70 new cases push Odisha's COVID-19 tally to 3,37,744

(Eds: Adds more inputs) Bhubaneswar, Mar 7 (PTI) Odisha's COVID-19 tally mounted to 3,37,744 on Sunday as 70 more people tested positive for the infection, a health official said. Forty-one new cases were reported in quarantine centres and 29 detected during contact tracing, he said. Khurda district reported the highest number of fresh cases at 14, followed by Sundargarh (12) and Angul (11). Ninety people were cured of the disease during the day, taking the total number of recoveries to 3,35,080, which is 99.21 per cent of the caseload. The death toll remained at 1,917 as no fresh fatality due to the infection was reported in the last 24 hours, the official said. Fifty-three other coronavirus patients have died due to comorbidities so far, he said. Odisha now has 694 active cases, which is 0.20 per cent of the caseload. The state has so far tested over 84.72 lakh samples for COVID-19, including 20,834 on Saturday, and the positivity rate is at 3.99 per cent, he said. Meanwhile, a 71-year-old doctor was found positive for coronavirus in RT-PCR test at IGH, Rourkela even after receiving two doses of the 'Covishield' vaccine. The medical practitioner subsequently tested negative for the infection in another RT-PCR test at Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC), Bhubaneswar on Saturday. "Result of his repeat RT-PCR test at RMRC was negative," the health department's additional chief secretary PK Mohapatra said. Altogether 25 students of Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology (VSSUT) at Burla in Sambalpur district were found positive for coronavirus in rapid antigen tests conducted between February 25 and 27. But all of them subsequently tested negative for the infection in RT-PCR tests. They were detected with COVID-19 as the kits used to test them were faulty, Mohapatra had said. The rapid antigen test kits used in this case were procured from two firms based in New Delhi and Haryana. They were served a show-cause notice by the Odisha State Medical Corporation Ltd for supplying defective/non-standard kits. However, one of the firms, on Sunday conducted a demo of the testing procedure and claimed that the kits supplied by it were not faulty. PTI AAM BDC..

BJP local leader shot at in Bengal's Nadia district

Haringhata (WB), Mar 7 (PTI) A 32-year-old local BJP leader was shot at and injured in Haringhata area of West Bengal's Nadia district, the police said on Sunday. During a patrol, police personnel found Sanjay Das near a tea stall at Kapileswar Santoshpur and admitted him to a hospital, SP of Ranaghat Police District, VSR Ananthnag, said. Das, a booth president of the BJP under ward no. 10 of Haringhata Municipality, is stated to be out of danger. The BJP alleged that goons sheltered by the Trinamool Congress were behind the incident. The ruling party in the state denied the charge and claimed that it was the fallout of a clash among the members of a group, who are associated with the saffron party. The SP said that when policemen on patrol stopped their vehicle near a tea stall beside National Highway 12 at around 2.30 am on Sunday, they found some people were sitting on the ground a short distance away. On noticing the policemen, all except one person fled. Ananthnag said that the trouser of the person, later identified as Das, was soaked in blood and he was in an inebriated condition. He told the police that one person in the group fired at him and the bullet hit him in the waist, the SP said. Das' father lodged a complaint with the police in the evening, naming several people as accused. He said that his son told him that one person in the group fired at him following a heated argument over some political issue. PTI COR NN..

Denied ticket by Mamata Banerjee, TMC MLA Sonali Guha to join BJP

Kolkata, Mar 7 (PTI) Sonali Guha, once a close aide of Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and a four-time MLA of the party, on Sunday said she will join the BJP, two days after being denied a ticket for the upcoming assembly polls in West Bengal. Guha told reporters she was requested by BJP national vice president Mukul Roy to join the saffron party at its Hastings office here on Monday. "I have been asked by Mukulda to come to the Hastings office tomorrow at 1 pm and will join the BJP there," she said. The former deputy speaker of the West Bengal assembly iterated that she had never thought such a day would come in her life but was compelled to take the decision. The MLA from Satgachia alleged that she was not given due respect in the Trinamool Congress. "I had given all my efforts for the TMC. 'Didi' (Mamata Banerjee) and others know that very well. I will now devote myself equally to the new party," she said. Guha had broken down on Friday immediately after getting the news that she was not being given the Trinamool Congress ticket this time. "I was not informed about the decision and not taken into confidence," she said. Several TMC leaders have quit the party in recent months to join the BJP as the saffron party mounts an aggressive all-out campaign to end Banerjee's 10-year-old reign in the state. Elections to 294 assembly seats in West Bengal will be held in eight phases, beginning on March 27. Votes will be counted on May 2. PTI SUS BDC..

AIUDF announces first list for Assam polls, renominates 7 sitting MLAs

Guwahati, Mar 7 (PTI) The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a major constituent of the opposition Congress-led Grand Alliance, on Sunday night released the first list of 16 candidates and said it has renominated seven of its 13 sitting MLAs for the Assam assembly election. AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal said that the party has put 11 candidates in alliance with its partners while in five seats, it has decided to go for a friendly contest. The AIUDF is a part of the Grand Alliance comprising the Congress, BPF, CPI(M), CPI, CPI-ML and the Anchalik Gana Morcha. Aminul Islam is one of the seven renominated candidates who will contest the Dhing seat, which is the only constituency in the list that goes to polls in the first phase on March 27. The other six such contestants are Suzamuddin Laskar (Katlicherra), Nizamuddin Choudhury (Algapur), Nazrul Haque (Dhubri), Nijanur Rahman (Gauripur), Hafiz Bashir Ahmed (Bilasipara West) and Dr Hafiz Rafiqul Islam (Jania). The party presidents brother Sirajuddin Ajmal has been nominated for the Jamunamukh constituency, replacing the elder Ajmal's son and sitting MLA Abdur Rahim Ajmal. Phani Talukdar, Aminul Islam (advocate) and Karimuddin Barbhuiya were nominated from Bhabanipur, Mankachar and Sonai constituencies respectively. The party has decided to go in for a friendly contest in five seats and nominated Minakshi Rahman from Sarukhetri, Rafiqul Islam from Jaleswar, Mujibur Rahman from Dalgaon, Ashraful Hussain from Chenga and Rajib Ahmed from Bagbar. Elections to the 126-member Assam assembly will be held in three phases on March 27, April one and April six. PTI DG NN..

Alliance partners of Congress in Assam will not get any seat in first phase

Guwahati, Mar 7 (PTI) The Congress will allot no seats to its six partners of the Grand Alliance in any of the 47 seats that are going to polls in the first phase in Assam, a party source said on Sunday. The opposition party and other constituents of the grouping are yet to officially announce their seat-sharing arrangements. The Congress on Saturday night issued the first list of 40 candidates for the first phase of polling on March 27, for which the last date of nomination is on Tuesday. A Congress source told PTI that the second list will be out late on Sunday night and it will consist of names of candidates for the seven remaining constituencies that are going to polls in the first phase. The list will also have names of nominees for the second phase in which polling will be held in 39 constituencies on April 1. The third and the last phase of the assembly polls will be held on April 6. Since early morning on Sunday, AICC general secretary Jitendra Singh, AICC chief strategist Naresh Arora, state unit president Ripun Bora and other senior leaders have been deliberating on the second list at a luxury resort on the outskirts of Guwahati. The party's Campaign Committee chairman Pradyut Bordoloi, Manifesto Committee chief Gaurav Gogoi, Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia and senior MLA Rakibul Hussain also took part in the meeting. The first list did not have a candidate for the prestigious Titabor constituency, represented by former three-time Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. Though a party spokesperson declined to comment on the probable candidate for Titabar, the source said that DesignBoxed Creatives, a political strategy firm engaged to devise the Congress plan of action for the polls, has suggested Gogoi's parliamentarian son Gaurav for the constituency. "The AICC has also approved Gaurav's name for Titabar. Now, the party's state unit has to approve his name," the source said. The Congress, which was in power for 15 years in Assam since 2001, has formed a 'Grand Alliance' with the AIUDF, Bodoland People's Front (BPF), CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML) and the Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM) to fight the upcoming Assembly election against the BJP-led NDA. The 2016 elections in Assam gave a fractured mandate and no party got an absolute majority. The Congress had won 26 seats, while the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) bagged 13. The BJP became the single largest party with 60 MLAs, while its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the BPF had won 14 and 12 seats respectively. The ruling coalition also had the support of an Independent MLA. PTI TR NN..

Raijor Dal names two more candidates for first phase of Assam Assembly polls

Guwahati, Mar 7 (PTI) The newly-floated Raijor Dal on Sunday announced the names of two more candidates, following All Assam Minority Students' Union (AAMSU) leader Azizur Rahman and former BJP leader Madhab Mushahary joining the party ahead of the assembly polls. Rahman will contest from Naoboicha and Mushahary from Jonai constituencies, both of which are in Upper Assam and go to polls in the first phase on March 27. RD working president Bhasco De Saikia said the party has decided to contest from a minimum number of seats to ensure votes are not divided and the BJP is defeated. The party had announced the names of 17 candidates on Saturday. "We are not fighting the elections for the lust of power but with the sole objective of defeating th BJP to save Assam and its identity. If the BJP-RSS is allowed to rule the state, the people of Assam will be doomed," he said. The 2021 assembly polls is a fight to ensure that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is not implemented and to save the state's resources from being sold to outsiders, he said. "Our appeal to people of the state is to unite against those forces who are bent on implementing the CAA and ensure that the BJP does not return to power," Saikia said. He also criticised the Congress for fielding a candidate in Sibsagar from where jailed RD president Akhil Gogoi will contest. "The Congress had earlier announced that it will not put up a candidate against Gogoi in the interest of preventing the CAA from being implemented in the state, but went ahead with its nomination for Sibsagar," he said. The Congress may have gone back on its promise but "we will not take any step that will further divide the votes and benefit the BJP", Saikia added. Asked about its alliance partner, the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) fielding candidates in many constituencies where it is contesting, the RD leader admitted the party is facing a few issues in some seats, and "we are trying to resolve these amicably through discussions". Both RD and AJP are committed to the alliance and to the firm resolve of defeating the BJP and all anti-CAA forces, he asserted. Elections to the 126-member Assam assembly will be held in three phases on March 27, April 1 and April 6. PTI DG RBT..

AJP announces second list of 50 candidates for Assam polls

Guwahati, Mar 7 (PTI) The newly-formed Assam Jatiya Parishad on Sunday announced the second list of 50 candidates for the three-phased assembly polls, with its president Lurinjyoti Gogoi contesting from one more constituency, Naharkatia. The party had on Friday released the first list of 18 candidates and fielded Gogoi from Duliajan. Both the constituencies of the former AASU general secretary are in upper Assam and are going to polls in the first phase. AJP vice president Adeep Kumar Phukan said the party announced names of 68 candidates for all three phases and is in talks with its alliance partner for selecting nominees in some more seats. The AJP has forged the alliance with the Raijor Dal of jailed anti-citizenship law activist Akhil Gogoi for the assembly elections intending to oust the BJP-led ruling coalition from power. "We are united to defeat the BJP though there may be friendly contests in a few seats," Phukan said. AJP working president Pabindra Deka, who had quit the Asom Gana Parishad and resigned from the assembly, to join the party, will contest from Pathacharkuchi and is pitted against BJP state president Ranjeet Kumar Dass. The AJP fielded former Assembly Speaker Pulakesh Barua from Borkhetri and Adeep Phukan from Gauhati (East). Former Congress leader Dulu Ahmed will contest from Hajo as an AJP candidate. The AJP, which was formed by the All Assam Students' Union and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) following the anti-CAA protests, will also contest in five seats - Patharkandi, Dholai, Lakhipur, Katigorah and Udarbond- in the Barak Valley. The three-phased elections for the 126-member Assam assembly will be held on March 27, April 1 and April 6. Votes will be counted on May 2. PTI DG BDC..