Algeria’s Streets See More Protests Against Bouteflika

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Algeria’s Streets See More Protests Against Bouteflika

Friday, 22 March, 2019 – 11:00
Algerians have demonstrated in their tens of thousands against Bouteflika’s bid for another term as president – Photo by AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
Thousands of Algerians are demonstrating in the major cities calling for the resignation of, 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

It’s the fifth straight Friday since nationwide anti-Bouteflika protests began Feb. 22 that Algerians have taken to the streets, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Families joined professionals and students in the central squares of Algiers, the capital, holding signs reading “Get Out, Bouteflika” and “No Mandate Extension.”

“Rain will not stop us from continuing our pressure,” said 23-year old Ahmed Khoudja, who was among other protesters who gathered in the city under rain.

Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term, according to Reuters.

But he has stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

Meanwhile, workers of Sonatrach, the national oil company whose executives are close to Bouteflika, held a symbolic sit-in Thursday in solidarity with the protests that span all sections of society including the country’s youth and doctors, according to AP.

India: Jawans were killed for votes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

‘Jawans were killed for votes’: SP leader calls Pulwama attack a conspiracy

Big fish will be caught if the new government after 2019 Lok Sabha elections probe Pulwama terror attack, says Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath demands an apology from Yadav.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: Mar 21, 2019 16:48 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Samajwadi Party,Pulwama Terror Attack,Ram Gopal Yadav
Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav has raked up fresh controversy over Pulwama terror attack terming it a conspiracy.(ANI)

Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav has revived attack on the Narendra Modi government over Pulwama terror strike owned by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed. Yadav has called the Pulwama terror attack a “conspiracy” in which “soldiers were killed for vote”.

The SP leader said if the government changes in 2019 Lok Sabha election, and a probe is conducted into the Pulwama terror attack, “big fish” will be caught.

“Paramilitary forces are unhappy with the government. Soldiers were killed for votes. There was no security checking between Jammu and Srinagar. Soldiers were being transported in ordinary buses. This was a conspiracy. I did not want to say this at this point of time. When the government changes, (and) it is probed, many big fish will be caught,” news agency ANI on Thursday quoted Yadav as saying.

ANI UP

@ANINewsUP

RG Yadav,SP: Paramilitary forces dukhi hain sarkar se, jawan maar diye gaye vote ke liye,checking nahi thi Jammu-Srinagar ke beech mein, jawano ko simple buses main bhej diya,ye sazish thi, abhi nahi kehna chahta, jab sarkar badlegi, iski jaanch hogi, tab bade-bade log phasenge.

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Responding to Yadav’s comment, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the SP leader should apologise for “lowering the morale of soldiers”.

“Ram Gopal Yadav has presented an undignified example of politics. He should apologise to the public for his comment meant to raise question on the martyrdom of the CRPF jawans and lowering the morale of the soldiers of the nation,” he said.

Forty CRPF jawans were killed on February 14, when a suicide bomber targeted a convoy carrying more than 2,500 personnel from Jammu to Srinagar. The incident took place in south Kashmir’s Pulwama.

The Pulwama terror attack saw escalation in tension between India and Pakistan. Days after the terror attack claimed by the JeM, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a “pre-emptive” strike in Pakistan’s Balakot. The target was what was believed to be the biggest terror training camp of the JeM.

Pakistan responded to the IAF strike on terror camp by violating Indian airspace in its attempt to target military installations. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) used a large package of fighter jets including the F-16 in its aerial campaign. An IAF response team foiled the PAF’s attempt to hit India’s military installations.

One F-16 fighter jet of the PAF was shot down by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was flying a MiG 21 Bison. The IAF aircraft was also shot down by the PAF. Pilot Abhinandan ejected safely but landed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, where he was captured by the Pakistan Army.

Amid mounting international pressure, Pakistan released IAF pilot Abhinandan leading to easing out tension between the two countries. The BJP-led government termed the development as its diplomatic victory following a “bold move” to hit at terror camp deep inside Pakistani territory.

The opposition has targeted the government alleging that it is using Pulwama terror attack and IAF strike at Balakot for political gain with an eye on the Lok Sabha election in April-May.

First Published: Mar 21, 2019 15:34 IST

Jewish voters are furious at Dems’ defense of Ilhan Omar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

Jewish voters are furious at Dems’ defense of Ilhan Omar

Jewish voters furious at Democrats’ defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar say they’re done with the party that has held their support for generations.

“We felt we had a home there,” said Mark Schwartz, the Democratic deputy mayor of solidly blue Teaneck, NJ. “And now we feel like we have to check our passports.”

Jordan Manor of Manhattan, who calls himself a “gay Jewish Israeli-American,” laments, “The party I thought cared about me seems to disregard me when it comes to my Jewish identity.”

Mark Dunec, a consultant in Livingston, NJ who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2014, says, “I’m physically afraid for myself and for my family,” adding, “I see my own party contributing to the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States.”

Omar, a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota, sparked the firestorm in February for using anti-Jewish tropes: saying that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins” and accusing Jewish-American legislators of “dual loyalty.”

Many, including some fellow Democrats, deemed her comments anti-Semitic — but the party’s lefty activists pushed back.

“No one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities,” complained Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a March 5 tweet.

Omar issued only a partial apology.

In response, the House passed a resolution condemning all “hateful expressions of intolerance” with kitchen-sink language that named nearly a dozen different groups.

“I feel confident that [Omar’s] words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Many Jewish Dems in the city aren’t buying it.

“The fake defense she doesn’t know what she’s saying? I don’t believe it,” said Sara, a Queens teacher who asked not to be fully identified. “This is a grown woman and a member of Congress. Trying to excuse this as naivete is inexcusable.”

For her and others, anger is sparking immediate action.

“The watered-down resolution triggered my decision to walk away from the Democratic Party,” said Allison Gangi of Manhattan.

“I never dreamed anti-Semitism would have become mainstream on the left, but it has.”

Sara said she is “not comfortable anymore being a Democrat” and will register as an independent.

Among his Teaneck neighbors, Schwartz said, “Our only question now is, do we start voting Republican, or do we become Republicans?”

Others say they feel like the wandering Jew of legend.

“I’m homeless. I don’t think I can vote for Trump, even though he’s great for Israel,” said Jason, a start-up owner from Long Island who asked that his surname not be used. “But as a Jew, I can’t see a way to support the Democratic Party. It’s supporting your own destruction.”

Last week, President Trump issued two tweets boosting “Jexodus,” a new advocacy group — advised by a prominent GOP strategist — that encourages moderate and conservative Jews to find a new political home. More than 4,000 people have signed on, organizers said.

“Since launching this, the anti-Semitism we are seeing is so blatant and obvious it’s terrifying,” said Elizabeth Pipko, the group’s spokeswoman and a volunteer on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The organization’s Instagram and Facebook pages are regularly targeted with hateful messages, she said.

“I leave them up, because people have got to see it,” Pipko said.

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India: Election Commission blows bugle, India takes poll position

(This Article Is Courtesy Of The Hindustan Times Of India)

 

Election Commission blows bugle, India takes poll position

Indian elections are not won or lost only on leadership and issues. It is a complex landscape with multiple states, multiple parties, and a battlefield where arithmetic often reigns supreme.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: Mar 10, 2019 21:31 IST

Prashant Jha
Prashant Jha
Hindustan Times
Election 2019 date,Lok Sabha Poll Schedule,Lok Sabha Poll Schedule Today
A para-military jawan guards EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) at a counting centre.(PTI File Photo)

In 2014, soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) historic win in the general elections, a senior leader of the party was asked what lay ahead. He said, “2019. As soon as you win, the clock starts ticking towards the next polls. We cannot be a one-term wonder. A second term will cement our legacy.”

Reeling from its worst ever performance, a Congress leader had a similar response about the next objective. “All our attention must be focused on 2019. We have to survive five years, and come back. Otherwise the party’s very existence will be under threat.”

A key feature of the Indian democratic system is periodic elections. This enables a smooth transfer of power. It ensures circulation of political elites. And it keeps both the incumbent under check (for it is always looking ahead to the next poll) and the opposition hopeful (for one electoral turn can bring them back to office). Both then remain invested in the stability of the democratic system and constitutional order.

Ever since 2014, it appears that both the incumbent, the BJP, and the opposition, the Congress, and a range of regional forces have been waiting for precisely this moment. With the Election Commission announcing the dates for elections to the 17th Lok Sabha, India formally enters poll season.

What will be the nature of this election? What are the issues at stake? How do the numbers stack up as campaigning begins? And what can India expect in the next 50 days?

Read more| Lok Sabha elections in 7 phases, voting starts April 11, results on May 23

Nature

Under the Indian parliamentary system, in theory, when a voter goes to the polling booth, all he is voting for is a representative from his constituency. This representative is meant to frame laws in Parliament.

But electoral competition is mostly between political parties, and the party with the highest number of parliamentarians, either on its own, or in a coalition, gets to form the government. So the voter is essentially selecting not just a candidate (MP), but also the party the candidate represents, and eventually the Prime Minister (PM). The legislature and the executive are conjoined, unlike a presidential system in which they are elected separately.

This may appear basic, but it is precisely this debate which played out in 2014. Were voters electing MPs, according to local factors and arithmetic, or were they electing a PM, in keeping with a larger national outlook? Did Narendra Modi turn Indian elections into a presidential race? And what will happen in 2019?

Modi is not the first leader who has made a general election all about leadership. Jawaharlal Nehru’s elections (1952,1957,1962) and Indira Gandhi’s elections (particularly the one in 1971) were essentially presidential in nature. Even the BJP’s electoral gambits in the 1990s under Atal Bihar Vajpayee were based on leadership. Modi refined this campaign plank and took it to another level.

In 2019, the BJP is attempting to do the same. It is asking voters a simple question: would you rather have Modi or an unknown leader in a weak coalition government? And it is hoping that the image of Modi will once again succeed in rebuilding a coalition across castes, classes, geographies and override local factors. The opposition is hoping to take the election in exactly the opposite direction. It would like voters to consider local factors, prioritise narrower concerns rather than focus on national leadership.

The outcome of the 2019 election, therefore, depends on its very nature. Will it be national or local? Will electing the PM or MP be important?

Read more| No assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir for now

Issues

But an Indian national election is too complex to be reduced to just one variable. As citizens grow more aware, aided by the spread of technology and mass media, the importance of issues will only grow. If the 2014 election was defined by anger against the past regime for its perceived corruption and inefficiency and hope for a new future, this election will be determined by a set of five issues, with sides pushing forward their competing narratives.

The first issue is national security, or, more generally, nationalism. This has shot up the charts in recent weeks in the aftermath of Pulwama.

The BJP’s story is straightforward and is following this script. The Modi government has cracked down on terror. It has also redefined the response for Pakistan-backed terror attacks, be it through the surgical strikes after Uri or air strikes after Pulwama. The following is the narrative of the government. The air strikes represented Modi’s decisiveness. He taught Pakistan a lesson. He also used India’s diplomatic strength to isolate Pakistan and bring back the pilot. Only a BJP government can keep India secure, a weak coalition government will preside over a weak security regime and would never have the strength to take on Pakistan. And any questions about the strikes come from a position of undermining national interest.

The opposition’s script on the issue is somewhat muddled. There are segments of the opposition which do not want to engage, refer to the air strikes as a matter of pride for the armed forces, and would like to shift the conversation. But there are others in the opposition who believe Modi needs be to questioned on his claims. They ask: Did the terror attack in Pulwama itself not represent an intelligence failure? What is India’s Pakistan policy, for Modi has swung from a surprise visit to the neighbouring country to talking tough? What was actually achieved in Balakot? Didn’t the fact that an Indian plane go down and an Indian pilot captured represent the government’s weakness? Did Pakistan actually land the final blow after the strikes? And what has the Modi government done to improve the situation in Kashmir or end terror decisively?

Read more | Model code of conduct now in force: What it means

The second issue is agrarian distress and rural India.

The opposition has a robust case and argues the following. The government has not implemented the Swaminathan Commission recommendations on Minimum Support Prices. Farmer incomes are at a low; either margins are so low that livelihood is difficult or farmers are actually getting less than their cost of production and are thus driven to despair and debt traps. The government has done little to make farming attractive, treats farmers as liabilities and is leaving rural India unprepared for the future. Farmer marches and protests across the country are a symptom of this distress, as is the BJP’s losses in the state polls last year. If elected to power, the Congress has promised a blanket farm loan waiver.

The BJP, for its part, cites the PM Kisaan Scheme — a promise of Rs 6000 to small and marginal farmers, of which the first instalment of Rs 2000 is in the process of being transferred — as a landmark income support initiative. It argues that structural problems in Indian agriculture are a legacy of the past, and, instead, it has attempted to address it through soil health cards, insurance, market reforms. Productivity has in fact shot up. In addition, the Modi story for rural India goes beyond agriculture and focuses on assets. The government cites construction of houses and toilets, the distribution of gas cylinders, and electricity connectivity as big accomplishments.

The third issue is jobs.

The opposition claims that despite promising millions of jobs every year, the government has been a dismal failure on employment creation. They point to both demonetisation and the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax as having actually destroyed jobs. A recently leaked official report appears to substantiate the claim that unemployment was at a low in the year following these initiatives. The lack of progress on Make in India, the stalled private investment, the persisting twin balance sheet problem are all cited by the opposition to make the case that the government has done little to kickstart the economy, and has only favoured a few crony capitalists.

The BJP has an entirely different narrative on jobs. It argues that there has actually been substantial job creation in the service sector; the Mudra loans indicate a spurt in entrepreneurship and self employment; the government has also improved India’s ranking in the ease of doing business, which facilitates investment, which, in turn, facilitates jobs. The Modi government claims that far from encouraging cronyism, it has actually brought in key reforms to institute cleaner capitalism — from the bankruptcy code to the GST — and this will slowly begin showing dividends. As proof of its sound economic management, the government also points to low inflation.

Read more| EVM ballot paper to carry candidates’ photographs to assist voters

The fourth issue is identity, which encompasses both caste and religion.

For the opposition, the BJP regime is marked by a strong element of Hindu upper caste domination, which is geared against Dalits. By suggesting that the BJP is against reservations, pointing to the presence of upper castes at the top echelons in the party, arguing that there is a tilt towards Thakurs in key states like UP, and claiming that caste atrocities have increased, the opposition hopes to wean away Dalits and perhaps even sections of OBCs from BJP.

On caste, the BJP has attempted to keep intact its wide coalition. By restoring the original provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, or restoring department wise reservations for marginalised in universities in the final cabinet meeting, the government hopes to convince Dalits its interests are supreme; by introducing 10 percent reservation for economically weaker sections, it hopes to signal to ‘General castes’ – its old core vote – that the government has taken steps to make the system more just for then; by pointing to the ongoing work of the commission to sub categorise OBCs, BJP will tell OBC groups that it is drawing up a more equitable system where advantages are not monopolised by only the most dominant of the backward groups.

The identity debate will play out in the realm of religion too. Some opposition parties will be vocal in pointing out that BJP’s regime was marked by outright majoritarianism; state backed vigilantism in the name of cow protection; marginalisation of Muslims from the political sphere; and assault on their livelihoods. Most opposition parties – particularly Congress, but also key regional forces in UP like Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party – will seek to capitalise on the Muslim vote, but not make this an explicit part of the agenda for they fear that it will lead to counter-consolidation of Hindus in favour of the BJP. But make no mistake, as subtext, religion will matter. For its part, the BJP will make an attempt to play the Hindutva card, in order to construct a wide vote across caste and class cleavages. From the (temporarily stalled) Citizenship Amendment bill to promises of Ram Temple, from acting tough against illegal (Muslim) immigrants to blurring the line between nationalism and Hindutva and encouraging polarisation on the ground, expect the BJP machine to deploy a range of tools.

And the fifth issue is the state of Indian democracy or institutions.

For the opposition, the post 2014 period has been marked by increasingly authoritarian rule of Modi, aided by BJP president Amit Shah. They allege that all institutions – from the cabinet to Election Commission, from Central Bureau of Investigation to the Reserve Bank of India, from the judiciary to the media – have all been compromised in this quest to create an almost totalitarian set up where party faithful take over all spaces. The BJP argues that distortion and politicisation of institutions is once again a legacy of the Congress. These allegations are only a result of an old entrenched elite having lost power. And in fact, they claim, what is now visible is deeper democratisation with a new segment of people, away from Westernised urban centric backgrounds but more rooted to the soil, exercising power.

Read more| Lok Sabha election dates announced: Know when your state goes to polls

Arithmetic

But Indian elections are not won or lost only on leadership and issues. It is a complex landscape with multiple states, multiple parties, and a battlefield where arithmetic often reigns supreme.

The BJP begins its campaign way ahead of the rest of the pack. This is both the party’s strength and weakness. It swept north, west and central India in 2014. Replicating the performance in these regions will be particularly difficult because either the party now faces three tiers of anti incumbency in many of these states – it is in power at the centre, in the state, and has the MP from most constituencies across Bihar, UP, Uttarakhand, Himachal, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra – or has just lost power in states – be it MP, Rajasthan or Chhattisgarh. It also has an additional challenge in the form of alliances, especially the SP-BSP alliance in UP.

The Modi-Shah machine’s entire effort will be to defend its gains in this belt, and it believes the surge in nationalist sentiment post the air strikes will benefit them most precisely in this belt. The opposition’s entire effort will be to limit the BJP to the bare minimum here. This will either take the form of sharp bipolar contests in which the Congress is the principal challenger, or triangular contests in which the BJP will face a regional force with Congress playing a supplementary role.

If the game in the heartland for the BJP will be defence, in the east and south, it will be expansion. The BJP has invested remarkable energy in West Bengal and Odisha in particular. The opposition is more enthused here, however, for it believes that the BJP has not been able to make enough inroads independently in West Bengal or Odisha to take on the Trinamool or Biju Janata Dal; it has weakened its chances in the Northeast by pushing the Citizenship Bill; and it has minimal presence across all southern states except Karnataka where a Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance will take them on.

It would be foolhardy to make any predictions based on these regional variations at the moment. But what we can say is the following.

The BJP is likely to dip from its high of 282 seats in 2014, but the extent of the dip is not known. The Congress is likely to gain somewhat from its low of 44 seats in 2014, but the extent of the gain is not clear. There will be a coalition in power after 2019 with regional parties probably exercising more say unlike in the post 2014 arrangement, but whether they will indeed exercise the veto or get leadership or play a supplementary role to a national party is not clear. And there will be a reconfiguration of forces after the results are out, with many of those currently on the fence — the BJD, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi or YSR Congress Party — more willing to reveal their cards.

But beyond the outcome, Indian elections are a remarkable exercise in allowing society to have a voice in shaping who runs the state. It is a moment for social conflicts and fault lines to play out in a civil, non violent and democratic manner. It is a moment for the political elites to understand and adapt to the demands of a new, empowered citizenry. And it is the occasion to keep this utterly diverse landscape tied together to a common political unit. Both the campaign and the polling over two months will once again be a tribute to the foresight of the Constitution’s founding fathers, as India charts the path for the next five years.

First Published: Mar 10, 2019 20:11 IST

Inclusion Is Not Always A True Possibility

Inclusion Is Not Always A True Possibility

 

I am compelled to write this article tonight because of some of the events that have occurred with a few of the newly installed members of the U.S. Congress this past two months. The Democratic Party as a whole are learning the realities of trying to be the “All Inclusive Party” in the attempt to broaden their youthful Base of all colors, creeds, faiths while at the same time trying to not anger the old folks of the Party. One of the issues that the Party Leadership must make a decision on is Israel, are they going to support the Nation of Israel or are they going to be the definition of, Anti-Semitic? Two months ago a young lady was elected to Congress from the beautiful State Minnesota. This particular new Congresswoman Ms. Omar is a lady whom is a believer and follower of the Islamic Faith. Ms. Omar is not the only new Congressperson who has been causing conflict within the Party Leadership, there are several others also but in trying to stay true to the title I will narrow this article to issues being raised within the Congress as they have already felt the need to rebuke her twice.

 

Ms. Omar to the shock and awe of the Party Leadership has been daring to go as far as to not kiss the Ring of former President Barack Obama. She has gone as far as to openly ridicule Mr. Obama for his handling the “Islamic Wars” and his treating of Muslims and the “Islamic World”. Ms. Omar, true to her Faith has made several negative comments about Jews and about Israel, I am not at all shocked, are you? To me, it honestly seems that most of the politicians who say they are Democrats are either Atheist or just an empty shirt Follower of the ‘Faith’ they claim to believe in. Republicans on the other hand tend to say they are ‘People of Faith’ but they just never seem to walk that talk.

 

Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party are starting to learn a lesson here with Ms. Omar and a few of the other rookie Congressperson’s. To me the lesson is simple, it’s not a truth, a reality, that I like, yet truth, is truth, it shows no favorites toward the left nor the right. The reality that must be realized, recognized and addressed is that of pure hatred. You cannot put wolves in a Henhouse for a long period of time and not expect the wolves to feast just as you cannot expect the chickens to subdue the wolves turning them into Vegans. Somethings cannot be put together for any period of time simply because of the hate and or beliefs of one or more of subjects in question. In recent decades the Democratic Party ‘to me’ has become the “Anti-G-d” Party whom does seek to represent our Nation’s minorities such as Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian. I totally believe that we must all be treated equally by each other yet I am realistic enough to realize this will not be so in our lifetime. The Democrats (the anti-religion party) in their ignorance has looked upon people of the Islamic Faith as though they are just another minority and this mistake will do nothing but further divide their Party and our country.

McConnell criticizes House proposal to make Election Day a federal holiday

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

McConnell criticizes House proposal to make Election Day a federal holiday

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 22: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leaves the Senate floor after speaking at the U.S. Capitol on December 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Democrats refused to agree with President Donald Trump's demands for five billion dollars to go towards building a wall on the U.S. southern border. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Washington (CNN)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faced backlash from Democrats for calling their House bill a “power grab” as it included a provision to make Election Day a federal holiday, among other changes.

The sweeping legislation HR 1, or what Democrats are calling the “For the People Act,” would also require presidential candidates to release their tax returns, adds a matching system for small donations, requires super PACs to disclose their donors who give more than $10,000, and prohibits voter purging.
The Kentucky Republican mocked the bill as the “Democratic Politician Protection Act” and argued that it rewrites the “the rules of Americans politics for the exclusive benefit of the Democratic Party.”
He argued that the bill would “victimize every American taxpayer by pouring their money into expensive new subsidies that don’t ever pass the laugh test.”
“Their bill would make Election Day a new paid holiday for government workers, and create an additional brand new paid leave benefit for up to six days for any federal bureaucrat who decides they’d like to hang out at the polls during an election,” McConnell said.
“Just what America needs,” he protested. “Another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work, I assume our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns. This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy? A brand new week of paid vacation for every federal employee who’d like to hover around while you cast your ballot?”
“A power grab that’s smelling more and more like exactly what it is,” he concluded of the bill.
McConnell’s home state of Kentucky requires that its state employees get the day off on a presidential Election Day. A 2006 report from the Us Election Assistance Commission found that voter turnout was not necessarily higher in states where Election Day is a state holiday.
“Voting isn’t a ‘power grab’. It’s democracy, and it’s literally the entire point of our representative government,” tweeted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who’s formed an exploratory running for president.
Another 2020 hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, argued that “of course” Congress should make it easier to vote on Election Day, adding that the US needs a “constitutional amendment establishing a nationally recognized right to vote.”
“An Election Day holiday WOULD be a power grab,” Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida tweeted. “It would be the American people grabbing power back from the wealthy special interests that dominate Washington because (McConnell and) others prefer that it be hard to vote.”

New report shows where Russia prevailed and failed in its mission to elect Trump and divide a nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘BUSINESS INSIDER’)

 

New report shows where Russia prevailed and failed in its mission to elect Trump and divide a nation

russia meddle
An image of Russian president Vladimir Putin is seen through a Twitter logo in this photo illustration on December 4, 2017.
 Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • A draft report seen by The Washington Post shows how effectively Russia twisted Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to influence the right voters and achieve its reported goal — the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.
  • The goldmine of posts and comments provided by the big tech firms for the Senate allowed researchers the first major data dive into responses to Russian influence and is “the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign” The Post reported on Sunday.

The Washington Post reported that it has seen the very first deep data analysis that covers post-by-post the social media behaviors across the known Russian accounts for a period spanning several years until the middle of 2017 when they were effectively unmasked.

It is the first study of the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and it provides a new window into the many ways that Russia grasped the power of social media, built their understanding of it, and then manipulated it for the political purposes to help elect Donald Trump president.

According to The Post, citing the Senate-bound report co-authored by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and network analysis firm Graphika, the soon-to-be president was most often glowingly mentioned in campaigns that energized conservatives and right-wing voters, while left-wing grioups were confused, infuriated and deflated.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report stated. “(While) the main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”

But how did they do it?

Clinton russia
WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 01: A print out of a social media post targeting former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is on display as Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) speaks during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee November 1, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on ‘Russia Investigative Task Force: Social Media Companies.’
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

“The Russians aimed particular energy at activating conservatives on issues such as gun rights and immigration, while sapping the political clout of left-leaning African American voters by undermining their faith in elections and spreading misleading information about how to vote,” The Post reported.

SEE MORE:18 political ads you may have seen on Facebook that were actually made by Russian trolls.

Sifting through the data, researchers were struck by evidence of sloppiness on the part of the Russians — so much so that they thought the Russians probably should have been found out early on in their campaign.

These slip-ups included included buying ads with Russian rubles and leaving Russian phone numbers for contact information.

The report reveals both a little history and strategy:

  • They started out on Twitter, then added YouTube and Instagram before finally diving into Facebook, the report said.
  • A Twitter campaign targeting the US began as early as 2013, but it appears the Internet Research Agency (IRA) got the hang of it around 12 months later when the mission sprang to life and grew annually as the ideas spread with more demographic accuracy via better targeted platforms.
  • Facebook was particularly effective— 99% of all likes, shares and other social media reactions came from only 20 pages with names including “Heart of Texas” and “Blacktivist.”
  • On Instagram, the Russians ran 133 accounts on the photo-sharing tool owned by Facebook, dividing and agitating based on “race, ethnicity or other forms of personal identity,” the report concluded.
  • The Russians’ fake “Black Matters US” account had followers across the social media map, from YouTube to Tumblr to PayPal, and by linking them up, they created a snowballing influence that even spilled out into the real world, agitating across sites for donations, organizing real-world political rallies, and funneling all the online traffic to its Russia-controlled home site.
  • The use of YouTube, like the other platforms, appears to have grown after Trump’s election victory. Twitter links to YouTube videos grew by 84% in the six months after the election, the report claims.
  • IRA operatives created Google ads that made statements like “Cops kill black kids. Are you sure that your son won’t be the next?” to sow fear, discord and division while promoting the “BlackMatters US” site. The sister Twitter account, meanwhile, ranted about Facebook “supporting white supremacy” for shutting its page down.
  • The Russian Facebook campaign reached 126 million people on Facebook and 20 million more on Instagram, Congress has been told by company officials. Russian Instagram posts generated 185 million likes and 4 million user comments.

While the report touches on the role played by YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, and Instagram, owned by Facebook, in the Russian campaign, for the first time it sheds further light on where Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest fit into the plan, not to mention the email accounts of Yahoo, Microsoft’s Hotmail and Google’s Gmail.

Perhaps the most damning insight from the report, which The Post says will be released to the public later this week, is the difficulties researchers said they faced in accessing the tech giants’ data.

The authors noted the “belated and uncoordinated response” to the disinformation campaign. They criticized the companies for not sharing more data faster and finally urged the companies in the future to be a little more “meaningful and constructive.”

Get the latest Google stock price here.

SEE ALSO: Russia has allegedly been spreading far-right propaganda on Facebook to try and influence the US midterms — here it is

More: Russia cyberattack election meddling Twitter Facebook

Trump Defrauded Voters. But What Does It Mean?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

(SIMPLY PUT, TRUMP IS A FRAUDULENT PRESIDENT) 

Prosecutors’ Narrative Is Clear: Trump Defrauded Voters. But What Does It Mean?

In the narrative that prosecutors are building, President Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia well into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times
Image
In the narrative that prosecutors are building, President Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia well into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him.CreditCreditAl Drago for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The latest revelations by prosecutors investigating President Trump and his team draw a portrait of a candidate who personally directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the 2016 election and whose advisers had more contact with Russia than Mr. Trump has ever acknowledged.

In the narrative that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and New York prosecutors are building, Mr. Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him. At the same time, in this account he ordered hush payments to two women to suppress stories of impropriety in violation of campaign finance law.

The prosecutors made clear in their memo that they viewed efforts by Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to squelch the stories as nothing less than a perversion of a democratic election — and by extension they effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump dismissed the filings, and his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, minimized the importance of any potential campaign finance violations. Democrats, however, said they could lead to impeachment.

In a sentencing memo filed on Friday in the case of Mr. Cohen, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York depicted Mr. Trump, identified only as “Individual-1,” as an accomplice in the hush payments. While Mr. Trump was not charged, the reference echoed Watergate, when President Richard M. Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator by a grand jury investigating the cover-up of the break-in at the Democratic headquarters.

“While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows,” the prosecutors wrote.

“He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1,” they continued. “In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.”

The exposure on campaign finance laws poses a challenge to Mr. Trump’s legal team, which before now has focused mainly on rebutting allegations of collusion and obstruction while trying to call into question Mr. Mueller’s credibility.

“Until now, you had two different charges, allegations, whatever you want to call them,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on Saturday. “One was collusion with the Russians. One was obstruction of justice and all that entails. And now you have a third — that the president was at the center of a massive fraud against the American people.”

The episode recalled a criminal case brought against former Senator John Edwards, Democrat of North Carolina, who while running for president in 2008 sought to cover up an extramarital affair that resulted in pregnancy. He was charged with violating campaign finance laws stemming from money used to hide his pregnant lover, but a trial ended in 2012 with an acquittal on one charge and a mistrial on five others.

Mr. Giuliani pointed to that outcome on Saturday to argue that the president should not be similarly charged.

“The President is not implicated in campaign finance violations because based on Edwards case and others the payments are not campaign contributions,” Mr. Giuliani wrote on Twitter. “No responsible prosecutor would premise a criminal case on a questionable interpretation of the law.”

But Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty under that interpretation of the law, and even if Mr. Trump cannot be charged while in office, the House could still investigate or even seek to impeach him. The framers of the Constitution specifically envisioned impeachment as a remedy for removing a president who obtained office through corrupt means, and legal scholars have long concluded that the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors” does not necessarily require a statutory crime.

If the campaign finance case as laid out by prosecutors is true, Mr. Nadler said, Mr. Trump would be likely to meet the criteria for an impeachable offense, and he said he would instruct his committee to investigate when he takes over in January.

But he added that did not necessarily mean that the committee should vote to impeach Mr. Trump. “Is it serious enough to justify impeachment?” he asked. “That is another question.”

The strategy of Mr. Trump’s lawyers has been predicated on the assurance by senior Justice Department officials that if Mr. Mueller found evidence that the president broke the law, he would not be indicted while in office. But the hush money investigation is being led by a separate office of prosecutors in New York, and far less time has been spent publicly or privately trying to protect Mr. Trump from that inquiry.

And while the prevailing view at the Justice Department is that a sitting president cannot be indicted, that does not mean a president cannot be charged after leaving office. The prosecutors in New York have examined the statute of limitations on the campaign finance violations and believe charges could be brought against Mr. Trump if he is not re-elected, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said that if the campaign finance case as laid out by prosecutors was true, Mr. Trump would likely meet the criteria for an impeachable offense.CreditJ. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
Image
Representative Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said that if the campaign finance case as laid out by prosecutors was true, Mr. Trump would likely meet the criteria for an impeachable offense.CreditJ. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Mr. Trump’s lawyers view that as unlikely if it is based solely on the current charges.

At the White House on Friday evening, staff members gathered for a holiday dinner with Mr. Trump and the first lady as if nothing were wrong. Mr. Trump’s advisers have told him that the latest filings do not present a danger to him legally, although they cautioned him that the political risks were hard to calculate, according to people familiar with the discussions.

One adviser said the president’s team had concluded that Mr. Trump was not likely to face a threat from prosecution in the New York case because if Mr. Cohen had more to deliver, then prosecutors would not be bringing him to court for sentencing in the coming week or requesting substantial prison time. Another adviser said that the Cohen threat appeared to be over.

For public consumption, at least, Mr. Trump and his Republican allies chose to focus on the Russia matter on Saturday, arguing again that no wrongdoing had been proved.

“On the Mueller situation, we’re very happy with what we are reading because there was no collusion whatsoever,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “The last thing I want is help from Russia on a campaign. You should ask Hillary Clinton about Russia.”

American intelligence agencies have said the Russians were in fact trying to aid Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who will be the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the new Congress, which begins next month, said he saw no reason conservatives should walk away from Mr. Trump given his record of policy achievements and questions about the impartiality of the president’s investigators.

“I always come back to the facts,” he said in an interview. “To date, not one bit of evidence of any type of coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election.”

If prosecutors have conclusive evidence of conspiracy, they have not shown their hand. But the filings in recent days made clear that while Mr. Trump repeatedly insisted he had no business dealings in Russia, it was not without trying.

Mr. Trump’s business was pursuing a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow until June 2016, while Mr. Trump was locking up the Republican nomination and long after Mr. Cohen had previously said the project was dropped.

At the same time, Mr. Cohen, starting in November 2015, was in contact with a well-connected Russian who proposed “synergy on a government level” with the Trump campaign and proposed a meeting between Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The Russian said such a meeting could grease the way for the tower, telling Mr. Cohen that there was “no bigger warranty in any project than consent” by Mr. Putin.

In his own court memo, Mr. Mueller said that Mr. Cohen’s false account that the deal had collapsed in January 2016 was designed “in hopes of limiting the investigations into possible Russian influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election — an issue of heightened national interest.”

The president’s lawyers have been deeply concerned that Mr. Trump could be portrayed as an unindicted co-conspirator in court documents. As he was preparing to submit written responses to questions from Mr. Mueller last month, Mr. Trump’s lawyers learned about language the special counsel wanted to include in a plea agreement with a conservative conspiracy theorist, who was under investigation for his links to WikiLeaks, which released Democratic emails that intelligence agencies said were stolen by Russian agents.

The document said that the conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, understood that one of Mr. Trump’s associates, Roger J. Stone Jr., was “in regular contact with senior members of the Trump campaign, including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump,” when Mr. Stone asked Mr. Corsi to find out from the head of WikiLeaks what he had in store for the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers feared that Mr. Mueller was trying to cast Mr. Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator. Mr. Trump’s lawyers held off sending the answers and demanded a meeting with Justice Department officials and Mr. Mueller’s team, according to one person close to the president.

In a meeting at the Justice Department that was presided over by the principal associate deputy attorney general, Ed O’Callaghan, Mr. Trump’s lawyers — including Mr. Giuliani and Jay Sekulow — expressed concern to Mr. Mueller’s team. It was unclear what Mr. Mueller’s team said in response, but shortly thereafter Mr. Trump sent in his answers.

Mr. Corsi has declined to accept a plea deal and has not been charged with a crime.

Although Mr. Trump asserted on Saturday that he was “happy” with the latest filings, others did not agree. The Cohen information alone “puts impeachment on the table, and I can’t help but think that that is what this is barreling toward,” said Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican strategist who has been critical of Mr. Trump. “Any other presidency at this point would have been done when their own Department of Justice filed something like that.”

But while the House can impeach a president on a majority vote, conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds vote, meaning that unless at least 20 Republican senators abandon Mr. Trump, he is safe from removal. Despite the losses in the House last month, Republicans, if anything, have moved closer to the president.

While liberals are pressing Democrats to move on impeachment, party leaders remain wary, fearing a backlash. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, said the standard set during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying under oath certainly puts Mr. Trump “in impeachment territory” because of the campaign finance issue.

“On the other hand,” he added, “in the compendium of Donald Trump’s offenses against the rule of law and the Constitution, this may not be in the top five.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington.

A version of this article appears in print on  of the New York edition with the headline: Exposure on Election Laws a Challenge to Trump. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

India: Exit Polls Say That KCR has an edge in Telangana, Cong snatches Rajasthan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Election exit polls results 2018: KCR has an edge in Telangana, Cong snatches Rajasthan

Exit Polls Results 2018 LIVE Updates : The exit polls show Congress surging ahead in Rajasthan, a close contest between the BJP and grand old party in MP and Chhattisgarh, clear edge for TRS in Telangana and a close fight between MNF and Congress in…

By HT Correspondent | Dec 07, 2018 22:17 IST

Voters in the states of Telangana and Rajasthan exercised their franchise on Friday. The voting started at 7am in 13 Maoist-affected constituencies of Telangana and at 8am in other parts of the state and in Rajasthan. Initially slow, the voting picked up later with EVM glitches being reported from a few constituencies but polling was by and large smooth.

The much awaited exit polls for all the five states that went to polls over the last one month were released after the voting ended in Telangana and Rajasthan.

Read: Clash at Sikar polling centre, two motorcycles burnt

Rajasthan, Telangana are among the 5 states — others being Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram — that went to the polls. Capping a high-decibel campaign, the five voted in four-phase polls starting November 12 and the results will be known on December 11.

Also Read: Telangana exit polls 2018: All you need to know

https://www.hindustantimes.com/images/app-images/2018/assembly-election/exitpoll_chati.htmlhttps://www.hindustantimes.com/images/app-images/2018/assembly-election/exitpoll_mp.html https://www.hindustantimes.com/images/app-images/2018/assembly-election/exitpoll_miz.html

https://www.hindustantimes.com/images/app-images/2018/assembly-election/exitpoll_tel.html

 

https://www.hindustantimes.com/images/app-images/2018/assembly-election/exitpoll_raj.html

7:59 pm IST

CNX – Times Now exit polls project a hung house in Mizoram

The CNX-Times Now exit polls predict a hung house in Mizoram with a close fight between the MNF and Mizoram. The survey predicts the MNF to win around 18 seats and around 16 seats for the Congress party.

7:33 pm IST

Surveys predict clear edge for Congress in Rajasthan

The exit polls are predicting the Congress party to sweep Rajasthan. While the CVoter-Republic TV, CNX-Times Now and Axis My India Today exit polls project the Congress party to be surging ahead, India TV survey predicts a close contest between the two rival parties.

7:12 pm IST

Exit polls show a close contest between BJP and Congress in Chhattisgarh

The exit polls are showing a close contest between the ruling BJP and Congress in Chhattisgarh.

While CVoter-Republic TV and Axis-My India-India Today predicted the Congress surging ahead in the state, CNX – Times Now, India TV and CSDS – ABP projects the BJP as the winner.

Here’s the seat projection for Chhattisgarh as per surveys:

Hindustan Times

@htTweets

| Exit polls show a close contest between the ruling BJP and the Congress in Chhattisgarh. Read more here: https://goo.gl/2rkWgM 

See Hindustan Times’s other Tweets

7:06 pm IST

Close fight between MNF and Congress in Mizoram: CVoter – Republic TV

The CVoter-Republic TV survey projects a close fight between the Mizo National Front (MNF) and Congress in Mizoram.

The exit polls predict the MNF to be winning between 16-20 seats and project around 14-18 seats for the Congress.

6:54 pm IST

Jogi-Mayawati alliance likely to win between 4-8 seats in Chhattisgarh: Axis My India – India Today and Aaj Tak

The Ajit Jogi Mayawati alliance, which was being projected as the kingmaker in Chhattisgarh, is likely to win betwwen 4-8 seats in the states, says Axis My India – India Today and Aaj Tak exit polls.

6:10 pm IST

Close fight between BJP and Congress in Chhattisgarh: Republic TV

CVoter-Republic TV exit polls predict a close fight between the BJP and Congress in Chhattisgarh with the former likely to win between 35-43 seats and Congress likely to win 40-50 seats.

Here’s the seat projection for Chhattisgarh as per surveys:

Hindustan Times

@htTweets

| | Here’s the seat projection for Chhattisgarh as per surveys

Track LIVE updates here: http://goo.gl/ibgRGq 

See Hindustan Times’s other Tweets

6:07 pm IST

BJP to retain Chhattisgarh: India TV exit polls

The India TV exit polls suggest BJP is likely to win between 42-50 seats and retain Chhattisgarh.

Hindustan Times

@htTweets

| BJP to retain Chhattisgarh, show India TV ; to win 42-50 seats.
Track LIVE updates here: http://goo.gl/ibgRGq 

See Hindustan Times’s other Tweets

6:02 pm IST

TRS to win Telangana, suggests CNX – Times Now

The CNX-Times Now survey suggests caretaker chief minister KCR’s party likely to win Telangana.

The survey shows Congress as no.2 with around 37 seats.

 

Hindustan Times

@htTweets

| In Telangana, TRS to win with 66 seats, show CNX – Times Now . Congress No. 2 with 37 seats.

16 people are talking about this

5:58 pm IST

CNX – Times Now, Axis My India – India Today and Aaj Tak exit polls show Congress winning in Rajasthan

The CNX-Times Now exit polls show Congress surging ahead of Rajasthan with around 105 seats while BJP likely to retain 85 seats.

Hindustan Times

@htTweets

| The CNX – Times Now show Congress
winning in Rajasthan. Here’s what the break up looks like –

BJP – 85
Congress – 105
Others – 9

43 people are talking about this

As per the Axis My India – India Today and Aaj Tak survey, Congress is likely to win between 119-141 seats, whereas the BJP is projected to win 55-72 seats,

5:44 pm IST

Congress, BJP in tight race in MP: CNX-Times Now

CNX – Times Now exit polls show that BJP is likely to win between 102-120 seats while the Congress is expected to win between 104-122 seats.

.

5:27 pm IST

Election results to be declared on December 11

The results of the high-pitched battle in 5 states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram – will be declared on December 11.

5:10 pm IST

Polling ends in Rajasthan

The polling has ended in Rajasthan, however,people already in the polling stations will be allowed to vote.

The state recorded 72.17% polling by 5pm.

Click here for Live updates on Rajasthan assembly elections.

4:22 pm IST

Exit poll trends as soon as polling ends in Rajasthan, Telangana

The exit poll trends will be coming in as soon as polling ends in Rajasthan, Telangana.

The polling will end at 4 pm for the 13 constituencies of Telangana, while the polling at remaining constituencies will end at 5pm (for both Telangana and Rajasthan).

Telangana assembly elections 2018: Can KCR take on Congress-TDP math?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Telangana assembly elections 2018: Can KCR take on Congress-TDP math?

With over 28 million eligible voters, Telangana will go to the polls on Friday.

INDIA Updated: Dec 07, 2018 07:22 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Telangana,Telangana assembly elections 2018,Telangana Polls
Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao(HT Photo)

With over 28 million eligible voters, Telangana will go to the polls on Friday. It has a complex polity — the incumbent Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the Maha Kootami led by the Congress, which includes the Telugu Desam Party, Communist Party of India, and the Telangana Jana Samiti, and two other important forces, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Here are the six variables likely to shape the outcome of the elections .


KCR
: This election revolves around the personality of caretaker chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). He led the political movement for Telangana and was rewarded for it in 2014. Since then, two things have happened. One, he has consolidated political power in himself and his family; become distant from the electorate; and is seen to have amassed wealth. Two, he has launched a slew of tremendously popular and innovative welfare schemes, ranging from monetary farm assistance to promises of housing. He is also seen to have provided electricity. Which version of KCR prevails for voters will matter.


The electoral arithmetic
: The Maha Kootami has an electoral advantage if you go by sheer numbers . If the TRS had 34% vote share in 2014, the Congress and TDP combined vote share is 38%. In many constituencies, the votes of both parties exceed that of the TRS. Will older TDP loyalists vote for Congress and will Congress supporters transfer their votes to TDP or other allies? Will arithmetic prevail or will voter choices change?


The Muslim vote
: Muslims constitute 12% of the population. They exercise influence in close to two dozen constituencies. In the Muslim-dominated pockets of Hyderabad, the AIMIM, or Majlis as it is called, is popular and it has decided to back the TRS. So any win for the Majlis boosts the TRS, especially if it is a hung assembly. But outside Hyderabad, the mood is mixed. While a section of Muslims cheer KCR’s schemes like Shaadi Mubarak (allowances for women for weddings), there is a substantial section that criticises him for not delivering on the promise of 12% reservation for the minority community. They also have loyalties to Congress and believe party president Rahul Gandhi’s assertion that the TRS has a deal with the BJP.

Click here for live updates on Telangana assembly election 2018


Subnationalism
: Telangana is India’s newest state. It has come into being after a long struggle against Andhra Pradesh. The emotive factor has now subsided. But the TDP’s active participation in the politics of the state changes things. Telangana has a big ‘settler’ population, those originally from Andhra. Will they back the TDP? Or will they follow the lead of other Andhra parties like the YSR Congress party which have decided to stay neutral and, in effect, back the TRS? More critically, the TRS has now used the TDP’s presence to allege outsider interference and claim there is a conspiracy by Andhra Pradesh to regain control of Telangana. Will this put off the locals?


Jobs or welfare:
 The Congress has made a sharp campaign pitch against the TRS for not creating jobs. It has promised over 100,000 jobs in a year; it has also committed to over ₹3000 as unemployment allowance. The TRS rebuts the claims and points to its governance record on welfare. Across constituencies, among younger people in particular, the desire for jobs, particularly government jobs, and the belief that the government has not delivered on this aspect is deep. How much will it hurt the incumbent?


Local anti-incumbency:
 The biggest challenge for the TRS is the fact that its local legislators appear to be unpopular. It had 63 seats in the 2014 polls but managed to engineer enough defections to increase its strength to 90. Most of the former MLAs are re-contesting. Will this local anti incumbency hurt the TRS or will KCR’s personality eventually offset this resentment?

In sum, the election is about governance, identities and subnationalism. It’s about personalities. It’s about local and micro factors. Voters today will determine what matters to them most.

First Published: Dec 07, 2018 07:08 IST

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