked and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by the people of the Middle East have not yet been resolved. Political instability, long-festering conflicts, sectarian divides, issue of refugees and terrorism continue to plague the region. The COVID-pandemic has only exacerbated the threats posed by these challenges,” India said.

The statement made India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, will go as part of the official record of the Council.

India said it appreciates the agreement between Fatah and Hamas for holding Parliamentary and Presidential elections and also elections for the Palestinian National Council, which will help fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

India also welcomed the agreements for normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. “India has always supported peace and stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood,” India said.

Further, India said the commencement of discussions on the disputed border between Israel and Lebanon is a significant development, expressing hope that this will provide an opportunity to resolve the longstanding issue between the two countries.

India highlighted that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign and independent state are yet to be fulfilled and stressed that New Delhi has been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause and continues to remain supportive of a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

“India has supported the two-state solution as a just and acceptable solution to the conflict. Establishment of a Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually agreed borders should be achieved through negotiations directly by the two parties,” India said adding that any stalemate could strengthen the hands of extremists and shut the door to cooperation thereby jeopardising the security, stability and prosperity of the people on both sides and the region.

Accordingly, India urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations at the earliest and called upon the international community to take concrete steps towards resuming and facilitating these negotiations quickly.

India noted that the decade-long armed conflict in Syria has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced 6.2 million people internally and compelled another 6.3 million people to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

“While we are heartened to see return of normalcy to major parts of the country, we are also reminded of the enormous resources that would be required to provide urgent humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, enable return of the refugees and restore a normal and dignified life of all Syrians,” the statement said.

India said in the statement that it is not only contributing to the return of normalcy and rebuilding of Syria, but has also consistently called for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria.

India voiced concern over the security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and said the recent exchange of prisoners by the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, who had been detained in connection with the conflict, is a welcome development.

“India hopes that the parties will take more confidence building measures to provide the necessary impetus for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement read.

India also hopes for peace and stability in Iraq with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India noted that in the aftermath of the August blast that brought destruction to vast swathes of Beirut and inflicted heavy loss of lives, India stood in solidarity with Lebanon.

New Delhi sent emergency humanitarian aid of over 58 metric tons to Beirut. “We look forward to the swift formation of a new government that can offer political stability and also tackle the grave socio-economic challenges being faced by the people of Lebanon,” the statement said.

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US, India must focus on threat posed by China: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo

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NEW DELHI: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday stressed on the need for Washington and New Delhi to work together to counter the threat posed by Beijing to “security and freedom”

Pompeo’s comment came during the crucial 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, which saw the signing of a crucial defence agreement between the two countries.

“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Pompeo was joined by defence secretary Mark Esper.

Esper too focussed on the apparent threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.

The comments assume significance as India is locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

In June this year, 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

In the US, President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper meet NSA Doval

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NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries.

Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, sources said.

The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue. Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday for the crucial talks aimed at further boosting the defence and security ties between the two countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.

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