Posts tagged ‘Congress’


Aam Aadmi Party Scores Delhi Elections Polling Hat Trick – India Real Time – WSJ

If three’s a trend then the Aam Aadmi Party might want to throw their topis in the air in celebration at the latest opinion polls.

Three voter surveys published Tuesday in the run up to elections in Delhi gave the lead to AAP slightly ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and leagues in front of the Congress party that held the capital for 15 years until 2013.

The city goes to the polls on Feb. 7 in an election that is widely viewed as a referendum on Mr. Modi’s performance since he took office in May. The results will be announced on Feb. 10.

To be sure, opinion polling in India is far from an exact science and usually needs to be taken with a handful of salt.

Nevertheless, the wind seems to be changing in favor of AAP, or the common man’s party in a revival of fortunes after a drubbing in national elections last year.

Analysts say this is because the upstart party has focused on local issues-based politics while the BJP and Congress have been turned their arsenal on Mr. Kejriwal at the expense of issues voters care about.

AAP, led by tax-inspector-turned-activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, could walk away with 36 to 40 seats in the 70-member legislative assembly, according to the latest findings from polling firm TNS for the Economic Times newspaper.

To form the government in Delhi, a party needs a simple majority of 36 seats.

via Aam Aadmi Party Scores Delhi Elections Polling Hat Trick – India Real Time – WSJ.


“Take money from BJP & Congress, but vote for AAP” – The Hindu

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal was on Sunday at the centre of a controversy when he asked voters in Delhi to take the money offered by the BJP and the Congress but “fool” them by voting for the AAP in the coming Delhi Assembly elections, drawing sharp criticism from both the parties.

Mr. Kejriwal asked voters to “fool” BJP and Congress by voting for AAP even after accepting the “bribe money” as the parties have been “fooling people for the last 65 years.”File photo

“It’s election time. When people from the BJP and the Congress come offering money, don’t refuse, accept … some have looted money from 2G, some have looted money from coal scam.”

“And if any party does not show up, go to its office and take the amount saying we were waiting but you didn’t come,” Mr. Kejriwal said amid cheers from the crowd.

The former Delhi Chief Minister was speaking at a rally in West Delhi’s Nawada area in support of the AAP’s Uttam Nagar candidate, Naresh Balyan.

“Take money from both the parties but vote for the AAP. We will fool them this time. They have been deceiving us for the last 65 years. Now it’s our turn,” he said.

The BJP lashed out at the AAP chief saying his comments amounted to questioning the authority of the Election Commission apart from being an affront to the voters.

“He is essentially saying that voters accept money and alcohol. His comments also mean that the EC is not working properly as money and alcohol are getting distributed,” BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi said.

The Congress said the party would seek legal opinion to approach the EC against Mr. Kejriwal for “insulting” the people of Delhi.

“Making such statements is illegal. It is like offering money to the people,” said Ajay Maken, who is campaign committee chief of the Congress in Delhi.

via “Take money from BJP & Congress, but vote for AAP” – The Hindu.


India’s Modi Ends Fuel Subsidies, Showing He Is a Reformer – Businessweek

Narendra Modi has proven once again how important it is to be lucky in politics. In the spring, he was India’s opposition leader, running for prime minister by focusing on the government’s mismanagement of the economy. He had plenty of ammunition: The coalition led by the Congress Party had presided over years of corruption scandals and stalled reforms—and also had to contend with a growing budget deficit fueled by soaring prices for oil and other imported commodities.

In India, Falling Oil Prices Make Modi's Job Much Easier

During the campaign, Modi said he wanted to cut back on the costly subsidies the government offered millions of Indians to cushion the blow of those soaring prices. Petroleum subsidies account for one-quarter of India’s 2.6 trillion rupee ($42.4 billion) subsidies bill. But after he won in a landslide, Modi’s first budget (which his finance minister announced in July), was a modest plan that left the subsidies untouched.

That left observers unsure as to whether Modi was backing away from the politically difficult task of making the cuts. “We can either trust that the government will deliver price hikes as the year progresses,” Mirza Baig, head of foreign exchange and interest rate strategy at BNP Paribas in Singapore, wrote in a report after the budget announcement in July. “Or we can be more cynical and suggest that the Modi administration intends to continue the practice of rolling forward subsidy expenditure to next year.”

via India’s Modi Ends Fuel Subsidies, Showing He Is a Reformer – Businessweek.


Wounded Congress desperately seeking alliances for upcoming assembly elections

The Congress party is losing legislators but is keen to show it remains a political force as polls approach in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Kashmir.

Still reeling from its decimation in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress now has to contend with legislators in several states quitting the party to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. There are rumours that even veteran Delhi Congress leader Dr AK Walia is in talks to join the BJP.

What makes the situation worse is that members of legislative assemblies from regional parties are also joining the BJP, making it hard for the Congress to compete.

The party is now desperately looking to form alliances with regional parties and even independent MLAs to save face in the upcoming state elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.


With the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha deciding to merge with the BJP, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Congress to establish any sort of stronghold in the state. The party’s general secretary in the state, BK Hariprasad, says it is looking to put together an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, with which it has already reached an agreement in Bihar. The party is also working on a tie-up with Janata Dal (United), which split with the BJP before the general elections.

The party already has an alliance with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. However, the district presidents in the region are not keen to continue with it, following the JMM’s demand that it be allocated 25-30 of the 81 seats in state polls due at the end of the year.

“The party has a stronghold in the state and it will perform much better if we contest on our own instead of seat sharing,” a district president of the Congress said. “The leadership should not concede to the demands of the regional alliances and deprive our own people of a chance to contest the polls.”

via – News. Politics. Culture..


Congress to Parliament: Please Don’t Oppose Our Opposition – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s new session of Parliament has begun, and the Congress Party has a request: Make us the official “leader of the opposition.”

It turns out, that may be asking too much.

The Congress Party — which has governed India for most of the country’s modern history — lost so badly this time, it might not qualify for the right to name the official opposition leader, according to the parliamentary rulebook.

This isn’t a surprise: It’s well known that Congress’s drubbing in the election this year left it with less than 10% of the seats in the lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha. So, even though it’s the second-largest party in Parliament, behind the triumphant Bharatiya Janata Party, its share of seats is too small to qualify as official opposition leader.

Nevertheless, Congress has started pressing the issue. “We are the single largest party and we have a pre-poll alliance,” Congress party president Sonia Gandhi said during a televised press conference Monday, as Parliament’s budget session commenced. “We are entitled to get the post.”

Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said the post of the leader of opposition is a “constitutional right” of the Congress party. “The Lok Sabha cannot function without the opposition leader.”

Under Indian parliamentary procedural rules, the post of the leader of opposition has the rank of a cabinet minister. It goes to the second-largest party in the Lok Sabha, unless that party fails to win 10% of the seats, or 55, in the 545-member Lok Sabha. Congress has 44 members.

The job comes with some significant responsibilities. The leader of the opposition is part of a panel that selects members of the Central Vigilance Commission; members of the anti-graft national ombudsman, known as the Lokpal; and head of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the country’s federal investigative agency.

Subhash C. Kashyap, historian and former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha, said the Congress party should “stop hankering” for the post. “All its claims are unnecessary, unfounded and without any legal basis.”

via Congress to Parliament: Please Don’t Oppose Our Opposition – India Real Time – WSJ.


Modi’s Next Move – India Real Time – WSJ

The simplest way to understand the enormity of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory Friday in India’s election is to place it in historical context.

For the first time since 1984, India’s voters have given a single party rather than a ragtag coalition a majority in Parliament. The BJP won 282 seats, 10 more than the 272 needed to reach the halfway mark in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance coalition snagged 336 seats.

For the first time ever, India’s traditionally left-leaning politics has moved decisively to the right. Even when it won more seats than the left-of-center Congress Party in three elections in the late 1990s, the BJP always lagged its rival in share of the popular vote. This time the BJP snagged nearly one third of the national vote, while Congress claimed less than a fifth. The BJP also made inroads into southern and eastern India, outside its traditional strongholds in the north and west.

The rightward swing is all the more notable because incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to the conservative wing of India’s conservative party. Unlike the last BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998-2004), Mr. Modi cut his teeth in politics battling Congress when it briefly suspended democracy in the mid-1970s, not admiring Jawaharlal Nehru’s parliamentary eloquence in defense of socialist policies in the 1950s.

Congress itself has been reduced to a rump. The 44 seats it won is less than half of its previous low of 114 seats in 1999. Congress has proved naysayers wrong before by bouncing back. Still, for the first time talk of the possible extinction of a party that has ruled India for all but 13 years since independence in 1947 seems plausible. And the two main communist parties, which have traditionally wielded influence both inside and outside Parliament and helped set the tone for much anti-capitalist and anti-Western discourse, have been reduced to a footnote. Together they hold a meager 10 seats.

via Modi’s Next Move – India Real Time – WSJ.

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Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions | India Insight

Campaign season in India means it’s also promise season, and political parties aren’t short on pledges for what they would do if they come to power after election results come out in May. From the Tamil Nadu-based MDMK party’s pledge to rename the country “The United States of India” to the Odisha-based BJD‘s promise to “guarantee” development projects, there are plenty of promises floating around to help parties capture, retain or regain power.

There has been plenty of coverage of the manifestos from the biggest national parties, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, so here are some highlights from the others.

Lok Satta Party: This Andhra Pradesh-based party has promised to nationalise the sale of liquor and to limit the number of stores where people can buy it. Families of liquor “victims,“ meanwhile, would get pensions.

BJD: In power for more than 10 years, the Biju Janata Dal of Odisha has promised to guarantee primary infrastructure needs in the state. It will also make it mandatory for industry to provide shares in projects to people whose land they buy for their projects.

DMK: The former ally of the ruling Congress party will oppose reservation, the setting aside of government jobs for members of groups recognized by the government as disadvantaged, based on economic criteria. It would, however, support caste-based reservation in the private sector. It also proposes that only qualified Tamil people be appointed as India’s envoys to the nations where Tamils live in considerable numbers. The party has also included not “bashing” other parties in their pitch.

AIADMK: Tamil Nadu’s ruling party says it would stop the sale and privatisation of state-owned companies. To stabilise the rupee, the AIADMK says it would not encourage short-term capital flows and will support long-term foreign direct investment.

CPI-Marxist: This Leftist party favours the production of goods for mass consumption rather than “unsustainable” luxury goods. It also would enforce a code of conduct for all elected representatives against sexist language. CPI-M favours revising the India-U.S. nuclear deal and will seek removal of nuclear weapons from the U.S. military base in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

TMC: West Bengal’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress, has promised it will provide a stipend and medical insurance to artists and folk performers. It has also promised to form a court to try human rights violations.

TRS: With the new state of Telangana to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti says it will give a special “Telangana increment” to government employees to celebrate the state’s formation later this year.

JD(U): The Janata Dal (United) manifesto has promised legislation for the safety and security of migrant workers in India. It wants a commission to study the socio-economic condition of poor upper caste people to draft welfare measures for them.

MDMK: An ally of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, MDMK promises to rename the country “United States of India” to put emphasis on the federal structure. It wants to lift the ban on the LTTE, the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka.

AAP: The Aam Aadmi Party, or common man party, is interested in animal welfare as well as human. It wants to protect the dignity of animals used in industries “for food, clothing and entertainment.” To encourage young people to join politics, it favours allowing 21-year-olds to run for office (the current minimum age is 25). Apart from laws to deal with violence against women, it promises long-term public education programmes to end the culture of gender-based discrimination. It has some provisions to regulate media as well.

BSP: The Bahujan Samaj Party of Uttar Pradesh, which counts millions of Dalits among its supporters, did not release any election pitch. “We do not release manifestos as we believe more in doing real development work for the people rather than making hollow claims which are never realised,” party chief and former UP Chief Minister Mayawati declared at a rally.

via Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions | India Insight.

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Two Visions for India’s Economy, Sort Of – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s national election, which kicked off Monday, is a contest of old-fashioned socialism versus market liberalism, of handouts to the poor versus pro-growth reforms that will benefit all. Right?

Sort of. At least judging by the two main contenders’ official platforms.

The Bharatiya Janata Party — out of power for a decade — looks set to win big this year, helped by its popular prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who promises to reboot India’s economy with a combination of smart policy and able administration.

But now that the BJP has at last released its election manifesto after multiple delays, it’s easier to see where exactly its economic policy ideas differ from the incumbent Congress party’s – and, perhaps more interestingly, where they don’t.

Both parties promise to revitalize India’s manufacturing sector, long a laggard amid the country’s economic rise. Both say they will implement a national goods and services tax, known elsewhere as a value-added tax. Both want to create a “single-window system” to expedite land, environmental, power and other approvals for investors. Both back the current system of food subsidies, though the BJP highlights that the program should be efficient and corruption-free.

And both parties want to build high-speed rail, stem inflation, modernize infrastructure, make housing affordable, create jobs, expand cities and make taxation more predictable. (Though the BJP wins style points for referring to retroactive taxes as “tax terrorism.”) The BJP even matches the splashiest item in Congress’s manifesto — a commitment to providing “universal and quality health care for all Indians” — with its own call for universal health care.

All of that said, the manifestos alone do give the BJP an edge in terms of structural reforms that many economists, businesses and investors have long craved from India’s government.

The party’s manifesto speaks of addressing “over-regulation” in business and “bottlenecks” in the delivery of public services. Its section on developing agriculture focuses more on investing in productivity-enhancing technology than on increasing government subsidies, which the Congress manifesto notes as a major achievement of its decade in office.

The BJP says it will “rationalize and simplify the tax regime,” which the party calls “currently repulsive for honest taxpayers.” The Congress manifesto merely reiterates its support for the Direct Tax Code, an earlier legislative effort to eliminate tax distortions and improve compliance that has stalled in Parliament’s lower house.

The BJP also says it will review India’s creaking labor laws, which it decries as “outdated, complicated and even contradictory.” The Congress manifesto, meanwhile, “recognizes the need for creating flexibilities in the labor market” while redoubling its commitment to “protecting the interests of labor through more progressive labor laws.” The World Bank said in a report last year that India’s “cumbersome and complex” labor policies “have unambiguously negative effects on economic efficiency.”

via Two Visions for India’s Economy, Sort Of – India Real Time – WSJ.

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Congress Bets on Welfare Programs – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s Congress party is doubling down on welfare.

Facing what is shaping up to be a steep uphill battle to win a third term in office, Congress on Wednesday outlined a policy agenda that would expand healthcare, housing and other benefits for the poor and disadvantaged.

Rahul Gandhi, who is leading Congress’s campaign in the voting that begins in April, also said a new Congress government would invest $1 trillion in infrastructure projects and remove hurdles to business.

For India’s poor to thrive, he said, “we need to unleash business.”

Still, Congress’s tone is sharply different than the one adopted by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and its standard bearer, Narendra Modi, who emphasizes pro-business policies and infrastructure building – while saying government also needs to help the poor.

During the Congress-led government’s most recent decade in office, subsidy spending has soared, from 459 billion rupees in the year ended March 31, 2005, to an estimated 2.55 trillion in the 12 months ending March 31 of this year.

By sticking with and expanding such programs, Congress is hoping it will appeal to its base in India’s impoverished countryside.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi said if re-elected, Indians would get improved healthcare, an expansion of housing benefits for the landless and a boost in social security hand-outs for the elderly and disabled people.

These promises echo themes that have run through the party’s history and have dominated the political careers of Mrs. Gandhi and her son, Rahul, who is leading Congress’s election campaign.

The central Congress belief: A government must engineer economic equality and inclusive growth, even as it celebrates free markets.

“The future of India is the poor people of India, those are the people the Congress party works for,” Mr. Gandhi said. “The biggest problem I have with the BJP is that the India of the BJP’s dreams is an India where a few people run this country.”

Mr. Gandhi, the party’s vice president who took charge this year, has tried to frame the electoral campaign as a choice between these two approaches.

He has gone after the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi for what he calls an exclusive focus on building roads and airports without addressing the question of who gets access to them.

Mr. Modi’s message, however, is striking a chord with many Indians, who are fed up with government inefficiency, corruption allegations and a slowing economy. Many young voters – even those in rural India who through technology and migration are influenced by urban sentiment – are frustrated with a lack of jobs and strong leadership and are drawn to the BJP’s promise of development.

Opinion polls show widespread dissatisfaction with the current situation in India and Mr. Modi is widely considered the frontrunner for the premiership.

via Congress Bets on Welfare Programs – India Real Time – WSJ.

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Stock Market Cheers Potential End of Congress Reign – India Real Time – WSJ

Here’s a recipe to make Indian stocks investors happy: tie the hands of the ruling Congress-led government and hint that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party will be forming the next government.

India’s benchmark 30-share S&P BSE Sensex hit a record high Thursday of 21513.87 points, marking the third straight session of gains.

As India heads towards national elections, investors have been following the twists and turns of the political world more closely in recent months. The next election will likely have a big impact on whether, when and by how much Asia’s third largest economy will rebound.

The country announced this week that the national polls will begin April 7 and be done by May 16 which has some optimists hoping that uncertainty about who will be leading the world’s largest democracy will be over in a little more than two months.

Some investors have become frustrated by the ruling Congress party because they believe it has stalled reforms and delayed important investments in the close to ten years it has been in power. Instead, critics say, the Congress-party led coalition has focused on populist measures, including a bill to provide almost free food to around two thirds of the population.

One good thing about election season, investors say, is that Congress will not be able to announce any new perks for the poor. The Election Commission of India prohibits parties from launching welfare programs during the election process.

“The uncertainty is now over,” said Sharmila Joshi, an independent research analyst in Mumbai. “The market is (optimistic) that there won’t be any more populist measures.”

via Stock Market Cheers Potential End of Congress Reign – India Real Time – WSJ.

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