India: Anger in South over draft policy’s Hindi ideas

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

 

Anger in South over draft policy’s Hindi ideas

Although the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was muted in its response, the Tamil Nadu government maintained that the state will persist with a two-language formula – Tamil and English.

INDIA Updated: Jun 01, 2019 23:54 IST

MC Rajan
MC Rajan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Hindi imposition,three-language formula,languages in school
According to the draft National Education Policy that was made public by the new government, the three-language formula should be introduced at an earlier stage in schools.(Ministry of HRD/Twitter )

In Tamil Nadu, where language is an extremely sensitive issue and an old slogan, “English Ever, Hindi Never,” still holds resonance, the draft national policy on education has incensed political parties by calling for the adoption of a three-language formula in schools — Hindi, English and the local mother tongue in non-Hindi states.

Parties of every political shade — from the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to the Left and actor Kamal Haasan’s fledgeling Makkal Needhi Maiam — slammed the report, which they saw as a precursor to the imposition of Hindi. Pro-Tamil parties projected it as a Dravidian versus Aryan fight.

“The DMK will never allow imposition of Hindi. It will raise its voice in Parliament and outside and strive to stall it,” DMK’s newly elected Lok Sabha MP Kanimozhi Karunandhi said.

Although the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was muted in its response, the Tamil Nadu government maintained that the state will persist with a two-language formula – Tamil and English.

“Tamil Nadu will continue to have the two-language formula and there is no move to either change it or dilute it,” AIADMK veteran and education minister KA Sengottaiyan said.

According to the draft National Education Policy that was made public by the new government, the three-language formula should be introduced at an earlier stage in schools.

“Since children learn languages most quickly between 2-8 years, and multilingualism has great cognitive benefits for students, children will be immersed in three languages early on, from the foundational stage,” the policy said. Suggestions of Hindi’s domination like a reference to the 54% of Indians who speak Hindi didn’t go down well in Tamil Nadu.

“In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English.”

In response to the outcry in Tamil Nadu, a senior human resource development ministry official said: “If anyone has any difficulty, they should express (it). We take all views into account when the policy is taken to the cabinet. 30th June is the date before which they can give views on the policy.’’

Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar wrote in a Twitter post: “There is no intention of imposing any language on anybody, we want to promote all Indian languages. It’s a draft prepared by committee, which will be decided by govt after getting public feedback “

Linguistic politics has been a feature of Tamil sub-nationalism since 1938, when protests erupted against a move by then premier of the Madras Presidency, C Rajagopalachari, to make Hindi compulsory in schools. Two men who were arrested for participating in the protests, Natarajan and Thalamuthu, and died in police custody were deified as martyrs to the cause of Tamil.

Rajagopalachari, known as Rajaji, himself became a convert and opposed the imposition of Hindi.

Massive protests erupted against Hindi again in 1965 and pro-Tamil activists committed suicide by self immolation and consuming poison. And riding on this wave of protests, the DMK rose to power in the 1967 assembly elections. No national political party has since emerged as an alternative to the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu.

Even now, the slogans of those days, “English Ever, Hindi Never”, “Let the body go to the grave, giving life to Tamil,” find occasional resonance.

Conscious of the political overtones of language pride in the Dravidian land, MNM founder and actor, Kamal Hassan, who has also acted in HIndi-language movies, made it clear that the language shouldn’t be imposed.

“Imposing a language is wrong. The option should be left to the people and facilities should be provided to learn any language {they want to}. Imposition would be counterproductive,” he told journalists.

Going a step further, Marumalarchi DMK (MDMK) leader Vaiko warned that Hindi imposition would lead to another language war.

“If the Centre is bent upon imposing Hindi upon us, another language war would erupt in Tamil Nadu as it happened in 1965,” he warned.

Incidentally, Tamil Nadu is the lone state in India where Navodaya Vidyalayas, residential schools meant for gifted students, haven’t been allowed on grounds that it would encourage the backdoor entry of Hindi. Both the DMK and AIADMK are on the same page on this issue.

Political parties in the state harp on late first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s assurance that Hindi would never be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states unless they accepted the language. They also invoke a similar assurance by late Prime Minister Lal Bhadur Shastri.

“Widely spoken in the country, Hindi is one among the keys to political power at the Centre. But instead of thrusting it, the BJP government should facilitate its learning,” reasoned C Lakshmanan, associate professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies.

First Published: Jun 01, 2019 23:54 IST

2 TMC legislators, 56 councillors in Bengal quit party to join BJP

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

 

2 TMC legislators, 56 councillors in Bengal quit party to join BJP

BJP leader Mukul Roy’s legislator son, Subhrangshu Roy, was among the three legislators who crossed over. TMC’s Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and CPM’s Debendra Nath Roy were two others.

INDIA Updated: May 29, 2019 00:17 IST

HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Kolkata
TMC,BJP,Bengal BJP
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally in Hooghly last month that 40 MLAs from the TMC would join the BJP after the elections. (RAJ K Raj/ HT Photo)

A mass defection of elected representatives from West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took place five days after the results of the Lok Sabha elections were declared, with two MLAs, 56 municipal councillors and three rural body representatives switching camps. A Left legislator, too, joined the BJP in the same event.

The BJP won 18 and the Trinamool 22 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won two and the TMC, 34, in 2014.

BJP leader Mukul Roy’s legislator son, Subhrangshu Roy, was among the three legislators who crossed over. TMC’s Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and CPM’s Debendra Nath Roy were two others.

With most of the councillors switching their political affiliation, three municipalities — Kanchrapara, Halishahar, and Naihati — will be now be controlled by the BJP. Currently, TMC controls these urban bodies.

The party has also gained the support of the majority of the corporators at Bhatpara municipality, where a no-confidence motion will be brought in soon, BJP MP Arjun Singh said.

Until now, not a single civic body was under the control of the BJP.

“People are fleeing the TMC to join the BJP. Many more will join in the coming weeks,” Mukul Roy said at a press conference at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. A BJP leader who asked not to be named claimed at least six more TMC MLAs would switch to the BJP next week.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally in Hooghly last month that 40 MLAs from the TMC would join the BJP after the elections.

“We want her [Mamata Banerjee] government to continue till 2021, but if it falls due to her doings, then we cannot help it,” BJP general secretary in charge of West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya said.

Of Tuesday’s defectors, while Subhranshu continued in TMC despite his father joining BJP in November 2017, Bhattacharya won in 2016 on a Congress ticket but joined the TMC last year.

“TMC leader Derek [O’Brien] said that not a single corporator would desert TMC for BJP. Today, there are more than 50. There are three MLAs. Just like we had a seven-phase elections, there will be a seven-phase joining from TMC in the coming months,” added Vijayvargiya.

Vijayvargiya said that he could not rule out the Mamata Banerjee government losing majority in the state assembly before the scheduled elections in 2021.

“We want to win Bengal through the 2021 assembly elections. Our best wishes are with Mamata Banerjee till then. But if her MLAs start deserting the party in such numbers, we should not be blamed [for early fall of the government].”

State food minister Jyoti Priya Mullick, who is also the party’s North 24-Parganas district unit chief, tried to put up a brave face. “We were once reduced to a party of one MP [in 2004], from where we rose to a 19-MP strong party [in 2009]. We are Mamata Banerjee’s army and under her leadership all damages will be reversed.”

Refuting allegations that the party was indulging in horse trading, BJP leader Roy, who was the convener of the party’s Bengal Lok Sabha election management committee, said, “If anybody indulged in horse trading, it is Mamata Banerjee. How else did the MLAs, who won on Congress tickets, become TMC’s?”

Elections in more than half of Bengal’s civic bodies are due in 2020.

A total of eight leaders from other parties joined the BJP in the run up to the LS polls in Bengal. They were Anupam Hazra and Saumitra Khan (MPs from TMC), TMC MLA Arjun Singh and TMC youth wing leaders Nishith Pramanik and Sankudeb Panda, CPI(M) MLA Khagen Murmu, Congress MLAs Dulal Bar and Sudip Mukherjee.

Of these, the party nominated Hazra, Khan, Singh, Pramanik and Murmu for the elections.

Saumitra Khan, Arjun Singh, Nishith Pramanik and Khagen Murmu won from Bishnupur, Barrackpore, Cooch Behar and Malda North LS constituencies respectively.

Three other leaders who had joined BJP from other parties in 2018 — Humanyun Kabir, Mafuza Khatun and Nilanjan Roy — were also given Lok Sabha tickets but they lost.

First Published: May 29, 2019 00:16 IST

India Elections: For Karnataka coalition, a year of living dangerously

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

 

Lok Sabha elections 2019: For Karnataka coalition, a year of living dangerously

The alliance was forged in the confusion that surrounded the results of last year’s state elections.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 23, 2019 07:51 IST

Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka legislature,Lok Sabha elections,Lok Sabha elections 2019
The BJP had come closest to a majority, winning 104 of the 224 seats to emerge as the largest single party in the assembly.(HT Photo)

Exactly a year ago to the day, leaders of opposition parties from across the country sat on a platform in front of the majestic Vidhana Soudha , the seat of the Karnataka legislature, in a show of solidarity to mark the swearing-in of a new coalition government in the state.

Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD (S), and deputy chief minister G Parameshwara of the Congress took the oaths of office and secrecy that day following days of intrigue over government formation.

The alliance was forged in the confusion that surrounded the results of last year’s state elections. The BJP had come closest to a majority, winning 104 of the 224 seats to emerge as the largest single party in the assembly. The Congress had been reduced from a majority to 80 seats, after providing the first government in over two decades to complete a full term in Karnataka. With the support of the 37 MLAs of the JD(S), and the lone Bahujan Samaj Party legislator, the coalition cobbled together a majority of 118.

And although it began with promise, the coalition has spent a tenuous year in power, fretful about legislators switching allegiance to the BJP and bickering among themselves.

Matters reached a head in January when the coalition appeared to be teetering on the brink after four Congress legislators went missing. The four rebels had been expected to defect to the BJP; only one, Umesh Jadhav, eventually did so. Another MLA, Ramesh Jarkiholi, has stated publicly that he would quit the party at a suitable time.

For complete coverage of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 Click here: https://www.hindustantimes.com/lok-sabha-elections/

These issues have continued unabated, as was seen again on Wednesday. JD(S) state president AH Vishwanath, a long-time foe of former Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah, once again rebuked him for failing in his duty as the chief of the coalition’s coordination committee.

“Siddaramaiah, as chief of the coordination committee, should ensure we work together and also draw up a common minimum programme. However, there are no such guidelines for this government,” Vishwanath said.

One key factor in these internecine quarrels has been the overhanging shadow of the Siddaramaiah government. And Siddaramaiah’s influence over the government has been such that even Congress leaders have lashed out at him. On Monday, Congress MLA Roshan Baig accused Siddaramaiah of being arrogant.

The Lok Sabha seat division and subsequent election campaign, too, turned into a flash point as first the parties took a long time on settling on a seat-sharing formula. The Mandya Lok Sabha seat became the focal point for dissenting leaders from both sides. Independent candidate Sumalatha, wife of the late film star and former union minister MH Ambareesh, received the tacit backing of Congress leaders from the constituency. As a result, what had once seemed to be a cakewalk for Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil turned into one of the most bitterly fought contests. These infractions from the Congress were serious enough for party president Rahul Gandhi to instruct state leaders at a meeting in New Delhi on Sunday to make sure the coalition did not collapse. Privately, several leaders of the coalition admitted to HT that the arrangement was fraying fast, with both parties daring the other to pull the plug.

“The alliance was not formed to provide good governance, it was formed to show the country that we can work in a coalition. If we cannot hold on to a coalition with one party, how will we convince others nationally that they can forge a large front with us,” a senior Congress minister in the state government said.

According to the minister, it was apparent to the party that its vote base in the southern old Mysuru region was being affected by the alliance. “Politically there has been little benefit for us from this at the state level. In fact, our association with this government is hurting our image,” the minister said.

These fundamental differences have made the BJP sense that a collapse of the government may be around the corner. On Wednesday, Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda predicted that the government would fall by the evening of Thursday, when the results of the Lok Sabha elections will be declared .

First Published: May 23, 2019 06:54 IST

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Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party just swept India’s elections

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S ‘VOX’ NEWS)

 

Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party just swept India’s elections

It was a stunning victory for Hindu nationalism.

A supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wearing a mask of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dances as he celebrates on the vote results day for India’s general election in Bangalore on May 23, 2019.
 Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Image

The world’s largest democratic elections have concluded — and India’s pro-Hindu nationalist prime minister and his party are on pace to win by a landslide.

The early results from India’s weeks-long general election show a clear victory for incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which has so far won 300 of a total of 543 seats in parliament. The BJP seems to have trounced its main rival, the Congress Party, led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a famous political dynasty.

Modi and the BJP swept into power in the 2014 elections with a majority win, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in 30 years, promising to clean up the pervasive corruption plaguing the country and improve the economy.

But once he came into office, Modi began pushing a strident form of Hindu nationalism that inflamed tensions with many of the country’s minorities, including India’s sizable Muslim population.

Media reports have noted a dramatic rise in hate crimes during the five years Modi has been in power. Vigilante groups have sprung up around the country to protect cows, which are sacred to Hindus. A report by Human Rights Watch found that at least 44 people were killedbetween May 2015 and December 2018, most of them Muslims accused of storing beef or transporting cows for slaughter. Oftentimes, the guilty were not punished, and hate crimes were encouraged by speeches from senior BJP leaders. In May 2017, the Modi government banned the sale and purchase of cows for slaughter.

Meanwhile, Modi’s grand economic promises have not been met — unemployment in the country is now the highest it’s been in 45 years, and there are growing concerns of an economic slowdown.

So when the 2019 election rolled around, Modi decided to lean into his nationalist platform, which served to divert attention from the country’s more pressing problems. And now that the results are in, it’s clear his gamble paid off.

Modi’s economic record was his biggest liability in this election — but he clearly managed to overcome it

When Modi won in the 2014 election, his party defeated the Congress Party-led government by winning 282 seats. The Congress Party, routed at the polls, managed to win only 44 seats.

Modi’s sweep in the 2014 elections was based on a platform of development. His slogan was “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,” or “inclusive growth through collective effort.” He promised to wipe out corruption, improve infrastructure, and boost the economy. For a citizenry and businesses tired of rampant corruption, Modi’s slogan offered a hopeful change.

But those promises have not materialized. Unemployment reportedly grew to 7.2 percent in February. And a leaked government report on unemployment revealed that the numbers were the highest in 45 years.

Some of Modi’s economic policies have also gone horribly wrong. In 2016, he introduced demonetization — in a surprise move, he pulled all 500- and 1,000-rupee currency notes out of circulation. He claimed it would get rid of corruption, as it would flush out unaccounted cash that had not been taxed.

He also claimed that the move would check the circulation of fake currency that was being used to fund terrorist activities in IndiaBut experts say it’s had no effect on this type of money. Instead, small businesses were severely hit.

There are other problems, too: Farmers in India have been distressed for years as costs have gone up several times while their incomes have stagnated or even declined. In fact, suicides by farmers because of their debt are depressingly common. Farmers played a big role in helping Modi sweep to power in 2014, as he’d promised to double their incomes.

But that hasn’t happened, either. The BJP government announced it would provide cash support of 6,000 rupees (about $86.22) for individual farmers in its February budget, one of a raft of policies aimed at securing the farmer vote before the election. Yet there was no guarantee that last-minute gambit would work, as farmers want more lasting solutions, including better prices for their crops — something Modi also promised in the last election.

Modi played to voters’ nationalist sentiments to distract from the country’s problems

When he released this year’s election manifesto, Modi announced a new slogan: “Nationalism is our inspiration.” It was a stark contrast to his previous economy-focused slogan and a clear signal of the kind of campaign he planned to run.

And sure enough, as political scientist Ashutosh Varshney, whose research focuses on India, explained in an email, Modi and his party campaigned on a “plank of nationalism and national security” rather than on their governance record.

In his campaign speeches, Modi used divisive language. At a public rally, he accused Congress of committing the “sin of defaming our more than 5,000-years-old [Hindu] culture.” And in keeping with the Hindu nationalist ideology of India’s glorious past, he promised a “new India,” and a return to its “glorious past.”

A recent conflict with neighboring Pakistan may have also helped him in this regard. In February, a group of militants launched an attack in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir, killing dozens of soldiers. As anger mounted in India in the wake of the attack, Modi promised forceful retaliation.

His government later claimed to have struck a major terrorist training camp located in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir and killed “a very large number” of militants in response. Modi’s approval rating surged to 63 percent on March 7 after this action, up from a dismal 32 percent on January 1.

“National security was one of the loudest themes of the campaign,” Varshney said. The message that Modi had “hit back [against Pakistan] strongly, was decisive, and had taught the enemy a lesson worked well.”

It also helped that Modi’s main opponent, Rahul Gandhi, failed to convince voters to support him over Modi.

Gandhi comes from a famous political dynasty: His grandmother, Indira Gandhi, was India’s first female prime minister, and his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first prime minister following the end of British rule. His father, Rajeev Gandhi, was also prime minister of India. Both his grandmother and his father were killed violently while still in office.

In this election, Rahul Gandhi promised a “final assault on poverty.” He said that if elected, his government would provide a minimum income for the poor and waive farmers’ debts. He also promised to increase the education budget, and, in an attempt to woo women voters, said he would reserve 33 percent of government jobs for women.

However, the Congress Party has come to be perceived as one that favors the Gandhi family — Rahul is the fourth generation to lead the party — over the country.

And Modi has used this to his advantage, taking repeated swipes at “dynasty politics” and speaking about the costs India suffered as a result of one family’s “desire of power.” He specifically pointed to the 21 months of emergency in 1975, during which then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s opponents were imprisoned, the press was censored, and civil liberties were curbed.

For many Hindus, the Congress Party was also seen as a party that “appeased” minorities for political gains, an issue that resonated strongly with Modi supporters. In what was seen as a clear attempt to counteract this perception, Gandhi and his sister Priyanka, who campaigned alongside him, were often seen frequenting Hindu temples.

But it seems that wasn’t enough to overcome the seductive power of Modi’s nationalism.

The new government will now have to address the growing economic crisis.

Modi’s party may be victorious, but that doesn’t mean its troubles are now over.

Recent media reports have pointed to worrying signs of an economic slowdown. The BBC reports that economic growth has shown a decline, and sales of cars and SUVs are at a seven-year low. Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank, told the BBC that the slowdown is “much more serious” than he initially believed.

Another big challenge facing the new government is providing jobs to an increasing number of young Indians. Some 84 million young voters became eligible to vote this year. Additional employment opportunities are urgently needed, but the unemployment data is not promising.

A recently leaked report based on official government survey data revealed that unemployment hit a 45-year high of 6.1 percent in 2017. A 2018 International Labour Organization (ILO) report also showed that the number of unemployed people in India is projected at 18.9 million by 2019.

Even more concerning, though, is whether Modi will continue to try to distract from the country’s economic troubles with even more overt appeals to Hindu nationalism.

Experts such as Varshney told me that if Modi comes back with a strong mandate from voters, a Hindu nation is almost certain, in practice if not constitutionally. This means that India’s rich and diverse culture — as well as its very identity — may be under threat.

Kalpana Jain worked for many years at India’s leading national daily, the Times of India, and was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 2009.

For more on India’s 2019 elections, listen to this episode of Today Explained, Vox’s daily news podcast.

India: At Bengal rally, PM Modi stings Mamata with an offer of a drawing

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

 

At Bengal rally, PM Modi stings Mamata with an offer of a drawing

Both the BJP and Trinamool have blamed each other for the violence at Amit Shah’s roadshow on Tuesday evening. A statue of renowned Bengal reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, was destroyed and a college named after him ransacked in the violence.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 15, 2019 19:05 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
At a rally in Basirhat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee appeared to have lost her mental balance when she claimed that she did not consider Modi as India’s Prime Minister.(ANI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday stepped up his party’s attacks on Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a rally in Bengal’s Basirhat, accusing Trinamool Congress of letting its goons loose because the party was scared of its defeat in the national elections.

“The BJP wave in Bengal has scared Didi and look to what level she has stooped,” PM Modi said, blaming her party for the violence at his party president Amit Shah’s Kolkata roadshow. A statue of renowned Bengal reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, was destroyed and a college named after him ransacked in last evening’s violence, which the BJP and Trinamool leaders have angrily blamed on each other.

“Mamata Banerjee is high on power and wants to strangle democracy… Mamata Didi had declared publicly two days ago that she will avenge every inch of space that she loses to the BJP…. She has fulfilled her agenda within 24 hours,” he said.

Also read:Amit Shah blames Mamata for roadshow violence, holds up 3 photos as proof

PM Modi also panned the chief minister for the arrest of a youth BJP leader in Bengal for sharing Mamata Banerjee’s morphed photo on social media. Her arrest has already been criticised by the BJP which has sought to use the incident to project Mamata Banerjee as a dictator.

WATCH: Mamata meme row: BJP worker alleges delayed release, forced apology

Mamata meme row: BJP worker alleges delayed release, forced apology
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) youth wing worker Priyanka Sharma on Wednesday alleged that the West Bengal government delayed her release. She added that the police didn’t allow her to meet her advocate, family and made her sign an apology.
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The prime minister recalled Mamata Banerjee’s outburst at two students who asked her an inconvenient question at a televised interaction. Then he came up with an offer.

“You can draw my picture… make it as offensive as you want and after 23 May when I win, you can come over to gift it to me,” PM Modi said at the rally. Moments earlier, the prime minister had predicted his victory in the national elections and declared that Bengal would contribute a big share.

“I will accept the drawing and treasure it… I will not file an FIR against you,” PM Modi said.

Basirhat, which is due to vote on May 19 along with eight other Bengal Lok Sabha seats, had been a citadel of the communists for three decades before Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool breached it in 2009.

Communal violence had erupted in some parts of this constituency in July 2017 after a derogatory social media post on the Prophet Mohammad went viral. The violence was ultimately contained after a week but some of the fault lines have persisted.

The votes of the bitterly-fought seven-phase elections are due to be counted on May 23.

PM Modi, who had described Mamata Banerjee as someone who was afraid of her own shadow, said the chief minister appeared to have “crossed all limits and lost her mental balance” when she recently said that she did not consider Modi the Prime Minister.

“She is not ready to consider the Prime Minister of India as the PM… but she accepts the PM of Pakistan as Pak PM,” he said.

First Published: May 15, 2019 16:45 IST

India: BJP Leader Shot Dead By Militants In His Home

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

 

BJP leader shot dead by militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag

BJP leaders said that Ghulam Mohammed Mir was without any security which was withdrawn by the government recently.

INDIA Updated: May 05, 2019 09:25 IST

Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
breaking,death,crime'
Image for representation(ANI file photo)

Ahead of Monday’s final phase of polls for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, militants shot dead district vice president BJP in Anantnag district late Saturday night.

Ghulam Mohammed Mir,55, who had contested assembly elections on a BJP ticket from Anantnag was killed inside his house at Verinag.

BJP leaders said that Mir was without any security which was withdrawn by the government recently.

BJP state spokesman Altaf Thakur said that Mir was killed by militants inside his house on Saturday night. “He received several bullets and died on way to hospital.”

Thakur termed the killing of Mir barbaric and said despite threats from militants his security was withdrawn by the government. “He was under constant threat from militants, yet his security was taken back.”

Police spokesman said that unknown militants fired upon a member of the BJP Ghulam Mohammed Mir at Nowgam Verinag. “He was shifted to hospital in critical condition.”

This is the second attack on any political worker in South Kashmir. On Thursday militants shot and injured a civilian Abdul Rashid Bhat of Kuchmulla Tral. Bhat was a former member of a political party

Pulwama and Shopian districts will go for polls on Monday in the third phase. Due to security reasons, polls for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat is being held in three phases. Two phases had passed without any militant attack on any worker.

First Published: May 04, 2019 22:45 IST

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India: Hyderabad A Safe Haven For Terrorists, Says BJP’s Bandaru Dattatreya

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

 

Hyderabad a safe haven for terrorists, says BJP’s Bandaru Dattatreya

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) consider each other “friendly party” and have worked together in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections too. All the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana went to polls in a single phase on April 11.

INDIA Updated: Apr 22, 2019 12:01 IST

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BJP leader and Secunderabad MP, Bandaru Dattatreya, alleged that Hyderabad is a safe haven for Islamic terrorist activities (Bandaru Dattatreya/Twitter )

BJP leader and Secunderabad MP, Bandaru Dattatreya, alleged that Hyderabad is a safe haven for Islamic terrorist activities and that the police are not taking stern action because the K Chandrashekhar Rao-led TRS government is aligned with AIMIM.

“Recent investigations of NIA reveal that Hyderabad is a safe haven for Islamic terrorist activities. A large number of people are being recruited in Hyderabad,” said Dattatreya.

“TRS government is aligned with AIMIM that is why the police are sometimes unable to take stern action. I demand that the state government forms a special cell under a DG or IG rank official for the investigation of these activities,” the Secunderabad MP added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently claimed that TRS president and Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) may be the ‘driver of the car’ but the steering is actually controlled by AIMIM.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) consider each other “friendly party” and have worked together in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections too. All the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana went to polls in a single phase on April 11.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday carried out searches in three places in Hyderabad and at one place in Maharashtra’s Wardha district in connection with an ISIS module case. In 2016, NIA had filed a chargesheet in the case and had named three persons as accused.The agency nabbed four accused and recovered 13 mobile phones, 11 SIM cards, one iPad, two laptops, one external hard disk, six pen drives, 6 SD cards, three Kenwood Walkie Talkie sets and other incriminating material from their possession.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

First Published: Apr 22, 2019 10:55 IST

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