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Uttar Pradesh Goes To ‘Biggest State Polls’ Wednesday

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New Delhi/Lucknow: The mother of all elections since the 2009 parliamentary battle starts in Uttar Pradesh Wednesday, with the outcome bound to cast a long shadow on national politics.
Although only one of five states going to the polls in February-March, Uttar Pradesh’s battle for ballot for 403-seat assembly has overshadowed the entire staggered balloting. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari has called the Uttar Pradesh election a “semi-final” ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
With Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati facing a splintered but aggressive opposition, most pundits fear a split verdict — and a possible coalition government. Similar fears in 2007, however, were unfounded when Mayawati pulled off a veritable coup: she led the BSP to an outright win.
On Wednesday, 55 of the 403 assembly constituencies will see polling in the first phase, with 1.70 crore people eligible to vote.
The areas which will see balloting include Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich, Shravasti, Balrampur, Siddharth Nagar, Maharajganj and Kushinagar along the Nepal border. 
In Lucknow, Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha said over 110,000 security personnel, including about 55,000 from central para-military forces and about 10,000 men of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), have been deployed at the 18,083 polling stations to ensure a free and fair poll. He described 2,123 polling stations as “sensitive” and 3,423 as “hyper-sensitive”.
”The candidates include 796 men and 65 women, besides a eunuch, who is in the fray from Ayodhya,” Sinha said. The gender ratio of voters was relatively much more balanced with about 93.36 lakh men and 79.04 lakh women, he added.
The rest of the sprawling state, India’s most populous, will go to the polls over six more rounds, the process ending March 3. The votes will be counted March 6.
Although a state election, the Uttar Pradesh battle is vital for every major political party, in particular the scandal-hit Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
A poor showing by the Congress will weaken it nationally and trip its general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who has been leading a spirited campaign across the length and breadth of the state. He has aggressively taken on every other player — the BJP, Mayawati and her BSP and the Samajwadi Party — in a desperate bid to raise the fortunes of the Congress that has been out of power in the state since 1989. The Samajwadi Party is widely considered the biggest challenger to the BSP with the potential to emerge on top in the event of a splintered vote.
The BJP, whose national growth coincided with its spread in Uttar Pradesh from the 1980s, has unleashed all its leaders in the state, barring Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Pundits admit that Mayawati’s Dalit vote base remains as cemented as ever but it will be a miracle if she wins on her own again.
A latest opinion poll has said that the Samajwadi Party was likely to win 130-170 seats and finish on top in a hung 403-member house.
The BSP may finish with 65-105 seats, far below what it won in 2007, said the survey posted www.LensOnElections.com
The BJP and the Congress would be at number three and four places, winning 70-85 seats (BJP) and 55-70 seats (Congress).
Congress ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) could win 15-20 seats, it said.
The realignment of constituencies has made poll predictions difficult. Adding to the complexity in the state is the entry of the largely Muslim Peace Party that has fielded a large number of candidates.
-IANS

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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Temple

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