Archive for ‘Trinamool Congress’

20/05/2019

BJP preparing for return to power after surprise exit polls: sources

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is preparing to meet coalition partners to discuss a new government, two BJP sources said on Monday, after exit polls predicted a better-than-expected result for it in a general election.

The talks would most likely be held on Tuesday afternoon, the two sources in the BJP said. They declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak about the meeting.

Nalin Kohli, a spokesman for the BJP, declined to comment.

India’s seven-phase general election, billed as the world’s biggest democratic exercise, began on April 11 and ended on Sunday. Votes will be counted on Thursday and results are likely the same day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is projected to win anything between 339-365 seats in the 545-member lower house of parliament with the Congress-led opposition alliance getting only 77 to 108, an exit poll from India Today Axis showed on Sunday.

A party needs 272 seats to command a majority.

Indian stock markets and the rupee were sharply higher on expectation the business-friendly Modi would stay on at the helm.

The benchmark NSE share index was up 2.8%, its best single day since March 2016.

“I expect another 2-3% rally in the market in the next three to four days based on the cue,” said Samrat Dasgupta, a fund manager at Esquire Capital Investment Advisors.

Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha cast doubt on the exit polls, saying on Twitter he believed they were wrong.

“If the exit poll figures are true then my dog is a nuclear scientist,” Jha said, adding he expected the next prime minister would come from outside the BJP alliance.

Modi and his BJP faced criticism in the run-up to the election over unemployment, in particular for failing to provide opportunities to young people coming onto the job market, and for weak farm prices.

But Modi rallied his Hindu nationalist base and made national security a central theme of the campaign after a surge in tension with Pakistan in February following a suicide bomb attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir by Pakistan based militants.

Modi ordered air strikes on a suspected militant camp in Pakistan, which led to a surge in tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

But many Indians applauded Modi’s tough stand and he was able to attack the opposition for being soft on security.

Ram Madhav, a senior leader in the BJP, told Reuters partner ANI the results would be even better for the party than the exit polls were suggesting, particularly in West Bengal state.

West Bengal has the third largest number of members of parliament and has been hotly contested between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress, one of the most powerful parties in the coalition trying to unseat Modi.

“Bengal will surprise all the pollsters, we are hoping to do extremely well there,” Madhav said. “Everyone has seen the tremendous support for PM Modi and the BJP in Bengal.”

Source: Reuters

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19/05/2019

Lok Sabha election 2019: Vandalism, rigging reported from Bengal in last phase of polling

The seventh and the last phase of Lok Sabha election in West Bengal was hit by vandalism and rigging on Sunday amid polling in nine parliamentary constituencies with the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP locked in a bitter battle for power.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 19, 2019 11:19 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Lok Sabha elections,Lok Sabha polls,Lok Sabha Bengal
Kolkata Police personnel leaving for polling booth on the eve of final phase of Lok Shabha election from a Polling distribution center in Kolkata on Saturday . (ANI photo for representation)
Crude bombs were hurled at two places on Sunday in West Bengal, where polling is underway in nine constituencies in the last phase of polling of the Lok Sabha election amid reports of vandalism and malfunctioning EVMs.
Reports of bombs thrown in Gilaberia area in Deganga of North 24 Parganas district under Barasat constituency and in Raidighi of South 24 Parganas district under Mathurapur constituency came in as voters queued up in polling booths.
There were allegations that BJP supporters were beaten up and its camp office vandalised allegedly by TMC workers in Kultoli in Jaynagar Lok Sabha constituency as 14.17% polling was recorded till 9am from across the state.
Sayantan Basu, the BJP’s candidate for Basirhat constituency, alleged rigging in several areas and said police was doing nothing to stop it.
“People have queued up from as early as 4:30am to vote. But there are a lot of allegations of muscle flexing and rigging in areas such as Sandeshkhali, Hingalganj and Baduria. The inspector-in-charge of Shashan police station is virtually helping to rig in favour of the TMC,” Basu said.
“About 150 complaints were lodged with the EC (Election Commission) in the first three hours. I have not seen effective steps of the poll panel so far,” Basu, also the general secretary of the Bengal unit of the BJP, alleged.

Follow live updates here

Mala Roy, the TMC’s candidate in Kolkata South constituency, alleged that central force personnel did not allow her to enter booth number 72 in a polling station in Mudiali under her constituency. Roy said she went after learning that polling was stopped for 45 minutes. She said she will lodge a complaint with the poll watchdog.

Trinamool Congress’ Rajya Sabha member Sukhendu Sekhar Ray alleged Electronic Voting Machines in all the parliamentary constituencies were not working as he questioned the EC over the EVMs.

“Hundreds of EVMs found to be dysfunctional from the very start of poll in various booths of the 9 Parliamentary Constituencies Of West Bengal where elections are being held today,” Ray wrote on Facebook.

“Rs 3,173 crores sanctioned by the Government in April 2017 for purchase of 16 Lakh new EVMs. It seems that old and junk machines have been put on service in these 9 constituencies with the evil design to delay the process of voting,” he said.

“Because if the voters after waiting for hours together fail to cast their votes will leave the polling stations in disgust, which will affect percentage of polling severely. Shame Election Commission,” Ray said.

Widespread violence

Before this, the state witnessed numerous incidents of violence in the last six rounds of polling, which included vandalism, attacks on candidates, party workers, security officials and the media, and those of stopping voters from voting.

Sporadic incidents of booth capture, smashing and malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVM), intimidation of voters have also been reported from West Bengal in all these phases. Several workers of both the parties have also been killed in violence reported from across the state.

The past week also saw a high-pitched battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the TMC, during and in the immediate aftermath of BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata, which included the vandalising of a bust of 19th century Bengali icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in an educational institute.

This led to the Election Commission bringing forward the campaign period by 19 hours, a move that received all-round criticism from opposition leaders.

The eastern state is important for both the TMC and the BJP as 42 seats are on offer — the third highest after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra — which the ruling party at the Centre is eyeing to offset possible losses in northern India, and which are crucial for chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s national political ambitions.

Candidates, as well as party workers, of both the TMC and BJP have accused each other of violence throughout the six phases of polling in the state.

During the sixth phase on May 12, the BJP’s candidate from Ghatal constituency Bharati Ghosh alleged she was heckled at a polling booth and pushed by some women supporters of the Trinamool Congress. The former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, once considered close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, also said stones were thrown at her convoy and that crude bombs were hurled at her car.

Also read: Poll violence at several places in Bengal, BJP to meet EC in Delhi

In Barrackpore parliamentary constituency, the BJP’s candidate Arjun Singh alleged he was “attacked by goondas” of the Trinamool Congress in the fifth phase on May 6. On the same day, at Bongaon Lok Sabha seat, one TMC worker and one cop were injured in the violence.

In Hooghly district, which borders Kolkata, the rented accommodation of BJP’s women’s wing chief Locket Chatterjee, an actor-turned-politician who is also the party’s candidate from the Hooghly Lok Sabha constituency, was allegedly vandalised on May 6 by TMC workers.

A complaint was also filed against Chatterjee for allegedly threatening a presiding officer at a poll booth in Hooghly constituency during the same phase.

Sporadic clashes were reported in West Bengal, especially from Asansol, in the fourth phase of the general election. The BJP’s sitting member of Parliament and candidate Babul Supriyo’s car was vandalised in Asansol allegedly by stone-throwing Trinamool Congress supporters. The minister escaped unharmed with only the rear glass of the vehicle being damaged.

On April 18, the second phase of polling, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate and Raiganj sitting MP Mohammed Salim’s car was attacked when he went to a polling booth on Islampur. Reports of sporadic violence came from Darjeeling constituency as well.

Places such as Nalhati (Birbhum), Nanoor (Bolpur), Barabani (Asansol) and Suri (Birbhum) saw pitched battles between political workers involving knives and long sticks.

Crude bombs were hurled by unidentified men outside polling stations at Tiktikipara in Domkal, Murshidabad, and Kaliachawk in Malda South.

The Election Commission has deployed hundreds of security personnel forces to cover the booths in the battleground eastern state to ensure free and fair polling.

The votes will be counted on May 23.

Source: Hindustan Times

29/04/2019

Police break up clashes in West Bengal, Mumbai votes in fourth phase of massive poll

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Police broke up clashes between rival groups of voters in West Bengal on Monday as some of India’s richest families and Bollywood stars also cast their ballots in Mumbai during the fourth phase of a massive, staggered general election.

In West Bengal, a populous eastern state crucial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid, supporters of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) clashed with others from the regional Trinamool Congress, police said.

TV footage showed armed security forces chasing away people wielding sticks, although it was initially difficult to determine the scale of the clashes.

There were no immediate reports of any poll-related injuries in West Bengal, where at least one person was killed and three injured during the third phase of voting last week.

The BJP is in a direct, and sometimes bloody, fight in West Bengal with Trinamool, whose chief Mamata Banerjee is one of Modi’s biggest critics and a potential prime ministerial candidate.

More than 127 million people are eligible to vote in this round of the seven-phase election held across 71 seats in nine states. Modi’s coalition won more than 75 percent of the seats in the previous election in 2014.

Many of the constituencies are in Uttar Pradesh in the north and western India’s Maharashtra, where the financial capital Mumbai is located. Uttar Pradesh elects the most lawmakers, with Maharashtra next. Both states are ruled by the BJP and its allies.
However, political analysts say the BJP may struggle to repeat its strong showing this time due mainly to a jobs shortage and weak farm prices, issues upon which the main opposition Congress party has seized.

‘SOME PROGRESS’

First-time voter Ankita Bhavke, a college student in Mumbai, said she voted for economic development.

“I want the country to be at par with the best in the world,” she said. “There’s been some progress in the last five years.”

India’s financial markets were closed on Monday for the election.

Mumbai is home to the massive Hindi film industry, as well as Asia’s wealthiest man, Mukesh Ambani, and India’s richest banker, Uday Kotak.
Ambani, who heads Reliance Industries, and Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank, created a stir this month by publicly endorsing an opposition Congress party candidate from their upscale South Mumbai constituency.
Mumbai, which has six seats, is India’s wealthiest city but ageing and insufficient infrastructure is a major concern. Six people were killed last month when part of a pedestrian bridge collapsed, recalling memories of a 2017 rush-hour stampede that killed at least 22 people on a narrow pedestrian bridge.
The election, the world’s biggest democratic exercise with about 900 million voters, started on April 11 with Modi in the lead amid heightened tension with long-time enemy Pakistan.
The last phase of voting is on May 19, with results released four days later.
There are a total of 545 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Modi sent warplanes into Pakistan in late February in response to a suicide attack by an Islamist militant group based there that killed 40 Indian police in the disputed Kashmir region.
Modi has sought votes on his tough response towards militancy and in recent days has evoked the deadly Easter Sunday bombings in nearby Sri Lanka.
Maidul Islam, a professor of political science at Kolkata’s Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, said long queues outside polling stations would indicate whether Modi’s national security pitch was working.
“Whenever there is a BJP kind of a wave, you see a higher voter turnout,” he said.
Source: Reuters
18/04/2019

India election 2019: Can West Bengal’s female candidates win?

A supporter throws marigold petals at Mahua Moitra
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Women make up nearly half of India’s 900 million voters, but they are still poorly represented in the country’s law-making bodies. One political party is trying to correct the balance by nominating 41% female candidates. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey travelled to the state of West Bengal to see how they are faring.

On a bright sunny morning, as an open jeep decorated with bright yellow and orange flowers hurtles along the dirt track from one village to the next, women in colourful saris and men rush to greet Mahua Moitra.

They shower bright orange marigold petals on her, place garlands around her neck and many reach out to shake and kiss her hands. She waves at them, greeting them with her palms joined: “Give me your blessings.”

Young men and women whip out their smartphones to take photos and selfies. On the way, she’s offered coconut water and sweets.

Ms Moitra, who is contesting the general election as a candidate of the state’s governing Trinamool Congress Party (TMC), is campaigning in her constituency Krishnanagar.

Women offer sweets to Mahua Moitra
Image caption On the campaign trail, women offer coconut water and sweets
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Women throw marigold petals at Mahua Moitra
Image caption Supporters throw marigold petals at Mahua Moitra
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In one village, party workers tell her about an old man who’s too ill to come to meet her, so she walks to his home to greet him.

Her jeep is followed by dozens of bikes and their riders, all young men, chanting slogans like “Long live Trinamool Congress, Long live Mamata Banerjee.”

The loud, colourful procession is led by a small truck, fitted with loudspeakers, from which announcements asking people to vote for Ms Moitra are played on a loop.

With the election season well under way in India and political leaders criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country, addressing rallies, I’m travelling across the country to see if the high-decibel campaigns are addressing the real issues that actually affect millions of people. One of them is getting more women into parliament.

In India, only 11% of members of parliament are women, and in state assemblies it’s 9%. In a list of 193 countries this year, India was ranked 149th for female representation in parliament – below Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

A bill to reserve 33% of seats for women in parliament and regional assemblies has been pending since 1996, so the decision by the TMC – led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee – to give 41% of her party nominations to women has created a huge buzz.

Mahua Moitra during her road show
Image caption Ms Moitra quit her banker’s job in London to return to India and enter politics
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Ms Banerjee, who set up the TMC in 1998 after falling out with the Congress party, is a feisty politician who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012.

Her female candidates, says my BBC Bengali colleague Subhajyoti Ghosh, are an “interesting mix” of career politicians and first-timers. They include actors, doctors, a tribal activist and the 25-year-old widow of a recently-murdered politician.

Ms Moitra, the TMC’s national spokesperson and a member of the state assembly since 2016, is among 17 women who have made it to the party’s list of 42 general election nominees.

Presentational grey line

Read more from Geeta Pandey

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A former investment banker with JP Morgan, she gave up a well-paying job in London in 2009 to return to the heat and dust of Indian politics.

Her decision left her family aghast. Her parents, she told me, thought she was “insane”. Some party workers too had their doubts – “she’s a memsahib”, they said at the time, “she won’t survive”.

A poster of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal
Image caption Mamata Banerjee was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012
Presentational white spaceBut she has survived – and thrived. In 2016, she won the Karimpur assembly seat that no non-Left party had won since 1972 and has now set her eyes on the national parliament.

She’s agreed to let me follow her on the campaign trail, so for two days I’ve been a “fly on the wall” – standing behind her in her jeep, travelling in her car, watching her strategise with party workers, aides and confidants.

The previous evening, I had watched her be the chief guest at a college cricket match and address a gathering at the local market in Plassey.

A four-hour drive from Kolkata, Plassey is the site of the famous 1757 battle between the British East India Company and the local ruler supported by the French.

Ms Moitra takes her spot to speak and clearly takes aim at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as she talks about a deadly suicide attack in Kashmir and India’s subsequent air raid in Pakistan.

The bike riders
Image caption Her jeep is followed by dozens of supporters on bikes
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Women shaking hands
Image caption Many women reach out to shake hands with Ms Moitra

“What’s the point of saying you killed all those terrorists in Pakistan? It’s not important who you killed in Pakistan or how many. What’s important is you failed to protect our soldiers.”

She talks about how the government has failed to create jobs and accuses the BJP of trying to divide Hindus and Muslims.

“You have taken away our livelihoods and you’re trying to teach us about [the Hindu god] Ram and [Muslim saint] Rahim? I don’t have to write my religion on my forehead,” she declares to loud claps from her supporters.

Elections in the past were to change the government, she says, but this election is to save the constitution of India. “It is no ordinary vote.”

Her main rival is the BJP’s Kalyan Chaubey, a former footballer who played in goal for India. So drawing a football analogy, she declares: “I’m an A-league centre-forward player, stop my goal if you can. I am here to win.”

Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, a founder member of the TMC and two-term MP, says to nominate so many women is part of a “continuous process” followed by Mamata Banerjee because “you can’t develop a society without uplifting the status of its women”.

In the last general election in 2014, she points out that the party nominated 33% women and 12 of their 34 MPs in the outgoing lower house were women.

Ms Banerjee, she says, believes that gender sensitive laws will come only if more women are in power.

At a campaign rally that Dr Ghosh Dastidar addresses in Kumhra Kashipur village in her constituency Barasat, women are seated in the front rows.

Their opinion though is divided over whether having more women in parliament will actually benefit other women.

Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar being welcomed in her constituency
Image caption Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar is among the founder members of the TMC and a two-term MP
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Supriya Biswas says it’s easier if their MP is a woman because then it’s easier to approach her. “For, who can understand a woman better than a woman?”

Archana Mallick and Meena Mouli, who live just across from the rally ground, point to the broken roads near their homes and complain about poor medical facilities in their village. They say that the candidate’s gender is “inconsequential” and what’s important is “who works for our benefit”.

Studies, however, show that female representatives bring economic growth to their constituencies because they are more concerned than men about issues such as water supply, electricity, road connectivity and health facilities.

Saswati Ghosh, professor of economics at Kolkata’s City College, says that politics in India is “still very patriarchal” and it’s “absolutely necessary” to elect more women MPs.

“It is important to have more women in lawmaking bodies because I think after a certain number, you’ll reach the threshold level and that will lead to change. I don’t know if 33% is the magic number that will change the quality of discourse, maybe 25% can do the trick?”

Archana Mallick and Meena Mouli say a candidate's gender is "inconsequential"
Image caption Archana Mallick and Meena Mouli say a candidate’s gender is “inconsequential”

Critics, however, question whether celebrities are the right candidates to bring about that change.

Prof Ghosh says actors and celebrities make for “winnable candidates” and that’s why all parties choose them even though sometimes they may not be the right candidates to reach that threshold.

But, she says that Ms Banerjee is a strong leader who’s regarded by many women as “a role model who inspires more women to come into politics”.

And that’s something that many Indians think the country sorely needs.

In their manifestos, the main opposition Congress party has promised to pass the women’s reservation bill, if elected to power. So has the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, although it had made similar promises in its last manifesto and did nothing about it.

By allotting 41% seats to women, Ms Banerjee has shown that one doesn’t need to set artificial quotas to elect more women.

Source: The BBC

12/03/2019

Two dead after Chinese navy plane crashes

  • No other injuries reported following accident on southern island of Hainan
  • Military is currently intensifying training for pilots as it looks to strengthen capabilities

Mobile phone footage believed to be taken from the crash site. Photo: Handout
Mobile phone footage believed to be taken from the crash site. Photo: Handout
A Chinese navy plane crashed in Hainan province on Tuesday killing two crew members, the military said.
A short statement said the crash happened during a training exercise over rural Ledong county in the southern island province.
No one else was reported to have been injured after the plane hit the ground and the cause of the incident is being investigated.
Footage that purported to be taken from the crash site started circulating on social media after the accident.
Footage apparently taken at the crash site. Photo: Handout
Footage apparently taken at the crash site. Photo: Handout

The PLA’s official statement did not specify the type plane that crashed, although unverified witness account online said it was a twin-seat Xian JH-7 “Flying Leopard”.

The JH-7, which entered service with the navy and air force in the 1990s, has been involved in a number of fatal accidents over the years.

The country’s worst military air accident in recent years happened in January 2018. At least 12 crew members died when a PLA Air Force plane, believed to be an electronic reconnaissance aircraft, crashed in Guizhou in the southwest of the country.

Between 2016 and 2017, there were at least four accidents involving the navy’s J-15 “Flying Sharks”, one of them resulting in the death of the pilot.

Military commentators have previously said that China’s drive to improve its combat readiness, which includes the building of new aircraft carriers and warplanes, has resulted in a serious shortage of qualified pilots.

To fill the vacancies the Chinese military has started a major recruitment drive and intensive training programme for pilot pilots.

One unverified report said the plane that crashed was a JH-7 “Flying Leopard”. Photo. Xinhua
One unverified report said the plane that crashed was a JH-7 “Flying Leopard”. Photo. Xinhua

Currently China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in service, which can carry a maximum of 24 J-15s as well as other aircraft.

Meanwhile, the new home-grown carrier Type 001A will soon be commissioned, which is designed to accommodate to carry eight more fighters.

In addition, construction is believed to have started on another carrier that will be able to carry heavier and more advanced warplanes.

Chinese navy veteran warns training, not hardware is key to military preparedness
According to figures from the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly the J-15 while 12 others were in training.
Most of the Chinese navy’s pilots have been redeployed from the air force, which is itself in need of more trained pilots.
This year the navy for the first time began a nation-wide programme to scout out potential pilots.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing legislative meeting in Beijing Feng Wei, a PLA pilot from the Western Theatre, said the military was currently intensifying its pilots’ training as increasing amounts of new equipment entered service.
“Personnel quality is the key to everything,” he added.
Source: SCMP
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