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 Elaborate arrangements for vote count in Telangana

Elaborate arrangements for vote count in Telangana

Hyderabad, May 22 (IANS) The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements for counting of votes in all 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in Telangana on Thursday, officials said.

Counting will begin at 8 a.m. at 126 centres in 35 places across the state. Chief Electoral Officer Rajath Kumar Wednesday said all arrangements were in place for carrying out the process in a transparent manner.

Postal ballots and service votes will be counted first before taking up the counting of votes in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The first set of EVMs will be brought to tables at 8.20 a.m.

There will be one counting centre in each Assembly segment except Nizambad, where seven segments will have two centres each in view of the record number of candidates.

While 14 tables will be arranged at every counting centre as per the standard norm of the Election Commission, this number will be 18 in Nizamabad.

Officials said this was the first time in the country that 36 tables would be used for counting in each segment. This was necessitated by the participation of 185 candidates in the elections.

The polling in Nizamabad had set many records. Largest number of EVMs were used in the constituency. The authorities used 16 ballot units of M3 version connected to single control unit in each polling station.

As many as 178 farmers had contested the polls in Nizamabad to highlight their demands for remunerative prices for turmeric and red jowar and setting up of a Turmeric Board.

The CEO said after the last round of EVM counting, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips counting will be taken up as per the direction of the Supreme Court. Five polling stations will be randomly picked for matching VVPAT slips with the votes in EVMs.

Rajath Kumar, who also supervised the conduct of Assembly elections in December, said there had been no instance of mismatch of votes between EVMs and VVPATs. There may be a difference if mock polling slips are not deleted from VVPATs, he added.

If the number of votes in EVMs and the Form 17C match but do not tally with the VVPAT slips, then recounting of VVPAT slips will be done as there could be a scope for human error in counting of VVPAT slips, the CEO said.

"If there is still a mismatch after recounting, the VVPAT count will be recorded as correct for declaration of results by the returning officer," he said.

Officials said that 6,745 polling staff will be deployed for counting of votes while 10,000 police personnel were deployed for maintaining law and order.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Jitender said prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, barring assembly of five or more persons would be promulgated within 100 metres of the counting centres.

He said no victory processions will be permitted without specific permission from the competent authority.

According to officials, 62.69 per cent of nearly 2.97 crore voters had cast their votes in the 17 constituencies on April 11.

The voters decided the fortunes of 443 candidates, including 25 women.

Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao's daughter K. Kavitha, senior TRS leader Vinod Kumar, state Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy, former Union Minister Renuka Chowdary (Congress) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi were among the prominent candidates.

--IANS
ms/vd

04:20 PM
 Iranian threats put on hold: Acting US defence chief

Iranian threats put on hold: Acting US defence chief

Washington, May 22 (IANS) The prospects of Iranian attacks on US forces in the Middle East have been put "on hold", acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said after the Donald Trump administration deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers in the region.

"I think our steps were very prudent and we've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans by Iran or its allies," Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday. "And that's what's extremely important."

"I just hope Iran is listening. We're in the region to address many things but it is not to go to a war with Iran."

The administration sought to assure lawmakers in classified briefings that a war wasn't imminent. The briefings were the first for all members of Congress since the Trump administration more than two weeks ago declared a threat of an imminent Iranian attack and deployed several warships and bombers in the region.

But Shanahan, who addressed lawmakers alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, cautioned that threats by Tehran or Iranian-backed militias haven't been eradicated, the New York Post reported.

"There haven't been any attacks on Americans. I would consider that a hold," Shanahan said, adding that "doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away".

Some lawmakers pressed administration officials to be more open with the American public about potential threats of Iranian hostility and the US response.

"I think that would be helpful. I think one of the criticisms that was bipartisan was they didn't talk to us," said Senator Lindsey Graham after the classified briefing.

Senator Dan Sullivan said: "One of the things I mentioned in my remarks was that it would be useful, that some of this could be talked about more publicly, that would not reveal sources and methods."

Lawmakers were divided over whether the Trump administration was correctly interpreting the potential threat, with some saying the briefing emphasized the need for the military preparations.

American intelligence in early May suggested that Iran and its allies were planning attacks on US interests, prompting the deployment of US warships and bombers.

The Trump administration hasn't detailed the intelligence, although officials say that the military was concerned by indications that Iran or allied groups were transporting missiles on small boats and engaging in surveillance on American forces.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that the US military was creating risks by crowding ships and aircraft into the region, although Iran doesn't intend to attack anyone.

Trump and his administration have provided shifting assessments of Iran's actions. Over the weekend, he warned that if there were a conflict, "that will be the official end of Iran".

On Monday, he said the US has no indication of hostile Iranian intentions.

--IANS
soni/bg

03:54 PM
 Vijay Amritraj urges Indian players to make it count

Vijay Amritraj urges Indian players to make it count

By Rohit Mundayur
New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) It is safe to say that India has never produced a tennis player quite like Vijay Amritraj. Over two decades have passed since he hung up his boots, but Amritraj's highest singles ranking of 18 remains the best among Indian players in the Open era.


While a stat like that reflects well on the 65-year-old, it does quite the opposite on players from the country who have played in the intervening years. So is it a case of India falling behind the rest of the world or more a reflection on the individuals? "It really comes down to the individuals at this point," Amritraj told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of a Roland Garros opening party hosted by Rolex.

According to him, players today have access to far more facilities than he ever had in his playing days. "Sport itself has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. I was the first ever professional athlete, which was something that people couldn't understand all those years ago but today it is accepted. Today, there are sponsors and television, and you can go to foreign countries; a lot of things are available. When we grew up we were flying blind. We didn't know what the other side of the coin held for us. So today, the commitment has to be total from the individuals."

Amritraj says that the tendency of Indian players to get overwhelmed by the occassion if they made it to the main draw of a Grand Slam was more during his time. "We didn't get a chance to see these things visually. Today we see everything visually, everyone knows what a Grand Slam is. So when you go there, you only see what you already saw on the television. We didn't have that," he said. However, he added that the atmosphere in a Grand Slam is such that the biggest of players can get nervous.

"You would get nervous irrespective of who you are. But you get over this in the first two games and realise that you are being challenged to the limit and you must be good enough to accept this challenge," said the former Wimbledon and US Open quarter finalist.

Amritraj says that Prajnesh Gunneswaran is the man that excites him the most among the current crop of Indian players. The 29-year-old had an impressive run at Indian Wells and finished runner up at the Anning Challengers, all of which led to him achieving a career-best ranking of 75. He has since fallen to 86 but has gained direct entry into the main draw of Roland Garros. "We are fortunate that he is doing well. The fact that he is in direct acceptance of a Grand Slam is a huge plus for us. To be able to go to a Grand Slam and see an Indian in the draw is something we haven't seen a long time," he said.

Amritraj has recorded wins over some of the best players of his generation in his heydays, including the likes of Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe etc. Who was the toughest to face among them? "The important aspect is that in some cases, your game suits someone else more than theirs for you. So I had some good matches against Connors and Borg, but I had less success against McEnroe. I had to figure out how to beat him, which I ended up doing a couple of times, but it had to come from an outside coach to help me out with it. It really is down to the match-ups; I might play well against you but you might play well against a third person. So I had a tougher match up against McEnroe than against Borg and Connors," he said.

(Rohit Mundayur can be contacted at rohit.m@ians.in)

--IANS
rkm/bbh

03:56 PM
 Iranian threats put on hold: Acting US defence chief

Iranian threats put on hold: Acting US defence chief

Washington, May 22 (IANS) The prospects of Iranian attacks on US forces in the Middle East have been put "on hold", acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said after the Donald Trump administration deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers in the region.

"I think our steps were very prudent and we've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans by Iran or its allies," Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday. "And that's what's extremely important."

"I just hope Iran is listening. We're in the region to address many things but it is not to go to a war with Iran."

The administration sought to assure lawmakers in classified briefings that a war wasn't imminent. The briefings were the first for all members of Congress since the Trump administration more than two weeks ago declared a threat of an imminent Iranian attack and deployed several warships and bombers in the region.

But Shanahan, who addressed lawmakers alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, cautioned that threats by Tehran or Iranian-backed militias haven't been eradicated, the New York Post reported.

"There haven't been any attacks on Americans. I would consider that a hold," Shanahan said, adding that "doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away".

Some lawmakers pressed administration officials to be more open with the American public about potential threats of Iranian hostility and the US response.

"I think that would be helpful. I think one of the criticisms that was bipartisan was they didn't talk to us," said Senator Lindsey Graham after the classified briefing.

Senator Dan Sullivan said: "One of the things I mentioned in my remarks was that it would be useful, that some of this could be talked about more publicly, that would not reveal sources and methods."

Lawmakers were divided over whether the Trump administration was correctly interpreting the potential threat, with some saying the briefing emphasized the need for the military preparations.

American intelligence in early May suggested that Iran and its allies were planning attacks on US interests, prompting the deployment of US warships and bombers.

The Trump administration hasn't detailed the intelligence, although officials say that the military was concerned by indications that Iran or allied groups were transporting missiles on small boats and engaging in surveillance on American forces.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that the US military was creating risks by crowding ships and aircraft into the region, although Iran doesn't intend to attack anyone.

Trump and his administration have provided shifting assessments of Iran's actions. Over the weekend, he warned that if there were a conflict, "that will be the official end of Iran".

On Monday, he said the US has no indication of hostile Iranian intentions.

--IANS
soni/bg

03:54 PM

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