On poll result eve, ‘kingmakers’ wait in the wings

 Regional satraps, all astute politicians and mostly from southern states, are positioning themselves to play kingmakers if the Lok Sabha results do not throw up a definite mandate.

The list of these possible kingmakers is impressive: Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party, N Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, K Chandrashekhar Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and M.K. Stalin of the DMK.

One of these leaders, Mayawati, has already declared her prime ministerial ambitions — not once but twice, the latest being on Wednesday. It is easy to see why she backs herself in that position. Apart from being from Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most important state politically, she is India’s preeminent Dalit player and a master practitioner of caste politics.

Her younger mahagathbandhan partner Akhilesh Yadav, with whom she has had a smooth alliance without the friction that one would have expected given their history as political adversaries, could position himself as an important post-poll player. However, he does not have the political heft that Mayawati does.

Naidu has emerged as the most politically active leader among the possible kingmakers. He has veered towards the UPA after supping with the NDA and is now running a campaign to mobilise opposition unity. Among the key leaders apart from Sonia Gandhi that he has met recently are Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party, Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal and Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress.

Two regional leaders who have kept their cards close to their chests are Reddy and Chandrashekhar Rao. Rao had first proposed a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front — an idea that went out of favour soon after only to be back on the table now. His idea of a federal front appears to be to create an alliance that would give outside support to the ruling alliance at the Centre, much like the Left parties between 2004 and 2008 during UPA-I. He might not bring in huge numbers in the Lok Sabha — Telangana has 17 Lok Sabha seats — but an agglomeration of parties behind him would make him an important leader.

Reddy has played a wait-and-watch game. This has also meant confusion for those who have watched him from outside. If he has praised the Prime Minister, he has also said that he has forgiven the Congress party, presumably for not backing him for the chief ministership after the death of his father, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, in 2009. He might not bring in huge numbers, but has shown that he can be a sharp political player.

Stalin is clearly in the UPA camp, a powerful regional satrap who is expected to do well in these elections. Sources say he has given an assurance that if it is touch and go on government formation at the Centre, he will deliver the numbers for the UPA with the help of other parties in the south.



Exit polls predict 18 seats each to Congress-Jds & BJP in Karnataka

The efforts of Congress and JD-S alliance in Karnataka seem to be failing as multiple exit polls showed that the Bharatiya Janata Party will secure a maximum of 18 Lok Sabha seats.

The survey conducted by IANS-C Voter has predicted 18 seats for National Democratic Alliance (NDA) followed by nine for United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and one seat to independent.

The News18 IPSOS exit poll showed that the BJP was set to win 20-23 seats with a vote share of 54.47 per cent and the UPA will wrest five-eight seats with 41.85 per cent of the votes.

As per the India Today Axis poll, BJP will win between 21 and 25 seats and Congress alliance between three and five. The poll has predicted 0-1 seats for others. The Chanakya-News24 exit poll has forecast 23 seats for the BJP and the Congress-led alliance five seats.

The AP-Nielsen Survey predicts 15 seats for NDA and 13 for UPA. The survey has forecast zero for others.

In the 2014 election, the BJP had won 17 seats in the state, while the Congress got nine and the JD-S just two.

Prominent figures in this election included former Prime Minister and JD-S supremo H.D. Deve Gowda.

Nikhil Kumaraswamy, another grandson of Deve Gowda, contested from Mandya, a seat traditionally held by the Congress but given to the JD-S in the seat-sharing exercise. He faced off against independent candidate Sumalatha, widow of late actor-turned-politician Ambareesh. She had the support of the BJP as this was the only seat the saffron party did not contest.

For the Congress, leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha and MP from Gulbarga, Mallikarjun Kharge, and state Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, were among the prominent faces this election. Gowda contested from Bangalore North against the BJP’s union minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda.



Exit polls a gameplan to manipulate EVMs: Mamata

Dismissing the exit poll predictions of the Lok Sabha elections as “gossip”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday said it was a “gameplan to manipulate and replace thousands of EVMs” and urged opposition leaders to stand strong and united.

“I don’t trust Exit Poll gossip. The game plan is to manipulate or replace thousands of EVMs through this gossip,” Banerjee said in a social media post.

“I appeal to all Opposition parties to be united, strong and bold. We will fight this battle together,” she said.

Almost all exist polls either gave a majority to the NDA or predicted it would stop close to the majority mark.

The various exit polls also forecast a massive increase in the BJP’s number of seats – from two in 2014 to between 16 and 18 in West Bengal.



Facebook building its cryptocurrency in Switzerland: Report

 Giving its cryptocurrency dream a firm beginning, Facebook has reportedly set up a company called Libra Networks in Switzerland that is developing payments and Blockchain systems for the social networking giant.

According to a report in CNET quoting Swiss publication Handelszeitung, the Facebook cyrptocurrency would be tied to the US dollar and could, therefore, remain stable unlike Bitcoin which has crashed.

“Facebook set up Libra Networks in Geneva several weeks ago. Libra is the social network’s internal project name for the digital currency,” the report said late on Saturday.

The Swiss company would focus on developing the software and hardware for currency-related functions like payments, Blockchain, analytics, big data and identity management.

Facebook declined to comment on the new report.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, the social media giant is “recruiting dozens of financial firms and online merchants” towards its cryptocurrency-based system that would use a digital coin similar to Bitcoin.

The New York Times reported in February that Facebook had a team of 50 people working on its virtual currency project.

“Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of Blockchain technology,” Facebook had insisted.

In a public interview with Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain in February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he is “potentially interested” in putting the Facebook login on the Blockchain technology.

“I’m thinking about going back to decentralised or Blockchain authentication. Although I haven’t figured out a way to make this work out but this is around authentication and basically granting access to your information and to different services,” Zuckerberg told Zittrain.

According to Zuckerberg, Blockchain could give users more powers when granting data access to third-party apps.

Facebook has over 2.38 billion users globally and launching cryptocurrency will allow them make payments using a virtual currency like Bitcoin.



MS Dhoni puts opposition under pressure: McCullum

With the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 just around the corner, all eyes will be on Team India which is seen as the most strong contender and on former captain MS Dhoni who is probably featuring in his last World Cup. Experts of the game believe the stumper will be a major weapon in Captain Virat Kohli’s armoury.

Speaking on Star Sports, the tournament’s official global broadcaster which introduced a new show ‘FAB 15’ that analyses each player who is part of the Indian World Cup squad going to England, former New Zealand cricketer Brendon McCullum said: “He is invaluable to the Indian team, he has a blueprint in his mind along with an approach to the game. He always puts the opposition under pressure when he arrives at the crease and reads the game perfectly. His fitness has been great, and he has been striking the ball beautifully in the recent past.”

On MSD’s recent form as a wicketkeeper and batsman, former England batsman Kevin Pietersen said: “His calmness gives him the ability to judge what’s in front of him, it doesn’t matter what situation it is, he is just one of those guys who you know would hold onto the ball when thrown at him.”

“The best thing about IPL this year was the rebirth of MSD’s batting, he took out all the bowling attacks in front of him,” he added.

The show — Fab 15 — will preview each of India’s World Cup squad members in a 11-part series that will telecast at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., every Saturday and Sunday on Star Sport 1 and Star Sports 1 Hindi.

India Social Media

647 paid news cases during Lok Sabha elections 2019: EC

The Election Commission said a total of 647 cases of paid news have been found while 909 posts have been taken down from various social media platforms during the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections which ended on Sunday.

Of the total paid news cases, 57 were registered in the seventh phase of voting, one in the sixth phase, eight in the fifth phase, 136 in the fourth phase, 52 in the third phase, 51 in the second phase and the highest – 342 – in the first phase.

The EC said the total of paid news cases found in 2014 was the “worst” – at 1,297.

For the first time, the Commission said it implemented the “voluntary code of ethics for social media” and deployed experts and nodal official in all constituencies.

Among the posts taken down by various social media platforms, the EC said that Facebook has taken down 650 posts, Twitter 220, ShareChat 31, Google five and WhatsApp three.

Of the posts taken down by Facebook, 482 were political posts during the “silence period” – 48 hours prior to polling, 73 political ads during the silence period, two violations of the Model Code of Conduct, 43 cases of voter misinformation, 28 were against public morality and decency, 11 were exit polls, and 11 were related to hate speech and undue influence.

Out of 220 posts taken down by Twitter, eight posts were political posts during the silence period, 34 violated the Model Code of Conduct, 102 were voter misinformation (impersonating EC’s Twitter accounts), 74 were of exit polls, and two were of hate speech and undue influence.

All the 31 posts taken down by ShareChat are related to violation of Model Code of Conduct while three of the five posts taken down by Google are related to voter misinformation and one each of political posts during the silence period, and hate speech and undue influence.

Two of the three posts taken down by WhatsApp related to hate speech and undue influence while one was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.



Most exit polls predict BJP-led NDA government will return to power

The BJP-led NDA is set to return to power, according to most exit polls released on Sunday, with Congress-led UPA expected to fall far short of numbers to reach the half-way mark in the Lok Sabha elections.

The exit polls, released on the conclusion of seven-phase Lok Sabha election, also predicted that “others” will gain a significant chunk of seats ranging from 94 to 138.

Twelve of 14 exit polls predicted National Democratic Alliance getting a full majority with the range of seats going from 282 to 365. A party or an alliance needs 271 seats to form the government as Lok Sabha elections have been held on 542 of 543 seats.

The exit polls predicted United Progressive Alliance getting 82 to 165 seats. Six exit polls predicted that “other” parties were likely to get more seats than the the UPA.

The IANS-CVoter predicted 287 seats for NDA, Republic Bharat Jan ki Baat 305, News Nation 282-290, Times Now-VMR 306, India News-Polstrat 298, Sudarshan News 313, ABP-Neilsen 267, India Today 339-365, News 18-IPSOS 336, News 24-Today’s Chanakya 350+-14, NewsX-Neta 242, Suvarna News 305+-10 and India TV-CNX 290-310.

For UPA, the IANS-CVoter predicted 128 seats, Republic Bharat Jan ki Baat 124, News Nation 118-126, Times Now-VMR 142, India News-Polstrat 118, Sudarshan News 121, ABP-Neilsen 127, India Today 77-108, News 18-IPSOS 82, News 24-Today’s Chanakya 95+-9, NewsX Neta 165, Suvarna News 124+-2 and India TV-CNX 115-125.

The predictions for “others” are IANS-CVoter 127 seats, Republic Bharat Jan ki Baat 113, News Nation 130-138, Times Now-VMR 94, India News-Polstrat 126, Sudarshan News 109, ABP-Neilsen 148, India Today 69-95, News 18-IPSOS 124, News 24-Today’s Chanakya 94+-11, NewsX Neta 136, Suvarna News 102 and India TV-CNX 116-128.

The results will be declared on May 23.



Saudi Arabia rules out war with Iran after Gulf attacks

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday said that his country is not seeking to start a war with Iran but is ready to defend itself from any threat, following attacks in the Gulf region.

Al-Jubeir said at a news conference that the kingdom’s “hands are always extended to peace and seeks to achieve it, and believes that the people of the region, including the Iranian people, have the right to live in security and stability and to move towards development”.

“The Iranian regime has directly and through its proxies sought to provoke unrest and supported terrorist and extremist groups and organizations. Over the past decades, the countries of the region have suffered from the crimes of the Iranian regime and its interventions which are too numerous to count,” he was quoted as saying by Efe news.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia said two oil pumping stations in Riyadh were targeted by explosive-laden airborne drones and blamed the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen for the assault.

Last week, the United Arab Emirates said that four commercial vessels, including two belonging to Saudi Arabia, were sabotaged off its coast.

These incidents came amid growing tension in the region between Iran and the US.

Washington said earlier this month that it was sending the USS Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear aircraft carrier of the Nimitz class, and the USS Arlington amphibious warship, as well as a Patriot missile defence battery and bombers, to the Middle East.

Al-Jubeir said that the “problems in the region began since the arrival of the Iranian regime in 1979, whose Constitution is based on exporting revolution and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries”.

He added that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed regional developments as well as bilateral ties in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, giving no further details.

In April, the US announced the end of exemptions it had granted to eight nations — China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — to buy Iranian oil.

Tehran responded by saying that if the US blocks its oil exports it could close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important marine trade routes.

The US had also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist outfit, to which Tehran responded by putting US troops deployed in the Middle East on its list of extremist groups.


Aditi’s audition story: Had to make out with stranger

 Actress Aditi Rao Hydari says during her audition for “Yeh Saali Zindagi”, she had to get intimate with a stranger.

During a talk show for an OTT platform, Aditi told the hostess: “I don’t have any whacked out stories from auditions, except the ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’ audition where I had to literally make out with someone I didn’t know.”

She was referring to actor Arunoday Singh, who was opposite her in the film.

“But at that point, I didn’t know him and he was a huge hulk of a guy and I was just like, ‘Uh…what’s going on here?'”

She said he was “very polite”.

Aditi also spoke about other aspects of her life, including how Mani Ratnam’s “Bombay” is what attracted her to the world of films. She was especially enamoured by the song “Kehna hi kya”.

The actress also opened up a bit on her personal life, admitting that she had received her first love letter when she was just in the fifth standard.

“It was really long. It was like, two pages. All I know is that it was from senior. Very soon after that, I was packed off to boarding school,” she said with a laugh.

She recollected how she had shown the letter to her mother herself.

Looking back at the incident, she said: “I was nine at the time. It basically said that I was the most beautiful girl and blah blah. Now when I think about it, I’m like, ‘I was nine! How does that even work?'”

Opening up on her “dating game”, Aditi, who had tied the knot with actor Satyadeep Mishra when she was 21 and later separated, said: “If I got into a relationship like that at 21, my dating game would be zero, right? I don’t think I know how to date.

“After that, I joined the movies. What dating am I going to do? I don’t know how to date.”



Only tech can’t make films successful: Anil Kapoor

Veteran actor Anil Kapoor, who built up curiosity on his upcoming project with acclaimed director Shekhar Kapur, says that though technical advancement has made it easier for the new generation to make films like “Mr. India” it cannot guarantee a movie’s success.

Kapur on Friday, posted a candid photograph on social media of their meeting and wrote: “Discussing the look for the next ‘Mr India 2’, or another movie together? You tell them Anil.”

Talking about his meeting with Kapur, Anil told IANS: “Yes, we are discussing something but it is really too early to talk about… Shekhar and I keep meeting whenever we get a chance because we are really good friends. Nothing has changed between us for all these years.”

“It’s always like two friends, who are ‘child at heart’ catching up. It is not always about talking on one thing at times… just exchanging thoughts are also wonderful,” he added.

Released in 1987 “Mr India” was one of the commercially successful sci-fi films.

It told the story of a poor man who gives shelter to orphans. After discovering his scientist father’s invisibility device, he rises to the occasion and fights to save his children and all of India from the clutches of a villain named Mogambo.

Has technical advancement made it easy for the new generation to make such films?

“That is true, when we made “Mr India”, the technical advancement wasn’t there as much as we get it today. But only the use of technology cannot make a film successful. The heart of the story has to have at the right place. Whether it is Harshvardhan’s ‘Bhavesh Joshi’ or our ‘Mr. India’, people talk about the character, which means, the story.”

“Now, there are films that have box office success as well as an archival value. Some films cannot make it to the box office but get shelf life. One cannot calculate that, as an actor,” he added.

Currently, Anil is busy shooting for director Anees Bazmee’s directorial “Pagalpanti”. He is also into producing movies with his banner Anil Kapoor Films Company.

Anil, who has bank rolled films such as “My Wife’s Murder”, “Aisha”, “Khubsoorat”, “Veere Di Wedding”, said: “Rhea (Kapoor) is actually working on quite a few things and we will make the announcement of those projects soon. You see, I am one of those people who believe in investing time and effort on pre-production”

He added: “Whether it is scripting, how we are channelising the creative idea on screen and if the core idea is coming across that way announcing and shooting is the execution part, which becomes easier when we have a good story in hand, that is well researched”.

Recently, TV actress Hina Khan walked the red carpet at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival to launch the poster of her Bollywood debut “Lines” and one of the editors of a film magazine made a discriminating comment on her presence referring to the small screen.

Since the 62-year-old actor has explored the small screen and digital platforms as an along with cinema, he was asked if TV actors are looked down upon by movie stars.

Without directly commenting on the matter, he said: “Internationally, TV actors are respected equally, and the gap between TV and cinema is going away. But cinema has its magnitude and everyone wants to see their face on that big 70mm. There is nothing wrong in that too.”

(Arundhuti Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])



Pragya Thakur should be expelled from BJP: Nitish Kumar

BJP ally and JD-U chief Nitish Kumar on Sunday lashed out at Bharatiya Janta Party candidate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur for her statement in favour of Mahatma Gandhi assassin Nathuram Godse and demanded the party to expel her.

Pragya Thakur, who is a Malegaon blast accused, spurred a row and drew flak after she lauded the killer of Mahatma Gandhi and called him a “patriot”.

“The BJP should take action against her. She should be expelled from the party for what she had stated,” Nitish Kumar told media here after casting his vote in the final phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

“The BJP should think about such comments. We condemn such remarks,” he said.

Thakur is contesting from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh against senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.

Thakur had earlier too, created controversy after she claimed that 26/11 martyr Hemant Karkare, who died fighting against terrorist in Mumbai, lost his life because he tortured the BJP leader in jail.



Dhoni looks to finish off in style, break the English voodoo

“Dhoni finishes off in style. A magnificent strike into the crowd! India lift the World Cup after 28 years!” exclaimed Ravi Shastri on commentary as M.S. Dhoni led India to a win in the final of the 2011 World Cup at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai with a humongous six off Sri Lanka pacer Nuwan Kulasekara.

Eight years later, roles have changed. Dhoni is no longer the captain of the team. Shastri is now the head coach of the squad led by Virat Kohli. And more importantly, Dhoni himself doesn’t enjoy the role of the finisher as much as he did in his prime. Failures have come thick and fast in the last two seasons and even Dhoni hasn’t escaped the public scrutiny.

In fact, Dhoni had a horrid time the last time he played for India in England. In the three-match ODI series played last year, Dhoni was completely out of form and lacked that finesse and tenacity which one associates with the wicketkeeper-batsman. His strike rate was so slow that he was even booed at Lord’s when India were chasing 323. Dhoni managed to score only 79 runs from 125 balls in two innings against England and was heavily criticised by the pundits as well.

Dhoni might be ranked as one of India’s most successful captains, but after the England tour, questions were raised on his approach to batting with some even suggesting that he was detrimental to the team’s hopes at the upcoming World Cup.

However, like many great cricketers, the 37-year-old didn’t answer the critics with his words but instead gave fitting replies with the bat, scoring runs in bulk thereafter. He has been in exceptional form this year: in nine ODIs, he has scored 327 runs, hitting four half-centuries, three of them in a row during the tour of Australia.

He continued his form in the recently concluded IPL as well and scored 416 runs in 5 matches he played for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Additionally, his average of 83.20 ended up as the season’s best.

Knowing Dhoni, fans can be rest assured that he would be roaring to make amends to his record in England and score big for India when they take the field in the World Cup beginning May 30.

In the three World Cups Dhoni has played so far, he has scored 507 runs in 17 innings at an average of 42.25, his best being that of famous 91 not out which came against Sri Lanka in the final of the 2011 edition at the Wankhede.

As India will aim to clinch their third World Cup trophy, it becomes all the more important that Dhoni continues his form, not just in batting but in terms of his tactical brilliance and extra-ordinary wicket-keeping skills.

As the Indian middle-order is relatively inexperienced, Dhoni’s experience to pace the inning and score big towards the death will be like gold to Team India in the prestigious quadrennial event. In wicket-keeping, Dhoni’s lightning quick stumpings and catches would be crucial for Team India when they take on the opposition teams on high-scoring England pitches.

However, there is still a question mark over where he will bat. The number four role seems a possibility, although there is plenty of competition for that role. India have tried out a lot of players, and with the inclusions of Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar and K.L. Rahul in the World Cup squad, they are no closer to arriving at a conclusion and it would only be in England when the fans will get to know where Dhoni will bat.

Dhoni’s importance in the Indian cricket set-up has been time and again highlighted by many, including the likes of current skipper Virat Kohli, who thinks that no one has contributed more to Indian cricket than Dhoni. Besides all these qualities, Dhoni brings to the side the much-needed calmness which becomes of utmost importance in a cliffhanger of humdinger in the World Cup. If Dhoni can continue to remain as consistent as he has been for Team India and CSK over the last decade, then the Men in Blue would sail smoothly to victory and give a fitting farewell to Dhoni who, in all likelihood, will be playing his last World Cup.

However, it will be fascinating to watch how the drama unfolds in England and if Dhoni can inspire India to their third World Cup title and finish it on a high.

(Aakash Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])


Entertainment World

Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger attacked in South Africa

A video footage has shown Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger being attacked at an event here in South Africa.

The 71-year-old former California Governor was interacting with fans during a skipping competition at his Arnold Classic Africa sporting event when a man drop-kicked him from behind, the BBC reported on Saturday.

The attacker is seen being restrained following the incident.

Schwarzenegger thanked fans on Twitter for their concern, but insisted there was “nothing to worry about”.

The video footage, shared widely on social media, shows Schwarzenegger posing for photos and filming at the Johannesburg event on Saturday when the man attacks him with a flying kick.

The Terminator star stumbles forward after the kick, while the attacker falls to the ground, where he is immediately restrained by a security guard.

The man was later handed over to police officers, event officials said.

Schwarzenegger tweeted to his more than four million followers: “I thought I was just jostled by the crowd, which happens a lot. I only realised I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you.”

He later urged fans to focus on the athletes at the event instead of the attack.

“We have 90 sports here in South Africa at the @ArnoldSports, and 24,000 athletes of all ages and abilities inspiring all of us to get off the couch. Let’s put this spotlight on them,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Arnold Classic Africa event takes place every May and features a range of events including bodybuilding and combat sports.



Voting begins in 59 seats in final phase of LS polls

Voting began on Sunday across 59 Lok Sabha constituencies spanning seven states and a Union Territory across north, central and east India in the final of the mega seven-phase electoral exercise.

A total electorate of over 10.1 crore is eligible to cast their ballots in this phase which covers all remaining seats in the three states — Uttar Pradesh (13, including the high-profile Varanasi constituency), Bihar (8) and West Bengal (9) – where polling took place across all seven phases, as well as in Madhya Pradesh (8) and Jharkhand (3) which also saw multi-stage voting.

All the 13 constituencies in Punjab, one in Chandigarh, and four in Himachal Pradesh also figure in this phase.

The 918 candidates in this phase include Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who faces actor-politician and sitting MP Shatrughan Sinha (now in the Congress) in Patna Sahib, and actor-turned-politicians Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur (BJP), and Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan, both contesting for the Trinamool Congress from Jadavpur and Basirhat, respectively.

Also contesting are Union Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri (Amritsar), Manoj Sinha (Ghazipur), R.K. Singh (Arrah) — all from BJP, Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (Mirzapur) Harsimrat Kaur from ally Akali Dal in Bathinda and her husband and party President Sukhbir Singh Badal in Ferozepur, former Union Minister Preneet Kaur (Congress) in Patiala, and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s eldest daughter Misa Bharti (Patliputra).

In this phase, the BJP will be defending 30 seats – 11 of the 12 it won in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 as it later lost Gorakhpur in a bypoll, seven in Madhya Pradesh, all four in Himachal Pradesh, five in Bihar, one each in Punjab, Jharkhand and Chandigarh.

Allies Apna Dal won one in Uttar Pradesh and the Akali Dal four in Punjab, while then ally Rashtriya Lok Samta Party of Upendra Kushwaha had won two in Bihar. The Janata Dal-United, which is now an ally, won one seat in Bihar.

The Congress had won five seats — one in Madhya Pradesh and four in Punjab.

Four seats were won by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab and two by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand. One seat is currently held by the Samajwadi Party.

In West Bengal, all nine seats were won by the Trinamool Congress.

Re-polling is also being held in several booths in parliamentary seats in six states and in Assembly constituencies in two. These seats include Kerala’s Kannur and Kasargod, Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri, Theni, Thiruvallur, Cuddalore and Erode, Haryana’s Faridabad, Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, West Bengal’s Bankura, Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor parliamentary and Chandgiri Assembly constituencies and 34 Assembly segments in 10 Odisha districts.

Voting is also being held in bypolls to four Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, two in Karnataka and the Panaji Assembly seat, which fell vacant after death of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

The Lok Sabha elections started on April 11. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.



Trump, Xi Jinping likely to meet next month during the G20 economic summit

US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are likely to meet in Japan next month during the G20 economic summit amid rising trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies, a senior White House official has said.

There is a “strong possibility” that the two presidents will hold talks on the sidelines of the conference in Osaka, Efe news quoted White House chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow as saying during a TV programme on Fox News on Sunday.

Negotiators failed last week to reach an agreement to end the trade war that began in 2018 with Trump’s decision to impose a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of goods from China, which retaliated with levies on $60 billion worth of US products.

“There were constructive conversations,” US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters last Friday as his bid farewell to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the leader of the delegation that traveled from Beijing to Washington for the two-day round.

At 12.01 am last Friday, between the first and second sessions of those talks, the US raised the tariffs on affected Chinese imports from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

“China deeply regrets that it will have to take necessary countermeasures,” the Chinese government said in a statement after the higher tariffs took effect.

Though both sides spoke of their readiness to continue the negotiations, Mnuchin acknowledged Friday that no further talks were scheduled.

Hours after Liu left Washington, Trump announced that he had ordered US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to draw up plans to extend tariffs to an additional $300 million worth of Chinese imports.

Kudlow said Sunday that while there were “no concrete, definite plans” for the resumption of discussions, the Chinese have invited Mnuchin and Lighthizer to Beijing.

“The talks will continue,” Kudlow told Fox’s Chris Wallace. “I will say this: There is a G20 meeting in Japan toward the end of June next month and the chances that President Trump and President Xi will get together at that meeting are pretty good.”

“We were moving well, constructive talks – and I still think that’s the case,” Kudlow said. “But the problem is, two weeks ago in China, there was backtracking by the Chinese.”

The Trump administration increased the tariffs because Beijing was resisting the idea of enshrining in Chinese law some of the concessions Beijing has offered, such as measures to respect the intellectual property of US firms operating in China, the White House adviser said.

“Things seemed to be taking too long, and we can’t accept any backtracking,” Kudlow said on Fox. “We don’t think the Chinese have come far enough, we will wait and see.”



Cyclone Fani toll across Odisha rises up to 64: Official Report

The toll due to Cyclone Fani, which left a trail of destruction and devastation through coastal Odisha as it hit the state on May 3, has increased to 64, a official report said on Sunday.

A Cyclone Situation Report released from the office of Special Relief Commissioner said that while 39 deaths have been reported from worst-affected Puri district, nine deaths occurred in Khurdha and six in Cuttack.

Four persons were killed in Mayurbhanj district and three deaths reported each from Jajpur and Kendrapara, it added.

A total of 1.64 crore people have been affected in 14 districts by the cyclone.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday announced that permanent houses will be sanctioned for all families whose houses were completely or substantially damaged due to the cyclonic storm.

The house damage assessment will begin from May 15 and will be completed within a week, he added.



Mumbai lift fourth IPL title with 1-run win over CSK

Lasith Malinga delivered the killer blow as Mumbai Indians (MI) defeated bitter rivals Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by one run to lift a record fourth Indian Premier League (IPL) title in a rip-roaring final at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here on Sunday.

With two runs needed off the final delivery, Malinga executed a slower yorker to perfection, trapping Shardul Thakur (2) right in front to send his teammates, including skipper Rohit Sharma, into delirium as Shane Watson, whose breathtaking 80 went in vain, sunk in his seat in the Chennai dugout.

Chasing a modest 150 for victory, Watson, who was dropped on 56 by Rahul Chahar, carried Chennai’s hopes with a belligerent 80 off 59 balls, his innings laced with eight fours and four sixes.

But once he was run out in the fourth ball of the final over, it was Sri Lankan Malinga who showed his class to snatch the crown from the defending champions.

In the last five overs, Chennai needed 62 off 30 balls. Watson then hit Malinga for a hat-trick of fours to trim the equation to 42 off 24 balls.

There was no stopping the veteran Australian, who scored a hundred in the final to help Chennai win the IPL last year, as he clobbered Krunal Pandya for three back-to-back sixes in the 18th over which costed Mumbai 20 runs.

Mumbai’s best bowler Jasprit Bumrah (2/14) then bowled a brilliant penultimate over, sending Bravo (15) back in the hut after the latter gave Quinton de a simple catch behind the stumps. However, de Kock missed an easy gathering to gift Chennai four byes in the last ball of the over.

Earlier, Faf du Plessis (26) and Watson gave Chennai a steady start before Krunal got the former stumped by de Kock by luring him to come down the wicket.

With du Plessis gone for 26 off 13, Watson and Suresh Raina (8) shared a 37-run stand for the second wicket as Chennai looked to be cruising.

Rohit then gave the ball to Rahul Chahar (1/14) who started Chennai’s downfall by trapping Raina (8) in front. Ambati Rayudu (1) could not add much to the tally, getting caught behind off Bumrah.

The game-changing moment came in the 13th over when M.S. Dhoni (2) was caught short of the crease by Ishan Kishan, with replays showing it to be a close call.

Watson and Bravo then joined hands for a 51-run partnership for the fifth wicket which was finally broken by Bumrah. From there on, it was a see-saw battle which eventually saw Mumbai continue their dominance over Chennai in what was their fourth final meeting.

Earlier, Deepak Chahar (3/26) and Imran Tahir (2/23) starred with the ball as CSK restricted MI to 149/8, even as Kieron Pollard hit an unbeaten cameo (41* off 25) down the order.

Pollard, who was dropped on 25 by Suresh Raina, was the top-scorer for Mumbai as he hammered three fours and three sixes. For Chennai, Shardul Thakur also picked up two wickets for 23 runs.

But Pollard hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons in the last over when as a mark of protest against the umpire not calling a wide in the previous delivery, he walked across — even leaving the pitch — to face the fourth ball before Dwayne Bravo pulled out.

Opting to bat, Mumbai were off to a flying start riding on de Kock’s power hitting. The South African stumper-batsman took on in-form Deepak Chahar in the third over, smashing three sixes to take 20 runs off it.

de Kock looked to be in the mood as he slapped Shardul for a six in the fifth over. But the pacer had his revenge in the next ball when he cramped de Kock for room with a quick delivery that the batsman lobbed to Dhoni who took an easy catch. de Kock clobbered four sixes en route his 17-ball 29.

In the next over, Dhoni became the wicket-keeper with most dismissals in IPL history when he dived forward to take Rohit’s catch off  Chahar who outfoxed the Mumbai captain with a knuckleball. Rohit’s patchy form in the IPL continued as he could only manage 15 off 14 balls, hitting one four and a six.

Mumbai, who suddenly seemed to be in some sort of trouble at 45/2 after the Powerplay, were dented further by Imran Tahir who accounted for Suryakumar Yadav (15), the star of Mumbai’s last game, and Ishan Kishan (23) as Krunal Pandya (7) was sent back in between by Shardul who took a brilliant catch off his own bowling.

With five overs remaining, Mumbai were 102/5 but Deepak Chahar’s brilliance restricted them to a score of below 150 despite Pollard smashing two fours off the last two deliveries.

Brief scores: Mumbai Indians: 149/8 in 20 overs (Kieron Pollard 41 not out, Quinton de Kock 29; Deepak Chahar 3/26, Imran Tahir 2/23); Chennai Super Kings: 148/7 in 20 overs (Shane Watson 80, Jasprit Bumrah 2/14)



Quikr ties up with Rocking Deals for offline service

Online classifieds marketplace Quikr on Sunday announced a partnership with Rocking Deals for offering offline services to its customers.


As per the tie-up, Quikr will sell its products at the Rocking Deals’ retail store at Mathura Road in Delhi-NCR. Rocking Deals plans to open two to three more such stores in the country.


“This will be Quikr’s first ‘experience zone’ in a metro which will offer customers a touch-and-feel experience for Quikr Assured products in Rocking Deals retail store at Mathura Road in Delhi-NCR.


“As a part of the tie-up, Quikr will initially offer Quikr Assured refurbished products in two categories including furniture and large appliances,” a joint-statement by Quikr and Rocking Deals said.


Commenting on the partnership, Yuvraj Singh, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Rocking Deals, said: “Rocking Deals will provide an exclusive space to Quikr at our largest upcoming retail store in Delhi-NCR where it will cater to the growing demand seen on the platform and to offer touch-and-feel experience to its consumers.”


Quikr has already launched QuikrBazaar franchisee stores for categories including furniture, electronics and appliances in the Tier-II towns of Karnataka and Telangana.


No ‘hate’ comments if Modi had done ‘tapasya’: Priyanka

(IANS)  Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that if he had done ‘tapasya’, he would not have made such hate-filled comments.


Interacting to reporters after casting her vote along with her husband, Robert Vadra, she said: “If he (Modi) had done even 50 hours of tapasya, he would not have made such hate-filled comments.”


She was responding to a question over Modi’s comment in an interview where he said that it was 45 years of ‘tapasya’ (austerities), “not the Khan Market gang or Lutyen’s club” that had contributed to his image.


The Congress General Secretary, who exercised her franchise at a polling booth in the Vidya Bhawan Mahavidyalaya in Lodhi Estate area, also claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would be ousted from power this time.


Citizens of the country were not happy with the BJP government, especially in Uttar Pradesh, she said.


“It’s clear that the BJP is losing the elections. I am hopeful that the results in Delhi will also be good,” she said.


Slamming Modi for not speaking on the poll promises made during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, she said her party’s campaign was not negative as it was of the BJP.


“We raked up real issues which were affecting the common people and spoke on their solutions while Modiji kept talking about things that were of no importance.”


She also hit out at Modi for not responding to the questions posed by the opposition.


“The Prime Minister does not reply to the questions posed at him. He should have answered on promises of giving Rs 15 lakh, providing two crore employments every year and also on the income of farmers. He also remaied silent on the challenge thrown by (Congress President) Rahulji (Gandhi) to debate on issues,” she added.


Asked about her son Rehan, who did not come out to vote, she said: “He could not vote as he had gone to London for his exams.”


During the nomination filing of her brother brother Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Rehan and his sibling Miraya were also seen during the road show.


The voting on 59 seats across seven seats are underway in the sixth phase. The polling on all the seven seats in the national capital are also underway where the BJP, Congress and the AAP are in a triangular fight.


Punjab CM ridicules Harsimrat’s charges of disrupting rallies

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday ridiculed Akali leader and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s allegations of the Congress government in the state disrupting her poll rallies.


In a statement, he said it was the wrath of the people that they were venting against the sufferings meted out by the Shriomani Akali Dal on them for 10 years.


Expressing surprise that the Akali leader was facing protests only in some villages and not all over the state, Amarinder Singh said the anger of the people who had been victimised for 10 years by the Badals and their cronies were now finding voice.


The fact that Harsimrat Kaur was prevented from entering a village in her own constituency only showed that harsh reality was catching up fast with the Badals, who had made the people of Punjab shed tears of blood over their decade-long misrule, he said.


Trashing her charges of misuse of official machinery by the Congress government to sabotage her campaign, Amarinder Singh said the Akalis had sabotaged their own prospects with their misdeeds, including their attempts to polarise the people with sacrilege cases.


They had put the entire official machinery in motion prior to the Assembly elections but had been routed in the polls by the wrath of the people, he said, adding that the people had not forgotten or forgiven the Badals for the devastation wreaked on them for over a decade.


Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an alliance partner with the Akali Dal, filed a complaint with the Election Commission against the Chief Minister for violating the Model Code of Conduct.


The complaint said the Chief Minister made several announcements of projects at an election rally in Gurdaspur constituency on Saturday.


While campaigning for Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar, the Chief Minister announced to enhance the capacity of a sugar mill to 10,000 tonne.


He also announced to establish an ethanol plant for production of electricity and to prepone the paddy sowing dates, which the BJP alleged was violation of the election code.


All 10 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab will vote on May 19.



Election phase 6 : Millions vote in LS battle, BJP worker killed

President Ram Nath Kovind, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi were among the millions who voted on Sunday in the sixth and penultimate round of the Lok Sabha elections in which a BJP worker was killed in West Bengal.

Kovind flashed his inked finger after exercising his franchise along with his wife at a polling booth at the Rashtrapati Bhawan as voters trooped to polling booths in large numbers in 59 constituencies across seven states. The polling began at 7 a.m.

A total electorate of 10.17 crore is eligible to vote in the 14 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, 10 in Haryana, eight each in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, seven in Delhi and four in Jharkhand.

Nearly 40 per cent of the electorate had voted till 2 p.m.

A BJP activist was killed in Jhargram in West Bengal while Trinamool Congress supporters sustained bullet injuries at Keshpur in West Midnapore district as a number of incidents of violence were reported in the state.

In Uttar Pradesh, where the contest is intense between the BJP and the SP-BSP alliance with the Congress becoming the third factor, street clashes were reported both in Jaunpur and Sultanpur, where Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is the BJP candidate.

In this phase, the BJP is defending 45 seats — seven in Bihar, eight in Haryana, all four in Jharkhand, seven in Madhya Pradesh, 12 in Uttar Pradesh and all seven in Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has already voted in Gujarat, urged everyone to vote and added that youngsters should do so in record numbers. “After all, their participation makes the polls even more special.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah made a similar appeal, saying India needed a “strong government again”.

He underlined that the Modi government had transformed India from being a terror-stricken country to one that enemies were now scared of.

Rahul Gandhi asserted after voting — he went walking to the polling booth — that his party was set to win the mammoth battle.

Accusing Modi of injecting hatred and asserting that the Congress spread love, he said: “Love is going to win.”

He declined to comment on the number of seats the Congress could get. “The people will decide that.”

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal voted with his wife after urging voters to reject “hatred”. Sonia Gandhi and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi also voted in the national capital.

Prominent among the 979 candidates include three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who faces state BJP chief Manoj Tiwari in Delhi North East, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav from Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh against BJP’s Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in Bhopal, former cricketer Gautam Gambhir (BJP) in East Delhi against AAP’s Atishi and Olympian boxer Vijendra Singh (Congress) in South Delhi against AAP’s Raghav Chadha and incumbent MP Ramesh Bidhuri.

Also contesting are Union Ministers Maneka Gandhi, from UP’s Sultanpur, Radha Mohan Singh from Bihar’s East Champaran, Harsh Vardhan from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk and Rao Inderjeet Singh from Gurugram, Congress General Secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia from Madhya Pradesh’s Guna and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda from Sonipat. Bengali film hero Deepak Adhikari ‘Dev’ (Trinamool Congress) will lock horns with the BJP’s Bharati Ghosh, a former IPS officer and once a trusted lieutenant of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in Ghatal.

The Trinamool had won all the eight seats going voting on Sunday in West Bengal.

The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections started on April 11 and will end on May 19. The vote count will take place on May 23.