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Mixed bag for Congress in bypolls

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The by-election results which were declared by Tuesday gave the Indian National Congress (INC) something to cheer in view of other opposition parties questioning the credibility of the grand-old-party to counter the BJP juggernaut. The results were a mixed bag for the Congress, which won both the assembly by-polls in Rajasthan, sweeping Himachal Pradesh including the prestigious Mandi parliamentary seat and winning a seat in Maharashtra and won an assembly seat in Karnataka from the saffron party, but suffered losses in Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Meghalaya. The Congress party won eight assembly seats and one parliamentary seat in total.

The success in Himachal Pradesh was big for the grand old party as the state will go for polls next year. After the results, Congress leader and in-charge of Himachal Pradesh Rajiv Shukla claimed that in the upcoming assembly elections the ruling BJP would be overthrown by the voters of the hill state. Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal argued that the bypolls verdict is a “clear indication” that the BJP government at the centre is losing its momentum especially in “Hindi heartland” due to its “anti-people policies.”

In the by-polls the Congress sprung a surprise victory in Himachal Pradesh, as it retained Fatehpur and Arki assembly segments and posted a win in BJP-held Jubbal-Kotkhai. It also won the Lok Sabha seat of Mandi where Pratibha Singh, the wife of late chief minister Virbhadra Singh, defeated the BJP’s candidate and the Kargil war hero Brigadier (retired) Khushal Thakur.

Mandi is the home district of the sitting chief minister Jai Ram Thakur and hence a prestige battle for him. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, saffron party’s Ram Swaroop Sharma had emerged victorious by a margin of over four lakh votes. In Rajasthan, after the victory in Vallabhnagar and Dhariawad assembly seats the Congress claimed that the election result was a referendum on the performance of the state government and the party will return to power in the state after the 2023 polls.

Talking to The Daily Guardian, senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member, Akhilesh Prasad Singh said, “The graph of Rahul Gandhi Ji had increased in the country even in the Khandwa Lok Sabha seat we lost narrowly. There is anger against the ruling dispensation on the issues of price rise, unemployment and covid mismanagement which was reflected in the verdict. What we need now is a broader alliance against the BJP led by the Congress which would defeat the saffron party in 2024.”

The loss in Bihar, where the grand-old-party lost deposits on both the seats is a setback as the party after 11 years contested separately.

In the final tally, BJP emerged victorious on seven assembly seats and one lok sabha seat of Madhya Pradesh while its allies JD (U) won two assembly seats of Bihar namely Kusheshwarsthan and Tarapur , United Peoples’ Party Liberal won two assembly seats in Assam, while the MNF won one seat in Mizoram and NPP won two seats in Meghalaya.The bypolls which were held on 29 assembly segments and three parliamentary seats gave both the BJP and the Congress something to cheer.

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PAK ENVOY MEETS TALIBAN’S ACTING FM, DISCUSSES BILATERAL COOPERATION

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KABUL: Pakistan’s envoy to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan met Taliban acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and discussed bilateral cooperation between both countries.

“Pakistan Ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan met with acting FM Amir Khan Muttaqi and discussed bilateral cooperation, Khan said.

Pakistan has decided that wheat and emergency medicine provided by India can be transported from Wagah port in Pakistan on Afghan trucks to Afghanistan,” Tolo News reported.

Earlier, Pakistan’s envoy and the Taliban acting foreign minister met in the month of September where both sides discussed strengthening bilateral cooperation particularly facilitating humanitarian, economic and people-to-people exchange.

Pakistan, along with China were among the first countries that began engaging with Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August this year.

The meeting came amid the Taliban’s repeated appeal for wider international recognition. Pakistan is among the very few which seem to have started engaging with the outfit. Other members of the international community are taking a wait and watch approach.

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TLP expanding after release of its leader Saad Hussain Rizvi

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Formerly banned organisation Tehreek-E-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is on a surge after the release of its leader Saad Hussain Rizvi and revoking of its ban by the Imran Khan government.

According to the International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), there was a rather secret deal between TLP and the Imran Khan government reached on October 31 to end the latest round of protests. The deal was not made public and on November 7, Khan’s cabinet revoked the declaration of the TLP as a banned group. The TLP benefitted mainly from the divisions between the PML-Nawaz government and the military establishment deep state’, IFFRAS said, adding that Pakistan military establishment’s effort to prop up different religious groups to deteriorate the PML-Nawaz government permitted the TLP to increase greater political space. Earlier, Rizvi was released on the eve of his father, Khadim Hussain Rizvi’s death anniversary on November 19 who was the founder of TLP.

Further, the TLP capable of mobilising thousands of supporters, was born in the year 2015 out of a remonstration movement to the Barelvi movement.

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US ready to support Ukraine, help Kiev with defence

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says Washington is concerned about the situation in Ukraine and is ready to support Kiev.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday, Austin said that the US is “very concerned” about the alleged buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border and will try to ensure that Kiev “has what it needs” to defend its “sovereign territory.” The Pentagon chief said he was not going to speculate on different scenarios pertaining to the alleged Russian aggression on its borders.

Over the past several weeks, Ukraine and some Western countries have expressed concern about the alleged increase in what they characterise as “aggressive actions” by Russia on their border. However, Russia has refuted the accusations by saying it is moving troops within its own territory and at its own discretion.

US President Joe Biden plans to discuss the issue of Ukraine, as well as other topics, during the upcoming video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, December 7.

Biden told reporters earlier this week, answering a question about the issue of Ukraine, that he expected a “long discussion” with the Russian President.

Russia has repeatedly said that it stands by its right to move armed forces freely within its territory. On November 23, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Russia does not have any aggressive plans with regard to Ukraine. The Kremlin has also expressed concerns about Kiev having aggregated almost half of all its armed forces on the contact line with the Donbas region in the east of the country.

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EXPLOSIONS HEARD INSIDE US BASE IN SYRIA

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Explosions were heard on Sunday inside a US military base in Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

The blasts were heard in the al-Tanf area in southeastern Syria, Xinhua news agency reported. Back in late October, the US base of At Tanf came under a drone attack. The White House believes that the recent attack on its military base in Syria was “deliberate and coordinated” and the United States reserves the right to respond.

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CHINA CREATES ATMOSPHERE THAT EMBOLDENS MILITARY TO SEIZE POWER IN AFRICA

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As Western powers continue to retreat from Africa, China is busy creating an atmosphere that emboldens generals and military cliques to seize power in one of the largest continent in the world, said a media report.

In an opinion piece for Al Jazeera, Harvard University lecturer Christopher Rhodes said that “backsliding on the part of Western powers, the rise of autocrat-friendly China, have created an atmosphere in Africa that emboldens generals and military cliques to seize power.” Rhodes further wrote that the coup, which had been widely rumoured in Sudan but still managed to blindside the United States, remains a source of outrage for Sudanese citizens. But Washington is yet to take a clear stance on the issue, Rhodes said.

According to the lecturer, the reaction from the West has diverged widely from that of Sudanese citizens, who continue to reject military hegemony. The report says that American diplomats have signaled acceptance of the new arrangement and willingness to turn a blind eye to the continued military dominance of the transition government.

This brings focus to the breakdown of the anti-coup coalition that had formed for Africa – a breakdown that has led to military interventions reemerging as a leading method by which power is transferred on the continent, Rhodes added.

Noting that the fight for democracy and against military rule in Africa has seen significant setbacks, Rhodes said while African populations remain overwhelmingly committed to democracy and opposed to military governments, the lack of reliable international pro-democracy partners makes the struggle against military rule much more difficult.

But as the sustained anti-military protests in Sudan demonstrate, local populations are willing to continue the fight for democracy, even if they must go it alone, said the lecturer.

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PROTEST IN COLOMBO AGAINST LYNCHING OF SRI LANKAN EXECUTIVE IN PAKISTAN

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A protest was held outside Pakistan High Commission in Colombo on Sunday by a large crowd, including a group of monks, against the killing of a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot city of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan executive of a garment factory was lynched and his body burnt by angry supporters of a hardline Islamist party that attacked the facility in Sialkot over blasphemy allegations on Friday.

A police official alleged that Kumara tore a poster of the hardline Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in which Quranic verses were inscribed and threw it in the dustbin. A mob enraged over the alleged blasphemy incident, started gathering outside the factory from adjoining areas, most of them activists and supporters of the TLP.

They dragged the Sri Lankan executive, who was in his 40s, from the factory and severely tortured him. After he succumbed to his wounds, the mob burnt his body before police reached the crime spot. Late on Friday, Punjab police said they have arrested 100 suspects, after identifying them through video footage that went viral on social media.

Expressing grief over the lynching of his country’s citizen in Pakistan, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha said that he was “shocked to see the brutal and fatal attack” on Priyantha Diyawadana by “extremist mobs in Pakistan”.

“My heart goes out to his wife and family”, Rajapaksha said in a tweet.

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