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

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

Rahul Gandhi defending those who abused my parents: PM Narendra Modi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS AGENCY)

 

Rahul Gandhi defending those who abused my parents: PM Narendra Modi

Speaking at a public meeting in Vidisha, Modi said, “Two days ago they dragged my mother’s name during a rally and today I read in social media that they had dragged my father’s name who died 30 years ago and had nothing to do with politics, and ‘Namdaar’ (Gandhi) is defending them.

ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS Updated: Nov 25, 2018 23:55 IST

Punya Priya Mitra and Rakesh Goswami
Punya Priya Mitra and Rakesh Goswami
Hindustan Times, Vidisha/Alwar
Narendra Modi,Rahul Gandhi,Narendra Modi parents
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting for Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections campaign, in Jabalpur on November 25.(PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a sharp attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused him of defending those who were abusing his parents, and argued that Congress was doing so because they had run out of issues and did not want to take on the BJP on a debate over development.

Speaking at a public meeting in Vidisha, Modi said, “Two days ago they dragged my mother’s name during a rally and today I read in social media that they had dragged my father’s name who died 30 years ago and had nothing to do with politics, and ‘Namdaar’ (Gandhi) is defending them.”

Modi was referring to Congress leader Vilasrao Muttemwar’s comment during an election meeting in Rajasthan that while the world knows who Rahul Gandhi’s parents were, no one knew who Modi’s father was.

In Alwar, the PM described the Congress as the party’s ‘jatiwadi mansikta’ (caste mentality) while referring to Congress leader CP Joshi reportedly questioning the PM’s caste at an election rally in Nathdwara on Friday.

“Someone abuses my mother, someone questions my caste,” he said, while quoting both Kabir and seer Ravidas to drive home the point that humans were one despite their caste.

The PM also said that the Congress gives more importance to its leaders than Mother India, in reference to a video of Congress leader BD Kalla where he is seen stopping a man shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and telling him to say ‘Sonia Gandhi ki jai’.

In both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Modi reiterated that the Congress was resorting to “jatiwaad ka zeher (the poison of caste)” and claimed the moral of the rival party was down whereas that of BJP was up.

He also said four members of one family got Bharat Ratna but Ambedkar did not get the country’s highest civilian award and the Congress ensured his defeat in elections.

Reacting to Modi’s speech, Congress’ Odisha in-charge Jitendra Singh alleged that the Prime Minister was spreading lies in the name development in Rajasthan and elsewhere. “In Modi’s speech there were many words such as ego, development, casteism, dalit, religion, dynastic, small mentality, martyrdom of jawans, one rank-one pension, welfare of farmers, development by the Vasundhara Raje government and so on. They were just lies told to cheat people,” he said.

First Published: Nov 25, 2018 23:41 IST

‘Open fire if you want’, BJP leader detained at Sabarimala

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S NEWS AGENCY THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

(SO, MR. SURENDRAN SAYS HE CAN WORSHIP BECAUSE HE HAS ‘RIGHTS’ BUT HE IS SAYING THAT NO WOMAN HAS THE RIGHT TO WORSHIP AT THE SAME PLACE HE SAYS HE DOES?)

‘Open fire if you want’, BJP leader detained at Sabarimala; party workers protest in state capital

The development comes after the 12-hour shut down called by the Sabarimala Karma Samiti and BJP to protest the arrest of Hindu Aikya Vedi leader K P Sasikala in the early hours of Saturday crippled normal life in Kerala, the second bandh in a month.

INDIA Updated: Nov 17, 2018 23:24 IST

Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Sabarimala
Sabarimala,Sabarimala bandh,BJP
Sabarimala: BJP’s Kerala state general secretary K Surendran being taken into preventive detention near Sabarimala by the state police when he came to visit Sabarimala, Saturday. Nov 17, 2018. (PTI Photo) (PTI11_17_2018_000179B)(PTI)

BJP’s Kerala general secretary K Surendran was detained in Nilakkal base camp when he tried to make his way to the Sabarimala temple today. The government termed the action a “precautionary measure” as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been backing the protests against the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of women of all ages to the hilltop shrine.

Stopped by police and told that he cannot go towards the Pamba base camp and to the temple at night, an angry Surendran, who was accompanied by some party workers, said, “You cannot prevent me from going to the Sabarimala temple, as I have already registered for pujas. You can stop me only if you open fire and you are free to do so”, reported IANS.

As Surendran, who told the police he had come as a “Ayyappa Bhaktha” (devotee) and should be allowed to pray at the temple, tried to go forward, he was taken into custody. According to the new police rules that came into effect from Friday, no pilgrim is allowed to proceed to the temple after 7 p.m. as the temple closes for the day at 10 p.m.

Superintendent of police Yatish Chandra said Surendran was taken to police station in Ranni in Pathnamthitta district.

Following the arrest, BJP workers protested outside the state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram , blocking traffic, and water canons were used to disperse them. The party has announced it would hold protests tomorrow too.

BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said the police action against Surendran has created an “extremely dangerous” situation, according to PTI.

He said he has informed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the “seriousness” of the situation.

BJP workers will observe a “protest day” in the state tomorrow and block traffic on the highways, he said.

The latest protests come after the 12-hour shut down called by the Sabarimala Karma Samiti and BJP to protest the arrest of Hindu Aikya Vedi leader K P Sasikala early Saturday crippled normal life in Kerala, the second bandh in a month.

Sasikala, 62, had come for darshan at the hill top, but was stopped by police on her way to the temple. She was taken into preventive custody at around 2 am for defying prohibitory orders. Police had decided not to allow devotees enter temple premises when it was closed for the night and they said she was arrested after she went ahead flouting their warning.

Tension gripped many areas as after many right-wing outfits started a campaign saying Sasikala was arrested while carrying ‘Irumudi Kettu’, a sacrosanct offering taken by devotees to the Sabarimala shrine. Later a local court granted her bail and she said she will go back to the temple again. “I was detained for more than 12 hours on way to the temple. It seems the government is out to destroy the temple,” she said after her release.

Meanwhile, Mary Sweety (45), from Thiruvananthapuram, who was making her second attempt to visit the hilltop shrine, was asked to return after protesters stopped her at the Chenganur railway station itself. Sweety was one of the woman who had attempted to climb to the temple in October when it opened for the first time after the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict but was foiled by protesters.

On the other hand, Ayyappa devotees complained that the heavy police restrictions are making their pilgrimage difficult as the shrine gates opened at 5 am. No one was allowed to stay at the hilltop temple top following a heavy rush.

On the large presence of police personnel,Pathnamthitta collector P B Nooh said, “there are many khaki clad policemen around. That is for the safety and security of devotees.” Police also used drones to monitor devotees at the Nillakal base camp.

The temple opened on Friday for 62-day long Mandala Pooja-Magaravilaku annual pilgrimage season.

First Published: Nov 17, 2018 20:28 IST

The Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh had made the state “almost free” of Maoism

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

 

Some people believe Maoism is a medium for revolution, Amit Shah’s dig at Congress

The Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh had made the state “almost free” of Maoism and developed it as a hub of power and cement production, BJP president Amit Shah said on Saturday.

CHHATTISGARH ELECTIONS 2018 Updated: Nov 10, 2018 15:36 IST

Chhattisgarh Election 2018,Chhattisgarh Election 2018 News,Chhattisgarh Constituency
Amit Shah exuded confidence that the BJP would win this month’s Assembly polls in the state for the fourth straight time.

The Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh had made the state “almost free” of Maoism and developed it as a hub of power and cement production, BJP president Amit Shah said on Saturday.

Targeting the opposition Congress, he said a party that felt Maoism was a medium for revolution could not do any good for Chhattisgarh. Shah exuded confidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would win this month’s Assembly polls in the state for the fourth straight time.

Addressing a press conference in Raipur after releasing his party’s manifesto ahead of the first phase of polling on November 12, Shah said, “The BJP government under chief minister Raman Singh has contained Maoism and made the state almost free of it.”

Earlier known as a BIMARU state, Chhattisgarh was now a “power and cement production hub”, he said, and lauded the Raman Singh government for initiating several welfare measures for the state’s prosperity.

“Taking on the Congress’s propaganda and working tirelessly for the state’s development for the last 15 years is a big challenge. I am confident that the BJP will win a straight fourth term in office,” Shah said.

The state government had initiated several welfare measures and made the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme corruption-free, he added.

Read more

The 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly will go to the polls in two phases — on November 12 and 20 — and the results will be announced on December 11.

First Published: Nov 10, 2018 14:43 IST

BJP candidate sparks row, says ‘need to reduce population of topi and dadhiwalas’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

 

Gujarat elections: BJP candidate sparks row, says ‘need to reduce population of topi and dadhiwalas’

Shailesh Sotta also said that he wanted to “instil fear” and that if sporadic communal clashes were not stopped, a “befitting reply” would be given.

GUJARATELECTION2017 Updated: Dec 07, 2017 21:18 IST

PTI, Vadodara
Screengrab of Shailesh Sotta addressing a crowd in Dabhoi.
Screengrab of Shailesh Sotta addressing a crowd in Dabhoi.

BJP contestant from Dabhoi assembly seat in Gujarat, Shailesh Sotta, on Thursday courted controversy by allegedly saying the population of “topi and dadhiwalas”, an apparent reference to Muslims, should be “reduced”.

He also said that he came to Dabhoi to “instil fear” and that if sporadic communal clashes were not stopped, a “befitting reply” would be given.

“If any ‘topi, daadhiwala’ (anybody wearing a cap and sporting beard) is sitting here (in the crowd), then pardon me, but there is a need to reduce their population. Many leaders asked me not to say this, as it may go against me but if 90% of people are supporting me, then why shall I stop speaking about the 10% people?” Sotta purportedly said at what appeared to be a small gathering in Dabhoi town in Vadodara district.

The video of the speech he made in Gujarati has been circulating online.

@shailesh_sotta can you specify your “kaum” as you mentioned in this speech? Should Dalits, adivasis and OBCs and be afraid of you?

“(They say) don’t talk about the community in which you are born (Hindu), and if you want to talk about that (the community), then don’t contest election. But I will fight election for the religion in which I am born,” Sotta purportedly said.

Sotta, a Vadodara councillor who is contesting Assembly polls for the first time, said they (Muslims) will have to stop sporadic clashes (communal incidents) or they will get ‘eent ka jawab pathhar se (tit for tat response).

Dabhoi is going to polls in the second phase on December 14.

“There was a meeting of a peace committee in which a ‘tadipaar’ (externed criminal) said that he is scared of the BJP candidate (Sotta). There is nothing wrong in this,” he said.

He said he came to Dabhoi to “scare people” and not the other way round.

“I came here to scare people. I am here not to get frightened, but to make others frightened. And if anti-social elements remain scared, then it is required for this place,” he said.

Sotta could not be contacted on phone for his reaction.

He is pitted against senior Congress leader Siddharth Patel.

After Sotta’s video was aired by some news channels, Ahmedabad-based social worker Nishant Varma filed a complaint with the State Election Commission against Sotta over his “highly communal and instigating” comments against the Muslim community and for “violating the poll code”.

“He (Sotta) is clearly heard saying that Muslim population must be reduced in the area, and that Muslims will face ‘eent ka jawab pathhar se’. He is saying all this to appease 90% (Hindu) voters and not the rest 10%,” Varma said in his complaint.

“He (Sotta) is referring to Muslims as ‘topi and daadhiwala’ which is completely unacceptable and a clear violation of the model code of conduct as well as various provisions of the CrPC and IPC,” he said.

China Playing Indian Separation Card Is A Poor Choice

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TIMES OF CHINA)

 

Playing Indian separation card a poor choice

By Ding Gang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/23 19:28:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

After the border standoff between China and India erupted, some Chinese scholars asked: Since India supports “Tibet independence” forces, why doesn’t China play the card of Indian separation?

This question is premised on a long-standing view that India is a multi-ethnic country, its states retain traditional autonomy, and the forces that led to the partition of India in 1947 could easily rise again. From this point of view, China should seek to use the lever of supporting separatists to influence India.

This viewpoint is too superficial, and lacks understanding of how the internal unity of modern Indian society was formed. Understanding India should start from understanding Hinduism, and understanding today’s Hinduism needs understanding of the influence of the British colonialists on the revival of Hinduism in modern times.

Indian scholar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar wrote in his book A survey of Indian history that “Indian history is of necessity, predominantly the history of the Hindu people, for though other and potent elements have become permanent factors in India, the Hindus still constitute over eighty percent of her population. Besides, what is distinctly Indian has so far been Hindu.”

Traveling in India, one can easily spot scenery that is deeply influenced by Hinduism. Sometimes one would doubt if India is a secular country, as it claims to be. Even behind the border friction between China and India, there is an influence of Hinduism.

The national structure of India is unique. Some states have maintained their inherited autonomous style of governance and some are ruled by minority parties or non-mainstream ethnic groups. These states have a tendency toward separation.

But in essence, all the states belong to the big cultural circle of Hinduism. The system established by British colonists has offered opportunities for minority parties and ethnicities to develop under the framework of a united country.

The revival of the Hinduism can be attributed to the support of British colonists. Under British role, Islam was suppressed and the Hinduism began an unprecedented revival movement. But nationalism went along with this process, which eventually became the pillar of thought of Mahatma Gandhi, who led the independence movement against British colonial rule.

When the British withdrew, they divided India and Pakistan due to the regions’ different religious beliefs. This brutal division caused the deaths of at least 1 million, and led to destitution for several million people.

While it reinforced religious confrontation, it consolidated the foundation of nationalism with religion at the core.

India inherited the system established by British colonists, under which all parties can compete for power through the platform of elections. Local parties can develop into national ones, weakening their tendency for separation. Religion and the political system are the reasons why India for decades has remained chaotic but united.

Currently, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expanding its influence nationwide. It controls 17 states out of 29, either independently or in the form of a coalition government. In the election in March this year, the BJP won a sweeping victory in the most populous state Uttar Pradesh. The basis of the rise of the BJP is Hindu nationalism.

However, nationalism is a double-edged sword. In addition to the conservative nature of Hinduism and the stability of the system, nationalism has become an obstacle for India to get rid of the constraints of religion and tradition and realize modernity.

Today, the Indian-style stability that is trapped in the contradiction between tradition and modernity and between secularism and religion has become an important starting point for the outside world to understand Modi’s reforms. This Indian-style stability is also embedded in India’s China policy and the Indians’ understanding of China’s rise.

Therefore, dividing India may not be an appropriate strategic option. This may only consolidate the foundation of national awareness that India is built on – religious nationalism.

The author is a senior editor with People’s Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. [email protected]

Posted in: ASIAN REVIEW

India’s Delhi Elections Shows The People Have Chosen The BJP: Pro PM Modi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S NDTV)

NEW DELHI: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. “BJP headed for a big victory”, predicted Yogendra Yadav
  2. Result reflects people’s anger with Delhi government: Yogendra Yadav
  3. His party Swaraj India also contested MCD polls

Delhi has made its preference for the BJP abundantly clear, Yogendra Yadav, the founder of Swaraj India, said today, predicting, before 9 am, “the BJP is headed for a big victory” in local elections. The result, said Mr Yadav, reflects the people’s anger with the government that is headed by Arvind Kejriwal – the men were part of the same Aam Aadmi Party till two years ago when Mr Yadav and another senior AAP leader Prashant Bhushan were evicted after taking on Mr Kejriwal.

The ballooning of the BJP in this election for three local corporations, Mr Yadav said, owes everything to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  “People have ended up rejecting the CM (Chief Minister) and electing the PM,” he commented on NDTV.

Mr Yadav said his own Swaraj India does not expect much today. “This is a starting point, this is not our election to gain big seats, it was a foundational election,” he claimed.

Even before the counting of results began, Mr Kejriwal repeated electronic voting machines or EVMs for being rigged, a claim he first made when his party failed to win Punjab in February’s election, defying a massive campaign fronted by him and the forecast of exit polls.

Demonetisation Be Damned! The Indian Rupee Is On A Tear

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF QUARTZ INDIA)

LOOK AT IT FLY

Demonetisation be damned! The Indian rupee is on a tear

March 17, 2017 Quartz India

It’s been a great week for the Indian rupee.

On March 16, at Rs65.41 per US dollar, the currency hit a one-year high against the greenback.

Much of the strengthening has to do with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) recent electoral wins in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhandand solid performances in two other states. The strong showing reflects just how well the party is positioned to sweep the next general elections in 2019 and hand Narendra Modi a second term as prime minister. Some of that magic is rubbing off on the markets.

“Since the start of the week, equity markets and the Indian rupee have rallied sharply in response to the strong performance of the main ruling party in recent state elections,” DBS Bank said in a March 16 report.

So far, the Indian currency has been the third-best performing in Asia in 2017. The rupee has gained 3.4% this year against the US dollar, only trailing the South Korean won and the Taiwanese Dollar.

Meanwhile, the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike on March 15—only the third since the economic crisis of 2008—hit the dollar. When the US dollar falls, capital outflows from emerging markets are restricted, thus strengthening local currencies like the Indian rupee.

The rupee’s strengthening comes after a free fall triggered by Modi’s move to demonetise 86% of the currency notes (by value) in November 2016. Initially it had been estimated that the currency ban would dent the GDP and take a toll on the economy.

In January, a Reuters poll of some 30 foreign exchange strategists had estimated that the Indian currency could see a record fall this year because of the currency ban. But India’s Central Statistical Office’s estimates show that the economy grew at 7% during the October-December 2016 quarter, and the rupee is holding strong.

One reason for the rupee’s surge is also that the macro-economic factors that influence a currency—inflation and current account deficit (CAD)—are looking good for India at the moment. While inflation is being restricted in its safe zone of sub 6%, India’s CAD (the excess of imports over exports) has also been falling.

What next

A strong rupee is good news for corporate India. Many firms hold debt in foreign currencies, so a fall in the exchange rate means their interest outgo will reduce. “Many Indian entities including short-term trade finance people remain unhedged for their offshore liability. They (companies) are likely to have gained from the rupee’s sharp rise in the last few days. At least, interest liability has reduced, adding to balance sheet gains,” Jayesh Mehta, country treasurer at Bank of America told the Economic Times.

However, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) could soon step in to stabilise the rupee’s movement. Some reports suggest that the central bank already is buying dollars through public sector banks.

“The rupee appreciation, we feel is not sustainable and would revert to the range of Rs66-66.5 range, to begin with as the fundamentals do not warrant such unbridled enthusiasm,” a report by CARE Ratings said. “The outcome of the elections has been the main driving force. A strong rupee may not be good for our exports and the RBI is cognizant of the same.”

Why These Indian State Elections Matter To The Whole World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Why these Indian state elections matter to the whole world

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a roadshow in support of state assembly election party candidates in Varanasi on March 4.

New Delhi (CNN) India’s ruling political party has won a crucial state election, strengthening its ability to push through a development agenda in the world’s fastest growing major economy.

As vote counts trickled in from five state elections on Saturday, one result loomed large: that of central India’s Uttar Pradesh, home to more than 200 million people. The staggered five-week vote in that state alone marks the biggest election in the world in 2017.
Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or the BJP, looks poised to take about 75% of the 403 seats on offer in Uttar Pradesh.
The clear majority means the BJP will be able to form a state government without the help of other parties. In the previous Uttar Pradesh election, in 2012, the BJP won only 47 seats. 2017’s vote marks a significant endorsement for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the BJP, and the face of its campaign across state elections.
Four other, smaller states declared results on Saturday: Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, and Manipur. In Punjab, India’s storied but declining Congress Party emerged victorious. The BJP took Uttarakhand and was vying for dominance in close races in Goa and Manipur as results continued to be firmed up.
The state elections are crucial at national level because each state nominates a proportional number of representatives to India’s upper house of parliament.
While the BJP has a clear majority in the lower house — won in 2014’s national vote — it is underrepresented in the upper house, which has stymied some of its reform proposals.

A referendum on Modi

According to Shailesh Kumar of the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, the Uttar Pradesh result was a referendum on Modi.
“Voters largely support his policies. The win indicates that Modi’s efforts to tackle corruption were a far bigger draw than any negative consequence attributed to demonetization.”
“Demonetization” refers to a shock move in November when Modi recalled all 500 and 1,000 rupee currency notes.
The two high-value notes represented 86% of all cash in circulation in India. The surprise recall, and the subsequent release of new 500 and 2000 rupee notes, led to weeks of long queues at banks and ATMs across the country.
At the time, Modi said the recall was aimed at cracking down on corrupt hoarders of untaxed cash. A number of reputed global economists, included Harvard’s Lawrence Summers and Ken Rogoff criticized Modi’s move as excessive.
On the campaign in Uttar Pradesh last month, Modi refuted their criticisms by saying “hard work beats Harvard.”

Economy and tackling corruption still the focus for now

The results themselves are not a great surprise, but the margin of the BJPs win in Uttar Pradesh is greater than predicted.
However, even with the landslide win in Uttar Pradesh, Modi will still fall short of enough support in the parliament’s upper house, says Eurasia’s Kumar.
“Modi’s national focus will still be economic development with an added focus on corruption. Changes to economic policies will be through executive action and tweaks to regulations that do not require legislative approval.”
Modi is also expected to double down on his plans to improve infrastructure.
“He is now well positioned for 2019,” Kumar said, referring to the next national elections.

India shows faith in Modi — can he now deliver?

At a time of global anger against elected leaders, India’s state elections represent a vote of confidence for the country’s Prime Minister, as well as a much-needed boost of morale.
Modi had previously lost an important election in Bihar, a state which shares a similar voter base to Uttar Pradesh. Modi also suffered in recent months with the chaos and fallout from his demonetization move.
With a cutback in consumer spending and economic activity, economists had predicted a fall of as much as one percentage point in India’s growth rate.
However, in India’s most recent GDP figures released last month, quarterly growth had slowed only slightly to 7%, which meant India once again edged ahead of China as the world’s fastest growing economy.
While India is still seen as a developing nation, its size and speed of expansion underscore its massive importance to the global economy. According to the consulting group PwC, India accounts for about one-sixth of the world’s GDP growth.
With Modi now firmly ensconced in power until at least 2019, and perhaps further ahead, the focus will now shift to whether Modi can deliver on his promises of rapid development.