10.30 pm: Here are the day’s top stories:

  • PM Narendra Modi held a roadshow in Varanasi a day before filing nomination. Addressing another rally in Uttar Pradesh, the prime minister said the Opposition is looking dejected after three phases of Lok Sabha polling. 
  • The Congress named Ajay Rai its candidate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. There had been speculation earlier that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party’s general secretary in the Uttar Pradesh East region, might be fielded against Modi.
  • Protesting against Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Thakur’s nomination from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, 71 former bureaucrats asked the BJP and PM Modi to denounce her comments against former ATS Chief Hemant Karkare.
  •  A group of armed forces veterans have claimed that news agency ANI attempted to “defame” their intentions behind an appeal against the politicisation of the military.
  • Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal said that if the BJP retains power after the Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi will be responsible.
  • A retired police official, who had served under former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, has decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections against BJP candidate Pragya Thakur from Bhopal.

10.12 pm: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel claims that Malegaon blast accused and BJP candidate Pragya Singh Thakur had stabbed a man in 2001, PTI reports. “Pragya also used to indulge in fights, and from the beginning her conduct was like that of a habitual criminal and not like that of a Sadhvi,” he alleges.

Madhya Pradesh BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai says Baghel should refrain from making any statement without proof. “He should apologise for his outlandish remarks against Sadhvi ji or be ready to face a defamation suit from us,” PTI quotes Bajpai as saying.

10 pm: The Congress’ Mumbai unit says the Chief Electoral Officer of Maharashtra should obtain a “pre-certification” of the reply the BJP is going to issue to rebut Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray’s allegations.

Thackery has been campaigning against the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance through his rallies. The BJP on Wednesday had said it would come out with a reply to counter Thackeray’s allegations on April 28.

9.45 pm: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh says he would aggressively campaign against the Badals in Bathinda and Ferozepur, PTI reports. Shiromani Akali Dal Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal are contesting from the two seats.

Singh says he would expose the “lies of the Badals on drugs and other issues”.

9.20 pm: District Magistrate of Begusarai in Bihar says Union minister Giriraj Singh was booked for allegedly making remarks against the Muslim community that violated the Model Code of Conduct, PTI reports. Singh had made the remarks on Wednesday at a rally in the presence of BJP President Amit Shah, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and other BJP leaders.

9.15 pm: Arvind Kejriwal is responsible for the failure of tie-up talks between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, All India Congress Committee in charge PC Chacko tells PTI. “The alliance is a closed chapter now. They [AAP] have openly taken a stand that they do not want an alliance with the Congress,” Chacko says. “Kejriwal is squarely responsible for there being no alliance. His attitude is to be blamed for it.”

8.57 pm: Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy holds meeting with his deputy G Parameshwara and senior minister DK Shivakumar amid speculation about rifts within the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition, PTI reports. “We don’t have any apprehension about the collapse of the government as being claimed by the BJP,” Parameshwara says.

8.42 pm: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley takes a jibe at the Congress, saying that he is disappointed by its decision to not field Priyanka Gandhi Vadra against Narendra Modi from Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. The myths of Priyanka Gandhi stand eroded, Jaitley says.

“The build-up of the last two weeks had been that Priyanka would be fielded against the Prime Minister,” Jaitley writes in a Facebook post. “She rejoiced in giving daily bytes to the media that she was ready to take on the Prime Minister. Her brother [Congress President Rahul Gandhi] claimed that the party was building up the suspense for an eventual thriller.”

He said Priyanka Gandhi had “quietly chickened out” of the contest. “The myth of ‘Priyanka will make a difference’ was worth a lakh. Today, the myth has lost its value. The cards are out in the open for public scrutiny,” he says.

8.35 pm: Maharashtra Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil resigns as the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, PTI reports. his son Sujay Vikhe Patil had last month joined the BJP. Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil has been accused of giving tacit support to his son, who BJP contestant from Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat.

The state is scheduled to go to polls later this year.

8.20 pm: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman refutes the Opposition’s claim that the BJP is politicising the valour of the security forces to secure votes, PTI reports. “Who is politicising the security forces? We haven’t done it,” she says. “The Congress feels hesitant to talk about political will, hence it thinks we are politicising [the valour of soldiers]. We are talking about the political leadership’s will to take action which is not politicisation.”

8.15 pm: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot says the “acche din” (good days) promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his 2014 election campaign will arrive only once he leaves the prime minister’s post, PTI reports. “Modi ji jayenge, aache din aayenge,” (good days will come, once Modi leaves),” says Gehlot. “Modi imposes his mann ki baat, but Rahul ji [Rahul Gandhi] says listen to what people say. Don’t make promises and if you do, fulfill them.”

7.45 pm: The Congress asks Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologise to the people of Varanasi for “failing to deliver” on his promises to them, PTI reports. “Optics are more important than results and that is why the roadshow is being conducted,” says Congress spokesperson Ragini Nayak.

The Opposition party claims Modi wants people’s cries to be “drowned in today’s noise and show”. Nayak alleges Modi failed to fulfill his promise to clean the Ganga.

7.36 pm: Fatima Rasool Siddique, the BJP’s only Muslim candidate in Madhya Pradesh’s Assembly polls in 2018, says she will not campaign for the saffron party’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Thakur, PTI reports.

“I will not campaign for her [Thakur] as she has made statements about “waging a dharm yudh” [crusade],” Siddique says. “Her controversial statement against former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, have also hurt me badly.”

Siddique says Thakur’s statements are “communal and obnoxious”.

Read more here

Pragya Thakur claims she did not make defamatory statements against 26/11 hero Hemant Karkare

Election Commission orders FIR against BJP’s Pragya Thakur for remark on Babri Masjid demolition

6.44 pm: Dharmendra Yadav, the Samajwadi Party’s candidate in Badaun, complains of tampering with the strongroom where the EVMs were kept, PTI reports. He accuses the Sambhal district administration of working in a partisan manner. Badaun voted on Tuesday.

“The district administration denied our requests for providing a pass to our agents at the strongroom on the Bahjoi Mandi Samiti campus,” he says. “On Wednesday, between 6 pm and 9 pm, some developments took place there.”

Sambhal District Magistrate Avinash Krishna rejects the allegation.

5.25 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urges all volunteers of his party to take leave until the elections and join people in Delhi to defeat the BJP.

5.21 pm: Modi begins his roadshow in Varanasi.

4.48 pm: Modi arrives in Varanasi. He will reach the venue of his roadshow soon.

4.45 pm: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath alleges that Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav had turned Azamgarh into a “stronghold of terrorism”, reports The Indian Express. Yadav is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Azamgarh. “Once Azamgarh was known in the field of education and literature but the Samajwadi Party turned it into a stronghold of terrorism,” alleges Adityanath.

4.43 pm: The Election Commission rules that candidates contesting the elections will have to bear the cost of advertising their criminal antecedents in TV and newspapers as it falls under the category of “poll expenses”, reports PTI. The poll panel says it is compulsory for candidates to advertise their criminal antecedents in TV and newspapers at least thrice during electioneering.

4.34 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now expected to arrive in Varanasi around 5.20 pm, reports News18.

4.10 pm: Visuals from outside Banaras Hindu University.

3.54 pm: BJP supporters gather to welcome Modi to Varanasi.

3.36 pm: Former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare’s colleague Riyaz Deshmukh will contest against Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal, reports The Times of India. Deshmukh is a former assistant commissioner of police in the anti-terror squad.

3.35 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s roadshow in Varanasi to begin shortly.

3.25 pm: Amit Shah addressing a rally in Auraiya, Uttar Pradesh.

3.24 pm: Rahul Gandhi says Congress’ NYAY scheme has two goals. First, to fill up the pockets of the country’s poor and, second, to speed up the country’s economy.

3.17 pm: At the Ajmer rally, Rahul Gandhi says Modi promised to give Rs 15 lakh but didn’t fulfil the promise. “I thought there should be justice for people,” he says.

3.16 pm: Senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily says a government of combined Opposition parties will come to power after the elections. He adds the BJP-led NDA will fail to get majority to form the government. “Congress and other people, either pre-poll alliance or post-poll alliance, [forming the government] will be a certainty,” Moily tells PTI.

3.12 pm: At a joint rally with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav in Kannauj, BSP chief Mayawati says this election will see the end of those chanting “Namo Namo”, reports PTI.

3.07 pm: TMC announces candidates for bye-elections to three Assembly seats, reports News18. Amal Krishku will contest from Habibpur, Abdul Karim from Islampur and Madan Mitra from Bhatpara.

2.58 pm: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to address a public rally in Ajmer, Rajasthan. He is accompanied by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot.

2.51 pm: “Even those fighting 8 seats, 20 seats, or even 40 seats think they’ll become PM’, Modi says in Banda.

Read more here

Opposition looking dejected after three phases of Lok Sabha polling, claims Narendra Modi

2.48 pm: Modi says once his government is re-elected, they will remove the 5-acre condition from the PM Kisan Samman Fund scheme. “We will bring the benefit of the scheme to all the farmers of the country irrespective of the amount of land they have,” he says.

2.40 pm: Addressing a rally in Banda, Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the Opposition already has a long face after three phases of polling. “They know the outcome,” he adds.

2.38 pm: The Supreme Court asks the Election Commission to take action against BJP leaders for making sexist comments against TMC candidate Mohua Moitra, reports News18.

2.37 pm: Aam Aadmi Party MLA Nazar Singh Manshahia joins Congress in presence of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

2.26 pm: At the Unnao rally, Shah says both the BJP and Congress have three Gs. While for the Congress, all the three Gs stand for Gandhi, for the BJP it is gaon (village), Ganga and gau mata.

2.24 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah is addressing a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao.

2.20 pm: BJP’s Kirron Kher files nomination from Chandigarh constituency and RJD candidate Misa Bharti from Pataliputra in Bihar.

2.17 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a rally in Ayodhya on May 1, reports PTI. Ayodhya falls under Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency, and will vote on May 6.

2.15 pm: BJP President Amit Shah says Opposition leaders cannot ensure the country’s security, reports PTI. Addressing a rally in Ghazipur constituency of Uttar Pradesh, Shah alleges that Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi were upset with the Balakot airstrikes. “Though it were the terrorists of Pakistan who were killed [in the Balakot airstrikes], but it was an atmosphere of mourning in the offices of Bua [Mayawati], Bhatija [Akhilesh Yadav] and Rahul baba,” he adds.

2.09 pm: The Congress announces candidates for the bye-elections to the three Assembly seats of West Bengal.

2.06 pm: In a reference to Satpal Singh Satti’s threat, the Congress says that people will crush the ego of arrogant BJP leaders who threaten to chop people’s hands. “The country will not allow the BJP to play with brotherhood. Now the politics of fear will not run,” it adds.

2.03 pm: The district electoral officer in Mandi has issued a notice to Himachal Pradesh BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti for allegedly saying that he will chop off the hands of the critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party leaders, reports ANI.

Read more

Himachal BJP president threatens to chop off hands of anyone who raises a finger at party leaders

1.30 pm: Congress president Rahul Gandhi accuses Prime Minister Narendra Modi of doing injustice to the people of the country in the last five years. The “acche din aayenge” slogan has now been replaced by “chowkidar chor hai”, he adds. “Demonetisation and GST were ways to rob poor, labourers, small traders, the Congress’ NYAY scheme will benefit them,” PTI quotes him as saying at an election rally in Jalore, Rajasthan.

1.26 pm: Bahujan Samaj Party President Mayawati has accused the Election Commission of ignoring the alleged model code violations by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “PM Modi is moving freely without care despite facing numerous serious allegations of Model Code of Conduct violations, thanks to the ECI,” she has said in a tweet. “That is why he has started crossing the limit so far as respect for women is concerned. Haven’t the BJP and the RSS imposed a fantastic leader upon the country?”

1.19 pm: Congress General Secretary for Uttar Pradesh East Priyanka Gandhi is holding a roadshow in Jhansi, reports ANI.

12.57 pm: The Congress candidate in Varanasi, Ajay Rai, tells News18 that party workers were ready for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to contest against Narendra Modi. “It is the party high command that takes such decisions,” he adds.

12.50 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said that his party will support any “mahagathbandhan [Grand Opposition allliance]” government to “stop the Modi-Shah duo”, reports PTI.

12.44 pm: The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission to take action on a complaint that Trinamool Congress candidate Mahua Moitra has filed against BJP leader Mahadev Sarkar for allegedly making sexually coloured remarks, reports PTI.

12.36 pm: The Congress has fielded Madhusudan Tiwari from Gorakhpur, where the BJP candidate is Bhojpuri and Hindi film actor Ravi Kishan.

12.31 pm: The Congress has announced five-time Uttar Pradesh MLA Ajay Rai as its candidate in Varanasi, reports ANI. Rai had contested against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the constituency in 2014.

Read more

Lok Sabha elections: Congress repeats 2014 candidate Ajay Rai against Narendra Modi in Varanasi

12.23 pm: The Delhi chief minister adds that if Delhi becomes a full state, “then police will be accountable to the public and women will be safe”.

12.19 pm: The residents of Delhi are being treated like second-class citizens, alleges Kejriwal.

12.18 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party release the party’s Delhi manifesto.

12.17 pm: A nodal officer of the Election Commission who had gone missing from Krishnanagar in West Bengal’s Nadia district last week has been found in a house in Howrah by the West Bengal CID, reports PTI. The police do not yet know how or why he disappeared.

Read more here

West Bengal: Election official in charge of EVMs in Ranaghat missing since Thursday, say reports

West Bengal: Election official in charge of EVMs found in Howrah a week after he went missing

11.51 am: Narendra Modi claims that Opposition leaders who were asking for proof of the Balakot air strikes have disappeared after three phases of voting. “Those who were taking Pakistan’s side, are now targeting Modi and EVMs,” he adds.

11.45 am: Narendra Modi keeps up his criticism of the Opposition on national security matters. “National security may not be an issue for those who do ‘mahamilavat’ but in new India, it is a big issue,” he says in Darbhanga. “This is the new India, it will go inside terror camps and destroy them.”

11.16 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is addressing an election rally in Darbhanga, Bihar. “Some people have a problem with ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘Vande mataram’, should such people lose their deposits or not?” he asks. “These are same people who complain when I talk about Bharat. They also say ‘why is Modi talking about terrorism, it is not an issue’.”

11.09 am: The BJP has shortlisted former Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s son Utpal Parrikar to contest the upcoming bye-elections in the Panaji Assembly seat, PTI reports. Sidharth Kuncalienker, who won the 2017 Assembly polls from the seat but vacated it later that year to make way for Manohar Parrikar, is the other probable candidate.

11.02 am: Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Wednesday warned the collector of Chhindwara district after his helicopter was denied permission to land in Umreth, reports NDTV. “In West Bengal, Mamata didi, she was not letting us land, after her, Kamal Nath dada has come...dear ‘pitthu’ collector, listen carefully, what will happen to you when our days will be back soon.”

10.44 am: Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee President Kuldeep Singh Rathore has said the party will file a complaint against state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti for threatening to chop off the hands of the critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the saffron party’s other leaders. Satti, however, has denied he made the remark.

Read more

Satpal Singh Satti threatens to chop off hands of anyone who raises a finger at BJP leaders

Himachal Pradesh: FIR filed against state BJP chief for comments on Rahul Gandhi

10.35 am: With 13 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan set to go to polls on April 29, Congress President Rahul Gandhi will canvas for votes in the state today. He will address three election rallies in Ajmer, Jalore and Kota, reports News 18.

10.28 am: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has alleged that the Trinamool Congress has turned into a “syndicate morcha”, reports ANI. “The call for ‘parivartan [change]’ has brought a change in one family only,” she said in Jhargram on Wednesday. “Now a member of this family is bringing gold.” She was referring to the wife of Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, who is Mamata Banerjee’s nephew.

10.24 am: The Congress alleges that the Narendra Modi government is paying farmers 20% less minimum support price. “This is Modi ji’s injustice,” adds party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

10.10 am: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will release the Aam Aadmi Party’s Lok Sabha manifesto for Delhi at 12 pm.

9.56 am: A group of 200 social activists, and six family members of the victims of the 2008 Malegaon blast are going to campaign against BJP candidate and terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur in Bhopal, reports The Indian Express. Retired Bombay High Court judge BG Kolse Patil will lead the group.

Read more

Families of Malegaon blast victims to campaign against BJP’s Pragya Thakur in Bhopal

9.48 am: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav has criticised Union minister Giriraj Singh for saying the Election Commission should ban green flags as they “tend to create hatred in the society and gives one a feeling of being in Pakistan”, reports IANS. “Giriraj Singh should explain to the people of the country whether he wants to remove green from the national flag,” the news agency quotes Yadav as saying.

9.40 am: The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, an ally of the BJP in the state, has accused the saffron party’s workers of assaulting its two polling agents in Dhalai district on Tuesday, reports PTI.

9.37 am: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has criticised the Conthagress, saying the party has a big ego. “Like the BJP, the Congress too believes in threatening political opponents,” PTI quotes him as saying at an election meeting in Kanpur on Wednesday.

9.32 am: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis says BJP’s Bhopal candidate and Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Singh Thakur is the “victim of a false narrative”. “First and foremost, we will, like all other complaints, probe any complaint of inhuman treatment she faced during interrogation by the Maharashtra ATS [Anti-Terrorism Squad],” he tells The Hindu.

9.27 am: Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Villas Paswan tells The Indian Express in an interview that the grand Opposition alliance in Bihar “is in complete disarray. “I would also like to predict that the SP and BSP will contest the next Assembly polls separately,” he adds.

8.45 am: Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end reservation if he has the courage. “Reservation was a gift from Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar,” Hindustan Times quotes her as saying. “How can they think even of ending reservation to backwards and Dalits? It is beyond Narendra Modi to do away with reservation. The time for Namo Namo has gone, Bhim will rule now.”

8.39 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold a roadshow in his constituency Varanasi on Thursday and take part in the Ganga “aarti”, reports Hindustan Times. The roadshow is expected to begin around 3 pm. He will file his nomination papers on Friday.

8.37 am: The Assam Congress has alleged that the Election Commission is a puppet of the Bharatiya Janata Party. “The commission ignored several complaints of poll code violations by the BJP,” The Hindu quotes state Congress President Ripun Bora as saying. “But all their efforts will not save the BJP from defeat.”

8.32 am: The Congress has accused BJP President Amit Shah of justifying Pragya Singh Thakur’s remarks about former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare who had investigated her in connection with the Malegaon blast case, reports PTI. Thakur is the party’s candidate in Bhopal.

Read more

‘Absolutely right decision’: BJP leaders defend fielding Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal

8.30 am: The Congress on Tuesday took dig at Narendra Modi after the BJP denied reports that the prime minister was going to address a press conferene in Varanasi on Friday.

8.20 am: Here are the top stories from Wednesday:

  • The Election Commission has reiterated its decision to ban the release of a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and told the Supreme Court that public screening of the movie during the ongoing elections will “tilt the electoral balance”.  
  • Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government of forming policies to benefit only top industrialists. She urged those gathered at a party rally in Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh to vote out “the politics of divisiveness and negativity”.
  • The Aam Aadmi Party said it would challenge in the Delhi High Court the returning officer’s decision to “wrongfully” accept the nomination papers of BJP’s South Delhi candidate Raghav Chadha.
  • Twitter said it would launch a new feature that will allow users to easily report content that provides misleading information on voting.
  • A special National Investigation Agency court rejected a plea seeking to bar Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Singh Thakur from contesting the Lok Sabha elections. The court said electoral officers would decide on the matter.