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Priyanka Gandhi a ‘storm’ that will help Congress sweep UP polls: Lallu

The Congress would go to the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections without a CM face but will fight under the watch of general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, whom the state party chief Ajay Kumar Lallu described as a “storm” that will help sweep the polls.

Lallu said the way Priyanka Gandhi is raising various issues in Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government is feeling threatened by her.

However, Lallu refused to predict the number of seats the party is targeting to win, but claimed that they would come to power with full majority.

Congress had won only seven seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly in the 2017 polls.

“There is a current (of the party) on the ground. The way in which organisational work has been done in the party, and the way in which a team built, the result is that today we are capable of doing anything,” Lallu, president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) told PTI in an interview.

“We are demonstrating this organisational strength again and again. The notion that we are nothing in UP has changed. There is a storm in UP and its name is Priyanka Gandhi,” Lallu said.

“It will help Congress sweep the upcoming polls,” he added.

Asked why the party has not declared its chief minister candidate, he said, “The CM face is decided by the party’s national leadership. But the in-charge of UP is Priyanka ji and the elections will be contested under her watch”.

“We are going to form the government with full majority,” he said.

The AICC general secretary tasked with regaining the party’s lost ground in the political heartland, however, was non-committal about contesting the upcoming state polls herself.

“It has not been decided as yet,” she said earlier this month in response to a question on the possibility of her contesting the polls.

Reacting to Priyanka Gandhi being dubbed as a “political tourist” by the BJP, Lallu said, “Be it Priyanka ji or our party workers, everybody is targeted. In the last three months, Congress workers have faced lathis and gone to jail. The government has adopted a path of oppression against us.”

“But I think that the way in which Priyanka ji has raised the issues of women safety, farmers and unemployment, it has given new energy to the Congress. The government is feeling completely afraid, and hence resorting to such acts,” he claimed.

Attacking the Samajwadi Party for alleging that the BJP was helping Priyanka Gandhi to harm the Akhilesh Yadav-led party, the UP Congress chief said, “The SP is engaged in spreading this propaganda. It has lost the confidence of the public.”

Referring to the six BSP legislators and a BJP MLA joining the SP, Lallu said no matter how many MLAs the party manages to get in its camp, it is the Congress which will form the next government in the state.

“It is only the Congress which can give a fight to the BJP because it has an ideology and is a synonym for struggle has people’s trust,” Lallu said.

The SP cannot challenge the BJP because in the last four-and-a-half years, the people of the state have seen what the SP has done, Lallu said.

The UP Congress president also said that a person who wishes to “fight” this (BJP) government will stay in the party.

On being asked as to who is the main challenger to the Congress, Lallu said, “The SP and BSP come to contest polls, while the Congress raises the issues of public interest and struggles for it.”

“We are confident that the people are going to shower their blessings on the Congress,” he added.

On the question of electoral alliance, Lallu said, “We will have alliance with villages, poor people, farmers and the common man.”

On Congress leaders including Priyanka Gandhi going to temples, which the BJP has claimed as its “ideological victory”, Lallu said, “We believe in all religions and have faith in all religions. We do not make an event out of everything like the BJP does.”

Lallu welcomed political parties like the AAP and AIMIM entering the poll fray in Uttar Pradesh. PTI NAV SNS RHL

Uttar Pradesh government to seek foreign investment for Rs 36,000 crore Ganga Expressway

NEW DELHI:The Uttar Pradesh government is considering seeking foreign direct investment (FDI) in an expressway for the first time. The proposed Ganga Expressway Project, from Meerut to Prayagraj, is expected to cost Rs 36,000 crore and it will be among the longest expressways in the country .

The state government plans to hire SBI Capital Markets as a financial advisor for the project and constitute a special purpose vehicle (SPV) in order to arrange funds for the construction of the longest expressway in the state, said officials.

The Centre had allowed 100% FDI through the automatic route in road construction projects, and UP is planning to explore this option owing to the paucity of funds.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath plans to lay the foundation stone of the project in June 2021 after the acquisition of majority of the 7,800 hectares in 529 villages for the project. The expressway is expected to come up by 2024, said officials.

As per details accessed by ET, the construction cost of the six-lane expressway is pegged at Rs 22,145 crore while the land acquisition could cost nearly Rs 9,255 crore and other expenses are estimated at nearly Rs 5,000 crore.

Rename Bahraich village after Lakhimpur violence victim, say kin, Sikh community

The Sikh community of Bahraich and relatives of a farmer killed in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence have demanded that the victim’s village be named after him. Bahraich’s Gurdwara Guru Singh Sabha president Mandeep Singh Walia said the demand to rename Moharnia village as “Gurvinder Nagar” has been made to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath through the state minorities commission.

An 11-member delegation, led by commission member Parvinder Singh, had met families of the violence victims last week.

The delegation also included people from the Bahraich Gurdwara Management Committee.

Walia said relatives of farmer Gurvinder Singh “Giani ji” and the Bahraich gurdwara committee gave a letter to the commission, demanding naming the village after the victim.

The demand has been sent to CM Adityanath through the commission.

Parvinder Singh has said the CM will call families of the dead farmers to Lucknow and listen to their problems, he said.

Deputy speaker election in UP Assembly: SP MLA Nitin Agarwal files nomination with BJP support

Samajwadi Party MLA Nitin Agarwal filed his nomination on Sunday for the Deputy Speaker’s post in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, with the ruling BJP indicating that it will support him. The only other candidate in Monday’s deputy speaker election is Narendra Verma, who called himself the official nominee of the opposition SP.

After the polling, Uttar Pradesh will get its first Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly after a gap of over 14 years, a development taking place ahead of the 2022 assembly polls. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh were present at the time of filing of nomination by Nitin Agarwal. Nitin Agarwal wore a blue-coloured ‘patka’ bearing ‘Jai Shri Ram’ at the time of his nomination. His father and former UP minister Naresh Agarwal was also present. ”I have submitted four sets of nomination papers.

Those who have proposed my name are Congress MLA from Harchandpur Rakesh Pratap Singh, BSP MLA from Purva Anil Singh, Cabinet ministers Suresh Khanna, Swami Prasad Maurya and Ashutosh Tandon, minister Chhatrapal Singh, and MLA Rajpal Verma,” Nitin Agarwal told PTI. After filing the nomination papers, the MLA told PTI that he is yet to formally join the BJP. On the other hand, SP nominee Narendra Verma accused the BJP of ”twisting” the parliamentary traditions and said the post should go to the opposition. ”I am the SP candidate and the post of deputy speaker as per traditions goes to the principal opposition party. Hence, it should go to us. He (Nitin) is my younger brother. He won on a Samajwadi Party ticket and after winning the polls, he started working against the SP.

Tradition wise, this post should go to the opposition, but the BJP is breaking and twisting the parliamentary traditions. We do not expect anything from the ruling party,” he said. Verma was accompanied by Leader of Opposition in UP Assembly Ram Gobind Chaudhary and rebel BSP MLAs. The two candidates filed their nomination papers at the UP Vidhan Bhavan on Sunday. As per traditions, an MLA of the principal opposition party is made the Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The last Deputy Speaker of UP Legislative Assembly was the BJP’s Rajesh Agarwal, who was elected unopposed in 2004. A three-time SP MLA from Hardoi, Nitin Agarwal said if elected as the deputy speaker of the assembly, he will discharge his duties as per provisions of the Constitution.

”The government’s priority is that everything should be transparent. My priority as a deputy speaker will be to ensure the same,” he said. Principal Secretary of UP Vidhan Sabha Pradeep Dubey said voting will take place on Monday. The BJP’s ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) has 9 MLAs, while the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party has 4 MLAs. There are three independent MLAs, while there are two unattached MLAs. The Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Apna Dal have one MLA each.

UP polls: BJP appoints Adityanath as ‘panna pramukh’ of booth in Gorakhpur Urban constituency

Ahead of the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the BJP has appointed Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as ‘panna pramukh’ of a booth in Gorakhpur Urban constituency.

Several other BJP leaders have also been given the responsibility for different booths in Gorakhpur Urban and Rural constituencies to strengthen the party.

A ‘panna pramukh’ or person in-charge of a page of voters’ list is the first point of contact for most voters in the BJP’s election management machinery.

The BJP has appointed Adityanath as ‘panna pramukh’ for booth number 246 of the Gorakhpur Urban assembly seat, party zonal president Dharmendra Singh said on Saturday.

The party is focusing on strengthening booths for the 2022 assembly polls and has given responsibility as ‘panna pramukhs’ to party post holders from the booth level to the national level, he said.

Singh has been appointed as ‘panna pramukh’ of booth number 317 of Gorakhpur Rural assembly seat. Former Union minister and MP Shiv Pratap Shukla and MLA Radha Mohan Das Agarwal have been appointed as ‘panna pramukhs’ for booth number 350 of Gorakhpur Urban assembly seat.

Gorakhpur city BJP president Rajesh Gupta and Mayor Sitaram Jaiswal have been appointed as ‘panna pramukhs’ of booth number 166 and 167 of Gorakhpur Rural assembly seat, respectively.

UP CM gives indication of BJP campaign theme in polls

UP CM Yogi Adityanath raised terrorism, Kashmir, border security, Ram temple and communal riots during a BJP OBC outreach programme on Friday, giving clear indication of his party’s campaign theme for the forthcoming assembly elections.

He alleged Congress planted “seeds of terrorism in Kashmir” in the form of Article 370 and slammed SP for ‘withdrawing cases against terrorists who attacked Ramjanmbhoomi’. During the UPA government, China and Pakistan would ‘often intrude into the country’ and those who questioned the government were ‘silenced’, during the BJP regime, the two neighbours ‘received befitting reply’ from the Indian Army.

“The root cause of terrorism was planted by Congress in 1952 with Article 370. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, home minister Amit Shah abrogated it… He has struck the final nail in the coffin of terrorism and given a message of eradicating it forever,” the CM claimed. The CM’s statement comes amid multiple killings in Kashmir by militants. 12 civilians, mostly non-locals and minorities have been targeted, re-igniting the issue of security in J&K.

“You would have seen during the SP government, terrorists brought the medieval age back when temples and maths were attacked and the Hindu community’s sentiments were trampled upon,” he said. “What was the first decision that we took after coming to power? Of waiving farmers loans… What was the decision taken by the SP government? Those who had carried out terrorist attacks on the Ramjanmbhoomi, their cases were withdrawn. This is the difference.”

UP hikes sugarcane purchase price by Rs 25 per quintal

In a major decision barely months ahead of the upcoming 2022 Assembly elections, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday announced a Rs 25 per quintal hike in the purchase prices of sugarcane in the state. Addressing a meeting of farmers in Lucknow organised by the BJP’s Kisan Morcha, Adityanath said, “The government has decided that the variety of sugarcane for which Rs 325 per quintal was paid to farmers, that price has been increased to Rs 350, which will be paid to farmers.”

“The government has also decided to increase the price of ordinary sugarcane variety, to Rs 340 (per quintal) up from Rs 315 (per quintal). The government has also decided to the hike the value of the ‘anupyukt’ (less yielding) variety of sugarcane by Rs 25 per quintal.”

Elaborating about the benefits, Adityanath said, “This will enable the sugarcane farmers to increase their income by 8 per cent, and will be a transformation in the lives of 45 lakh farmers.”

He also said that 119 sugarmills will be operated, and they will be linked with ethanol.

Maintain distance from ‘Ram-drohis’ who shield terrorists and embrace rioters: Yogi Adityanath

Accusing opposition parties of being against Lord Ram, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday said that such “Ram-drohis” not only harmed the faith but also disturbed the social fabric, impeded development and threw the state in the “fire of riots” during their rule. “Those who are not the well-wisher of Lord Ram can never be your well-wisher,” Adityanath said while addressing the members of the Vishwakarma community at a meeting organised by the BJP Backward Classes Front in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election.

“Maintaining distance from Ram-drohis (who are anti-Ram), who shield terrorists, embrace rioters, tear the social fabric would be better for your present and also for the bright future of your coming generations,” he said.

The firebrand BJP leader, who has often been accused by the opposition of making statements with communal overtones, alleged that under the previous governments, there were riots before Hindu festivals.

“The masses were unable to celebrate and would live in fear in the shadow of curfew. And these people (opposition leaders) would shamelessly don skull caps and insult the people of the state,” Adityanath said, asserting that all this has stopped under his government.

He alleged that the Congress, SP and BSP were trying to harm Ram Setu, while the BJP protected it.

Had it not been for the sons of Lord Vishwakarma, Nal and Neel, it would not have been possible to build the Ram Setu, which Hindus believe was built for Lord Rama to reach then Lanka to rescue his wife Sita, as depicted in the epic Ramayana.

He was referring to the Sethusamudram shipping canal project controversy where the previous UPA government had contended before the Supreme Court that the Rama Setu bridge is not an “essential” and “integral” part of the Hindu religion.

The chief minister said that when the Congress-led UPA government was formed in 2004, there was a competition between the SP and BSP to extend support to it.

“The SP had given support even without being asked and their intention was to hurt the Hindu faith by placing a gun on the shoulders of the Congress,” he alleged.

“These people not only harmed the faith but also disturbed social fabric, harmed development and threw the state in the fire of riots,” the BJP leader alleged.

He said the government is moving ahead with the plan to secure the present as well as the future.

“Some people created problems in Kashmir and Article 370, the mother of terrorism, was scrapped under the leadership of PM Modi.

“Some others created hurdles in the path of construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and opened fire on Ram bhakts, today the BJP governments have started its construction and it is going on in full flow,” he said.

Criticising the previous governments, especially the one led by the Samajwadi Party, Adityanath alleged that their leaders were only concerned about the welfare of their families.

“One family was involved in looting the state from 2012 to 2017. That government was a ‘Kalyugi avatar’ of the Mahabharata and riots took place in every district and Hindus were harassed,” he said.

Referring to the development works under the BJP rule, the chief minister said that “they are proving to be successful due to the vision of Prime Minister Modi and the blessings of Lord Vishwakarma,” and cited the Kanpur metro project which he said will start by November.

“All this is being achieved through the blessings of the original architect Lord Vishwakarma,” he said.

“Even today, Lord Vishwakarma is worshiped as the god of craftsmen in the whole country, and in UP, Vishwakarma is worshiped through Shram Samman. Work has been done to take forward the traditional craftsmen,” he said.

The meeting was part of ‘Social Representative Conferences’ organised by the party to reach out to voters of various communities.

Deputy speaker election in UP Assembly: SP MLA Nitin Agarwal files nomination with BJP support

Samajwadi Party MLA Nitin Agarwal filed his nomination on Sunday for the Deputy Speaker’s post in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, with the ruling BJP indicating that it will support him. The only other candidate in Monday’s deputy speaker election is Narendra Verma, who called himself the official nominee of the opposition SP.

After the polling, Uttar Pradesh will get its first Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly after a gap of over 14 years, a development taking place ahead of the 2022 assembly polls. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh were present at the time of filing of nomination by Nitin Agarwal. Nitin Agarwal wore a blue-coloured ‘patka’ bearing ‘Jai Shri Ram’ at the time of his nomination. His father and former UP minister Naresh Agarwal was also present. ”I have submitted four sets of nomination papers.

Those who have proposed my name are Congress MLA from Harchandpur Rakesh Pratap Singh, BSP MLA from Purva Anil Singh, Cabinet ministers Suresh Khanna, Swami Prasad Maurya and Ashutosh Tandon, minister Chhatrapal Singh, and MLA Rajpal Verma,” Nitin Agarwal told PTI. After filing the nomination papers, the MLA told PTI that he is yet to formally join the BJP. On the other hand, SP nominee Narendra Verma accused the BJP of ”twisting” the parliamentary traditions and said the post should go to the opposition. ”I am the SP candidate and the post of deputy speaker as per traditions goes to the principal opposition party. Hence, it should go to us. He (Nitin) is my younger brother. He won on a Samajwadi Party ticket and after winning the polls, he started working against the SP.

Tradition wise, this post should go to the opposition, but the BJP is breaking and twisting the parliamentary traditions. We do not expect anything from the ruling party,” he said. Verma was accompanied by Leader of Opposition in UP Assembly Ram Gobind Chaudhary and rebel BSP MLAs. The two candidates filed their nomination papers at the UP Vidhan Bhavan on Sunday. As per traditions, an MLA of the principal opposition party is made the Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The last Deputy Speaker of UP Legislative Assembly was the BJP’s Rajesh Agarwal, who was elected unopposed in 2004. A three-time SP MLA from Hardoi, Nitin Agarwal said if elected as the deputy speaker of the assembly, he will discharge his duties as per provisions of the Constitution.

”The government’s priority is that everything should be transparent. My priority as a deputy speaker will be to ensure the same,” he said. Principal Secretary of UP Vidhan Sabha Pradeep Dubey said voting will take place on Monday. The BJP’s ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) has 9 MLAs, while the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party has 4 MLAs. There are three independent MLAs, while there are two unattached MLAs. The Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Apna Dal have one MLA each.

Uttar Pradesh Board exams put off, schools shut till May 15

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has postponed the state Board examinations for Classes 10 and 12.

All Classes from 1 to 12 will also remain closed till May 15. The government spokesman said that fresh dates for the examinations would be announced sometime in May.

Earlier, the board examinations were scheduled to begin from May 8. This is the second time that the Board exams have been deferred. The exams were earlier scheduled to be held from April 24 but the dates were pushed ahead because of the Panchayat elections. The next date was May 8 which has now been put off.