#Elections2019: Why Mamata Banerjee is frightened of BJP despite dominating Bengal

Mamata Banerjee’s government denied permission to Yogi Adityanath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s helicopters to land in Bengal. This after repeatedly refusing to allow top BJP leaders to hold rallies and conduct yatras in the state. The Kolkata Police, clearly at Mamata’s command, also entered into a stand-off with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that had come to the city to interrogate police commissoner Rajeev Kumar in relation to the Saradha chit fund scam.

Where have we seen ruling governments denying the Opposition permission for conducting rallies? Which state police has ever arrested CBI officials who have come for investigation? Why is Mamata afraid of the BJP and its leadership which according to her is a fringe player in the state?

It is difficult to fathom! As part of its project to improve its position in east and south India, the BJP is putting in all efforts and using star campaigners like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Yogi and Shivraj in Bengal to exploit people’s frustration with Mamata. Possible gains in Bengal will help the BJP negate some of the expected losses in Hindi heartland states, feel strategists.

Why Mamata is in trouble

1. Trinamool Congress has peaked in Bengal

We have heard a lot about the BJP having peaked in many states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. But so have many regional parties. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) bagged 34 out of 42 seats in Bengal in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

It is very difficult for the TMC to repeat the performance as the BJP is gaining ground. The Congress has adopted a policy of going it alone in the state and the Left is determined to make a comeback. Mamata knows that if her tally declines, her prime ministerial ambitions will receive a big jolt.

2. TMC is the new Left

People fed up with 34-year rule of the Left Front voted for ‘poriborton’ in Bengal. But it is increasingly becoming clear that Mamata has now occupied the position once held by the CPM-led Left Front. She has adopted a similar strategy of using violence, intimidation and rigging to win elections. Clubs have taken over the neighborhoods. The state government nurtures 20,000-odd clubs with crores of rupees every year and these clubs in turn ensure that the area under them remains loyal to Didi.

3. BJP increasingly taking over from Left as the main opposition to TMC

The BJP, like the CPM, won two seats in 2014. In by-polls held since May 2014, the BJP has done well compared to the CPM and Congress. In 10 by-polls that were held in the state since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won one seat and finished second on five seats. The CPM couldn’t win a single seat in this period. Mamata realises the threat from the BJP and that’s why has upped the ante against the party.

4. BJP highlighting corruption scandals and minority appeasement politics of Mamata

Muslims account for about 30% of the population of Bengal. The BJP has been accusing Mamata of minority appeasement. In 2017, Mamata made an appeal to the Hindu community to halt Durga puja visarjan for sometime as it had overlapped with Muharram. She had also banned arms at Ram Navmi rallies which has evoked a sharp response from the Hindus. The recent face-off between the Centre and state over the Saradha chit fund scam investigations has given a chance to the BJP to highlight the fact that Mamata is shielding the corrupt.

5. Complementary vote blocks

The upper castes and OBCs support the TMC in the state. At the national level, these voters are with the BJP. More than 60% of the upper castes and 30% of the OBCs voted for the BJP in the 2014 general election. Even in Bengal, the BJP enjoys decent support among these two groups — 24% and 21% respectively. Mamata’s fear is that the Hindus, frustrated with her minority appeasement politics, could consolidate behind the BJP and that could cause her significant damage.

6. Congress’s ‘ekla chalo re’ niti

The TMC, at the end of the day, is a splinter group of the Congress and they too share complementary vote blocks, mostly from the minority sections. The minority votes were split in the 2014 general elections between Mamata, Left and Congress. Both TMC and Congress were in discussion for a seat-sharing arrangement. However, talks have failed. If they would have contested together in 2014, the Left Front candidates would have lost from the 2 seats they won. The BJP, however, would have still managed to retain their seats. The Congress has a strong presence in central Bengal which has seven seats on offer. The party won all four seats from this region in 2014. It also enjoys decent support among the non-literate and the agricultural workers in the state. An alliance with the Congress would have provided Mamata some cushion.

7. Strong vote segments of BJP

The BJP enjoys good support among urban voters (25%) and the middle class (21%). Twenty-nine percent of the educated voters (college and above) chose the BJP in 2014. It has been able to create a space among these categories of voters and also the youth.

Opinion polls predict significant improvement in BJP’s performance 

The C-Voter opinion poll predicts seven seats for the BJP while VDP Associates predicts 15 seats. Both the polls project a significant increase in the vote share for the BJP in the region, from 17% to 32% (C-Voter) and to 37% (VDP Associates).

However, challenges remain

The absence of a strong cadre has been one of the BJP’s weaknesses in Bengal. This is coupled with a lack of leadership to take on the charisma of Mamata, and hence the BJP’s progress has been stalled in the state. Bengal is also known for class politics. The image of the Left and now TMC has been that of championing the rights of the poor and downtrodden. The BJP is currently seen as a party of the middle and rich class. But all said and done, general elections 2019 will see a cracker of a contest in Bengal and Mamata would not have it easy.

This Aarticle was first published on mynation.com on 07 Feb, 2019.


#Elections2019: Priyanka Gandhi Effect: Mahagathbandhan ‘Cholbe Na’ for Congress

The Congress has announced that it will adopt a policy of Ekla Chalo Re in the key states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls scheduled in April-May 2019. This comes days after the party appointed Priyanka Gandhi as General Secretary and in-charge of Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

This has punctured the hopes of a nationwide mahagathbandhan to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After months of parley, no concrete movement has taken place regarding the grand alliance and the one-to-one-contest concept.

The last nail in the coffin was hammered by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. The day the mahagathbandhan for Uttar Pradesh was announced, she attacked the Congress with the same intensity with which she attacked the BJP.

The Congress had no choice but to dump these efforts and focus on doing well on a standalone basis. With less than a 100 days left for voting, the party chose to stick to the partners who are already a part of the UPA, rather than look for new partnerships now. This is a big setback for anti-Modi forces in the country. Many people are already blaming the Congress for its failure to bring the whole Opposition under one roof, suggesting that this will help the BJP.

The Grand Old’s Party victory in the three Hindi-heartland states has boosted the morale of the party workers. The formal entry of Priyanka Gandhi, party strategists feel, will improve the party’s prospects among the youth and women. It will also provide a fillip to its UP prospects where, with just two seats, the Congress has nothing to lose.

The party is likely to damage the prospects of both the BJP and the SP-BSP alliance by attracting votes from the core constituencies of Brahmins (BJP) and Dalits-Muslims (SP-BSP).

Congress strategists feel it is in a better position to defeat the BJP nationally. Regional parties can tame the BJP in some states, but it is up to the Congress to defeat the saffron party on a pan-India basis.

Reasons Why Congress Has Decided to Fight Alone

1. Complementary Vote Blocks

Many regional parties have been formed out of anti-Congressism.

Trinamool Congress is a splinter group of the Grand Old Party, though it is now the bigger brother in Bengal. The Telugu Desam Party has always been opposing the Congress tooth and nail in Andhra. Parties like the TMC and Aam Aadmi Party, even SP-BSP, have complementary vote blocks as the Congress – Dalits, minorities, the poor and downtrodden. Allying with regional parties disturbs the Congress’ long-term strategy of growing and becoming strong in these states.

This means that in 11 states, accounting for half of the Lok Sabha strength, the contest is likely to be triangular or multi-cornered.

(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)
(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

2. No Guarantee That Regional Parties Will Support Congress After Results

Two opinion polls aired recently, one of C-Voter and another of Karvy, predicted a hung Parliament. In this scenario, the Congress doesn’t want a situation where the parties it forms mahagathbandhan with, go on and support the BJP after the polls. Many regional parties have been with the NDA in the past or have formed governments with the BJP’s help – Trinamool, TRS, JMM, TDP, PDP, INLD, RLD, BSP, JDS, HAM, RLSP, BJD etc.

3. Regional Parties Gaining Strength Reduces Prospect of Rahul Becoming PM

The opinion polls show that regional parties are likely to play a key role in government formation at the Centre. If they gain strength at the expense of the Congress, then it even dilutes the prospects of Rahul Gandhi to emerge as the PM candidate.

The objective is to keep the BJP out of power and at the same time not let regional parties get the entire benefit of reversals, which the BJP is likely to face.

4. Regional Parties Don’t Help Congress in Key Battle States vs BJP

Many think that the Congress is not able to transfer votes to partners it forms alliances with, and that’s why the party was left out by SP-BSP in UP.

While it is not completely wrong, the Congress thinks these parties do not bring any additional votes to any party outside their home turf. Neither Mamata, Naidu nor Akhilesh can get the Congress votes in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, etc.

Being a national party, the Congress cannot accept paltry seats in states where it is not that strong, as it will not send a good message. It alone cannot be expected to follow coalition dharma, for a larger cause. And such states account for one-fourth of the Lok Sabha’s strength.

(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

Decision to Have a Likely Impact on Bihar?

The Congress has an alliance in place in four states, accounting for one-fourth of the House’s strength. The seat-sharing discussions in Bihar have become complex with seven-eight parties entering the fray for 40 seats. The Congress is also unhappy with Tejashwi for meeting Mayawati after her scathing attack on the party, and promising her one seat from Bihar.

The two main parties are also divided over the 10 percent reservations issue, as Congress aspirants are mostly from the forward castes, while the RJD has been championing for the rights of backward classes.

(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

To sum up, one-to-one contest has gone for a toss, and the mahagathbandhan has died even before it was born.

This article was first published on thequint.com on 29 Jan, 2019.

#Elections2019: Priyanka Gandhi joins active politics: Congress has thrown its hat in UP, made contest tougher for SP-BSP and BJP

Congress has appointed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as party’s general secretary for Uttar Pradesh (East). She will take charge in the first week of February 2019 and is likely to contest from Raebareli, the traditional seat of Gandhi family, currently represented by Sonia Gandhi.

Congress leader Motilal Vohra commented on the development and said, “The responsibility given to Priyankaji is very important. This will not only have an effect on eastern Uttar Pradesh but also other regions.” Jyotiraditya Scindia will handle Uttar Pradesh West as the party’s general secretary.

Benefits of Priyanka campaigning

This move is likely to motivate the cadre of Congress, which was feeling low after Bua and Bhatija jodi announced a mahagathbandhan excluding Congress. Congress recorded 7.5 percent vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, retaining only the two family stronghold seats. In the 2017 Assembly elections, the party’s performance declined further, with its vote share reduced to 6.3 percent.

Priyanka bears resemblance to Indira and is likely to attract the female voters who would connect with her far more easily. The turnout of women voters has been increasing over the years. Women are also making independent decisions on voting due to increase in literacy and awareness levels. Congress generally has received higher support from women compared to men in Lok Sabha elections.

Source: CSDS NES 2014

Priyanka in the past has canvassed for party only in Amethi and Raebareli. Her campaign across the state is likely to provide a fillip to fortunes of the party when it is attempting to revive its traditional vote bank of the upper caste (mainly Brahmins and Thakurs), Dalits and Muslims. A section of upper caste, disenchanted with BJP due to its flip-flop on the Ram Mandir issue and not so gung-ho about the 10 percent reservation for economically weaker sections for general class, will be targeted by the party.

The party is likely to attract better candidates for seats as they could now see a higher probability of winning elections on Congress ticket. Even BSP-SP candidates who are likely to be denied tickets due to the mahagathbandhan may flock to Congress for accommodating them.

Big blow to mahagathbandhan

The move is a big setback for the mahagathbandhan, which — despite keeping Congress out — had hoped the party would eventually have a tacit understanding of working with them for the larger cause of defeating BJP. Congress appointing Priyanka and Scindia as general secretaries in-charge of Uttar Pradesh is a clear signal that it will put up a spirited fight and make the contest truly triangular.

The party has not taken well the way Mayawati criticised Congress sharply in the press conference on the day of seat-finalisation of the mahagathbandhan. This is likely to split the anti-BJP vote and help BJP in the state. Congress and the mahagathbandhan share complimentary vote block of Dalits and Muslims and Congress strengthening is likely to be at the expense of the mahagathbandhan.

Over the years, Uttar Pradesh has been witnessing either a regional or national contest. Whenever people have voted on regional considerations, SP and BSP have done well, like in 2004 and 2009 when regional parties won more than half of the seats. Priyanka’s entry will make the contest national as she will be pitched against Modi.

Strategy of BJP disrupted

Priyanka’s entry also complicates matters for BJP as party will try to woo the Brahmin voters of the saffron party. The party will need to come up with a renewed strategy to figure out not only how to tackle the mahagathbandhan but also Congress, which has made Priyanka in-charge of Purvanchal which has 30 seats. BJP swept the region in 2014, bagging 29 seats. Modi contested from Varanasi, which created a wave in favour of the party in 2014.

Source: CSDS NES 2014

Congress hopes to repeat its 2009 performance

Congress finished runner-up in six seats in 2014, despite Modi wave scoring higher than SP and BSP. It finished second runner-up in five seats, getting more votes than either SP or BSP. Its vote share in 12 urban seats of the state is over 12 percent, 5 percent higher than state average.

In 2009, in a surprise result, the party won 21 seats, bagging 18.3 percent vote share. The party’s decision is keeping in mind short-term gains with long-term expansion strategy. It realises that since negotiations with mahagathbandhan was based on past performance, it could never get a good deal.

To sum up, Congress has thrown its hat in Uttar Pradesh by making Priyanka the general secretary. Now, it is all set to give the regional parties a run for their money. The impact of this could also be felt in seat discussions in Bihar.

This post was first published on firstpost.com on Jan 23rd, 2019.

#Elections2019: Mamata Banerjee’s mahagathbandhan initiative the real ‘sabka saath, sabka vinash’

Mamata Banerjee held a rally of Opposition parties in Kolkata on Saturday in which leaders from more than 20 parties were present. Those present at the ‘United India’ rally at the Brigade Parade Ground included former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, BJP rebels Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha, chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal, Chandrababu Naidu and HD Kumaraswamy and former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav and Gegong Apang.

“Badal do, badal do, Delhi mein sarkar badal do,” Mamata proclaimed from the rally. The Trinamool Congress chief, however, skirted around on the question of who will lead the mahagathbandhan and said it will be decided after the general elections. Yashwant Sinha rephrased BJP’s slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ and said the actual slogan was ‘sabka saath, sabka vinash’. Shourie emphasised on putting up a single Opposition candidate against the BJP.

Let’s look at which parties and groups attended the Kolkata rally and which parties gave it a miss.

The rally is being seen as merely a show of strength by Mamata. She nurses prime ministerial ambitions and is trying to emerge as the natural choice for the regional parties.

However, she has competition from Mayawati who had stayed away from the event. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has said in the past that he would not shy away from any responsibility, also gave the event a miss. Their representatives were, however, present.

The mahagathbandhan has not yet been formalised and is bereft of any structure and is not expected to project any prime ministerial candidate. At a time when elections in India are approximating the presidential style more and more, not having a prime ministerial candidate and clear leadership could prove to be costly for this loose aggregation of parties.

In 2014, 28% of the electorate gave importance to the prime ministerial candidate while voting for the Lok Sabha according to CSDS National Election Studies. Having confusion over leadership will exclude this set of voters from the target voter group of this alliance.

The internal differences and contradictions in this so-called mahagathbandhan are also coming to the forefront. Many parties and leaders have fought the Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP, TDP and so on their entire lives. For them to now share the stage with these parties causes uneasiness.

Sharad Yadav scored an own goal by talking about the “dacoity” in the Bofors deal, while what he wanted to criticise was the Rafale deal. While the DMK has been rooting for Rahul as the Prime Minister, its leader MK Stalin didn’t mention it during his speech. A day after the event, RJD’s Tejaswi Yadav rooted for Rahul as the Prime Minister.

While Shourie was rooting for a one-to-one contest, there were leaders sitting on the dais, who have excluded the Congress from an alliance in their backyard, like Uttar Pradesh. Parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have now and again denied any sort of pact with the Congress in Punjab and Delhi.

The table below shows the status of one-on-one contests in states for which regional parties were present at the rally.

The event was more pomp, show and noise than substance. No seat-sharing details emerged. Nor any common manifesto. It was clearly an attempt to organise forces to remove Narendra Modi from power.

The mahagathbandhan includes leaders and parties well past their prime and don’t have much presence left in their respective states. The mahagathbandhan, if formalised, would be the real ‘sabka saath, sabka vinash’. And it may have just provided a powerful narrative to Modi for the general election: all corrupt leaders have ganged up to throw an honest person like me out of power!

This article was first published on mynation.com on Jan. 21st 2019.

#Elections2019: Congress Will Be the Biggest Loser in Mamata’s ‘Formula’ for 2019

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is leading efforts to form a Third Front of regional parties. To that end, she recently met Sonia Gandhi in Delhi and invited Congress to join the proposed ‘grand alliance’.

Mamata has mooted the idea of ‘one-to-one’ contests, implying that parties which are strong in respective states should contest against BJP in those seats, and other parties of the Front should not put up a candidate and support them wholeheartedly.

She is hoping to create a 1977 like situation when big Opposition parties contested under the common banner of the Janata Party to defeat Indira Gandhi.

Theoretically it appears to be a fantastic strategy to beat Modi in 2019. BJP just received 31 percent vote share and non-BJP parties 69 percent in 2014. The sheer arithmetic puts odds hugely in favour of such an alliance. However, it is easier said than done. And for the Congress, it is a particularly difficult decision to take.

On a pan India basis, Congress is in contention in 70 percent of seats.

  • 46 percent of the seats have either a ‘direct Congress’ or ‘Congress allies vs BJP’ or ‘BJP allies contests’ (Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh),
  • 19 percent of the seats have a triangular Congress vs BJP vs regional party contest (Delhi, Punjab, West Bengal etc.)
  • 16 percent of the seats have a BJP vs regional party contests (Uttar Pradesh, Odisha)
  • 12 percent of the seats have regional parties competing against themselves (Tamil Nadu, Andhra) and
  • 6 percent of the seats have Congress versus regional party contests (Kerala, Telangana)
Congress party won 44 seats in 2014, where one-third of its victories were against regional parties. It finished runner up in 224 seats and in 17% of such seats, regional parties emerged winners.
Congress party won 44 seats in 2014, where one-third of its victories were against regional parties. It finished runner up in 224 seats and in 17% of such seats, regional parties emerged winners.
Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com 

Issues With Congress Joining a ‘Third Front’

There are significant issues with the Congress entering any such alliance with the Federal or Third Front. Here are some of these issues:

1. Risk of ceding space to regional parties as well as BJP: How will Congress leave out its claim for seats in predominantly regional, Congress vs regional and triangular contests? If Congress agrees, then it risks ceding its space to regional parties in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Also there is a risk of BJP latching on to this opportunity and becoming the main opposition in these states. This will create issues for the Congress when Assembly elections are held in these states in due course. In states like Kerala, if Congress agrees to a one-to-one in alliance with CPI (M), then BJP can get entry in the state.

2. Regional parties do not bring anything to the table for the Congress:The regional parties do not bring any votes to the Congress party where it is locked in direct contest with BJP in states like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, etc. Neither Trinamool nor TDP nor other parties have any votes there. On the other hand, Congress, in all probability would be able to transfer a section of its votes to Mamata, CBN, KCR, Naveen etc.

Most of the regional parties didn’t even contest outside of their states like AIADMK, DMK, TDP, YSRCP, TRS, BJD to name a few. Only a few parties, namely TMC, SP, BSP, JDU and AAP contested outside the states in which they are in power/have influence. However, they received more than 95 percent of the votes from their stronghold states. Only AAP and BSP have some presence outside their home state as seen in table below.

3. Congress will have to lead this alliance, regional parties may not agree: The question of who will lead the alliance is a tricky one. Congress, which is a national party, would not like to be seen playing second fiddle to regional parties. It would do its perception a lot of damage, especially when Rahul Gandhi is witnessing an increase in popularity. It will be seen as the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi not having the confidence to beat Narendra Modi. This is why Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary of Congress has asked Mamata to join a Congress-led alliance and not vice-a-versa. On the other hand, the regional satraps see Rahul as a novice and may not agree to his leadership.

4. Some regional parties can desert alliance after results in case of a hung Parliament: There is no guarantee these parties won’t flock to BJP after results if it emerges as the single largest party. TDP, TMC, TRS have all been part of NDA previously. But in order to maintain a better state and Centre relations, they might budge.

5. Congress should prefer state level strategic alliances: The Congress party should instead opt to have state-level strategic alliances where it is weak and try to replicate the model it has in Bihar with Lalu’s RJD. A similar template can be adopted in states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

To conclude, Congress has more to lose than to gain in agreeing to the one-to-one formula proposed by Mamata. Apart from bringing like-minded anti-Modi, anti-BJP parties on a common platform, it isn’t of much use to Congress as it has to fight a lone battle with the BJP in most seats where regional parties can’t contribute much. State level alliances will help to maintain its national party character and will serve the party better in the long run.

This article was first published on thequint.com on 6th April 2018.

Jogi Wanted to Play Kingmaker But Dented BJP & Helped Congress Win

If there’s one state that has truly surprised pollsters, it is Chhattisgarh. The Congress has swept the state, leading in 67 seats, at the time of authoring the piece.

The exit polls were in fact, divided on Chhattisgarh. Three different opinion polls showed a BJP victory, a Congress victory, as well as a tight contest. Chhattisgarh has witnessed bi-polar contests since its inception.

But it is for the first time in its history that Chhattisgarh has witnessed a three-cornered fight, with Ajit Jogi’s Janata Chhattisgarh Congress and the Mayawati-alliance showing their might to both national parties. Jogi contested on 55 and Mayawati on 35 seats.

Jogi’s Inroads Into BJP and Congress

The Jogi element made the contest interesting, after all he is the tallest tribal leader of the Congress, and the first and only CM from Congress in the state. He left the Congress in June 2016 and formed the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh.

Since Jogi had been with the party for many years, many felt that he would damage the Congress and it would be a cakewalk for the BJP this time. However, it was a very simplistic assumption to have made.

Jogi and Mayawati enjoy the support of much of the SC/ST community which account for 44 percent of the population. Jogi also enjoyed good support among the Satnami community in the state. While BJP had won 9 of the 10 SC seats in 2013, INC had won 18 out of 29 ST seats in 2013. So, from the start it was clear that he would damage both.

In an interview to Bloomberg Quint, Jogi claimed he’s making inroads into both BJP and Congress vote banks. When Jogi formed his own party, Congress alleged that he was the B-team of BJP.

Jogi Hands a Shocker to BJP

At the time of publishing, the tally was: Congress: 67, BJP 17, Jogi-Mayawati alliance 7 seats. The BJP tally is down by two-thirds. A massive blow. Leads for 5 seats are not available. With this, the Congress has taken a significant lead in Chhattisgarh. A lead so comfortable that it seems almost certain that they will form the next government in the state.

(Source: Election Commission of India)

The vote shares of parties explain the severe blow which Jogi has dealt to BJP, the opposite of what was expected. BJP’s vote share has declined by 9 percent. At the same time, Jogi’s party (which was not in the fray the last time) along with Mayawati, has gained a 6 percent vote share, mostly at the expense of the BJP. On the other hand, the Congress has gained 1.4 percent vote share. Jogi’s dream of playing the kingmaker has been shattered.

(Source: Election Commission)

A look at the SC-ST reserved seats, 39 in total, also makes the picture clearer. While the SC seats have remained with the BJP over the years, ST seats have changed hands many times.

  • BJP, which won the majority of SC seats in 2008 and 2013, lost in a big way in these elections
  • Due to the Jogi impact, ST seats which were expected to come to BJP (as per the trend of the last 2 elections), actually stayed with the Congress. They in fact improved their tally by 4 seats
(Source: Election Commission)
(Source: Election Commission)

What Didn’t Work for Jogi?

Jogi’s party failed to make its symbol reach every village and taluka of the state. Due to Jogi’s association with the Congress over many years, much of the rural populace still felt he was with the Congress. So, while they wanted to vote for Jogi-Congress, they ended up voting for the Congress’s ‘hand’ symbol. Also, the fact that the Congress managed to create a perception of him being hand-in-glove with the BJP, helped the Congress.

To sum up, Ajit Jogi did play the role of a game-changer, but helped his parent party in turn, albeit inadvertently. He seems to have dented BJP and helped Congress win. Congress is all smiles, while Jogi must be ruing his decision. Jogi is like a Diwali rocket; nobody knows where it will go and whom it will hit.

This article was first published on ‘thequint.com‘ on 11 Dec. 2018.

Daily News Tadka – 28.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Cong picks Chidambaram, Sibal, Jairam for Rajya Sabha polls

It can be deemed as a good move because  P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh one of the most educated persons in the party. Go for pro farmer policies but at the same time you need to be open with the old things that you had done like in 1990’s.
But then again, it seems like receiving a consolation prize for those who have no hopes of getting elected in near future. One can now expect more fireworks in the Rajya Sabha.

2. With Eye On Poll, Modi May Include New Faces From UP

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah on Friday confirmed that the much awaited Union Cabinet reshuffle will take place soon. Though he did not specify the date but party insiders claimed that it is likely to happen in the first week of June. There are speculations that Modi may axe some ministers because of their poor performances, which is a smart move considering the 3 years of governance left where he has to fulfill various expectations.

3. First Time In History, Polls Cancelled On 2 Tamil Nadu Assembly Seats

Moral victory for the opposition in TN. The whole state was witness to large scale vote buying and the EC was as officious as a policemen on highway patrol answering his control room rather than controlling a mob. It is a travesty of justice that while only polling in 2 seats has been postponed indefinitely , elections were held in other areas with equal violations leading one to question the legitimacy of the current government in TN.

4. Wondering whether Modi govt deserves Raghuram Rajan: P Chidambaram

Rajan appointed by Congress, at present is good at his work. But what the political game in Swamy’s objection is they want a person appointed by BJP. If they increase Rajan’s term all the credit will go to Congress. And that’s the reason PC is in support of Rajan.

5. Committed to bringing back Kashmiri Pandits to Valley: Mehbooba Mufti

For the betterment of all, Don’t be the prey of the political tokenism for Kashmiri Pundits. Just curb violence & militancy, maintain rule of law, restore peace and normalcy which will be beneficial to everyone regardless who is what.

Daily News Tadka – 26.05.2016

PB’s Twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Jaitley says he disapproves personal attacks on Raghuram Rajan

What evidence is there that confidential and sensitive information was passed on to someone abroad? If evidence is available the same should have been produced. The next question that arises is whether the RBI Governor passed on such information for a consideration. This allegation is a serious one and should not have been made without solid basis.

2. Maken terms Kejriwal ‘mini Modi’ for spending on ads

Advertising is invariably for spreading lies. The best course for the Congress party is to prove that wrong claims are being made through ads. Spending on ads is secondary issue. No political party takes pains to nail the lies. Much more money is being spent on rallies of the parties. Where is the money coming from?

3. I am Pradhan Sevak, not PM: PM Narendra Modi

Modi says that not one story of corruption against his govt is in circulation. It is still early time for such things to come to public domain and if you do not take decisions you stay honest. Up till now Modi is in election mode and has not yet started to govern, keeping the whole country in election mode. The rules & codes of business in the govt are such that the moment you take a decision involving out go of public money, you are bound to be accused of one violation or the other. In last two years, no big ticket purchase has been concluded so naturally no taint of corruption is visible. Let Rafale happen and the corruption story will start floating.


4. Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ Doesn’t Make Me Saffron Demon: Smriti Irani

It was this Columbia Alumni interviewing with a non-graduate of a vague Indian university; in a nation where quoting a Chomsky is more in order than any ancient wisdom from Gita or Ramayana or vachana or thirukkural, it took more than just courage for the Minister to handle whatever was thrown at her.

5. ‘Modi-mukt’ country after 2019: Congress leader C P Joshi

This is problem with Congress, instead of working on their on weakness and strength, they waste their energy in negative campaigning against BJP. Spoken for the sake of speaking. Frankly, when has has BJP won in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal? What has this got to do with Modi”s popularity? On the other hand, fed up of Congress, Assam voted BJP into power for the first time!

What Bengal Assembly Poll Results reflect about 2019 LS elections?

Author:Abhishek Chakraborty

May 19 witnessed how Mamata Banerjee led TMC thumped to victory and silenced a lot of her critics and the propaganda machinery of the opposition. The Left Front-Congress alliance also called “Jote” did have something to cheer about before the elections, especially given the fact that at least numerically their combined vote share was very close to that of TMC. Further, they also anticipated a part of the BJP votes could shift to them due to the presence of a more credible opposition. Unfortunately the “Jote” turned out be “Jawt” meaning tangle. There are many issues why this alliance failed to counter Mamata. But our focus is on evaluating what is the road ahead for these parties/alliances in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections? We will try to answer the questions as whether Mamata will be able to hold on to the same mandate in 2019 or whether there will be a dent in her vote share vis-à-vis loss in seats due to the effect of national level elections? Whether Congress can challenge the might of TMC either alone or will it emerge as the senior partner in their alliance with Left in case if they want to continue with the same? Could the Left be able to win back the support of people of Bengal and emerge as a major challenger to TMC or will it completely disintegrate before the elections? Could the BJP emerge as a player to reckon with and occupy the opposition vacuum created after the so called collapse of “Jote”?


Picture Courtesy: http://www.dnaindia.com

Trinamool Congress (TMC)

With Congress losing ground faster than the movement of T20 scorecard, nationally there is vacuum emerging in the opposition space. This provides the regional leaders like Mamata, Nitish, Jaya, Maya, Mulayam & Naveen an opportunity to occupy the space. However, there presence outside their own states is negligible and hence this could provide an opportunity to the National parties to eat away a sizeable amount of votes from them during National elections. Coming to TMC’s likely performance in 2019, with the Left weakening, the credibility of opposition will be lacking, even though BJP in some pockets could emerge as a serious challenge to the might of TMC and in the process, TMC could lose a few seats to BJP in 2019. Again the effect of 8 years of anti-incumbency cannot be ruled out. But still, it would emerge as the single largest party with close to 30 seats.

Left Front

After facing the recent poll debacle in Bengal, that also saw them being relegated even behind their one time rival Congress, Left Front could face some existential challenges. Whether they are going to continue with the same alliance with Congress or in case of continuation, whether they will be ready to play the role of a minor partner, these questions require serious level of scrutiny from their politburo. Their chances of revival in 2019 look bleak and there is every possible chance that they could draw a blank in the coming LS polls.

Congress (INC)

The less it is said, the better for the party. Congress is currently facing leadership bankruptcy. Since 2013 December, it has been losing state after state (only successes being Mizoram & Puducherry and Bihar as a part of alliance) and the party is living in a state of denial. Not only that, it is happily accepting the role of being minor partner in the alliances (Bihar, TN & WB) thereby allowing the other regional parties (remember CPM could lose its National Party status) to occupy the political space. Bengal is not different even though it emerged as the senior partner in terms of outcome as Congress has pockets of influence in the districts of Murshidabad, North Dinajpur and Malda and could easily hold onto at least 4 of the six seats in these regions even if there is no tie up with the Left. However, in case if an alliance is formed, it could see two seats (Murshidabad & Raiganj) emerging as the bone of contention between these two parties/alliances. Elsewhere in the state, Congress is a dud.


BJP along with other constituents of NDA sailed through during 2014 Lok Sabha elections due to Modi wave. Those elections saw BJP’s vote share jumped to 16.8%. Before the assembly elections it was almost certain that BJP will not be able to hold onto the same mandate either due to weakening of Modi wave or due to the dominance of local factors in assembly elections or due to the absence of a credible face to take BJP through. The only questions remained how much will be the erosion of BJP votes and to which direction they will be moving. Pollsters were expecting a major chunk of these votes could to shift to the “Jote”. Unsurprisingly, BJP did lose close to 6% votes. But on the contrary, there was not much shift of BJP towards Jote, rather it shifted towards TMC. Should we form an opinion that some BJP workers at the ground level were instrumental in shifting these votes to hurt the Jote? But that would a digression as our focus is the potential outcome of BJP in 2019 LS elections. BJP is expected to do better as compared to these assembly elections and even could surpass its vote share of 2014 elections. With people’s faith in Left Front dwindling, BJP has a good chance to emerge as the main opposition to TMC in the coming Lok Sabha elections. By the time we reach 2019, a lot of social security schemes started by the current NDA government will reach people and this could brighten the prospects as well. BJP is likely to hold on to the seats it won in 2014, while adding 3-4 more seats to its kitty including Alipurduar.

No hope for GST Bill: Congress likely to retain Rajya Sabha majority

My article in DailyO with Subhash Chandra on Rajya Sabha Numbers and GST Political Chess

No hope for GST Bill: Congress likely to retain Rajya Sabha majority

10 reasons Left-Congress lost West Bengal more than Mamata won it

This article has been co-authored by Amitabh Tiwari (aka Politicalbaaba) and Debdutta Bhattacharjee (@DebduttaB10

10 reasons Left-Congress lost West Bengal more than Mamata won it – DailyO.

Daily News Tadka -18.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Vijay Mallya must pay in full, says PNB chief Usha Ananthasubramanian

After declaring reports of loss of Rs. 5,367 crores, they have issued statements for all the willful defaulters to pay back the money they owe.
Wishful thinking, madam. The SBI, whose CMD OP Bhatt deliberately and criminally gave 15,000 crores of public money to Mallaya wants to recover some money and close the issue. This, the present SBI management feels will minimize the chances of a criminal investigation exposing the role of people like OP Bhatt.

2. Cong slams BJP over Swamy’s attack on RBI Guv

Lower cruse price gave a golden chance to RBI to lower rate at faster rate to spur-up the economy, but Rajan by his know-it-all attitude failed to capitalize on it.
Never before India has seen such an aggressive lobbying for an RBI Governor’s extension. First it came from foreign rating agencies like CLSA openly threatening Indian Govt that If Rajan is not retained, rupee will bite dust. Then other rating agencies like Fitch, Moody’s too came in support of their man Rajan. And today JP Morgan has come up its support to Rajan.

3. Renaming Roads and Cities: Govt’s Misplaced Priorities?

The Congress governments in the past also used some pretext or the other to rename streets and buildings and airports and central schemes after prominent figures of the Nehru-Gandhi family; notwithstanding any real contribution.

4. Delhi Government Releases Statehood Draft Bill

Actually it should be run by President. Although BJP in past have supported statehood, but it should not be given. Also, in future, there should not be any event in Delhi – but in other cities of India. Delhi should only be for administration of India.

5. MPs Want PAC to Take up Agusta Report, No Call Taken Yet

The CAG report on VVIP chopper deal was put before the then PAC headed by Dr MM Joshi in 2013 when UPA was in power. It was however not taken up for any further deliberations.

Daily News Tadka – 17.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Decision on Rajan’s extension will be without any influence: Jaitley

If the term for Rajan as RBI governor has come to an end, he should be replaced by much more sensible individual who would not go to media to make provocative statements as he had done during that fake award-wapasi and non-existent bogey of intolerance.

2. PDP having a secret pact with RSS: Congress

If PDP representing Muslims and RSS representing Hindus have secret pact it will only benefit the people of the state. Similarly BJP representing Jammu and PDP representing Kashmir have a good understanding it is beneficial to the state. Congress is talking as if they are saints and do not have any interest in power.

3. Amar Singh Rejoins Samajwadi Party

Expelled Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Amar Singh returned back to the party on Tuesday and is likely to be made a Rajya Sabha MP. Sources said that during past one month, Singh met Mulayam and Akhilesh several times in Lucknow and Delhi and every time he termed the meetings as “personal”.

4. Kashmir Problem Will be Solved by 2019: Subramanian Swamy

A cadre- based fascist organisation is in control of the levers of power. This organisation has spawned lumpen front organisations, that do not hesitate to kill even defenseless missionaries of religion. Worse, there is every indication that institutions are being undermined by a creeping Emergency.

5. Anandiben Patel Refutes Reports of Her Exit as Gujarat CM

Amit Shah maybe wants to comeback to Gujarat state politics, thus is seeking a good post for himself. The Patidar protest in Gujarat have sent signals that BJP cannot take things for granted in the state prior to the 2017 election there.

Daily News Tadka – 11.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Rs 6,50,000 crore: That’s what drought is going to cost Modi govt

Siddaramaiah told Karnataka citizens that he needs 60k crore to provide clean drinking water to all in the state since Karnataka western ghats and overall India is a rain surplus country. Now since he does not have money he said he will take at least 3-4 years to complete the project! In between he got 12k crore for this year drought alone – no one knows where it went!
For what can we boast of the third technical power of the world if we can’t fix this problem of 7 decades? It is not as if it can’t be tackled. It can be tackled but not by judicial orders alone.

2. PM should apologise: Opposition on Rawat’s return

Whoever won, the nation has lost. Over the last couple of months we have seen politicians lust for power.
Along with the apology, before demanding the resignation of their member, congress must take action against the speaker who has acted in partisan way. It is not to gain political score but to strengthen the institution of speaker office.

3. Accept GST recommendations to clear bill: Congress

Jairam should know that fixing the percentage with constitutional amendment is not correct.
It seems like the Congress wants to dictate the terms of the government. Congress boycotted Rajya Sabha session for days rather months with the sole aim of not letting GST bill be cleared by Rajya Sabha. Now when the Congress realized that its thoughtless action had recoiled on it, the party has found out another way that of ”putting up impossible conditions” before the govt for the bill to be passed by Rajya Sabha.

4. India Plays Down UK’s Refusal to Deport Vijay Mallya

We need to get into the details as demanded by contemporary global journalism. Mallya cannot be ‘deported’ on ground of technicalities with UK Immigration law, which Mallya himself knew before he landed.
He can be ‘extradited’.

5. Modi Compares Kerala to Somalia, Miffed Chandy Says Withdraw Remark

In his speech, he said that the unemployment rate in Kerala is at least three-times higher than the national average. Infant mortality rate among the Scheduled Tribe community in Kerala is worse than Somalia. The state can meet only 13 percent of their requirement of agricultural products. Even after 70 years of Independence, Kerala depends other states for 70 percent of its power requirements. Similarly, most of the youth in Kerala are forced to leave their home state in search of job. Only through overall development, the state could be brought back to its past glory.
So, technically, there was no comparison.

Daily News Tadka – 10.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Use of Hindi in higher judiciary not possible: Rijiju

Hindi, whatever be its status, is not the lingua franca of whole India. Certainly Hindi should not be imposed, Supreme Court should take the initiative.

2. Rahul Gandhi Unwell, Cancels Visit to Poll-Bound States

The 45 year old Congress leader updated his followers on late Monday night. Giving all the bhakts over the internet this great opportunity to blame him for being cowardly regarding the threat. Looking over it, this is indeed conveniently timed.

3. Congress MPs Move Privilege Motion Against PM for Comments on Agusta Issue

Neither Congress not BJP is interested in truth coming out. All facts revealed in Italy and noise in India with no action. Indeed a great situation.

4. Democracy Has Won, Says Ghulam Nabi Azad on Uttarakhand Floor Test

Uttarakhand episode is a veiled warning to Modi that he is not above law nor above constitution and should not try to browbeat the legal provisions to occupy power.

5. Modi degree row

The Delhi University has finally declared Modi’s degree authentic, but all over the internet, it looks like – if AAP says it’s fake then it has to be fake. You should not argue with them. You are not worthy enough to question them. In India ,only they have the authority to question , investigate and punish other politicians. What about their own people ? ..you must be a ‘Bhakt’ to ask this.

Daily News Tadka – 09.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. BJP Banks on Second Sting to Defeat Rawat in Uttarakhand Floor Test

If floor test was admitted when the BJP appointed Governor recommended, it would have been better for BJP. Endless nautanki for HC and SC had to show their place. Rawat is no saint. Some of the information available in public domain are appearing to be unlawful if proved. BJP has helped Rawat by their insincere actions.

2. Mehbooba Says no Plan to Establish Sainik Colony in Kashmir

The demand for establishing a Sainik Colony is from state subjects and not the ex-servicemen from outside the state. As the beef between Omar and Mehbooba increases, the need of the hour is still not addressed.

3. Congress Slams PM for Naming Sonia in Chopper Scam

The fact reported in medias is clear evidence of massive bungling made by UPA govt under orders of Sonia who is instrumental in this deal. There is prima facie is established after Italian court verdict. It is very surprising that Modi govt is still sitting over the matter by not directing CBI to arrest all culprits named in court verdict.

4. Threat Letter to Rahul

Looks like a manufactured sympathy gaining gesture to loop in voters or avoid the chopper scam from the headlines.

5. BJP fails to utilise Lok Sabha steam to power through in TN polls

In Kerala, the BJP is giving the jitters to the two major forces — Congress and the Left. But in Tamil Nadu, its rank and file rue the central leadership’s failure to forge alliances when it had the chance. All the advantage of the Lok Sabha polls has been blown away by the BJP leadership.

Daily News Tadka – 07.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. India’s foreign exchange reserves rise to $363 billion

Let us look at what is happening in the world. Why are China and Russia accumulating Gold in fantastic quantities; why has China, Saudi Arabia and many oil countries stopped buying U.S. Debt.  It is high time that we should invest a good amount of these reserves for developing our own infrastructure and the betterment for millions of citizens in this country; the children getting proper nutrition, proper education, proper medical care.

2. Modi to Meet CMs of UP, Maharashtra, Karnataka Over Drought Crisis

Yadav, who has been engaged in a war of words with the central government over its offer of supplying water through trains, said the Centre and state governments need to work together. Yesterday the crooked nose UP govt refused the water train sent by Modi and today this.

3. AAP vs BJP vs Congress: It’s a three-way war over Agusta chopper row

It seems like its Kejriwal’s response to BJP’s allegations of him trying to “deflect attention” at a time a debate over alleged kickbacks in the supply of 12 choppers to the Indian Air Force in the UPA regime.

4. Court summons Kejriwal for insulting Delhi cops

He will never get tired of receiving summons from courts. Crime is crime and it should not be taken lightly as Kejriwal has taken it. Now, he has to pray for excuse in the court which itself will be very derogatory for the post of Chief Minister of Delhi.

5. Uttarakhand floor test: Congress, BJP issue whips to MLAs

Which Party? Both the BJP and Congress are issuing the whip.  In case MLAs fail to attend tomorrow’s meeting, whip will be served to them through Collector of the concerned district.

Daily News Tadka – 06.05.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

  1. Floor test in Uttarakhand to be held on May 10: SC

They both are wrong. Per the judgment of SC president rule cannot be imposed without floor test, at the same time speaker is also biased in disqualifying 9 Congress members. Let’s hope that the bhakts are ready to accept this.

  1. Fresh trouble for Mallya? MCFL investments in UB group firm may be irregular

The audit was also asked to look into various advances made by MCFL to Mallya”s flagship United Breweries (Holdings) Ltd (UBHL) of which a sum of Rs 16.68 crore was outstanding as of March 31, 2016. “Mangalore fertilizers and chemicals itself was mismanaged and undergoing loss!” Strange how he managed to divert its funds into his companies! Seems irregularities unlimited!

  1. Congress Attacks Modi Govt, Accuses Centre of ‘Murdering Democracy’

Where was the democracy while Manmohan was prime minister? The draft copy of the ordinance was torn by MP of the same party. Where was the democracy when bifurcation of A P was done by closing the doors of the Parliament and cutting off the communication channels?

  1. Nepal cancels president’s visit to India, recalls ambassador

Political sources in Nepal said the crisis was orchestrated with help from Mr. Upadhyay. The sources said one of the charges against Mr. Upadhyay was that he had facilitated the agreement between Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ which almost toppled the present government.

  1. PM Modi to Address Rallies in Kerala and TN

PM Modi will address rallies in Tamil Nadu on16th of this month’s assembly polls, as campaigning is in full swing in both states with parties making whirlwind tours to garner support for their candidates. Let us wait and see how much effective these rallies will be.


Daily News Tadka – 04.05.201

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Invisible hand prevented probe earlier in AgustaWestland deal: Manohar Parrikar

A few important take aways for future of governance and scam prevention – 1) Introduction of e-governance whereby tenders, award, rejection etc are recorded electronically with clear cut identification of user ids and auto archival on closure of tenders / files. This will prevent destruction of physical files and hidden hands which influence decisions. 2) The ministers interventions on any project / procurement has to be recorded electronically by way of e-mail appendages to the bureaucrats involved with the project/file so as to put the minister on record.

2. Odd-even not a long-term remedy, admits Kejriwal

Kejriwal and his AAP party can blow their own trumpet of success. He simply does not understand that people used more bikes/2wheelers and taxis in place of their own cars in the absence of sufficient public transport. In fact people of Delhi were not only challaned Rs.2000 but they were fleeced by cabs and autos. Except AAP party”s nominated agency for pollution check, all other agencies quoting that pollution level has risen many days during 2nd odd even scheme have been branded wrong!

3. Modi Govt Changing Colour Faster Than Chameleon: Shiv Sena

We can not call this Shiv Sena even as a local party and talking and criticizing like National party. This is like big brother of AAP,  in criticizing the ruling Government.

4. West Bengal: Political Parties go All Out to Woo Enclave Voters

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is heading the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre, also took the credit of resolving the enclave problems. Striking a different note, the CPI(M), however, refuted the claims by TMC and BJP and said that both the parties had stalled the enclave exchange during the United Progressive Alliance rule.

5. Rahul Gandhi to Lead Party Across the Country: Congress

Rahul Gandhi’s supporters are pitching for his takeover as party chief sooner than later. He was made the party Vice President at the Jaipur Chintan shivir in January 2013. He should be more concerned about retaining his Lok Sabha seat in a few years, let alone the country.

Daily News Tadka – 02.05.2016

PB’s twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya resigns as Rajya Sabha MP

The ill-will defaulter Vijay Mallya expects a fair trial in India for his non-payment of loans to SBI/IDBI banks. He ran away from this country with a motive to throw dust in the eyes of bank officials who favoured him in granting loans beyond the credit limits applicable to him. He has made stigma to the Corporate World in the Indian soil, for his intentional default of loan repayment. You borrowed funds for running the business of KFL. But you have built up a new empire abroad with this borrowed funds. Why this deviation.

2. SBI lowers lending rates by 5 bps to 9.15%

This benefit should be passed on to home buyers and not manipulated by banks to increase their profits.faith in the system should be maintained and business ethics have to remain in check.

3. Cong expects Rahul to be party chief this year

The gloom and doom of Congress will continue. Rahul Gandhi put the final nail in the coffin with his TV interview. No Vision, No Mission, No Stature, No Thought, No Clarity, No Maturity, No Oratory, No Poise, Only Noise, No Shine, Only Whine, No Opinion, No Polish, No Plan, No Appeal, No Inspiration, No Motivation, No Self Light, No Insight.

4. Opposition alleges ‘selective leaks’ on chopper deal

The Nation wants to know whether Jayaram Ramesh and Anand Sharma are opposing the file noting on file by Defense Minister and the things happening in a matter of 72 hours. Are they prefer to be anti National in support of their party president?

5. Congress Accuses Modi of Doctoring Info on Birth Date, Education

Is these are really issues? It shows congress is bankrupt of issues, and loosing people support,will become 4MPs in next election.

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