As a short spring metamorphoses into the mighty summer, West Bengal’s air is warming up to the potent political currents and cross-currents that promise to drive the windmills of change this electoral season. The Assembly elections have kicked off with a bang in the state and unfolded in a mosaic of narratives and counter narratives laced by violence and sanctions by the Election Commission.
Although the Trinamool Congress (TMC), once perceived as invincible, seems to have developed major chinks in its armour, thanks to misgovernance, corruption, the highhandedness of its leaders, extortion or “cut-money”, widespread unemployment and a major anti-incumbency wave, it would still take the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a lot more to hit the ball out of the park.
The eight-phased election is half way through. The first four phases have been conducted fairly peacefully (except the fourth phase where five people lost their lives). Various political developments capable of causing pronounced vicissitudes in the outcome of this mammoth polling exercise are analysed below.
The polling for phase one was held on 27 March in five districts, Paschim Midnapore Part-I, Purba Midnapore Part-I, Bankura, Jhargram, and Purulia. West Bengal reported 84.3 percent voter turnout, which can influence the other phases and has kept hopes alive for both the ruling TMC and main rival, BJP.
The 30 Assembly constituencies where voters have already exercised their franchise can be divided into three pockets, each with a character of its own.
In pocket one, the 11 Assembly constituencies, mostly in Purulia district, betrayed a distinct trend and had the lowest voter turnout. In this region, till the 2016 Assembly election, the Left was the force to reckon with after Trinamool, which was in the lead position. Things changed dramatically in the Lok Sabha elections of April-May 2019 and a large chunk of the CPI(M) and Congress’s vote went to the BJP. This shift has given the BJP a major impetus. Here, if the vote share transferred by all the parties in 2019 is retained by the BJP, then the voter needs to go out and participate to keep that level of turnout ratio. If this fails to happen and the vote transferred goes back to the respective party, even if partially, the BJP will suffer a major beating and the whole premise of BJP’s 40 percent vote share in 2019 will be reversed. The BJP can expect a because of the less than 78 percent turnout, which means nobody voted enthusiastically for anybody, while the TMC is expected to retain its vote share or even get more.
In pocket two, the 11 Assembly constituencies, mostly in Bankura and West Midnapore districts, saw the BJP get an increase in the vote share in 2019, but it was a lot moderate, as compared to pocket 1. Also, the Trinamool did not lose its vote share here. So, in this region, it was a simple transfer of votes from the Left and other parties to BJP. So, any dip in the turnout ratio in this region shall affect the BJP negatively. However, this region has historically commanded higher voter turnouts.
Pocket three comprises eight Assembly constituencies, mainly in East Midnapore district. This region had been a Trinamool stronghold traditionally, even in 2019, but with the exit of Suvendu Adhikari and his family from the ruling party, the contest here has become interesting. The BJP is working on the simple equation that if its voters remain intact and the Adhikari family brings its own chunk of votes, it will give the BJP an upper hand in the region. But traditionally, Bengal votes for the party rather than the candidate, and Mamata Banerjee’s popularity is still strong, as demonstrated by some opinion poll surveys.
To conclude, for all the three pockets collectively, a turnout ratio of less than 82 percent is not good news for the BJP.
The voting for phase two was held on April 1 in four districts, South 24 Parganas Part-1, Bankura Part-2, Paschim Midnapore Part-2, and East Midnapore. In 2016, BJP could secure only one of the 30 seats in this region, with a cumulative vote share of 7 percent, almost double from 2011, while the TMC had won 21 of the 30 seats. However, faced against a resurgent BJP this time, the TMC may have a tough time retaining these seats.
The battle for Nandigram, where TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee is up against confidante-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari, pretty much sums up the contest here. CPI(M)’s Minakshi Mukherjee is contesting as the Sanyukt Morcha candidate. BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari wields considerable influence in the region and had won this seat for the TMC, securing over 67 percent votes, in 2016. The Left received nearly 27 percent votes, while the BJP was a distant third, getting only a little over 5 percent. However, things changed dramatically in 2019 when the BJP secured 37 percent votes. Suvendu’s brother, Dibyendu, won the Lok Sabha seat for TMC with a little over 50 percent votes, but both of them, along with father, Sisir Adhikari, a sitting MP in the same region, are now with the BJP.
In many other seats too, the contest is primarily between TMC and erstwhile Left or Congress leaders now being fielded as BJP candidates. Three other combustible seats are Haldia, Bankura and Kharagpur Sadar.
Most seats in phase two are in rural areas. Tamluk, Barjora, Bishnupur, Bankura, Panskura Paschim and Panskura Purba may be the trickiest seats in this phase, as the winning margins were very narrow in the last Assembly election, with the victory margin less than 1,000 in 2016 in Tamluk and Barjora.
The voting for this phase was held on April 6 in Howrah, Hooghly, and South 24 Parganas. The Trinamool Congress has an edge over the BJP and the Left-Congress-ISF alliance, Samyukta Morcha, in the majority of the 31 Assembly seats in this region.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the TMC had comfortable leads over the BJP in all seven Assembly segments in Howrah and the 16 in South 24 Parganas and a significant lead in the eight seats in Hooghly.
The key seats in this contest include Tarakeshwar, from where the BJP has fielded journalist-turned-politician Swapan Dasgupta, who resigned from the Rajya Sabha to contest in this election, and is considered part of the BJP’s think tank for Bengal.
Amta in Howrah is also being keenly watched as it is all set to witness a three-corner contest between the Congress’ two-term MLA Asit Mitra, known for his simplistic living, BJP’s Debtanu Bhattacharya, who heads the Hindutva organisation Hindu Samhati, and the TMC’s Sukanta Pal, whose main strength is his party’s organisation.
Meanwhile, in South 24 Parganas, Kultali and Joynagar are expected to see four corner contests, with SUCI(C) as the fourth force.
However, the most-keenly-watched contests are expected to take place in seats like Canning, Canning West, Magrahat East, Magrahat West, where the Samyukta Morcha seemed to have gained some momentum due to the Indian Secular Front, a newly launched party floated by the Islamic cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui. The Left and the Congress’ alliance with the ISF had raised quite a few eyebrows, but Siddiqui’s rallies in these areas have so far drawn significant crowds. The TMC-BJP-Samyukta Morcha battle in these seats with a pronounced polarised propensity may play a crucial role in determining the political outcome in the district.
The voting for phase four was held on April 10, in Howrah (Part-2), South 24 Pargana (Part-3), Hugli (Part-2), Alipurduar (all five constituencies), and Cooch Behar (all nine constituencies). It was the first phase where polling took place in the northern half of the state, in districts like Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri. Seven seats in Jalpaiguri district and six in Darjeeling voted in the next phase on 17 April.
The TMC saw a big decline in its seat share in this region in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Its wins were reduced to 2/3rd of its 2016 share, as it won in only 25 constituencies. What is worrying for the party is that the decline of 14 constituencies happened with a vote share decline of just 1.3 percentage points. This was possible because while the vote share of anti-TMC parties was divided between the BJP, Left, Congress and others in 2016, a large part of it consolidated behind the BJP in 2019. Anti-TMC parties won 19 constituencies here in 2019, up from five in 2016, and the BJP won all 19.
However, the Left played spoilsport in 18 of the 44 constituencies voting in 2019. In these 18 constituencies, the BJP finished second in 11. Hence, if the BJP is not able to win over more Left voters, it could still end up behind the TMC.
In the hill regions, the TMC faced a much bigger decline compared to the south Bengal region, where it was still a strong player even in 2019. In the 14 constituencies of the former, the TMC’s 2019 seat share was 0.17 times that in 2016, whereas in the 30 constituencies of the latter, it was 0.85 times that in 2016.
Both the BJP and TMC campaigns also faced the litmus test in the fourth phase. BJP leaders had attacked the TMC for its alleged pro-Muslim policies while the TMC has criticised BJP leaders as outsiders or “bahiragata”. Jalpaiguri has the third-lowest Bengali-speaking population among the 19 districts of the state, according to the 2011 census, and the second highest Hindi- and Nepali-speaking population. This phase and latter rounds will likely test Mamata Banerjee’s “outsider” attack.
The BJP, on the other hand, has had to contend with the high share of Muslims in Cooch Behar, Howrah, and South 24 Parganas. Even the Hindu population is not homogeneous in the districts that voted in the fourth phase. In Cooch Behar, Scheduled Tribes (STs) comprise almost 2/3rd of the population, while Scheduled Castes (SCs) constitute over 40% of the population in Hooghly and Jalpaiguri.
Phase 4 was also marred by the violence which took place across polling booths in Cooch Behar. Four people died in CISF firing at poll booth number 126 in Sitalkuchi and another was killed in a separate incident at poll booth number 285. Both these booths will see repolling.
In the aftermath of the Sitalkuchi incident, the Election Commission has pulled up its socks and taken stern steps to restrict and forbid inflammatory statements by politicians. The EC also restricted Mamata Banerjee from campaigning for 24 hours on 13 April (preceding which she had been served notices to explain her stance) and Rahul Sinha of the BJP for 48 hours the same day. It also restricted any politician from visiting Sitalkuchi for 72 hours following the shooting. West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh was served a notice as well by the EC seeking an explanation for his statements on the unfortunate incident.
Irked by the ban on her by the EC, Mamata Banerjee called it “undemocratic and unconstitutional” and staged a sit-in protest near the Gandhi Statue at Mayo Road for three and a half hours on 13 April.
Many veterans from opposing parties like the Left’s Sujan Chakraborty and the Congress’ Adhir Chowdhury have alleged that Mamata used the restrictive order against her to create a narrative of martyrdom and victimhood. However, Banerjee is a seasoned politician who is adept at turning the tide in her favour and the silent dharna she staged, perched on her wheelchair, both for the optics as well as an appeal to sentiments of Bengalis, could be a master stroke which catapults her and the TMC to victory, riding on the sympathy of the proletariat. Conversely, if the public eye is able to see through the dramatics, it might be the last nail in the coffin for a desperate incumbent. The twist in the tale should be something to watch out for.
The writer is founder and editor-in-chief of Tribe Tomorrow Network. The views expressed are personal.
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ART EXHIBITION UNRAVELS DICHOTOMY, MULTIPLICITY OF URBAN LANDSCAPE
On a busy Saturday evening at the Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi, amidst the intellectual conversations, the setting sun and the aroma of filter coffee in the air, stood a shiny white exhibition room, with huge pieces of monochromatic art hung at the walls and people silently observing them, then murmuring something and then looking again.
A new art exhibition titled ‘Layered Dichotomy’ by Delhi-based artist Shruti Binay is being presented in this room at the Triveni Gallery, Mandi House, from November 21 to 30. Shruti, a young, budding artist, through this exhibition of paintings, drawings and mixed media works, attempts to “embrace life’s multiplicity”.
Talking about what inspired this collection, Shruti told ANI, “I am fascinated with the things around me. I stay in Gurgaon, so, for me, buildings, metro bridges, structures, architecture have always fascinated me. I have simplified those structures into lines and forms. I find the urban landscape interesting because I think I see life in it. You see the fabric in some of these paintings, that gives a different kind of life to the piece. In all my paintings you will see something moving, the sense of life is there in most of them.”
She added, “I have tried to include human forms as well because that is the best way to express myself, by connecting with my own self. Most of the paintings have been liked by people and I see the ones with human forms are being liked the most, as people most easily can connect to them.”
In the exhibition the theme of the collection revolves around dichotomy, and it could be seen and reflected in varied ways from one piece to another.
“I like to play with the medium, so in my paintings, you would see different layers created, with different kinds of textures such as paper, fabric, I’ve used tea bags and paper pulp, old paper. There’s a plane surface, and then there is a textured surface as well. Somewhere there is strength and somewhere it’s all worn out. Mostly they are monochromatic, with a wash-off look…but then some colours like blues, greens, reds stand out in other places. That’s the dichotomy I’ve tried to present,” she explained.
URANUS COLLECTS OVER 2.5 TONS OF USED COOKING OIL TO TURN IT INTO BIODIESEL
Providing a commercially viable solution to the food industry to dispose of its used cooking oils (UCO), Uranus Oil Corp, a Chennai-based startup in renewable energy and waste management solutions, collects UCO for a price and supplies them to manufacture biodiesel, a cleaner and greener form of diesel.
Uranus has recently set a record by collecting over 2.5 tonnes of UCO in a month from restaurants, hostels, canteens and other similar sources in and around Chennai. UCO poses a threat to human health, when consumed, and to the environment, when dumped untreated. Hence, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and Biodiesel Association of India, have recently launched the Repurpose UCO (RUCO) program, to prevent UCO from getting into the food supply chain or the environment, and to use it for producing biofuel.
Uranus is an authorised UCO aggregator, enrolled in the RUCO program. The company distributes ‘RUCO cans’ to hotels, hostels, canteens, and other such outlets to collect the UCO, and supplies the collected oil to Pan Oleo Energy Limited (formerly, DCI Limited), a large-scale biodiesel manufacturer and renewable energy company in Tamil Nadu, which converts UCO into biodiesel, a cleaner and greener form of diesel.
Uranus is scaling up its operations rapidly in order to collect about 15 tonnes of UCO per day by the end of 2022.
In his comments, Mr. Vasanth JB, Co-founder of Uranus Oil Corp, said, “Edible oils are the primary source of unsaturated fats and vitamin E in human diets. They are used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking and food preparations in restaurants, fast foods and households. However, when cooking oils are reheated again and again, they release toxic substances. These oils also increase free radicals in the body which in turn cause inflammation and various chronic diseases. If there is no alternative to collect UCO, they could find their way to smaller restaurants, dhabas, and street vendors or be discarded in an environmentally hazardous manner. Our model offers a commercially appealing and effective solution in this space.”
UCO is a key ingredient in making biofuel, specifically biodiesel which can be used as an alternative to conventional petrodiesel.
Tiktok rival Lomotif launches in India
With Tiktok’s ban in India, the country continues to witness a rise in content creators, who continue to experiment with short video formats, and apps that become a voice for them to showcase their talent, we have yet another popular US-based app: ‘Lomotif’ joins the bandwagon.
Featuring the currently popular short video format, the app has entered the Indian market at just about the right time with the space constantly evolving. Founded by Singapore-based Paul Yang in 2014, and acquired by ZASH Global Media and Entertainment, the app gives access to a global audience, and its patent technology allows users to immerse themselves in a super-engaging reel format of content. At the same time, with a comprehensive platform such as ‘Lomotif’, competitors should be alert because they are here to stand out.
Since TikTok was banned, the country has seen several local apps emerge and try to stir creators into telling their stories. LOMOTIF, firstly, does not just want the users to create their stories, but do so uniquely and in a way that will make their audience ‘move’ by just being themselves.
Secondly, they want the creators to create and foster global partnerships and that itself makes them a winner. So, with pre-build editing and mixing available and constant endeavors by the app creators to localize content for the Indian audience, we sure have a winner materialising.
‘We were very excited with the initial response to the beta testing of our app in India, which led to launching the app in India with the support from Socialkyte, our strategic partner. The content creation market is ever-growing and LOMOTIF will emerge as a platform where we can see a spirit of collaboration, build a community of creators who want to showcase their realness via their content and a source of entertainment for the viewers. I thoroughly enjoyed the launch and the response was overwhelming.’ says Ted Farnsworth, Chairman & Co-Founder of ZASH Global Media and Entertainment.
Gurjot Batra, Co-founder of Socialkyte says “We always believed Lomotif would be a huge success in India and to see our initial response from the Indian market even exceeded our expectations.”
Vidur Mahajan & Bharat Agarwal, co-founders of Socialkyte added, “We believe collaborations are the new economy and are very excited to bring the Lomotif platform to our creators. The app’s advanced editing tools will truly help them explore their talents”
Interestingly, with a soft launch, they have already kickstarted and initiated a dance-off challenge with none other than the Dance King himself i.e. Remo D’souza. They also had several exciting challenges executed like a #DanceRemix with Shakti Mohan spearheading the same. Several artists have already started using the app to launch their music videos.
On a side note, Socialkyte will enable access to their network of 100,000 influencers collaborating and growing together. They have a specialised dashboard with advanced filters that enables brands to find the right creators for their campaigns. With these common goals and interests, this partnership is bound to be a successful one. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s evident that their vision is simple: to get creators to create diversified and unique content to grow exponentially.
The launch this weekend was spearheaded with Ted Farnsworth, highlighting the app features alongwith popular actors like Asim Riaz, Ravi Kishen, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Adaa Khan, Vikkas Manaktala, YouTuber Anushka Sen and singer Tulsi Kumar. The launch also saw singers Shirley Sethia and Guru Randhawa rocking the stage with their performances.
OUR USP IS TIMELESSNESS: ROHINI SINGH GUPTA, CO-FOUNDER, JUST CHIFFONS
In an exclusive interview with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Rohini Singh Gupta opened up about her brand Just Chiffons, the USP of her company and much more.
Rohini Singh Gupta, Co-founder, Just Chiffons, recently joined NewsX for an interview as a part of NewsX India A-list. In the exclusive interview, she opened up about her brand Just Chiffons, the USP of her company and much more. Excerpts:
Speaking about her brand Just Chiffons, Rohini said, “Just Chiffons was started by my mother. She wanted to look for nice chiffons for herself in Indore. She could not find it in the market and so she thought she might as well design herself and started making a few. The relatives started coming in and said, ‘it looks so nice, give it to us,’ and that is how we traditionally started. Slowly and steadily, it has become a name in Indore and in India as well. “
Talking about her journey with the brand and how did she come on board, she reminisced, “I would accompany her in her errands the market and sit with her, the workers and just listen and observe. I also studied BSc so it was very different but I always have an interest in being with my mother all the time, when back home in Indore. I had that interest and slowly when I moved back to Indore after my studies, I started taking an even deeper interest. It came naturally sitting with her and talking about sarees and the colours, the designs. It came very naturally.”
When asked about the USP of Just Chiffons, “Basically, I feel our USP is timelessness. The chiffons are so versatile, yet classic. They can be worn over the period of time. It can be passed through generations. They are very elegant.”
Giving us an insight into the first exhibition of Just Chiffons and response over the years, she said “Over the years, initially people said, ‘oh this is back in fashion.’ We have actually revived it again and now they feel okay, it looks really nice. Another point is our price point. They are not that expensive and cost about 8 to 25 thousand, which is very much viable with everybody. The response has been really good. Since we have also launched our website last year and because of our Instagram and social media, it just come up. Slowly and steadily, we are gaining followers and are getting a lot of queries.”
Talking about the impact of Covid on Just Chiffons, she said, “Covid was obviously a shock for us. The first month, everything was cancelled. We didn’t know what to do but we have to look for the benefit of our artisans and our workers.”
HUNAR HAAT CREATED NEWER OPPORTUNITIES FOR ARTISANS AND CRAFTSMEN: MUKHTAR NAQVI
With 300 stalls, this is the largest participation by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in the India International Trade Fair this year.
Union Minister for Minority Affairs and Deputy Leader, Rajya Sabha, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, while speaking at the conclusion of the annual Hunar Haat event, said that the event had generated crores of rupees for artisans and craftsmen who were engaged in making indigenous products.
Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi at the event
Over 550 artisans and craftsmen from more than 30 States & UTs participated in the 33rd Hunar Haat
Over 550 artisans and craftsmen from more than 30 States/UTs participated in the 33rd “Hunar Haat”, organised at India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan from 14 to 27 November.
While talking to reporters on the conclusion of Hunar Haat, Naqvi said that while people purchased indigenous exquisite handmade products worth crores of rupees, the artisans and craftsmen have also received orders worth crores of rupees from national as well as international buyers.
“Hunar Haat” was also awarded the prestigious IITF2021 Silver Medal for strengthening its commitment to “Vocal for Local” and its strong presence at Trade Fair.
According to Naqvi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “mantra” of “Vocal for Local” and “Swadeshi to Swavlamban” have encouraged and promoted India’s traditional and ancestral legacy of handloom-handicraft.
With 300 stalls, this was the largest participation by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in the India International Trade Fair this year. Canara Bank had set up a stall in the “Hunar Haat” to provide easy loans to artisans and craftsmen for employment and self-employment.
Renowned artists such as Annu Kapoor, Vinod Rathore, Sudesh Bhosale, Roop Kumar Rathore and Sonali Rathore, Suresh Wadekar and Padma Wadekar, Amit Kumar, Mohit Khanna, Prem Bhatia, Osman Mir, Rekha Raaj, Vivek Mishra, Ankita Pathak, Priya Mallick, Bhupendra Singh Bhuppi, Mirza Sisters, Posh James and others made memorable spectacular performances every evening at “Hunar Haat”.
The minister said that Hunar Haat’s virtual and online platform, and GeM portal, have opened enormous opportunities for economic empowerment of artisans and craftsmen. More than 7 lakh artisans, craftsmen and people associated with them have been provided employment and employment opportunities through “Hunar Haat” in the last about 6 years.
The next “Hunar Haat” will be organised at Surat from11 to 20 December; JLN Stadium, New Delhi from 22 December 2021 to 2 January 2022. “Hunar Haats” will also be organised in Mysuru, Guwahati, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Patna, Puducherry, Mumbai, Jammu, Chennai, Chandigarh, Agra, Prayagraj, Goa, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Kota, Sikkim, Srinagar, Leh, Shillong, Ranchi, Agartala and other places in the coming days.
Vyapar app simplifies financial management for MSMEs
Financial management is the key to business success. There’s no refuting this fact, but despite that, many business owners are simply not careful enough.
India has approximately 6.3 Crore MSMEs which contributes about 29 percent towards the GDP through its national and international trade. 70 percent of businesses in India are Micro, Small, and Medium-sized (MSMEs), and many business owners cannot cope with their business growth. Financial asset management is one of the contributing factors. In addition to that, many of them also struggle to keep up with digital systems that are supposed to ease the process but don’t actually do so. When they cannot afford better systems, hire qualified accountants and practice better financial management, they tend to lose control of their business.
To solve this issue, Vyapar App was launched in the year 2016 with the aim of making it easier for MSME business owners to run their businesses. Accounting can take a significant amount of their time, but they have comprehensive and accurate financial reports at the tips of their fingers with the app. Vyapar App is a business accounting application that helps the user store and access all their financial data in one place. In addition to offering an accounting solution, they also provide inventory tracking, customer and vendor management, invoice generation, barcode management, online cataloging, and even order tracking features.
Using Vyapar software you can send free transaction messages, payment reminders, generate E-way bills, delivery challan, generate financial reports and much more.
By providing so many features onto one software, they’ve enabled the growth of many MSME businesses in the country. Until now, many business owners would suffer because they had to use different applications for different purposes, which would lead to increased costs and efforts. But by using this easiest one-stop solution, they can manage their finances and get creative with it.
The software offers them the option to customise their dashboard and other feature of software as per their individual requirement. MSMEs have been able to present themselves professionally and see increased business as well.
One of the key points that many of their users talk about is that when the GST filing process was introduced, it was tough to manage it since you’d need an accountant with sound financial knowledge. But now, they can retrieve GST report directly from software in government prescribed format in excel. Later they can convert the excel file to JSON format using an offline utility tool available on GST portal. User can now upload the JSON file by logging in to GST portal.
This shows how the team at Vyapar Apps has taken the concerns of their users into account and adapted the software over time.
Overall, no other service in the market simplifies business and financial management for MSME business owners the way Vyapar App does. It’s available for download on the Play Store and can be done in two languages — English and Hindi. This will be a top-notch option if you’re looking to simplify financial management and grow your business.
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