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NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi is likely to address at least nine physical rallies for the Bihar polls — three each for the three phases — for which BJP will deploy over 10,000 “social media commandos” at booth level to enable people to listen to the PM live amid Covid-19 restrictions.

Sources said the party in-charge for the state polls — former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and national general secretary Bhupender Yadav — are camping in the state before finalising the dates and venues for the rallies.

“The venues and dates will be decided once the PM’s availability is confirmed,” a senior party functionary said, adding that the schedule for the first phase will be officially announced in a couple of days.

“We are trying to make sure maximum people are connected through digital platforms for which the party has worked since June,” said a BJP member. Party sources said at least 4 lakh party cadres with smart phones have been identified, who will be at the booth level to help people watch the PM and other leaders live. “At least five party workers with smart phones will be deployed at every booth,” he said. said.

Besides, over 10000 “social media commandos” will fan across the state to help the party cadres streamline the smooth broadcast of the rallies.

BJP is likely to focus on the decisive leadership of the Modi government like its stand on India-China border, construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, benefits under direct transfer schemes and the projects dedicated to Bihar.

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

Farooq Abdullah to head seven-party Peoples Alliance, Mehbooba Mufti nominated VP

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SRINAGAR: The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, the seven-party amalgam of mainstream Kashmir parties demanding the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, appointed on Saturday National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah as its president, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti as vice-president, and decided the flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir would be the flag of the alliance.

The decisions came at a meeting of alliance constituents, some of whom are arch-rivals, at Mufti’s Gupkar Road residence here. “It’s not an anti-national alliance, it is an anti-BJP alliance… BJP wants to divide the country, our aim is to ensure that the rights of the people of J&K and Ladakh are restored,” Dr Abdullah said.

Congress appeared to distance itself from the PAGD with J&K PCC president GA Mir staying away from two meetings of the conglomerate — on October 15 when the alliance was forged, and on Saturday. Sources close to the regional Congress unit said this was because of what they described as a “twist” in the objective of the basic demand for the restoration of special status to J&K, a reference to recent statements from Mehbooba Mufti to the effect that she would raise the tricolour only when the J&K flag, too, was allowed to fly. The source said Congress had raised the issue of the nullification of Article 370 in Parliament but the PDP Rajya Sabha members had not spoken a word on it in the Upper House.

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, meanwhile, was quoted by ANI as asking, “Why is the so-called secular lobby silent at this anti-national remark (Mehbooba’s remarks of Friday)? … In one country there cannot be ‘do nishaan, do pradhan’. We condemn this.” He added that J&K was “India’s inseparable part” and “Article 370 abrogation was a constitutional process (sic)”.

However, CPM leader Yousuf Tarigami rejected the notion of Congress distancing itself, saying,“Congress party is very (much) a constituent of the PAGD.”

PAGD’s constituents are National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Peoples Conference, Awami National Conference, CPM, CPI and J&K Peoples Movement.

Veteran CPM leader M Y Tarigami was elected convener while Lok Sabha member from South Kashmir Hasnain Masoodi was made coordinator of the conglomerate. People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone would be the spokesman for the amalgam.

Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone said the PAGD would come up with a document, at the next meeting in Jammu in two weeks, on the “lies being spread against the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. “The white paper will compare the reality and false propaganda on the ground,” Lone said.

Both Congress and BJP condemned Mehbooba’s statements of Friday. While Congress advised Mehbooba to desist from such statements, BJP demanded her arrest and party activists burnt effigies of Mufti for “insulting the national flag”

“Our relationship with the flag of this country is not independent of this flag (Jammu and Kashmir’s flag). When this flag comes in our hand, we will raise that flag too,” Mehbooba had said on Friday.

JKPCC chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, however, added that Congress is for the restoration of J&K’s special status and that J&K should revert to being a single state that includes Ladakh. “We are not with any such irresponsible statement which would hurt the sentiments of Indians,” Ravinder Sharma said.

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INDIA

Rajnath reviews LAC situation in eastern sector at Army’s Trishakti Corps in Sukna

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NEW DELHI: Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday reviewed the combat preparedness of the Indian Army at the Sukna-based headquarters of its 33 Corps which is responsible for guarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the Sikkim sector, officials said.

The defence minister arrived at the key military base, popularly known as ‘Trishakti’ Corps, in Darjeeling district in late afternoon as part of his two-day visit to West Bengal and Sikkim to review the military preparedness in view of the border row with China in eastern Ladakh as well as to celebrate Dussehra with soldiers.

Singh is accompanied by Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane.

The Army has significantly bolstered deployment of troops and weaponry along the nearly 3,500 km-long LAC including in the Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh sectors.

The officials said top commanders of the 33 Corps gave detailed briefing to the defence minister and Gen Naravane on the situation along the LAC in Sikkim sector as well as about deployment of troops and weapons.

In an interaction with a group of Army personnel, the defence minister conveyed his wishes to them on the occasion of Vijayadashami and hailed their dedication in securing the nation’s borders.

“Due to brave soldiers like you, the borders of this country are protected. The whole country is proud of you,” he said.

The defence minister also talked about the rich history of the Trishakti Corps.

“The Trishakti Corps has a great golden history. Especially in 1962, 1967, 1971 and 1975, this Corps demonstrated examples of valour. It has been excellent,” he said.

“I extend my best wishes to all of you and your family for the festival of Vijayadashami,” the defence minister’s office tweeted quoting him as saying.

Officials said Singh will perform ‘Shastra puja'(worship of weapons) at Sherathang area in Sikkim on Sunday morning on the occasion of Dussehra.

The defence minister had performed ‘Shastra Puja’ in the French port city of Bordeaux during Dussehra last year as he was on a bilateral visit to the country then.

Singh has been performing ‘Shastra Puja’ during Dussehra for the last several years including during his tenure as the Union Home Minister in the previous NDA government.

Almost all formations of the Indian Army along the LAC are on a very high-level of alert in view of the border row with China in eastern Ladakh.

India and China are locked in an over five-month-long bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh that has significantly strained their ties.

Both sides held a series of diplomatic and military talks to resolve the row. However, no breakthrough has been achieved to end the standoff.

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Rift between BJP old-timers and new entrants resurfaces in Bengal

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NEW DELHI: Factional feud in the BJP West Bengal unit reached new heights on Saturday when the party’s Bishnupur MP, Saumitra Khan — who switched from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls — dramatically announced that he is quitting as state BJYM (BJP Youth wing) chief and left the official Whatsapp group, “BJYM West Bengal Official”.

However, Khan returned to the same group by the evening and also withdrew his resignation.

He sent out a video message saying he was “upset and hurt… but no person is larger than the party… hence he decided to remain in the party, continue in his post and work towards throwing out the ruling TMC from office.”

This act was a follow-up to Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh’s action the previous day. On Friday, Ghosh unilaterally dissolved all the district BJYM committees that had been set up by Khan, without consulting him. Khan is known as a Mukul Roy-loyalist within the party.

Soon after Khan announced quitting his post, central BJP leaders Kailash Vijaywarghiya and Shiv Prakash spoke to Ghosh, it is learnt.

This Khan episode comes four weeks after former state party president Rahul Sinha openly revolted against the party, when Mukul Roy and Anupam Hazra were given national party posts during the organisational reshuffle by party chief J P Nadda.

Sinha is still with BJP but has not reconciled to being sidelined “after giving 40 years to the party,” according to party insiders.

With BJP’s strength in Bengal having grown considerably since the party won its biggest ever victory in the state, picking up 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, it has seen a steady inflow of leaders and cadre.

Without a suitable leadership face in the state, BJP has relied on breaking away winnable candidates from rival camps. However, the induction of leaders from TMC and other parties has created a steady rift between the old timers and the new entrants.

As the party is gearing up for 2021 assembly polls, a clear demarcation between the Dilip Ghosh camp (mostly old timers including RSS-backed members) and Mukul Roy camp (mostly those who came in from TMC) has surfaced.

Matters came to such a point that former party chief and Union home minister Amit Shah had to step in with the message that internal differences need to be buried to fight TMC.

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