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Street vendor to snack mogul: Bikanervala’s Kedarnath Aggarwal passes away


Kedarnath Aggarwal, chairman of Bikanervala, once a street vendor, passes away

Lala Kedarnath Aggarwal, who once sold bhujia and rasgullas in buckets on the streets of old Delhi before establishing sweets and snacks brand Bikanervala, passed away on Monday.

He was 86.

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The demise of Aggarwal, fondly known as Kakaji, “marked the end of an era that has enriched palates and touched countless lives,” Bikanervala said in a statement. The company operates more than 60 outlets in India and has presence in countries such as the USA, New Zealand, Singapore, Nepal and the UAE.

“Kakaji’s departure is not just a loss to Bikanervala; it’s a void in the culinary landscape. His vision and leadership will forever guide our culinary journey,” said the group’s Managing Director Shyam Sunder Aggarwal.

Kedarnath Aggarwal started his entrepreneurial journey in Delhi.

Hailing from Bikaner, his family owned a sweet shop in the bylanes of the city since 1905. The shop was named as Bikaner Namkeen Bhandar and used to sell a few varieties of sweets and snacks.

Aggarwal, who had larger ambitions, migrated to Delhi in the early 50s along with his brother Satyanarayan Aggarwal, bringing his family recipe to the city.

Initially, both struggled with carrying buckets filled with bhujia and rasgulla, selling in the streets of old Delhi. However, the Aggarwal brothers’ hard work and the unique taste of Bikaner soon gained recognition and acceptance among the people of Delhi.

Later Aggarwal brothers set up a shop in Delhi’s Chandini Chowk, where they used their family recipes which were handed down from generation to generation.

Bikaner Namkeen Bhandar soon became famous for its Moong Dal Halwa, Bikaneri Bhujia and Kaju Katli, amongst others. The two brothers and the shop soon became popular as Bikanervala.

“As we bid farewell to a legend, we carry forward his legacy with a deep sense of responsibility. Bikanervala will continue to be a reflection of his values – a place where every dish tells a story and every customer is part of our extended family,” said Radhey Mohan Aggarwal, Director of Bikanervala Group and eldest son of Kakaji.

UN states concerned China and Russia helping North Korea: US Defense Secretary


Washington has accused North Korea of supplying military equipment to Russia for use in war with Ukraine and Moscow of providing military support to help North.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday UN member states enforcing the Korean War armistice are concerned that China and Russia are helping North Korea expand its military capabilities by enabling Pyongyang to evade UN sanctions.

Austin was speaking at a meeting in South Korea with defence ministers and representatives from the 17 countries that make up the UN Command (UNC) – the body that oversees the armistice.

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“We are deeply concerned that the PRC and Russia are helping the DPRK expand its capabilities by enabling it to evade sanctions from the UN Security council,” Austin said, referring to the People’s Republic of China and North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We’re also troubled by the recent growth in military cooperation between Russia and the DPRK,” he said.

Washington has accused North Korea of supplying military equipment to Russia for use in its war with Ukraine, and Moscow of providing technical military support to help the North.

North Korea and Russia have denied any arms deals, though their leaders pledged closer military cooperation when they met in September in Russia’s far east.

China, North Korea’s closest ally, has said it was complying with international obligations.

The UNC is expected on Tuesday to renew a pledge to respond to any North Korean aggression and to adopt a joint statement on a united response in the event of a “contingency” on the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s defence ministry has said.

Defence Minister Shin Won-sik said Pyongyang had been warned not to attempt any aggressive acts, noting that unlike in 1950, when the Korean War broke out, North Korea is now a member state of the United Nations.

“If North Korea ever invades the South again, it will be self-contradictory, where a UN member state would be attacking the UN Command,” Shin told the meeting. “If the countries that backed North Korea during the Korean War ever try to help again, then those countries will also receive grave punishment from the international community along with North Korea.”

China and the Soviet Union backed the North in combat against UN member states led by the United States. China and North Korea are parties to the armistice with the UNC.

The 17 member countries of the UNC, which include the United States, Britain, Australia and Turkey, sent troops or contributed medical support during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Established in 1950, the UNC was mandated to restore peace and enforce the armistice while acting as a channel of communication with North Korea.

It is led by the commander of the US military stationed in South Korea.

North Korea on Monday called the UNC “a US tool for confrontation” that has nothing to do with the United Nations and an “illegal war organisation” that must be dissolved if the outbreak of a new war on the Korean peninsula is to be prevented.

On Monday, Austin and Shin agreed to revise a bilateral security agreement aimed at deterring North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.

The defence chiefs also agreed to step up joint drills and cooperate with Japan to deter and better prepare for any North Korean attack.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Ju-min ParkEditing by Ed Davies and Gerry Doyle)

Joe Biden to meet Xi Jinping on Wednesday, Fentanyl crackdown deal on table


Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, are set to announce an agreement that would see Beijing crack down on the manufacture and export of fentanyl

Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, are set to announce an agreement that would see Beijing crack down on the manufacture and export of fentanyl, according to people familiar with the matter, potentially delivering the US president a major victory.

Under the deal — which is still being finalized — China would go after chemical companies to stem the flow of both fentanyl and the source material used to make the deadly synthetic opioid, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the agreement.

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In return, the Biden administration would lift restrictions on China’s forensic police institute, the people said, an entity the US alleges is responsible for human-rights abuses.

The agreement, set to be announced Wednesday when Biden and Xi meet in San Francisco on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, would mark a win for the White House on an issue voters say is a priority for the 2024 election.

Republicans have assailed the administration over its handling of fentanyl trafficking, turning it into a liability for Biden’s chances of winning a second term.

A White House National Security Council spokeswoman declined to comment. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We’re hoping to see some progress on that issue this coming week,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday. “That could then open the door to further cooperation on other issues where we aren’t just managing things but we’re actually delivering tangible results.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Xi “seemed receptive to our concerns” in October when lawmakers raised the issue with the leader during a visit to China.

US officials consider the deal a potential breakthrough but caution stringent enforcement is necessary to produce results. Officials said it will take time to assess whether Beijing follows through.

Any deal could be vulnerable to collapse if fragile ties between Beijing and Washington deteriorate over critical comments from the Biden administration, some China experts warned.

“China’s agreements have an unstated condition: Void if you criticize Xi and the Communist Party,” said Derek Scissors, senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “If the Biden administration isn’t pro-China in 2024, enforcement of a fentanyl deal will fade away.”

Health Crisis

Mexican cartels are largely responsible for the export of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. The cartels often use Chinese components to make the drug.

The problem has dogged multiple US presidents, as overdose deaths have spiked across the country. Former President Donald Trump in 2018 announced an agreement with Xi, under which Beijing vowed to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance.

The public-health crisis fueled by the drug has only intensified since then.

More than 150 people in the US die each day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such overdoses increased more than seven-fold between 2015 and 2021, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

San Francisco, the host for this week’s APEC summit, is one of many municipalities grappling with the fallout from a surge in addiction and overdose deaths.

“Fentanyl has really devastated our city, like no other drug we’ve ever experienced within my lifetime,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Monday in a Bloomberg News roundtable.

Breed urged Xi to cooperate to stop the flow of fentanyl, saying it had strained US-China ties.

“I would ask him to work with the US and to ensure that the resources that are being sent out of China, that come into either the US or Mexico, are cut off to the fullest extent possible,” she said during a separate interview with Bloomberg TV.

Lifting Sanctions

China has for months pressured the US to take the Institution of Forensic Science of the Ministry of Public Security off its blacklist. The Commerce Department in 2020 restricted those agencies from accessing US technology over allegations they are involved in repression of ethnic Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.

“The US sanctions against Chinese companies and citizens will add more obstacles to China-US counter-narcotics cooperation,” a Chinese embassy spokesperson in Washington said in May.

The Biden administration this year took steps to stem the crisis but is limited in what it can achieve without Beijing’s help.

The Justice Department has investigated and prosecuted companies in China that ship precursor chemicals to Mexico. The Treasury Department has designated more than two dozen people and entities allegedly involved in the fentanyl trade. The White House has asked Congress for roughly $1.2 billion to target drug traffickers.

Republican presidential hopefuls have vowed to take even more drastic measures.

Trump, the 2024 GOP frontrunner, has threatened a full naval embargo on drug cartels and said he would deploy the US military to fight them. He has also called for drug dealers to get the death penalty.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has also said he would use the US military against Mexican drug operations. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the US should end normal trade relations with China until “they stop murdering Americans.”

‘Enough is enough, time to go’: Rishi Sunak hit by first no-confidence letter


Rishi Sunak’s party MP Andrea Jenkyns blasted him for “getting rid of our democratically elected leader Boris Johnson”, saying, “Enough is enough”.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has been hit with his first no confidence letter since sacking interior minister Suella Braverman. In a scathing letter to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, Rishi Sunak’s party MP Andrea Jenkyns blasted him for “getting rid of our democratically elected leader Boris Johnson”, saying, “Enough is enough”.

Read more: Rishi Sunak’s big reset: ‘Popular’ Suella Braverman out, comeback for ex-PM

“If it wasn’t bad enough that we have a party leader that the party members rejected, the polls demonstrate that the public reject him, and I am in full agreement. It is time for Rishi Sunak to go,” she wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

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Forcing Boris Johnson out was “unforgivable enough”, but “to purge the centre-right from his cabinet and then sack Suella who was the only person in the cabinet with the balls to speak the truth of the appalling state of our streets and a two-tier policing system that leaves Jewish community in fear for their lives and safety”, she said adding that she submitted her no confidence letter in Rishi Sunak “to stand up and fight for true Conservatism”.

Can Rishi Sunak be replaced as UK PM?

A confidence vote in Rishi Sunak’s leadership of the Conservative Party would be triggered if 15 per cent of his MPs submitted letters indicating that they wanted a change of leader.

What triggered the no-confidence letter against Rishi Sunak?

Rishi Sunak brought back former UK PM David Cameron as foreign minister in a reshuffle triggered by his firing of Suella Braverman after her criticism of police.

The ministerial reshuffle followed growing criticism of Suella Braverman from opposition lawmakers and members of the governing Conservatives. Ever-controversial Indian-origin Suella Braverman defied the UK premier last week in an unauthorised article accusing police of “double standards” at protests, suggesting that they were tough on right-wing demonstrators, but easy on pro-Palestinian marchers.

The reshuffle also saw UK environment secretary Therese Coffey step down, saying in her letter that it is time to “step back” as former health secretary Steve Barclay replaced her. Victoria Atkins stepped into Steve Barclay’s old role in the department of health. Richard Holden replaced Greg Hands as party chairman.

What Rishi Sunak said about the cabinet reshuffle?

The UK PM wrote on X, “Today we have built a united team ready to deliver the changes this country needs for the long term. Professionalism, integrity and experience – this is a team that will be bold in making the right decisions for our great country, not the easy ones.”

Air pollution: Delhi AQI turns ‘severe’ again; Gurugram schools to reopen. Latest updates


Dwarka’s air quality turned severe (406) on Tuesday morning, the CPCB data showed. Delhi was the most polluted city in the world on Monday.

The air quality in several places in Delhi once again turned ‘severe’ on Tuesday morning amid a political blame game between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party over the late-night bursting of crackers during Diwali celebrations on Sunday.

Squandering the relief due to rain, Delhi recorded a spike in pollution levels and a smoky haze returned on Monday morning after residents flouted the ban on firecrackers on Diwali night.

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The average Air Quality Index (AQI) on Monday was recorded at 358 (very poor). Interestingly, the national capital had recorded its best air quality on Diwali day in eight years on Sunday, with its 24-hour average AQI clocking at 218 at 4pm.

Follow Live Updates on Delhi air pollution

Latest updates on Delhi, NCR air pollution:

According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data, the average AQI in Delhi’s RK Puram was recorded at 422 (severe) at 5am on Tuesday. Lung-damaging particulate matter PM2.5 remained the prominent pollutant.Dwarka’s air quality also turned severe on Tuesday morning with an AQI of 406, the CPCB data showed.Similarly, ITO saw an AQI of 432 (severe) at 5am, and it is likely to hover around the same levels throughout the day.A combination of relentless bursting of firecrackers in the vicinity, coupled with police inaction in enforcing a ban on the sale and use of fireworks, pushed the hourly PM 2.5 concentration at Anand Vihar to 1,985 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) at Sunday midnight – a whopping 33 times the national safe standard of 60 µg/m3, and 132 times the safe-limit of 15 µg/m3 given by the World Health Organisation (WHO).The AQI reading in Delhi’s neighbouring city of Noida was similar. At 5am, the CPCB data showed, air quality index was 406 (severe) in Noida Sector-125.In Noida Sector-62, the AQI clocked at 377 (very poor) and is likely to turn ‘severe’ later in the day.Residents of Haryana’s Gurugram also woke up a toxic air as the AQI logged at 430 in Sector-51 on Tuesday morning.Classes from nursery to five, which were suspended due to high air pollution levels in the district, are set to resume, authorities said on Monday. The Gurugram administration had on November 6 ordered the closure of primary schools till further orders to protect schoolchildren from rising pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR).In order to avoid disruption, orders were given to school managements to continue studies in online mode only, but now the orders have been withdrawn with immediate effect, the latest order read. The AQI of the city was recorded at 349 on Monday, which was up to seven times higher than normal.An AQI between zero and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, 401 and 450 ‘severe’ and above 450 ‘severe plus’.Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai alleged that people associated with the BJP instigated residents to burn firecrackers on Diwali, leading to an overnight increase of more than 100 points in the national capital’s air quality index. At a press conference, Rai said the firecrackers burnt in Delhi were sourced from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, and that some individuals, including police personnel from these states, permitted the transportation of those firecrackers to the city.Delhi BJP vice president Kapil Mishra called Rai’s statement on air pollution “shameful”. “It’s foolish to hold crackers responsible for air pollution. A week ago, Delhi’s air quality index was around 400-500. Post Diwali, it’s 296. If crackers caused pollution, then Gaza would have the highest level of pollution. There should be a fight against pollution,” he said. On Sunday, Mishra hailed people for defying the cracker ban.BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla in a post on X accused the AAP and the opposition alliance INDIA of targeting Hindus and Diwali. “AAP & I.N.D.I alliance now targets Hindus & Diwali,” he said. “Are we surprised?” He said that there were 900 cases of stubble burning on Diwali in Punjab despite Supreme Court warnings. “Over all there have been above 23,000 incidents of parali burning in Punjab.”According to IQAir, a Swiss company which specialises in air quality monitoring, Delhi was the most polluted city in the world on Monday, followed by Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan. Mumbai and Kolkata ranked fifth and sixth among the most polluted cities in the world.

(With inputs from agencies)

Gurugram primary schools to reopen after weeklong closure due to air pollution


The Gurugram administration had on November 6 ordered closure of primary schools till further orders to protect schoolchildren from rising pollution in the NCR.

Classes from nursery to five, which were suspended due to high air pollution levels in the district, are set to resume, authorities said on Monday.

The Gurugram administration had on November 6 ordered closure of primary schools till further orders to protect schoolchildren from rising pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR).

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District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) Chairman and Deputy Commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav has issued orders to withdraw the November 6 decision. Now, primary schools across the district can resume classes in offline mode.

In order to avoid disruption, orders were given to school managements to continue studies in online mode only, but now the orders have been withdrawn with immediate effect, the latest order read.

Meanwhile, air quality in Gurugram was recorded in the “very poor” category on Monday, a day after Diwali.

The air quality index (AQI) of the city was recorded at 349 on Monday, which was up to seven times higher than normal.

Last year, the AQI of Gurugram was recorded at 257 on the day after Diwali.

The AQI of Manesar was recorded at 328 on Monday as compared to 224 recorded a day after Diwali in 2022.

According to experts, due to the rain last week before Diwali, the city residents got some respite, but the air quality once again deteriorated after fireworks on Sunday.

The Meteorological department said there is no possibility of rain in the coming days.

On Monday morning, the sky was also covered with haze due to the air pollution. The visibility remained between 800 metres to one kilometer from 7 am to 2 pm. The visibility slightly improved later and increased to two kilometers.

Happy Gujarati New Year 2023: Best wishes, messages, images, WhatsApp and Facebook status to share with loved ones


Gujarati New Year celebrated on November 14 is an auspicious day for the Gujarati community across the world. Check out best wishes and messages inside.

Gujarati New Year, also known as Varsha Pratipada or Bestu Varas, is an auspicious day for the Gujarati community across the world. On Shukla Paksha, the Pratipada Tithi of Kartik, Gujaratis celebrate the beginning of a new year. It usually coincides with the festival of Govardhan Puja. This year, on Tuesday, November 14, the momentous occasion is marked with much enthusiasm and ceremony. With delicious treats, culinary creations, gatherings and greetings to loved ones, the day is celebrated to the fullest.

The Gujarati New Year is celebrated with festivities and the closing of old books and the opening of new ones. These books, called ‘chopda pooja’ by traditional Gujaratis, are worshipped to bring in a prosperous new year for business. During this pooja, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in the hope of bringing good fortune. Gujaratis also refer to their New Year’s Day as Nutan Varsh. (Also read: Happy Bhai Dooj 2023: Best wishes, images, messages, quotes, SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook status to share on Bhaiya Dooj )

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Happy Gujarati New Year 2023 best wishes and images

If you and your family are celebrating Gujarati New Year, here is our special collection of best wishes, messages, pictures, greetings and status updates that you can share with your loved ones on WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media platforms.

On this Gujarati New Year, may the divine light guide you towards a path of happiness, peace, and success. Saal Mubarak!

Wishing you and your family a year filled with laughter, love, and all the success you deserve. Happy Gujarati New Year.

As the sun sets on the old year, may the dawn of the New Year bring fresh opportunities and abundant joy into your life. Saal Mubarak!

On the auspicious occasion of Bestu Varas, here’s sending my warm greetings to you and your family. Nutan Varshabhinandan.

May the sound of laughter and the spirit of togetherness accompany you throughout the Gujarati New Year. Warm wishes for joy and prosperity!

On the joyous occasion of Gujarati New Year, here’s praying that Shri Krishna blesses you with good health, wealth, peace and prosperity. Nutan Varshabhinandan. Jai Shri Krishna.

Here’s extending my warm wishes to you and your family on the first and joyous day of Varsha Pratipada. Nutan Varshabhinandan

Saal Mubarak! May the Gujarati New Year usher in a year of happiness, peace, and success. May each day be brighter than the last.

Happy Gujarati New Year! May the celebrations be as grand as the garba beats and the moments as sweet as jalebi.

As the Gujarati New Year begins, may it bring you new opportunities, new aspirations, and new reasons to celebrate the beauty of life. Saal Mubarak!

Wishing you and your family a Happy New Year filled with love, laughter, and the vibrant spirit that defines the essence of Gujarat. Saal Mubarak!

Saal Mubarak ho! May the Gujarati New Year mark the beginning of new accomplishments, new experiences, and new memories.

Can BJP win back Karnataka by turning to Yediyurappa, Deve Gowda?


​Six months after it lost the Karnataka election, the BJP state unit has got a new president in B Y Vijayendra, the son of veteran BJP leader B S Yediyurappa.

​Six months after it lost the Karnataka election, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state unit has got a new president in B Y Vijayendra, the son of veteran BJP leader B S Yediyurappa.

Vijayendra’s appointment is widely being seen as an olive branch by the party high command to Yediyurappa, who was removed from the chief minister’s post by the party in 2021. Buying peace with Yediyurappa is the second major strategic retreat by the BJP in the state, the first being forging an alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S), the regional party of HD Deve Gowda. Can pivoting towards these two patriarchs of Karnataka politics win back Karnataka for the BJP? Here are three charts which try to answer this question.

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BJP has suffered when it has sidelined BSY

The numbers speak for themselves. The BJP’s worst performance in Karnataka, after it captured power for the first time in 2008, came in the 2013 elections when it was reduced to a seat share and vote share of just 17.9% and 19.9%, respectively. The BJP fought the 2013 elections in the aftermath of Yediyurappa walking out of the party and forming a new party, the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP). An HT analysis of the 2008 and 2013 election results suggests that the KJP was instrumental in the BJP’s rout in the state (see chart 1).

The BJP leadership was prudent enough to realize what had happened and re-inducted Yediyurappa in the party before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The decision worked well for the party in both 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, although the BJP fell short of the majority mark in the 2018 assembly elections in the state despite finishing as the single largest party.

While Yediyurappa became the chief minister after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, there was continuous friction between him and the party high command which led to him being replaced by BS Bommai as the state’s chief minister.

The party’s poor showing in the assembly elections held this year shows that the strategy clearly did not work.

By appointing Yediyurappa’s son as the state president, the party is clearly hoping to mollify its senior most leader in the state.

JD(S) is fighting an existential battle

JD(S)’s vote share and seat share of 13.3% and 8.5% in the 2023 assembly elections in Karnataka is its worst ever performance since 1999. The fact that the Congress managed to get a comfortable majority of its own in the state, also means that the JD(S)’s ambitions of playing “kingmaker” were completely destroyed.

The 2023 drubbing for the JD(S) came in the backdrop of a disastrous pre-poll alliance it had with the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections which led to it ceding a lot of political space to the BJP in its strongholds in southern Karnataka.

The 2023 election results seem to suggest that the JD(S) continues to lose support to both the Congress and the BJP in the state. By allying with the BJP, the JD(S) seems to have played a last card in its battle for political survival (see chart 2).

To be sure, a coming together of Lingayat and Vokkaliga patriarchs could also trigger an AHINDA polarization in favour of the Congress

The political optics of BJP’s newly appointed state president Vijayendra visiting HD Deve Gowda signify the coming together of two most influential social groups in Karnataka’s politics, namely the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. The former comprises of the core support base of the BJP, with Yediyurapa being seen as the community’s political patriarch, while the latter is the bedrock of JD(S)’s peasant politics in the state and has had the glory of even having a prime minister in Deve Gowda.

While accurate numbers on the share of these two groups in the electorate are not available, anecdotal accounts put this at as high as 30%.

Can a new synergy between the two political patriarchs and their communities help the BJP regain Karnataka? A parliamentary constituency-wise extrapolation of the BJP’s 2023 assembly tally shows that it would win only 18 out of the 28 constituencies in the state, down from its 2019 tally of 25. History suggests that there is a clear pitfall to this kind of political analysis.

Karnataka has had a history of counter-polarization against dominant caste-led politics in the form of AHINDA (Acronym used for Scheduled Caste, Backwards, and Muslims), which was perfected by Congress leader Devraj Urs. In fact, AXIS-My India exit poll numbers – they got the results right – show that the Congress already had a strong AHINDA mobilization in the 2023 elections. Will this polarisation become even stronger in 2024 or will the BJP bounce back with the help of two patriarchs of Karnataka politics? We will know the answer to this question in 2024 when the Lok Sabha results are declared (see chart 3).

Belagavi farmers ask MLAs to stay with them during winter session


The initiative aims to provide legislators with a first-hand understanding of the challenges faced by the farming community.

In the midst of a severe drought affecting the entire state of Karnataka, various farmers’ associations have urged the legislators to reside at the homes of farmers in the Belagavi district during the upcoming 10-day winter session, scheduled to begin from December 4, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The initiative aims to provide legislators with a first-hand understanding of the challenges faced by the farming community and also reduce the cost to be spent on their stay.

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Farmers’ organisations, united under the banners of Karnataka Rajya Rait Sangh and North Karnataka Sugarcane Growers’ Association in Belagavi, jointly urged both assembly and council members to consider staying at residences of farmers during the session, Siddagouda Modagi, the convenor of the North Karnataka Sugarcane Growers’ Association, told HT.

However, some legislators view this proposal as an affront, arguing that they are already familiar with the challenges faced by farmers and do not need to stay at their houses to understand them. “We already know the problems being faced by the farmers and there is no need to stay us at their houses to know the same,” opined a legislator from Dharwad, seeking anonymity.

The president of Belagavi Taluk Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangh and Hasiru Sene, Appasaheb Desai, has also criticised the ‘village stay’ concept proposed by the fellow organisations saying, “the village stay of elected representatives would be of no use as hundreds of grievances of the farming community tabled before them were not considered.”

While some legislators from both Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed the suggestion from farmer associations, others disagreed, considering it as their insult. Three legislators from Bagalkot and Vijayapur expressed their willingness to cover the cost of their stay in government-booked rooms to meet the farmer association’s advice and reduce the expenditure during the session.

In response to the call from farmer associations, Congress legislators like Viswas Vaidya and Mahantesh Koujalagi expressed readiness to stay at farmers’ houses instead of lodges or their own residences. “After attending the session, myself, my party members Babasaheb Patil, Mahantesh Koujalagi and Ashok Pattan are ready to stay at farmers’ houses instead of staying at hotels or at our houses,” said Savadatti legislator Viswas Vaidya, who is representing Savadatti for first time. “We will appeal our BJP counterparts to respond positively to the farmers’ call,” he added.

Mahantesh Koujalagi representing Bailhongal constituency for the third term said, during the session he used to go to his home after completion of day’s business and return the next day. “Not only me, out of 18 MLAs and 4-MLCs most preferred to stay at their homes instead of rooms reserved for them,” Koujalagi added.

Meanwhile, Balachandra Jarkiholi from Arabhavi and Lakshmi Hebbalkar from Belagavi (Rural) emphasised that they are already actively engaged with farming communities.

RTI activist Bhimappa Gadad highlighted the significant expenditure associated with lodging for legislators during sessions. He revealed that, on average, the government spent ₹10 lakh on stay of legislators during the last session, with them staying in lodges, ministers in luxury hotels, and department heads in resorts.

Gadad, who has been tracking the expenses since the first assembly session in 2006, pointed out that elected representatives receive ₹5,000 per day as a travel allowance in addition to other benefits.

Brain Teaser: Can you find the hidden SpongeBob SquarePants amid Pikachus?


There is a SpongeBob SquarePants hidden in plain sight among Pikachus. Can you spot the famous cartoon in five seconds?

A brain teaser circulating on social media is leaving people perplexed as they try to answer the question, “Can you find the hidden SpongeBob?” The brain teaser features a sea of Pikachus. But hidden among them in plain sight is SpongeBob SquarePants. Can you find the famous cartoon character in five seconds?

Read| Brain Teaser: Can you find the ‘dog’ in this puzzle?

The brain teaser was shared on the Instagram page Menace3k with the caption, “Can y’all find SpongeBob?” The page regularly posts mind-bending brain teasers and optical illusions. They recently shared a particularly challenging one that has SpongeBob SquarePants hidden among a sea of Pikachus. What makes this brain teaser even more difficult is that SpongeBob is of the same colour as Pikachus, making it harder to spot.

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Take a look at the brain teaser shared on Instagram here:

The brain teaser was posted three days ago on Instagram. It has since then gripped many people and garnered over one lakh views. The brain teaser has also received close to 2,000 likes and numerous comments from netizens.

Here’s how people responded to this intriguing brain teaser:

“In the mid bottom left corner,” posted an Instagram user.

Another joked, “That’s way much easier, the SpongeBob is right next to the yellow one between the other two yellows.”

“Yeah I found him,” expressed a third.

Were you able to spot the elusive SpongeBob in this brain teaser? If yes, how much did you take to do so?

Also Read| Are you good at puzzles? Help this witch find her broom in this brain teaser