Archive for ‘Uttar Pradesh’

25/05/2019

At Cong’s big meet after poll defeat, Rahul Gandhi’s next move is the focus

Rahul Gandhi, who had fronted the opposition campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has owned responsibility for the crushing defeat at the meeting.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 25, 2019 14:07 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, NewDelhi
Lok Sabah elections 2019,General elections 2019,Congress
Seated next to Rahul Gandhi as he shared his brief analysis of the election is UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi (Sanjeev Verma/ HT Photo)
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday is leading a review of his party’s devastating performance in the Lok Sabha elections at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, or CWC.
Rahul Gandhi, who had fronted the opposition campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has owned responsibility for the crushing defeat at the meeting. Seated next to Rahul Gandhi as he shared his brief analysis of the election is UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, former minister P Chidambaram and Congress’s leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was also present.
Television channels initially said Rahul Gandhi had offered to resign at the CWC which was rejected by the top panel but later put out a clarification. Three senior Congress including Uttar Pradesh unit chief Raj Babbar, HK Patil, who was tasked to oversee the Karnataka Congress campaign and Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik have resigned after the election debacle.
The Congress won just about 52 seats in the Lok Sabha in this round of national elections, a shade better than its worst performance ever, in the 2014 elections, when it ended up with 44 seats.
Congress leaders have indicated that the CWC could go for a deeper analysis of the election outcome that goes beyond the obvious. Some drastic action could also follow.
Senior Congress leaders assembled at the party’s Working Committee meeting in New Delhi.

For now, the Congress’s top priority is to get the party fighting fit in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand that will head to assembly elections later this year. Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are likely to be held anytime soon and Delhi will go to the polls in February next year.

Some new general secretaries and in-charges of states are also expected to be appointed soon.
Gandhi had made it clear at an unusually brief news conference after the poll verdict came on Thursday that the party was determined to fight back. “Have faith and we will work and sort this out in the time to come,” Gandhi said, his message to party workers and supporters. “Love never loses, and I am certain that we will emerge stronger and work better… love will guide us.

The Congress which did not get the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha in 2014 may not get it this time also. A party should get 10 per cent, or 55 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, to be entitled to the Leader of Opposition designation for its leader.

Rahul Gandhi has already taken responsibility for the party’s performance in the Lok Sabah elections but hasn’t elaborated on the next step yet.

Source: Hindustan Times

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21/05/2019

EVM allegations: India poll officials deny ‘vote fraud’

EVMsImage copyright AFP
Image caption More than 1.5 million e-voting machines will be used in the summer elections

India’s election is nearly over: voting began on 11 April, and the final ballot was cast on 19 May with results out on 23 May. Every day, the BBC will be bringing you all the latest updates on the twists and turns of the world’s largest democracy.

What happened?

India’s Election Commission has denied allegations that voting machines had been tampered with in parts of India.

India’s opposition parties are meeting the election watchdog on Tuesday to demand more transparency in counting of votes on 23 May (Thursday).

Opposition leaders said the EC had to ensure that there was no possibility of anybody manipulating the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which were used to record votes in the general election that concluded on Sunday.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur constituency, a candidate belonging to the opposition Bahujan Samaj Party held a protest outside a room where the machines have been stored ahead of the counting. The candidate alleged that attempts were being made to take out the machines from the storage room.

Local officials have said the allegations are baseless.

Electronic Voting Machine

The Supreme Court has ordered the EC to tally the results from five EVMs with VVPAT receipts in at least five polling stations in every assembly seat. A parliamentary constituency comprises several assembly seats.

But opposition parties say that the tally should done for the entire constituency in case of a mismatch.

“On VVPATs and the EVM tally, the EC is yet to come out with a procedure in case there is a mismatch. Even if there is one mismatch in the EVMs or VVPAT samples picked for counting, to maintain the integrity of the electoral process, all VVPATs in that Assembly segment must be counted. This is important to maintain integrity of the electoral process,” Mr Yechury said.

If this were to happen however, it would considerably slow down the counting process and declaration of results.

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PM Modi tweets tribute to former PM Rajiv Gandhi

What happened?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tweeted on the occasion of the death anniversary of former PM Rajiv Gandhi.

Mr Modi has repeatedly attacked Mr Gandhi on the campaign trail and his slurs have prompted widespread criticism.

He called Mr Gandhi the “number one corrupt man in the country” at a rally earlier this month in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. A few days later, he went after Mr Gandhi again – accusing him of using a naval aircraft carrier to take him and his family to an island for a “family holiday”.

Mr Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber in 1991 during a campaign rally.

Why does this matter?

Mr Modi’s tweet marking Mr Gandhi’s death anniversary is customary – but it has garnered attention because he attacked the former prime minister repeatedly while campaigning and didn’t back down when challenged.

Many were taken aback by Mr Modi’s criticism of Mr Gandhi. It elicited condemnation not just from the main opposition Congress party, but other regional opposition leaders, political commentators and even former political opponents of Mr Gandhi.

Analysts said the comments were a sign of “desperation” and showed that Mr Modi “knew” his party was not going to perform as well as expected in the election.

Now that campaigning is over and the election is nearly at an end, Mr Modi seems to be abandoning acerbic rhetoric for something more conciliatory.

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On Monday, opposition rejects exit poll results

BJP supportersImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

What happened?

Opposition leaders have dismissed the exit polls, which suggest that the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is on course to win the general election.

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

18/05/2019

Narendra Modi attends first press conference but takes no questions

Mr Modi said the Congress should be ashamed of the 1984 anti-Sikh riotsImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Mr Modi said he will not forgive Pragya Thakur

India is in full election mode: voting began on 11 April, and the final ballot will be cast on 19 May with results out on 23 May. Every day, the BBC will be bringing you all the latest updates on the twists and turns of the world’s largest democracy.

What happened?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attended first ever press conference at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) head office in Delhi – days before Indians take part in the final stage of voting.

But journalists were left disappointed as he did not take any questions, and instead largely talked about his government’s achievements.

“I have come to thank the country for blessing me. I have seen a lot of ups and downs but the country stayed with me,” he said.

Mr Modi also spoke of his pride in India’s democratic process and said he needs to show the world “how diverse our democracy is”.

Mr Modi was seated next to party president Amit Shah. He said he would not take questions because the press conference was Mr Shah’s.

Earlier, the prime minister said he would “never be able to forgive” those who have “insulted” Mahatma Gandhi.

Mr Modi’s statement comes after controversial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Pragya Thakur called Nathuram Godse – the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi – a “patriot”.

Ms Thakur apologised after several leaders, including those from the BJP, criticised her.

“Such statements should be condemned. There is no place in society for such comments. She [Ms Thakur] may have apologised, but I will never be able to forgive her,” he said in an interview to News24 TV channel.

Why does this matter?

This is the first time Mr Modi has attended a press conference as prime minister while in India. Most of his press conferences have been on state visits to other countries and often involved little more than reading out an official statement.

He has given some one-on-one interviews to Indian media, though critics say that these have largely been tightly controlled and given to journalists seen as sympathetic to him. However in recent weeks he has given a flurry of interviews to several leading publications and television channels, including those that have been critical of him.

But if people were expecting a complete about-turn in his media policy this time, they would have been disappointed.

This caused some frustration among journalists on Twitter.

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Also on Friday, a BJP candidate apologised for calling Gandhi’s killer a patriot

Hindu activist Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur leaving for Simhastha in Ujjain under heavy police protection on May 18, 2016 in Bhopal, India.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

What is happening?

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Pragya Thakur has apologised after calling Nathuram Godse – the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi – a “patriot”.

Several political parties had criticised her comment and her own party demanded that she should publicly apologise.

“It was my personal opinion. My intention was not to hurt anyone’s sentiments. If I’ve hurt anyone, I do apologise. What Gandhi Ji has done for the country cannot be forgotten. My statement has been twisted by the media,” Ms Thakur said on Thursday evening.

She made the comment after actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan said Godse was India’s first Hindu “extremist” earlier this week.

Why does this matter?

The BJP as well as opposition parties immediately reacted to her comment, which also caused a storm on social media.

BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said that the party does not agree with her statement, and asked her to publicly apologise.

The main opposition Congress party demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that the BJP should take “punitive action” against Ms Thakur.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that “insulting martyrs is in the BJP DNA” and that the “soul of the nation” has been hurt by her remarks.

Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi also lashed out at the BJP.

Political analysts also say that her comments have put the BJP in a tough spot, since Mr Modi and BJP president Amit Shah defended their decision to field her as a candidate despite terror charges against her.

Her candidature caused outrage as she is an accused of involvement in a blast that killed seven people and injured 100 others. Ms Thakur denies all charges against her.

However, Ms Thakur’s comments do reflect the views of some right-wing Hindus who support the BJP and have long seen Gandhi as too moderate.

Godse, who shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range on 30 January 1948, was also an activist with nationalist right-wing groups, including those closely associated with the BJP.

Hindu hardliners in India accuse Gandhi of having betrayed Hindus by being too pro-Muslim, and even for the division of India and the bloodshed that marked Partition, which saw India and Pakistan created after independence from Britain in 1947.

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On Thursday, a ruling party candidate called Gandhi’s killer a patriot

What happened?

Controversial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Pragya Thakur made headlines again. This time it was for calling Nathuram Godse – the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi – a “patriot”.

Her comment was made in response to a statement by southern actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan who had said India’s first “extremist” was a Hindu”, referring to Godse.

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His statement, made on Monday, was heavily criticised by the BJP, which accused him of indulging in “divisive politics” and filed a complaint against him with the Election Commission of India.

Why does this matter?

The BJP responded by criticising Ms Thakur and asking her to publicly apologise.

“BJP does not agree with this statement, we condemn it. Party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement,” party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao told reporters.

Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,1869 - 1948), Indian nationalist and spiritual leader, leading the Salt March in protest against the government monopoly on salt production.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

Ms Thakur has seen her fair share of controversy. Her candidature caused outrage as she is an accused of involvement in a blast that killed seven people and injured 100 others. On 18 April, she said that police officer Hemant Karkare had died in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks because she had “cursed” him. She was then banned from campaigning for 72 hours as a result.

A team led by Mr Karkare had arrested her for questioning in connection with the Malegaon blast.

During her campaign, she also said she was “proud” of her part in the demolition of the 16th Century Babri mosque. In 1992, right-wing Hindu mobs razed the mosque to the ground, claiming it was built on the site of a temple destroyed by Muslim rulers. The site, which is in the city of Ayodhya, has been a religious flashpoint for Hindus and Muslims for decades.

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Campaigning ended in West Bengal a day before deadline

What happened?

The Election Commission (EC) told political parties to end their campaigning in West Bengal state, a day before the deadline in the wake of poll-related violence.

The campaign will end on Thursday at 10pm local time, and voting will be held on Sunday.

The decision comes after clashes broke out between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and protesters believed to be from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on Tuesday.

It happened during a roadshow of BJP chief Amit Shah. Several people were injured and vehicles were set on fire. A statue of renowned Bengali reformer Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was also vandalised in the clashes.

Both parties have accused each other of starting the violence.

Why does this matter?

Violence took place during BJP chief Amit Shah's rally in Kolkata on TuesdayImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Violence took place during BJP chief Amit Shah’s rally in Kolkata on Tuesday

The BJP welcomed the decision, saying it validated their argument that the state had “descended into anarchy” under the leadership of chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Ms Banerjee said that the move was “undemocratic” and “it had insulted the people of Bengal”.

“Tomorrow, [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi has two meetings in Bengal. When he finishes, the campaigning also ends… Instead of punishing Amit Shah, the Election Commission has given a gift to the BJP,” she said.

This photo taken on May 14, 2019 shows supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) facing off with Indian police next to torn down barricades during clashes between rival groups during a campaign rally event held by BJP president Amit Shah in KolkataImage copyright AFP
Image caption Several people were injured and vehicles were set on fire during the violence

Both parties are locked into a fierce election battle to win most out West Bengal’s 42 seats. Ms Banerjee has ambitions of becoming the prime minister in case a nationwide coalition of regional parties wins enough seats.

The state has also become crucial for the BJP as it’s trying to expand its reach in the eastern state. It won only two seats in the 2014 election.

The BJP performed well in northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in 2014, but this time it’s expected to suffer loses against a coalition of regional parties and the main opposition Congress.

So the party is trying to make up for the losses in West Bengal.

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On Wednesday, the TMC and the BJP accused each other of poll violence

West Bengal chief minister Mamata BanerjeeImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

What happened?

The war of words between West Bengal state chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intensified ahead of voting on Sunday.

The latest verbal duel comes after violence was reported during BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on Tuesday.

Clashes broke out between BJP supporters and protesters who were holding “Amit Shah go back” posters.

Some people suffered minor injuries and a few vehicles were set on fire.

The BJP said the protest was “orchestrated” and called it an “attempt to strangulate democracy”.

Why does this matter?

The eastern state has become politically crucial for the BJP as it has intensified campaigning in the past few days.

And that has sparked a feverish electoral battle between the BJP and Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC).

“What does Amit Shah think of himself? Is he above everything? Is he god that no one can protest against him?” Ms Banerjee said.

In reply, Mr Shah accused the TMC of not following democratic norms during elections.

“Have faith in the people of Bengal that they’d face the TMC goons,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold more rallies in the coming days, so one can expect more verbal fireworks from the two leaders.

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On Tuesday, the saga of the morphed Mamata meme continued

What happened?

India’s top court stepped in to release an activist belonging to India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was sent to prison for sharing a doctored image of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Priyanka Sharma was sentenced to two weeks in prison on 10 May after she shared a picture of Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra and her husband Nick Jonas at the Met Gala – but with Ms Banerjee’s head superimposed on to Chopra’s body.

Earlier the court had said Ms Sharma could be released only if she apologised to Ms Banerjee, but later waived this condition.

Why does this matter?

The battle for West Bengal in this general election has been absolutely bruising.

The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, has been campaigning hard for votes in the state. This has brought them toe-to-toe with the state’s feisty chief minister. The fact that voting for West Bengal’s 42 seats has been split across all nine phases of voting has meant that the battle has been long and drawn-out.

And with just one phase to go before voting finally ends, the gloves are well and truly off. The two parties have traded insults on the campaign stage, their workers have attacked each other, and the violence on the ground has intensified. And now the battle has spread to cyberspace as well.

The country’s finance minister Arun Jaitley jumped at news of Ms Sharma’s release to call Ms Banerjee a dictator.

Analysts say that this political row is so bitter because the BJP has clearly identified West Bengal as one of the states where they may be able to make gains this election. This becomes more important for the party in the context of their fight in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the most number of MPs (80) to parliament.

They are up against a powerful coalition of regional parties there, and many expect them to lose seats as a result.

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And PM Modi said Rahul Gandhi should be ashamed of 1984 riots

What happened?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that main opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi should be “ashamed of himself” over his colleague’s remark on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Mr Modi was replying to a controversial statement made by Sam Pitroda, who is a strategist of the Congress party.

In his reply to a question about the Congress’ role in the riots, Mr Pitroda had said “so what?”.

“I don’t think so, this is also another lie, and what about 1984? You speak about what you [Mr Modi] have done in five years. It [the riots] happened in 1984, so what?” he said.

Mr Gandhi said he was “ashamed” of Mr Pitroda’s statement, and asked him to apologise.

Mr Pitroda later said his statement was “twisted” and he did not mean to hurt sentiments.

But Mr Modi said the Congress chief “must apologise”.

“I was watching that naamdar [the dynast] told his guru that he should be ashamed of what he said. I want to ask naamdar, you pretended to scold your mentor for what? Because he exposed what was always in the Congress’s heart, and in the discussions of the naamdar family? Because he made public a family secret? Naamdar, it is you who should be ashamed,” Mr Modi said.

Why does this matter?

The controversy matters because it comes days ahead of voting for the 13 seats in the northern state of Punjab.

The BJP, which has formed a coalition with regional Shiromani Akali Dal, is locked in a bitter electoral battle with the ruling Congress in the state.

Sikhs are a majority in the state and the 1984 riots is still an emotional issue for many of them.

More than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in 1984 after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

They were angry at her decision to send the army into the Golden Temple – Sikhism’s holiest shrine – to flush out militants earlier in the year.

The killing of Mrs Gandhi, who belonged to the Congress, saw mobs attack and murder members of the Sikh community across the country.

And both parties appear to be trying to come across as pro-Sikh ahead of the vote on 19 May.

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On Sunday, Delhi voted but not enthusiastically

A voter in Delhi in the general electionImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Delhi’s voter turnout was lower than in 2014

What happened?

Sunday saw India’s capital Delhi vote along with several other states in the polls – the penultimate phase of the country’s mammoth general election.

Voters turned out to vote, but in fewer numbers than they did in 2014. The election commission said that around 60% of the capital’s registered voters had actually cast ballots, which was about a five percent drop from 2014.

Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh expressed disappointment, saying that the turnout did not match expectations.

Why does this matter?

The election commission is right to be disappointed – it had run a series of campaigns in the city, encouraging more people to vote.

But it was not as though polling in Delhi was an entirely smooth process. Some voters complained that their names were missing from electoral lists even though they had all the necessary documents. There were also reports that around 1,200 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) had malfunctioned across the city, delaying the polling process.

The fact that Delhi became a three-cornered contest after the main opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which controls the Delhi state assembly, failed to stitch up an alliance may also have put voters off. Many analysts believe that this failure will only split voters who were against prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and effectively hand them victory.

So they may have decided to just stay home, and not bother queuing up in the blistering heat – it touched 40C on Sunday.

Source: The BBC

15/05/2019

Priyanka Gandhi: Can Congress party’s ‘mythical weapon’ deliver?

Congress Party's Priyanka Gandhi campaigns on the road for for India National Congress on March 29, 2019 in Utter Pradesh, India.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

On Wednesday, Priyanka Gandhi is taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his home turf – by holding a road show in his constituency Varanasi. Ever since she formally joined politics in February, she has been on a whirlwind tour, campaigning mostly in Uttar Pradesh where Varanasi is located. But will her efforts make any difference to the fortunes of the Congress party in the general elections?

When Ms Gandhi, the charismatic sister of Congress party president Rahul Gandhi, walked up onto the stage at a rally in the town of Pratapgarh last week, she was greeted by shouts of “Priyanka Gandhi zindabad! [Long Live Priyanka Gandhi!]”. A massive garland of red roses was held up by local Congress leaders to frame her and a golden crown was placed on her head.

Ms Gandhi launched a direct attack on Mr Modi, accusing him of not fulfilling the promises he had made before the 2014 elections.

His government, she said, had failed to create jobs, his decision to scrap high denomination banknotes had broken the backs of poor people and small businesses, and she chided the prime minister for denying farmers their rights.

When the Congress is voted to power, she said, the job scheme for the poor would be extended, wages paid on time and high school education made free.

Supporters of Priyanka Gandhi
Image caption Ms Gandhi connects easily with people, especially women

The rally was held in a small ground in the town centre and it was a small crowd, but the audience was responsive, clapping and cheering as she spoke in flawless Hindi. She ended her speech by appealing to them to vote for the Congress candidate, to vote in the change.

Mithilesh Kumar Yadav, a 21-year-old student in the audience, told me that as a young man, that’s what he wanted.

“Priyanka Gandhi wants to bring change here. As a young man I want change. Mr Modi’s policies have affected people adversely,” he said, adding that “the prime minister doesn’t talk about issues that are important. He’s trying to divert attention from his unkept promises.”

Congress spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh told me that Ms Gandhi had been brought in to strengthen her brother’s hands, help energise the party rank and file and counter Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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India votes 2019

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Since taking the plunge into active politics, Ms Gandhi has hit the ground running. In the past three months, I too have travelled extensively in this bellwether state that elects 80 MPs, talking to Congress party supporters to understand why they clamour for the Gandhis, especially her.

At her rallies and road shows, I have met people who are enthused by her presence, her decision for a more active political role, but I didn’t meet a single person who said they were going to vote for the Congress because of her.

Ms Gandhi has spent hours campaigning in cars, trucks and even a boat, participated in dozens of road shows and addressed scores of rallies, grinning and waving at supporters, often reaching out to shake hands.

In February, when she made her first public appearance as a full-time politician in the state capital, Lucknow, along with her brother, thousands of supporters thronged the streets to greet them. Party workers and supporters were charged up and many told me that the Congress was now on course to win the elections and form the next government.

Similar scenes were repeated later in Amethi, Mr Gandhi’s constituency, and in towns and cities across northern India.

Congress Party Senior Leaders, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi clicked during a road show, in Amethi.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption The Gandhi siblings received a tumultuous welcome during their road show in Amethi

A natural politician, Ms Gandhi is extremely articulate in Hindi and English and connects easily with people, especially women. With her short hair and crisp cotton saris, she bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother, India’s tough and only female prime minister Indira Gandhi.

And even though she’s not running for parliament, there is obsessive media interest in everything she does – during her visit to a village of snake charmers in her mother’s constituency Rae Bareli, she’s photographed holding up snakes, and in central India, a sari-clad Priyanka Gandhi is seen scaling a fence to mingle with the crowd at a rally while her security men race to catch up with her.

Her visits to temples and shrines to woo the religious are streamed live on TV channels, her road shows get prime time, and her comments about PM Modi often make headlines. And increasingly, it’s her who’s taking on Mr Modi, countering his criticism of her family and his charge that the siblings are there not because of merit but their name.

Ms Gandhi is not exactly a newcomer to politics. For almost two decades now, she has managed campaigns for her brother and mother Sonia Gandhi, but been reluctant to take on a wider role.

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Read more from Geeta Pandey

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The 47-year-old mother-of-two has always been regarded as the more charismatic of the Gandhi siblings. And in recent years, as the Congress has suffered major electoral setbacks, the chorus for her to take on a larger role has been getting louder. In 2015, some party workers demonstrated outside the Congress headquarters in Delhi, holding placards that read, “Priyanka lao, Congress bachao [Bring Priyanka, Save Congress]”.

So when it was announced in January that she had been appointed as general secretary for the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, supporters celebrated by setting off fireworks and dancing outside the party office. She was described as the “Brahmastra” – a mythical celestial weapon of last resort deployed by Hindu deities to annihilate the enemy.

In a recent interview with a Hindi-language newspaper, Ms Gandhi explained the reasons why she finally said yes.

“Democracy, constitution and our institutions are under attack and it would have been cowardly not to take the plunge now. In 2017, Rahul asked me to take on Uttar Pradesh but I didn’t. It was a mistake but people learn from their experiences, so this time when he asked, I agreed.”

The Gandhi siblings are the fourth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, often described as India’s political royalty. Their great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first prime minister of independent India, their grandmother and father also served as prime ministers, while their mother, Italian-born Sonia, was the Congress chief until poor health forced her to hand over the reins to her son.

Indian Congress party workers hold pictures of Priyanka Gandhi as they shout slogans outside the All Indian Congress Committee office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015, demanding Priyanka replace Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to 'save the party'. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conceded defeat on February 10 in the Delhi state elections as early results showed anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal's party set for a landslide victory.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption In 2015, some party workers demonstrated outside Congress HQ in Delhi, holding placards that read “Bring Priyanka, Save Congress”

Mr Modi often mocks the siblings, saying they lead the Congress because of entitlement and not achievement.

Congress supporters, however, don’t seem unduly worried about the dynasty link – they talk about the fact that their grandmother and father were assassinated and the “sacrifices” the family has made for the country.

Spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh says Rahul – and now Priyanka – have re-energised the party. “BJP leaders, including PM Modi, are rattled, otherwise why would they call her names or say she won’t make any impact on the elections?”

Mr Singh says the most important thing is that “our workers are enthused and the public confidence in the party has grown”.

But will all this adulation really convert into votes and seats for the party?

“Definitely,” Mr Singh says. “When the votes are counted, you’ll see our voting percentage has gone up.”

Congress road show in Amethi
Image caption Congress says Ms Gandhi has been brought in to help energise the party rank and file in Uttar Pradesh

Political analyst Neerja Chowdhury says Ms Gandhi has lots of charisma but she is a great example of its limits.

She “left it a bit too late” and should have come out a year ago and worked to galvanise the people, she says.

“The party organisation is decimated in the state and has to be built from scratch. She doesn’t have a magic wand.”

Ms Chowdhury says expecting Ms Gandhi to turn around the party in such a short time is asking her to do the impossible and it’s unfair on her because it will open her to being dismissed as a failure.

But in the absence of a strong party machinery or leadership in Uttar Pradesh, Ms Gandhi’s efforts can take Congress only so far and no further.

Ms Chowdhury says she would need to build the party base in the state brick-by-brick – that would require much more than charisma, and plenty of hard work.

But one thing, she says, she’s sure about is that “Ms Gandhi is here to stay”.

Source: The BBC

07/05/2019

‘Arrogant like Duryodhan’: Priyanka Gandhi jabs PM after ‘corrupt Rajiv’ attack

Over the last few days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party’s top leadership have scaled up attacks on the Gandhi family, particularly on former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 07, 2019 17:40 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Priyanka Gandhi,Congress,PM Modi
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra(PTI file photo)
Launching a scathing attack on the ruling BJP, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said on Tuesday that the saffron party’s “arrogance is like that of Duryodhan”, just days after Prime Minister Modi referred to Congress general secretary’s father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi “bhrashtachari no 1”.
Without naming anyone, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said:” This country has never forgiven arrogance. Even Duryodhan had such arrogance, when Lord Krishna tried to make him see sense, he wanted to take him hostage.”
Speaking at a rally in Ambala for party candidate Kumari Selja, Priyanka Gandhi quoted poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar to reinforce her remarks. “Jab naash manuj par chaata hai, pehle vivek mar jata hai (When doom looms, first thing a human loses is the ability to discern right from wrong).”
Priyanka Gandhi slams BJP, says party’s ‘arrogance like that of Duryodhan’
Priyanka Gandhi launched an attack on BJP while addressing a rally in Ambala.
The party incharge of eastern Uttar Pradesh added: “They never fulfil the promises they make at election time, instead they either seek votes in the name of martyrs or insult the martyr members of my family.”
Over the last few days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party’s top leadership have scaled up attacks on the Gandhi family, particularly on former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
At a rally in Uttar Pradesh over the weekend, PM Modi had attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi who has been hammering the BJP-led national coalition alleging corruption in the Rafale deal.
“Your father was termed Mr Clean by his courtiers, but his life ended as corrupt no 1,” PM Modi said, provoking a sharp response from the Congress and other opposition parties.
As she spoke at an election rally in Bengal on Tuesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said PM Modi’s attack was in bad taste. “Rajiv Gandhi died for the country. You may not like him but you should give respect to a departed leader,” Mamata Banerjee said.
The BJP response came soon after. Amit Shah, the party chief and its master strategist, wondered why PM Modi’s comment was made an issue when the latter spoke only the “truth”. “Is it not true that there was a Bofors scandal,” Shah told a public rally in Bengal insisting that the prime minister had only reminded the Congress about one fact. “It is not an insult to remind someone about the truth,” the BJP chief said.
Source: Hindustan Times
01/05/2019

Why is a 2,500-year-old epic dominating polls in modern India?

An Indian artist dressed as Lord Rama, a character from a Hindu mythological epic poem entitled Ramayana, gestures during Hanuman Jayanti festival in Bangalore on December 20, 2018.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMany Hindus see the Ramayana’s protagonist, Ram, as a hero

With the Indian general election under way, the Ramayana, a 2,500-year-old Hindu mythological epic, is back in the spotlight. The BBC’s religious affairs reporter Priyanka Pathak explains why.

This year, like in previous elections, the conversation among many hardline Hindus has returned to the epic Ramayana and its protagonist, Ram.

A longstanding demand to construct a temple in the northern city of Ayodhya – a key point of tension between Hindus and Muslims – which Hindus believe is Ram’s birthplace, has become louder in recent months.

Hardline Hindus want the temple built on the same spot where a 16th Century mosque was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992. They believe the Babri mosque was built after the destruction of a Hindu temple by a Muslim invader.

India’s Ayodhya site: Masses gather as Hindu-Muslim dispute simmers

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised, once again, to reconstruct the Ram Mandir (temple) in its election manifesto.

Like in previous elections, they hope that this pledge will draw in more Hindu voters. They also organised Hindu religious festivals on a grand scale in the lead-up to the polls.

On 12 April, a large gathering of right-wing organisations was held at the iconic Ram Lila Maidan, a sprawling ground named after the god in the centre of the capital, Delhi, to celebrate “Ram’s birthday”.

People dressed in saffron robes wielded swords as they chanted “Jai Shree Ram”, which translates from the Hindi to “Hail Lord Ram”. They shouted slogans, reiterating their promise to Ram that they would reconstruct the temple.

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What is the story of the Ramayana?

Rama Drawing the Great Bow', 1925. A scene form the Hindu epic poem the Ramayana. Rama preparing to fire the Brahmastra in his final victorious battle with the demon-king Ravana.Image copyrightHERITAGE IMAGES/GETTY
  • The epic tells the story of Ram, a beloved prince who is unaware of his own divinity
  • On the eve of his coronation, he is banished from his kingdom for 14 years by his father at the behest of his stepmother
  • With his wife, Sita, and brother, Lakshman, he wanders through India’s forests – until the 10-headed demon king Ravana abducts Sita
  • Ram then fights and defeats Ravana to rescue Sita after which he establishes a just kingdom
  • The story of Ram’s pursuit of righteousness has made him a symbol of self-sacrifice and heroism for many Hindus
  • He is why this epic remains potent and has dominated India’s political discourse
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Experts believe that the movement to build the temple, spearheaded by a powerful Hindu nationalist organisation called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has helped craft some sort of a collective Hindu identity in India.

This idea is something that the RSS, the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, has cultivated since the early 20th Century.

However, the movement found its zeitgeist moment only a century later.

People sit along the road side watching an Indian epic television series of Ramayana, the story of the battle of Hindu god Rama over the demon king Ravana, as they celebrate Navratri (Nine Nights) culminating on the tenth night with the Dusshhra festival depicting the victory of Good over Evil, in Allahabad on September 25, 2017Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image caption People in Ahmedabad city sitting along the road and watching a television series on the Ramayana

Several things happened almost concurrently during the late 1980s. First, a television show on the epic reminded 80 million viewers of the story and rekindled a love for its hero.

The serial broadcast a standardised story of the Ramayana, pulled together from many versions and variants. There is no official version of this sprawling epic although historical scholars consider the version by Valmiki, a sage and Sanskrit poet, to be the most authentic.

But really there are as many as 3,000 retellings of the story in around 22 languages, including some that eulogise Ravana while others say it was actually Ram’s brother Lakshman who killed the demon king.

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India votes 2019

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But what the television show did was give India a single narrative of the Ramayana. It also gave a single religion to a country “that was diverse and plural and included many different ways to be Indian”, says Arshia Sattar, a doctorate in south Asian languages, who has translated Valmiki’s Ramayana from Sanskrit into English.

The second big moment came in the late 1980s, when the Congress party led by Rajiv Gandhi – which has always styled itself as secular – decided to lay the foundation stone of the temple in Ayodhya with the help of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right-wing outfit, to woo Hindu votes in a close election.

The plan didn’t work – instead, it paved the way for the BJP, still a young party at the time, to seize what they saw as an opportunity to galvanise Hindu voters.

In September 1989, the party’s then president LK Advani launched a nationwide march for the temple. Bricks began to move from around India for the construction of the temple. The campaign was successful in mobilising communal sentiments and set in motion a series of events that would result in the demolition of the mosque. This, in turn, triggered nationwide riots.

VHP saints at Karsevak Puram taking park in Hindu Swabhiman Sammelan organized by the VHP to mark 25th anniversary Babri Masjid demolition, on December 6, 2017 in AyodhyaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionHindu activists are demanding the construction of the Ram Temple

But in the next elections, the BJP swept the polls. From that moment forward, the party – which was 12 years old at the time – became a national heavyweight.

It took its place as either the party leading the ruling government alliance or as the leading opposition party. For the BJP, the Ayodhya issue became a way to consolidate Hindu votes – something that used to be fragmented along caste lines.

This now well-known version of the epic, championing Ram, also became a convenient point for other Hindu organisations to rally around. This meant that other versions of the epic began to be stamped out.

For instance, in 2011, a Hindu nationalist student union and other affiliated right-wing groups succeeded in forcing Delhi University to drop an essay by the late poet and Ramayana scholar AK Ramanujan, which questioned how many versions of the epic existed, from its history curriculum.

“This may have been part of the general climate of intolerance and the battle over who had the right to tell the country’s history and its myths that was part of the Indian landscape between the 1980s and the 2000s,” literary critic and author Nilanjana Roy wrote of the incident in her blog in 2011.

An artist dressed up as th 10 faced Ravana from the mythological Ramayana at Shivaji Park for a Ram Lila show on the occasion of Dassera.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionRam fights and defeats the ten-headed demon Ravana in the Hindu epic

But for hardline Hindus, the cultural loss of other versions is simply collateral damage.

They believe that a sort of Hindu renaissance can be built around the epic, allowing Hindus to band together and revive their religion as a way of life that they believe was lost and can be re-established.

For instance, in September 2017, the Uttarakhand state minister for alternative medicine, proposed spending $3.6m (£2.8m) to find Sanjeevani – a mythical, glow-in-the-dark herb, described in the epic as having saved Ram and Lakshman from certain death.

The deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has also suggested that science was so advanced during the time of the Ramayana that Sita was actually a test-tube baby. And the vice chancellor of an Indian university has claimed that Ravana, had a fleet of airplanes.

A series of such examples from Indian politicians and scholars can be seen as an attempt to bolster pride in the mythological epic. But they also evoke a nostalgia for a grand past, reawakening hope for a future that repeats the great feats of distance ancestors.

Source: The BBC

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
11/04/2019

India election 2019: Voting begins in world’s largest election

Indians have begun voting in the first phase of a general election that is being seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Tens of millions of Indians across 20 states and union territories are voting in 91 constituencies.

The seven-phase vote to elect a new lower house of parliament will continue until 19 May. Counting day is 23 May.

With 900 million eligible voters across the country, this is the largest election ever seen.

Some observers have billed this as the most important election in decades and the tone of the campaign has been acrimonious.

Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a historic landslide in the last elections in 2014. He stakes his claim to lead India on a tough image and remains the governing BJP’s main vote-getter.

But critics say his promises of economic growth and job creation haven’t met expectations and India has become more religiously polarised under his leadership.

The BJP faces challenges from strong regional parties and a resurgent Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi. Mr Gandhi’s father, grandmother and great-grandfather are all former Indian prime ministers. His sister, Priyanka Gandhi, formally joined politics in January.

Modi at a rally in Meerut
Image captionMr Modi has made national security a key election issue

How has voting gone so far?

The Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament has 543 elected seats and any party or coalition needs a minimum of 272 MPs to form a government.

Hundreds of voters began to queue up outside polling centres early Thursday morning. In the north-eastern state of Assam, lines of voters began forming almost an hour before voting officially began.

Voters at one polling booth in Baraut – in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh – got a royal welcome with people greeted by drums and a shower of flower petals.

A little boy clutches his father outside a polling booth in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh stateImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image caption A little boy clutches his father outside a polling booth in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh state

In central Chhattisgarh state, suspected Maoists detonated an IED device near a polling booth at around 04:00 local time (23:30 BST) – no injuries were reported.

The mineral-rich state has witnessed an armed conflict for more than three decades and attacks by Maoist rebels on security forces are common. On Tuesday a state lawmaker was killed in a suspected rebel attack.

How big is this election?

It is mind-bogglingly vast – about 900 million people above the age of 18 will be eligible to cast their ballots at one million polling stations. At the last election, vote turn-out was around 66%.

More than 100 million people are eligible to vote in the first phase of the election on Thursday.

An official checks the names of Indian lambadi tribeswomen at a polling station during India's general election at Pedda Shapur village on the outskirts of Hyderabad on April 11, 2019.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image caption Indian lambadi tribeswomen at a polling station in southern India

No voter is meant to have to travel more than 2km to reach a polling station. Because of the enormous number of election officials and security personnel involved, voting will take place in seven stages between 11 April and 19 May.

India’s historic first election in 1951-52 took three months to complete. Between 1962 and 1989, elections were completed in four to 10 days. The four-day elections in 1980 were the country’s shortest ever.

Source: The BBC

18/03/2019

Mayawati snubs Congress over its 7-seat offer, says don’t create confusion

The BSP leader’s statement came a day after the Congress said it was leaving seven of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh for the SP-BSP combine

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: Mar 18, 2019 14:38 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mayawati,Bahujan Samaj Party,Samajwadi Party
Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati has said that the SP-BSP combine was strong enough to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh and that they did not need the support of the Congress.(PTI file photo)
Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati, in a strong snub for the Congress, said on Monday that the SP-BSP combine was strong enough to defeat the BJP in politically important Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The BSP leader’s statement came a day after the Congress said it was leaving seven of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh for the SP-BSP combine, which recently formed an alliance and had left two seats – Rae Bareli and Amethi – for the Congress.
“The Congress is free to put up candidates in all Uttar Pradesh seats, our alliance is strong enough to defeat the BJP. The Congress should not create confusion about any alliance with us,” Mayawati tweeted.

She made it clear that the SP-BSP combine had no poll understanding with the Congress anywhere in the country. “Our supporters should not fall for doubts being created by the Congress,” the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh said.

Watch: Congress leaves 7 seats for SP, BSP and RLD in UP for Lok Sabha polls

LS polls: Congress leaves 7 seats for SP, BSP and RLD in UP
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Raj Babbar announced that Congress will not be contesting on 7 seats in UP. Congress will leave those seats for the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in the state.

Minutes later, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav tweeted a similar message saying the SP-BSP- RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh was capable of defeating BJP. “Congress should not create any confusion,” he added.

The Congress had on Sunday announced that it would not be contesting Mainpuri, Kannauj and the seats from where BSP chief Mayawati and RLD leaders Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudhary will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

At the press conference UPCC chief Raj Babbar said, “We are leaving 7 seats vacant for SP, BSP and RLD. These include Mainpuri, Kannauj, Firozabad and whatever seats Mayawati ji & RLD’s Jayant ji and Ajit Singh contest from. We will also give two seats to Apna Dal – Gonda & Pilibhit.”

Mayawati has time and again made it clear that her alliance has nothing to do with the Congress. A week back she had said: “It is being made clear again that the Bahujan Samaj Party will not have any electoral alliance with the Congress in any state.”

This drew a sharp retort from the Congress with its Uttar Pradesh unit spokesperson saying, “We don’t need her.”

Uttar Pradesh will go to polls in all seven phases starting April 11 and ending on May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.

Source: Hindustan Times

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