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Polling underway for third phase of municipal polls in Jammu and Kashmir

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Srinagar | Polling began on Saturday for the third and penultimate phase of municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir to seal the fate of 365 candidates in the fray across the state.

Polling began at 6 am amid stringent security arrangements, officials said.

They said the voting will take place at 300 polling stations across the state and would end at 4 pm.

Out of the 300 polling stations, 241 stations – 222 in the Kashmir Division and 19 in Jammu Division have been categorised hypersensitive, they said.

The officials said 365 candidates are in the fray for 96 wards of eight urban local bodies for the third phase comprising a total electorate of 1,93,990 electors.

The officials said massive security arrangements have been put in place for the smooth conduct of the polls.

They said an additional poll staff has been deployed at polling stations with a large number of electors.

The officials said the overall poll percentage in the first two phases of the municipal polls has been 47.2 per cent.

Municipal elections, covering 79 municipal bodies with an electorate of about 17 lakh, are being held in four phases. The last phase will take place on Tuesday.

A total of 3,372 nominations have been filed for 1145 wards.

National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and CPI(M) have boycotted the polls due to the legal challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.

The government has declared a holiday on the day of poll in the municipal areas going to polls so as to enable the voters to cast their vote.

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Union government sources allege AAP govt ‘stonewalling’ Phase-IV metro

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New Delhi | The AAP government has “stonewalled” the progress of the Delhi’s Metro’s Phase-IV project, leading to “substantial delay” and inconvenience to people, Union government sources claimed Monday.

The fresh accusation comes amid an apparent tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government after the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation imposed a condition of 50-50 per cent operational loss sharing while giving approval to the Phase-IV of the metro network late last month.

A Delhi government spokesperson countered the allegation, saying, the city government has already cleared the project from its side and “any delay that is now happening is from the Centre’s side”.

Highly-placed sources in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUA) alleged that “delay tactics of the Delhi government has derailed the metro Phase-IV project”.

The Delhi government has “stonewalled” the progress of the Delhi Metro’s Phase-IV project, leading to “substantial delay” and “causing inconvenience to people”, the sources alleged.

However, the city government spokesperson said, “The Phase-IV project was cleared in December and we had made conditions quite clear.”

“We will respond further as and when we receive any communication from the Centre,” the spokesperson said.

The HUA officials recently had said that it was examining the condition that the Centre equally share any operational loss with the AAP government, while asserting that it was a state subject and that other states might raise similar demands.

Sources said the Delhi government in 2016 had not “conveyed financial commitments in their in-principle approval of the Phase-IV”.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation on January 24, 2017 had submitted the proposal without commitment of sharing of 50 per cent subordinate debt towards central taxes by the Delhi government as the city government did not approve of it, they said.

This was “contrary to the existing practice being followed for all 50:50 joint venture metro rail projects”, including earlier phases of the Delhi Metro, sources claimed.

The Arvind Kejriwal government had on December 19 approved the much-awaited Phase-IV of the DMRC.

An official of the ministry had said the Delhi government had also put a condition in its approval that it will not have any liability on loan provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to fund the project.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had told reporters after the approval that the city government will give its share of Rs 9,707 crore towards the construction work under the project, which is estimated to cost around Rs 45,000 crore.

Among the projects chosen under the Phase-IV are Rithala-Narela (21.73 km), Janakpuri West-R K Ashram (28.92 km), Mukundpur-Maujpur (12.54 km), Inderlok-Indraprastha (12.58 km), Tughlakabad-Aerocity (20.20 km), and Lajpat Nagar-Saket G-Block (7.96 km).

A Delhi government official had late last month said “in the past one year, the ridership has gone down due to various reasons. So, if Delhi has to pay 100 per cent of the operational loss, it will not be financially viable for it”.

Also, there are certain corridors that may not be profitable in the future or even do not reach the break-even level, the official had said.

HUA sources on Monday said the two conditions imposed by the Delhi government is “contrary to condition of sanction of the Phase-III of the Delhi Metro wherein operational losses are to be borne by the Delhi government”.

As per the terms of sanction of other metro projects, “repayment of external loan and operational losses” are to be borne by the state governments, they said.

The DMRC on January 10 this year had submitted the Phase-IV detailed project report comprising six corridors with revised costs, sources said.

“The HUA Ministry has started the appraisal process,” sources told PTI.

“The proposal is under appraisal by an independent agency in terms of the Metro Rail Policy, 2017. Since, the proposal of the Delhi Metro Phase-IV has again been changed by the Delhi government to six corridors, it again requires fresh inter-ministerial consultation as part of the appraisal process,” a source said.

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Attempt to murder case registered against Congress MLA who ‘attacked’ colleague

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Bengaluru | A case of attempt to murder was registered on Monday against Congress MLA J N Ganesh in connection with the alleged brawl with lawmaker colleague Anand Singh at a resort near here, police said.

The case was registered based on a complaint by Singh, who has been hospitalised for injury suffered in the brawl late Saturday night.

Singh and Ganesh, both from Ballari district, had a heated argument and came to blows at the resort where the Congress MLAs were herded together amid alleged poaching attempt by the BJP.

According to the FIR, besides attempt to murder, Ganesh has been charged with causing grievous injuries and giving threats.

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Punjab Assembly Speaker serves notice to Khaira

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Chandigarh | Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana K P Singh on Monday served a notice to Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira for his disqualification from the state assembly.

Khaira has been given 15 days to file his reply as to why action under the provisions of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution should not be initiated against him, a spokesman said.

“The Vidhan Sabha has issued a notice to Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira for disqualification under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India,” he said.

The notice was given to Khaira following petitions filed by Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema and Harsimran Singh, a resident of Bholath.

“In their respective petitions, they made references to the Speaker for Khaira’s disqualification,” the spokesman said.

In case Khaira failed to give a reply within 15 days, it will be presumed that he has nothing to say in this regard, the spokesman added.

In his petition to the Speaker, Cheema had said that Khaira had voluntarily given up the membership of the AAP and had floated his own political party ‘Punjabi Ekta Party’.

He had quit the AAP on January 6, six months after he was ousted from the post of Leader of Opposition of the Punjab Assembly.

However, he had not resigned as MLA and had dared the AAP to get him disqualified.

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