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N A T I O N

Rajasthan Votes
Jodhpur a battle of prestige for Gehlot
Jodhpur, May 5
If the electoral contest at Jhalawar has become a battle of prestige for former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia the same holds true for her bete noire and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot when it comes to Jodhpur.

Marriages may mar polling
Parliamentary poll nominees of various parties in Rajasthan whose fate would be sealed during the fourth phase of polling on May 7 are having sleepless nights in the run-up to the voting.Not only are they battling their rivals but also a fear within that the electorate might not just turn up for the voting, the occasion being an auspicious marriage day.

Lalu, Mulayam, Paswan may not be part of next govt
New Delhi, May 5
The Lalu-Mulayam-Paswan trio, constituting the fourth front in current political parlance, may face worse fate after the elections than now when they are struggling to win respectable numbers. They seem to be unwelcome in all political permutations and combinations, currently being worked out, be it BJP, Congress or even Left. Their joining any the BJP-led or BJP included formation is anyway ruled out by their worst political critic.

Vaiko riding on a Tiger wave
Virudhunagar (TN), May 5
Riding on a pro-Tiger wave, MDMK leader Vaiko seems to be having a smooth sail in Virudhunagar constituency, in South Tamil Nadu, against a young Congress candidate handpicked by Rahul Gandhi.


A villager tries to console the widow of a victim who died after consuming illicit liquor.
A villager tries to console the widow of a victim who died after consuming illicit liquor. — AFP

EARLIER STORIES

A potter waits for customers at a shop in Mumbai.
A potter waits for customers at a shop in Mumbai. — AFP

Bihar set for battle royale on May 7
Patna, May 5
As campaigning for the last three Lok Sabha constituencies of Bihar came to an end on Tuesday evening, the prestigious seats of Patna Sahib, Pataliputra and Nalanda are all set to witness a battle royale on May 7.

Ambani Chopper Case
Accused under scanner for other sabotage incidents
Mumbai, May 5
Uday Warekar and Balraj Thevar, the two employees of Air Works under arrest for allegedly tampering with industrialist Anil Ambani’s helicopter, have come under the scanner for carrying out incidents of sabotage in the past, the police said.


CPM supporters during an election campaign at Bolpur in Birbhum district of West Bengal on Tuesday.
CPM supporters during an election campaign at Bolpur in Birbhum district of West Bengal on Tuesday. — AFP

Aircraft hit by aero bridge
Mumbai, May 5
An Air India aircraft was hit and its door damaged after an aero bridge hit it at the airport here today morning. The pilot, co-pilot and two ground staff were taken off duty following the incident.

Militants in truce demand peace talks
Guwahati, May 5
Four militant groups in Assam, now in ceasefire with the forces, have made an appeal to the government to start peace negotiation with the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) sans further delay.

AP braces up to tackle swine flu
Hyderabad, May 5
The authorities in Andhra Pradesh have been put on alert in the wake of fears over swine flu with special teams of doctors being deployed at the international airport here to screen all passengers arriving from abroad.





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Rajasthan Votes
Jodhpur a battle of prestige for Gehlot
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jodhpur, May 5
If the electoral contest at Jhalawar has become a battle of prestige for former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia the same holds true for her bete noire and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot when it comes to Jodhpur.

Gehlot is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the former princess and sister of former Jodhpur Maharaja Gaj Singh, Chandresh Kumari, emerges victorious from the Lok Sabha seat which he had held five times in the past. Since the day Chandresh filed her nominations the Chief Minister has addressed around 20 rallies in the constituency which has sent Jaswant Singh Bishnoi of the BJP to the parliament during the last two general elections. 

Though Chandresh has been projected as an “outsider” due to her Himachal links by her opponents, Gehlot is making all the effort to convince the local electorate that she will be available to them in their hour of need. Actually, the Chief Minister, who himself got elected from Sardarpura Assembly seat of Jodhpur, is yet to come to terms with the fact that the Congress lost two Assembly seats - Soorsagar and Jodhpur city - to the BJP in the Assembly elections last year. 

His concern for Jodhpur seat can be gauged from the fact that he got the entire Congress top brass, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to address a rally in the constituency. Political observers also feel that Jodhpur seat’s outcome will have an impact on the Congress’ future politics in the state.

“If the Congress manages to wrest the seat from the BJP it can afford to ignore the Jats, who have been opposed to Gehlot,” they said while adding that the Chief Minister has been ill at ease in his hometurf on account of stiff resistance from Jat community that calls the shots in Marwar region.

The fact that Chandresh belongs to Jodhpur’s royal family and her brother Gaj Singh also ventured out of his royal abode to seek votes for his sister may tilt the balance in her favour.

Gaj Singh, popularly known as ‘baapji’, is a revered figure here and his word is still considered the final dictum for a strong 15 per cent Rajput electorate, who till now have been traditional BJP supporters, in the constituency. Also the support of Gehlot would work to her advantage as the Mali community too has a sizable presence in the seat.

However, Bishnoi’s clean image and personal equations with the electorate, particularly in urban areas, cannot be taken lightly. The contest though is not easy for him either, particularly after decline in number of Bishnoi voters due to exclusion of Bhopalgarh and Shergarh Assembly seats which have been included in Pali Lok Sabha seat during the delimitation.

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Marriages may mar polling
Girja Shankar Kaura writes from Bharatpur

Parliamentary poll nominees of various parties in Rajasthan whose fate would be sealed during the fourth phase of polling on May 7 are having sleepless nights in the run-up to the voting.Not only are they battling their rivals but also a fear within that the electorate might not just turn up for the voting, the occasion being an auspicious marriage day.

The entire state, comprising 25 parliamentary constituencies, would go to the polls on Thursday. Various political parties and their candidates are a worried lot, fearing that in all the celebrations centered around the marriages people might just not come out to vote.

Seeing the phenomenon, former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has,in a bid to garner support for the BJP, already pledged yellow rice — considered an auspicious item on marriages.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, too, has been time and again urging the electorate to turn up on the D-day. As the campaigning came to an end today, candidates are likely to go from house to house unofficially, urging people to take out time to cast their ballot. In fact, the auspicious day has become a major headache for all the parties and they feel an extra effort would be required to pull out voters.

BJP’s main campaigner Vasundhara Raje has been going around saying that “she had already pledged the auspicious yellow rice to book votes”.

Incidentally, a candidate addressing a rally in his constituency made a direct reference to the auspicious day in his speech: “Jitave ki keh toh rahe ho par wa din vote dalve na ja kar laddoon mein he lage rahoge toh jeetongon kaise (you have been assuring me of a win, but if on that day you just remain busy in eating laddoos then how will I win).”

It definitely is turning out to be a ‘laddoos’ versus votes here!

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Lalu, Mulayam, Paswan may not be part of next govt
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 5
The Lalu-Mulayam-Paswan trio, constituting the fourth front in current political parlance, may face worse fate after the elections than now when they are struggling to win respectable numbers.

They seem to be unwelcome in all political permutations and combinations, currently being worked out, be it BJP, Congress or even Left. Their joining any the BJP-led or BJP included formation is anyway ruled out by their worst political critic.

As for the other two, namely the Congress and the Left, both have expressed their readiness to go with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and his party the JD-U. That rules out Lalu Prasad.

Rahul Gandhi has praised Nitish, evoking a snide remark from BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley, who said here today, “We welcome the praise. Had it been done earlier Lalu would not have won even the few seats that he is likely to win now.”

Jaitley’s comments might have exaggerated the import of Rahul Gandhi’s appreciation of Nitish Kumar, but Gandhi sent a clear message, that the Congress was dying to dump Lalu and embrace Nitish. This was confirmed by none other than Union Minister of State for Home and senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad who has ruled out Lalu finding a place in the next Cabinet.

Even the Left is dying to go with the JD-U and therefore they have no place for Lalu Prasad and his RJD. As for Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Left says they already have BSP surpemo Mayawati in the Third Front and if they soften even slightly towards Mulayam they may lose Mayawati to the BJP, which they are not inclined to do.

Paswan is of course another entity. While the Left may not touch him for the Maywati factor, the Congress is still not averse to Paswan’s return to the UPA fold. 

The only problem is that between Nitish and Sharad Yadav on the one hand and Lalu on the other, Paswan has always had greater aversion for Sharad-Nitish duo, even when they were in the same party and ministers together in the NDA government. Since both the Left and the Congress are confident that this triumvirate cannot go to the BJP, they are banking on the outside support of the fourth front.

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Vaiko riding on a Tiger wave
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Virudhunagar (TN), May 5
Riding on a pro-Tiger wave, MDMK leader Vaiko seems to be having a smooth sail in Virudhunagar constituency, in South Tamil Nadu, against a young Congress candidate handpicked by Rahul Gandhi.

Despite lagging behind in money power, Vaiko's clean image as one of the few political leaders in Tamil Nadu without corruption charges, is making him a respected leader. Reports of massacre and sufferings of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka has vindicated his staunch support to the Tigers, in the eyes of the people here.

The MDMK leader's campaign does not seem to be hampered by lack of money, since students, youths, lawyers and Tamil nationalist groups are spending money from their own pockets and working around the clock for him, while he is busy campaigning in other parts of the state.

Unlike other politicians who had jumped into the Sri Lankan band wagon on the eve of the elections, his consistent stand has earned respectablity.

On the other hand, he has become the target of the Congress, as the MDMK leader's sustained campaign, has pushed the Sri Lankan Tamils issue to the centre stage. State Congress leaders consider him very dangerous, since he can dictate the political agenda, despite leading a minor political party.

The ruling DMK is also very keen on defeating him, as Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's sons Stalin and Azhagiri consider him, a challenge to their family. Both Stalin and Azhagiri have made their intentions clear and declared that his political career would come to an end after this elections.

The Congress is using the influence of another pro-LTTE leader Thol Thirumavalavan to counter Vaiko's campaign and the speeches of the Dalit leader is being played in busy areas.

The Congress candidate Manik Thakur, belong to the dominant Mukkalathor community and actor Vijaykanth has fielded a well known businessman Pandiarajan, whose Nadar community has a strong presence in the area. However, support for Vaiko, cuts across caste affliations and his performance as an MP, when he was elected in 1999, is still remembered.

The constituency known for fireworks and match factories is sure to witness political fireworks, during the last phase of the campaign next, when Vaiko is expected to tour around the constituency.

The Congress candidate Manik Thakur claims that he has been specially handpicked by Rahul Gandhi, to prevent a pro-LTTE leader's entry into Parliament. However, by reminding about Vaiko's pro-Tiger credentials, Congress leaders are only making his task easier, as people seem to be very keen on electing a leader, whose voice will echo that of the Tigers in Parliament.

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Bihar set for battle royale on May 7
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, May 5
As campaigning for the last three Lok Sabha constituencies of Bihar came to an end on Tuesday evening, the prestigious seats of Patna Sahib, Pataliputra and Nalanda are all set to witness a battle royale on May 7.

Historically, all these places have had a lot of importance in ancient and medieval times. But they are no less important in the on going Lok Sabha polls as well. It is believed that the poll outcome on these seats would play a decisive role in the future course of politics in Bihar.

It will also decide whether the two most strong politicians of this state Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar still command an unchallenged clout over their respective caste -Yadav and Kurmi.

While the RJD strong man Lalu Yadav has thrown his own hat in the ring for the Yadav-dominated Pataliputra seat, Nitish Kumar is definitely fighting a proxy war at his home turf -Nalanda.

The battle for the Patna Sahib seat is equally prestigious for both the BJP and Congress. Although both these national parties have fielded Film and TV personalities like Shatrughan Sinha and Shekhar Suman, they are making serious effort to wrest the seat in order to establish their political control over Bihar’s state capital. It is the only seat in Bihar where Kayastha caste voters are predominant.

It can be well understood as to why the BJP and the Congress opted for candidates belonging to this caste from here.

The common perception of political observers is that Lalu might not have fallen in the lap of his caste men by opting for Pataliputra as his second constituency, if he was confident of his victory from Saran (Chhpara). But his rivals from both JD (U) and the Congress in the fray are none else but his own caste leaders -Ranjan Yadav and Vijay Yadav respectively.

To make matters worse for Lalu, his own brother-in-law, Sadhu Yadav, is seeking votes for the Congress nominee. Sadhu’s plea to the Yadavs is that they should look forward to young leaders from their caste as Lalu had already ruled for 20 years and now he had become old and irrelevant.

Whether the Yadavs will take Sadhu’s plea seriously or fall for the emotional appeal of Lalu and Rabri Devi once again remains to be seen.

Nalanda is the only constituency in Bihar where Kurmis (caste men of Nitish Kumar) alone can elect an MP. No wonder, Nitish had made George Fernandes (a Christian) then his friend, philosopher and guide contest from here not once but thrice and win the seat.

Nitish himself had to fall back on Nalanda in 2004 Lok Sabha polls when he became shaky in his old constituency-Barh. And his intuitions proved right, Nitish lost from Barh but won the Nalanda seat.

Once again the Bihar Chief Minister’s prestige is at stake at his home turf from where he has fielded a low-profile party worker-Kaushalendra just to prove that he can make any one win from Nalanda.

But the other political parties - the Congress and the LJP-RJD combine have also fielded their candidates belonging to Kurmi caste from here this time. Now the poll outcome will decide whether Nitish can still make his caste men sway to his tunes or not.

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Ambani Chopper Case
Accused under scanner for other sabotage incidents
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 5
Uday Warekar and Balraj Thevar, the two employees of Air Works under arrest for allegedly tampering with industrialist Anil Ambani’s helicopter, have come under the scanner for carrying out incidents of sabotage in the past, the police said.

Both Warekar and Thevar are said to be members of the Maharashtra General Kamgar Sangh that has been locked in a dispute with the management over wage revision of the employees of Air Works.

According to the police, management of the company had filed several complaints against many employees for carrying out acts of sabotage in the airport premises.

Among the incidents reported so far include damage caused to an aircraft owned by a corporate house serviced by the company and arson in the hangars operated by it within the airport.

In at least two incidents, fire crackers and sutli bombs set off within the hangar of the company resulted in fires that were put off by security personnel. Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria said the accused had committed at least five incidents of sabotage.

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Aircraft hit by aero bridge

The aircraft that was hit by the aero bridge at Mumbai airport.
The aircraft that was hit by the aero bridge at Mumbai airport.— PTI 

Mumbai, May 5
An Air India aircraft was hit and its door damaged after an aero bridge hit it at the airport here today morning. The pilot, co-pilot and two ground staff were taken off duty following the incident.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also ordered an investigation into what is being considered a major breach of safety, a spokesperson for the civil aviation ministry said.

The aircraft was hit and its door damaged by the aero bridge at the airport here after 172 passengers had boarded the plane for Mangalore.

No passenger or member of the crew on board IC-179 at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here was hurt in the accident, airline officials said.

The incident occurred when the ground staff was trying to withdraw the aerobridge after passengers and crew had boarded and flight attendants had deplaned. But instead of pulling back, the aero bridge moved forward and damaged the Airbus A321 aircraft door, the officials said.

“We have sent all passengers by another aircraft around 1 pm,” an official said, adding: “For the moment, the damaged aircraft has been grounded. Our team will examine the extent of damage.” — IANS

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Militants in truce demand peace talks
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 5
Four militant groups in Assam, now in ceasefire with the forces, have made an appeal to the government to start peace negotiation with the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) sans further delay.

The ULFA (pro-talks), Dima Halam Daogah ( Dilip Nunisa faction), Birsa Commando Force and the Adivasi Cobra Militant while demanding early talks with the ULFA faction, have mooted a common platform of all indigenous organisations in the state to demand full regional autonomy as well as federalism for safeguarding socio-economic and political rights of people from all communities.

The militant groups have raised alarm of the demographic invasion from Bangladesh and growing intolerance among ethnic groups in the state. They also denounced continuing fratricidal killings among different ethnic groups in the state.

“In the last 30 years, the demographic pattern of Assam has changed completely due to presence of large number of foreign nationals, threatening the identity and existence of indigenous people. It is unfortunate that when suspected illegal migrants have acquired a position to call shots in democratic elections in the state, the indigenous groups are engaged in fratricidal violence apparently oblivious of they are being reduced to minority in their own state,” the outfits have stated in a joint communiqué.

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AP braces up to tackle swine flu
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, May 5
The authorities in Andhra Pradesh have been put on alert in the wake of fears over swine flu with special teams of doctors being deployed at the international airport here to screen all passengers arriving from abroad.

On an average, over 2,000 international passengers, particularly from countries affected by swine flu, are being screened for flu symptoms at the airport every day since April 30, officials said.

Over 12,000 passengers have been screened so far. Additional medical staff is expected to be made available at the airport for speedy screening of the international passengers.

“No H1N1 influenza (swine flu) case has been detected in the state so far,” the state Minister for Health Services V Venkateswara Rao said. However, the government was not taking any chances and had put in place all possible measures to deal with any contingency, he said.

The arrangements had been made in all major district hospitals to identify and treat any case with flu symptoms. About 200 tablets of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) are being supplied at all major district hospitals.

Meanwhile, the throat swabs of an NRI who arrived from Frankfurt in Germany was negative while the test results of samples taken from another NRI from Canada who had been quarantined at the Government Chest Hospital here were still awaited, the officials said.

The swab, sputum and serum samples of both the passengers were sent to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), New Delhi, for confirmation of N1H1 flu virus.

The state government has set up a high-power committee of officials drawn from various organisations headed by Director of Medical Education Dr Sudha Ramana.

Earlier, a 26-year-old man, who arrived from Texas was also found to have symptoms of the flu. He, however, had refused to get the treatment at a hospital and was confined to his house. 

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BRIEFLY

Spurious liquor kills 7 in West Bengal
TAMLUK (WB):
Seven persons were killed and 30 hospitalised after consuming spurious liquor in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district, the police said on Tuesday. The unofficial reports put the death toll at 13 while claiming that 100 persons were admitted to different hospitals in Tamluk and Kolkata after drinking hooch with most of the victims being rickshawpullers. He said that one person was arrested and six liquor dens were demolished. Meanwhile, the agitated people ransacked liquor dens. The police have been directed to pull down all unauthorised liquor joints. — PTI

Myanmar nationals held
IMPHAL:
Two Myanmar nationals have been arrested from the Manipur-Myanmar border area in Chandel district by Assam Rifles personnel, official sources said on Tuesday. The sources said the two foreigners were nabbed while vehicles coming in from the border town of Moreh to Imphal were being checked on Monday by security officials. The two Myanmar nationals were identified as Suan Kim Thang (39) and Tuan Khan Thang (35), the sources added. — PTI

Tribals allege harassment
PANAJI:
Alleging harassment by forest officials since many years, Tribals from Goa’s Khotigao Wild Life Sanctuary on Tuesday complained to the seniormost forest official of the state and threatened a state wide agitation if certain officers were not transferred. The tribal leaders, who contended that the harassment has even caused death of a villager, met the state's chief conservator of Forest, Dr Shashi Kumar, demanding action against range forest officer Paresh Parab and Anand Mestri. — PTI

Diarrhoea claims 5 lives
HYDERABAD:
Five persons have died and more than 100 hospitalised due to the outbreak of diarrhoea caused by contaminated drinking water supply in the Bholakpur area of Hyderabad on Tuesday, officials said. Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation chief medical officer Jayram, however, confirmed only three deaths, but said they were examining the other cases as well, even as locals asserted that five persons died since Monday evening due to the water-borne disease. — PTI

Tirumala shrine
Hyderabad:
In a novel move to check corruption, the authorities at the country’s richest temple at Tirumala have set up a toll-free telephone number to enable pilgrims to report any cases of graft involving the temple staff. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, the autonomous board that manages the affairs of the popular hill shrine, has appealed to the pilgrims to call the toll-free number (18004254141) and report any instances of malpractices. This is the first such facility created by any temple in the country. The Tirumala temple is considered the richest shrine of the country with annual earnings in excess of Rs 800 crore. — TNS

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