FAR-RIGHT GETS MAINSTREAM IN FRANCE

Increasing right-wing populism is making the world more inward looking, protectionist and hostile to the anti-people movement between the countries.

And the just concluded French presidential election, with a liberal pitted against a far-right candidate, was also being seen in this context. A far-right victory in France, one of the major global powers, socially, economically and militarily, would have been another major setback for the liberal politics.

And though France has given its answer, we need to go beyond mere stats. Though France has elected a liberal candidate with a thumping majority who had based his election campaign on everything antithesis to the far-right promises of his rival candidate, the far-right, too has got a sizable chunk of votes.

France’s president elect Emmanuel Macron who had launched his centrist political movement En Marche! just a year ago in April 2016 and has had a political career of just five years, won 66 per cent of the votes, almost twice of her far-right rival Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FP) who got 34 per cent votes.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right FN had exploited social insecurity owing to high unemployment rate in France that is hovering around 10 per cent, a number of terror attacks that have killed over 230 in the last two years and a troubled economy with years of sluggish growth rate. She said globalisation and Islamism were two major threats France was facing.

Her remedy to save France from the threats of terrorism, unemployment and troubles of economy were classic far-right.

She blamed globalisation and the European Union and promised to take France out of the EU, the Euro and the passport free travel zone Schengen Area. She promised to crackdown on immigration to save France from Islamic terror and joblessness. The biggest refugee crisis that the world is witnessing since the World War II with hordes of people from the civil war torn countries trying to cross into the safe territory of the European countries only added to the sense of social insecurity – with terrorism and high unemployment in the backdrop. A section of French population believes that it will be detrimental to the French culture.

These are exactly the attributes the right wing politics is explained with – protectionism, anti-globalization (anti-EU or Euroskepticism in case of the EU), nationalism and ultra-nationalism, anti-immigration and nativism or ethnic preferences. France is known for its liberal values, politics and social life, something that Le Pen had vowed to upturn, with her attempted grab of populism by adopting tough anti-globalization, anti-immigration, anti-Euro and anti-Islamism measures.

And when she performed exceedingly well in the first round of the French presidential election on April 23, coming close second to Macron’s 23.8 per cent with her 21.5 per cent votes, bypassing all other nine candidates including the Socialist and the Republican Party candidates who have ruled over France for decades, it came as shock for many.

Though Macron was projected to win the polls, the first round results presented a very real chance for Le Pen to emerge as winner, especially if voters of the Socialist and the Republican parties decided to boycott the polls with no socialist or republican candidate in the fray. And the figures of abstentions and rejected votes – as high as 36 per cent – tells us that many of them, indeed, did not support Macron.

And even if Macron has registered a spectacular win, we cannot dismiss the fact that Le Pen’s vote share tells us that over 30 per cent of the France now identifies with the right-wing politics, that is highest for any far-right party in any major country in the world. And she has vowed to take her political journey forward.

And if Macron fails, she is bound to make a bigger come back. Macron has inherited a divided France, hanging between conflicting ideologies. He has no time and has to be on the job from day one to fulfill his campaign promises of taking France out of economic stagnation, create jobs, tackle terrorism and balance immigration. And he has to do all that keeping in mind that even his campaign saw violent protests and anger in the streets.

©SantoshChaubey

EMMANUEL MACRON, THE UNORTHODOX POLITICIAN, WHO CAN BECOME THE YOUNGEST PRESIDENT OF FRANCE

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bid modified and extended.

If elected, at 39, Emmanuel Macron would be the youngest president in the French electoral history. Before it, Napoleon Bonaparte’s 40-year old nephew Louis Bonaparte was elected in 1848. France is holding its second and final run-off round of presidential election today. By tomorrow, the outcome will become clear on who has won the polls though it will be officially declared on May 11. According to pre-poll projections, he is set to win the election with all the surveys giving him a lead of 20-23 per cent over his rival Marine Le Pen.

Macron, whose rise in French politics is described as meteoric, sounds like an unusual politician who holds his ground for what he believes in. He is unabashedly pro-European Union and pro-free immigration. He is a staunch believer in globalization and advocates for common Eurozone budget. He has apologised for the French colonial legacy, especially in Algeria, likening it to “crime against humanity” and believes in integration and assimilation of Muslims to tackle the rising spectre of Islamist fundamentalism, and therefore terrorism, in France.

He has not taken a comfortable middle way to skirt his views by using diplomatic words, especially after the rise of Marine Le Pen, her rival from the Front National (FN) with a far-right ideology, who has risen to become an important pillar in the French politics exploiting people’s scepticism and fear against the EU, globalization, immigration and linking terrorism and Islamism after spate of terror strikes in France that has killed over 200 in last two years. Le Pen sees globalization and Islamism as two major threats for France while Macron quotes in his speeches the disorder that Brexit has brought to Britain and Donald Trump’s election to America, attacking the far-right ideology directly, two events that Le Pen finds capable of creating a new world. Le Pen promises taking France out of the EU while Macron talks about France’s greater integration in the EU.

The incumbent French president Francois Hollande from the centre-left Socialist Party (PS) brought Macron in politics. Macron was member of the Socialist Party from 2006 to 2009. In 2009, he became an independent politician. In 2012 when Hollande became the president and the Socialist Party got majority in the National Assembly, he became member of Hollande’s personal staff. In August 2014, he was appointed a minister to oversee economy, industry and digital affairs in prime minister Manuel Valls government.

He was going strong and was seen as the political protégé of Hollande with a prime career ahead. But no one had expected that it would come so soon. In an orthodox move, he left his political office in April 2016, his formed En March! (EM), that he called a political movement that translates to ‘on the move’. His supporters liken the event with ‘birth’ when Macron had announced to form the EM. In August 2016, Macron resigned from the Valls government to take a plunge in the presidential elections.

And within eight months, he has become the presidential candidate with highest ratings who looks poised to win the election when the results are finally announced. Macron emerged with the largest vote share in the first round of the French presidential polls held on April 23, according to the pre poll projections.

Macron won the first round with a narrow margin. He secured 23.8 per cent votes while his rival, Marine Le Pen of came a close second with 21.5 per cent votes. The polls go to the second and run-off round when no candidate is able to secure 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, something that has never happened.

Macron has also won the televised debated between him and Marine Le Pen, held on May 3, comfortably, with 63% viewers finding him more convincing. And for the final rounds, all pre-poll surveys have given him a 60-40 lead over Le Pen. Some surveys have reported even higher a gap.

His campaign’s emails and documents were hacked on Friday and were leaked online, hours before the campaigning ended. But it is not expected to affect the final outcome as there was literally no time to use it as election propaganda material. Also the election commission in France has issued stern warning to disseminate it further.

Like his political decisions, he has taken an unconventional approach even to his personal life. He is married to his teacher, Brigitte Trogneux, who is 24 years older than him. When they began courtship, she was married and was a mother of three. She left her husband and married Macron in 2007.

Born to doctor parents, Macron is a philosophy and public affairs graduate. He is an alumnus of the prestigious National School of Administration which has given three French presidents including Hollande. He was in the French Civil Services from 2004 to 2008 when he left his government career to join Rothschild as an investment banker that made him a millionaire.

He has been able to present himself as a youthful source of energy with fresh perspectives in the ongoing political discourse in the country. And the rewards, so far, have been quick and stunning. And now there are very real chances that we are going to see the next French president in him when the results are announced on May 11 after the final round of the French presidential election today.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY THIS FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IS HISTORIC

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

In an election, where the two mainstream French political parties, the centre-left Socialist Party (PS), with its government in Paris under French president Francois Hollande, and the centre-right Republicans (LR), have failed to reach the final round of the presidential polls, history will be written on May 7 when France will vote to choose between two top candidates from the first round of elections held on April 23.

Emmanuel Macron won the first round with a narrow margin. He secured 23.8 per cent votes while his rival, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National (FN) party, came a close second with 21.5 per cent votes. The polls go to the second and run-off round when no candidate is able to secure 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, something that has never happened.

France that is known for its liberal values, politics and social life, will either have its youngest president in Emmanuel Macron who is 39 and who formed his political party, En Marche (EM), that translates to ‘on the move’, just a year ago. In fact, according to an analysis by The Economist, it would be the first time in the history of the major western economies, i.e., United States, Germany, Britain and France, that a leader younger than the median age of the country has been elected, if Macron, indeed, emerges as the winner. Macron is two years younger than the median  age in France.

Or France will have a far-right candidate in Marine Le Pen, 48, in the Elysee Palace, the official residence of the French president, who will take France out of the European Union and who has vowed to upturn the liberal credentials of France by adopting tough anti-globalization, anti-immigration, anti-Euro measures and anti-Islamism measures.

She, in fact, sees globalization and Islamism as major threats against France. She finds the two helping each other and conspiring to bring France down. Her election manifesto has promised to curb immigration, even the legal one, and says the citizenship can only be “inherited or merited”. She keeps the Brexit in the hallowed halls of the fall of the Berlin Wall. She also describes Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election as an importation building block toward making a new world.

For the moment, Macron looks set to win the election on May 7. He has won the televised debated between him and Marine Le Pen, held on May 3, comfortably, with 63% viewers finding him more convincing. And for the final rounds, all pre-poll surveys have given him a 60-40 lead over Le Pen.

©SantoshChaubey

EMMANUEL MACRON WINS TELEVISED DEBATE BEFORE FINAL ROUND OF FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ON MAY 7

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Just three days before the second and final round of the French presidential polls, centrist Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! (EM) party have emerged as the clear winner of the televised debate between him and far-right Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN) party.

A survey on the televised debate by Elabe, a research and consultancy firm, for the largest French broadcaster BFM TV, also a CNN affiliate, found that Macron who was already running ahead of Le Pen with higher ratings, further consolidated his position after the debate.

In the debate, watched by over 16.5 million people, that lasted for two-and-a-half hour and has been described as the ugliest one in the French presidential election history, Macron emerged as the clear winner with 63 per cent of viewers finding him more convincing than Le Pen.

According to a The Guardian report, the French media termed it a “dirty debate” with its criticism targeted at Marine Le Pen for her ‘permanent aggression’ and unconvincing words. The consensus read that Le Pen tried to avoid a serious debate with her “multiple attacks and provocations” and therefore, made the debate “unworthy of a presidential election campaign”.

Invectives, smirks, insinuations and personal insults had a free run. Macron described Le Pen as corrupt, ill-informed, hate-filled liar and said that her ultra-nationalism and her contempt for globalization and Islamism will be detrimental for the French society. Le Pen is a known European Union hater and has vowed to crackdown on Islamism. Le Pen, in turn, found him “an arrogant, spoilt, cold-eyed, “smirking banker” who was colluding with Islamists, complacent on terrorism and intent on “butchering France” in favour of “big economic interests”, the report said.

The final round of the French presidential polls are just two days away and Macron looks in a comfortable position to sail through. Majority of polls before the Sunday’s final round are giving Macron a 40-60 lead. An Elabe analysis says Macron is expected to get 65 per cent of the final round votes.

The first round of the French presidential polls were held on April 23 and the top two contenders from the 11 in the fray moved to the second and final round run-off. Emmanuel Macron was on top with 23.8 per cent votes in the first round and Le Pen was a close second with 21.5 per cent votes. The polls go to the second round when no candidate is able to secure 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, something that has never happened. Since April 23, Macron has firmed up his position and he is also expected to corner left-leaning, centrist-right and other anti-Le Pen votes in the final round.

Emmanuel Macron is just 39 and his political career is just five years old. He was the Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs before he resigned in August 2016 to form the EM party. So his party has no political representation but he has an opportunity as the French legislative elections are due in June 2017 to elect the next French National Assembly.

Marine Le Pen, 48, is a lawyer and career politician and has inherited her party FN from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the highly controversial and polarizing figure of French politics who is known for his extreme far-right ideology. Though she has tried to distance herself from her father’s extreme views, in order to widen her base, going by the ratings so far, and her radical views on issues like globalization, Islamism and terrorism and immigration, it seems see has failed to make a genuine course correction.

©SantoshChaubey

BJP’S 70% VS CONGRESS’ 11%

Even if we go by the Congress’ claim that it won three states, Punjab, Goa and Manipur, in the recently concluded assembly polls, it still adds nothing significant to the spread of its influence – geographically as well as in terms of the human headcount. The Congress party has effectively lost the electoral space to act as a national alternative to the BJP.

Assembly elections were held in five states, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur these results of which were announced on March 11. The BJP had swept Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand while its alliance with the SAD had seen a crushing defeat in Punjab where it was in the ruling coalition since 2007. The Congress had emerged as the largest party in Goa and Manipur but the BJP stitched the numbers fast to form coalition governments in both of these states.

The BJP and its allies were already ruling over 60% of India’s geographical area with 43% of its population before the March 11 verdict, and the sweep this time has taken it to around 70% of the landmass and 58% of the population.

With Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur in BJP’s stable, the BJP and its allies are now the ruling party/coalition in 17 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just six states with Karnataka and Punjab as the only electorally significant states in its fold. The party has ruling presence in another big state – in Bihar – but it is the junior-most alliance partner in the ruling coalition there.

In terms of geographical spread, the Congress has shrunk to just 13% of Indian territory with only 11% of the country’s population residing in areas ruled by it. Even if, for a moment, we consider that the BJP fails to prove majority in Goa and Manipur and the Congress finally forms the governments, it cannot help the Congress much, apart from giving consolation, as Goa and Manipur represent only 0.8% of India’s area and 0.34% of its population.

The BJP along with its allies, is now in all corners of the country with its 17 state governments, in north India, in central India, in south India, in West India, in east India and in north-east India, the footprint the Congress enjoyed earlier while the Congress has reduced to only few pockets.

India has 29 states and seven Union territories. Polls are held in these 29 states and two of the Union Territories, i.e., Delhi and Puducherry. The states where the BJP and its allies have their governments now are – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh (NDA partner TDP), Jammu & Kashmir (NDA partner PDP), Nagaland (NDA partner NPF) and Sikkim (NDA partner SDF). The party is number two in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. The BJP is also number 2 in Bihar if we see it as the grand alliance of JDU, RJD and Congress Vs the BJP.

Other big states barring Karnataka and Punjab, are all with the regional parties who have chosen not to ally with the Congress – Tamil Nadu (AIADMK), Telangana (TRS), West Bengal (AITC), Odisha (BJD) and Kerala (Left Front).

The Congress has ruling presence in only two electorally significant states, Karnataka and Punjab. But in Karnataka where elections are due early next year, its prospects don’t look good and there are very real chances that the huge anti-incumbency against the Congress led government will allow the BJP to easily win the state. The other parties in the Congress fold are all smaller states, i.e., Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry.

©SantoshChaubey

COMPLACENCY COSTS CONGRESS TWO MORE STATES

Now even the Supreme Court’s seal is on it that the Congress got complacent and took matters lightly in Goa and Manipur, the two states where it had emerged as the largest party but missed the bus to stake claims. The obvious consequence to it is that a BJP chief minister has taken oath in Goa and the party’s government will be formed in Manipur with the swearing-in scheduled for tomorrow.

While hearing a Congress petition against the oath-taking ceremony of Manohar Parrikar in Goa, a special Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar took the Congress to task for reacting late and refused to stay Parrikar’s swearing-in. The top court observed that a ‘simple floor test’ can take care of issues raised in the petition. As directed by the Supreme Court, Manohar Parrikar led BJP government will have to prove its majority in the House on March 16.

On the counting day, after the BJP’s massive victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and impressive show in Uttarakhand, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had some words of advice for the BJP leadership. He tweeted that the BJP was in power in two of the five states where elections were held and it lost both and therefore the party ‘shouldn’t be too complacent for 2019’ when the next parliamentary polls will be held.

But it seems, the Congress leadership got complacent with the poll results as it failed to move before the BJP in staking claims to form governments even if Amit Shah, the BJP president, had announced after the results came in that the BJP was going to form government in four states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

GOA

Even though Digvijay Singh, Goa in-charge of the Congress party, has been camping in Goa, the party failed to make its move and arrange numbers to stake claim. While the Congress was still contemplating its moves, the BJP met Goa Governor Mridula Sinha with a list 21 MLAs to stake its claim to form the government in the state with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar as its chief minister. Now he is back as CM and the BJP is claiming to have support of 23 MLAs. This is a point where the Congress clearly failed, a fact highlighted by the Supreme Court, which said the Congress didn’t approach the Governor or the Supreme Court with its list and affidavits of the supporting MLAs.

Parrikar had resigned from the CM position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet. This will be his fourth term as Goa’s chief minister. His first two terms were from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005.

The BJP, the incumbents in the state, won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members was needed. Congress needed four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needed eight. And the BJP arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.

The BJP claims to have support of three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), two independents and lone NCP MLA. Then there are reports that some Congress MLAs are ready to defect to join the BJP. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh’s reaction, who was earlier claiming to form the government, was quoted saying that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers. Today, in an interview with a channel, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath accepted that the Congress was slow to act in Goa and Manipur and better chalked-out plans were needed.

The Congress’ hara-kiri is evident from the fact that some of the newly elected Congress MLAs have blamed the senior Congress leaders of ‘indecisiveness’ even if it had the mandate to stake claim first, an unacceptable delay that gave the BJP enough time to play its cards. Congress Valopi MLA Vishwajit Rane, who is son of the former CM Pratapsingh Rane, felt so letdown that he left the party saying he was ‘disillusioned’ with the party after its ‘shameful handling of the mandate’.

MANIPUR

Manipur is the second state that is a missed opportunity for the Congress. Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla has invited the BJP leader N Biren Singh to form the government and his oath-taking ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow.

The Congress has been in power in the state since 2002 and even this time it emerged as the largest party winning 28 seats in the 60-member house. But the BJP’s performance is stunning here. The party that had not been able to open its account in the last polls in 2012, has emerged as the second largest party in this polls, winning 21 seats. But what is more remarkable is the fact that its vote share at 36.3% is more than Congress’ 35.1%, something that gives it the largest representation in the state. From 2.12% in 2012 to 36.3% in 2017, this is huge.

And thanks to the indecisiveness shown by the Congress here as well, the swift moves made by the BJP gave it the necessary edge and Imphal is going to have a BJP government next.

Both the BJP and the Congress are making claims and counterclaims. But certainly, the BJP has outsmarted the Congress in making first moves, be it parading the supporting MLAs before the Governor or holding joint presser with the National People’s Party (NPP). The Congress also claimed to have the NPP support but it was refuted by NPP chief Conrad Sangma.

In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, a simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs. In a quick move, on March 12, the BJP approached the Governor with a delegation of MLAs including four NPP MLAs, lone MLA of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), lone TMC MLA and a Congress MLA who had defected. The BJP delegation also handed over a letter of support from the Naga People’s Front (NPF), an NDA alliance partner.

After it, Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, like waking from a slumber, rushed to the Governor House to stake claim. He showed a letter on a plain paper with names of four NPP legislators in Congress’ support which was later junked by the NPP. Also, it is believed that the Governor asked Ibobi Singh to parade the four NPP MLAs to validate his claims. Then there are reports that around a dozen Congress MLAs are ready to defect to the BJP fold.

Sources say the Governor wanted to meet the four NPF MLAs personally before taking any decision. Today, NPF MLAs met the Governor and reiterated their party’s support for the BJP. That validated the count of 32 MLAs in BJP’s support. After it, the Governor invited the BJP to form the government.

DESPERATE LAST DITCH EFFORTS

In its last ditch effort, the Congress had moved to the Supreme Court challenging the invitation to Manohar Parrikar to form the government. But if we go by the Constitution’s interpretation of experts, inviting the largest party is more of a convention and the Governor is not bound to follow it if another political formation convinces him of having the required numbers.

It is left to the Governor’s discretion and wisdom to ensure that a stable government is formed, be it by the single largest party or a coalition of other parties, a fact reiterated by the Supreme Court during today’s hearing. The top court said that though it has become a Constitutional convention to invite the single largest party, the preference goes to them who show stable numbers.

Rapidly changing political developments have proved Shashi Tharoor wrong. It is not the BJP, but the Congress that has lost two states, i.e., Manipur and Uttarakhand. And unlike the BJP which lost one in Punjab, to gain four states in its fold, it could gain just one, i.e., Punjab. With these developments, the BJP and its allies now have governments in 17 states while the Congress and its allies have shrunk to just seven states.

©SantoshChaubey

COMPLACENCY LIKELY TO COST CONGRESS TWO MORE STATES

On the counting day, after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) massive victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and impressive show in Uttarakhand, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had words of advice for the BJP leadership. He tweeted that the BJP was in power in two of the five states where elections were held and it lost both and therefore the party ‘shouldn’t be too complacent for 2019’ when the next parliamentary polls will be held.

But it seems, the Congress leadership got complacent with the poll results as it failed to move before the BJP in staking claims to form governments even if Amit Shah, the BJP president, had announced on the counting day that the BJP was going to form government in four states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

GOA

Even though Digvijay Singh, Goa in-charge of the Congress party, has been camping in Goa, the party failed to make its move and arrange numbers to stake claim.

While the Congress was still contemplating its moves, the BJP met Goa Governor Mridula Sinha with a list 21 MLAs to stake its claim to form the government in the state. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has resigned from the union cabinet. The Goa Governor has invited him to take oath tomorrow and prove majority in the Goa assembly in 15 days. He had resigned from the CM position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet. This will be his fourth term as Goa’s chief minister. His first two terms were from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005.

The BJP, the incumbents in the state, won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members is needed. Congress needed four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needed eight. And the BJP arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.

The BJP claims to have support of three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), two independents and lone NCP MLA. Then there are reports that some Congress MLAs are ready to defect to join the BJP. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from the development where its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh, who was claiming to form the government, was quoted saying that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers.

The Congress’ hara-kiri here is evident from the fact that some of the newly elected Congress MLAs have the blamed the senior Congress leaders of ‘indecisiveness’ even if it had the mandate to stake the claim first, an unacceptable delay that gave the BJP enough time to play its cards. Congress Valopi MLA Vishwajit Rane, who is son of former CM Pratapsingh Rane, is feeling so disgusted that he had decided to leave the party saying he is ‘disillusioned’ with the party after its shameful handling of the mandate.

In its last ditch effort, the Congress has moved to the Supreme Court challenging the invitation to Manohar Parrikar to form the government and the Supreme Court has agreed for an emergency hearing tomorrow before Parrikar’s oath-taking ceremony at 5 PM. But the Constitution is silent on whether the Governor can call the second largest party or not in case of a hung assembly scenario and it is left of his discretion and wisdom to ensure that a stable government is formed, be it by the single largest party or a coalition of other parties.

MANIPUR

Manipur is the second state that is likely to slip from the Congress fold. The BJP legislature party has elected N Biren Singh as its leader and the party, along with its allies, are soon going to meet Najma Heptulla, the Manipur Governor, to stake claim to form the government.

The Congress has been in power in the state since 2002 and even this time it has emerged as the largest party winning 28 seats in the 60-member house. But the BJP’s performance is stunning here. The party that had not been able to open its account in the last polls in 2012, has emerged as the second largest party in this polls, winning 21 seats. But what is more remarkable is the fact that its vote share at 36.3% is more than Congress’ 35.1%, something that gives it the largest representation in the state. From 2.12% in 2012 to 36.3% in 2017, this is huge.

And thanks to the indecisiveness shown by the Congress here as well, the swift moves made by the BJP have created very real chances where Imphal could have a BJP government next.

Both the BJP and the Congress are making claims and counterclaims. But certainly, the BJP has outsmarted the Congress in making first moves, be it parading the supporting MLAs before the Governor or holding joint presser with the National People’s Party (NPP). Both, the BJP and the Congress, claim support of four NPP MLAs but Conrad Sangma, the NPP chief, has denied the Congress claims.

In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, a simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs.

After the BJP met the Governor and paraded 32 MLAs yesterday, including four each of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the NPP, lone MLA of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), lone TMC MLA and a Congress MLA who defected, Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, like waking up from a slumber, rushed to the Governor House to stake claim. He showed a letter with names of four NPP legislators in Congress’ support. The BJP has dismissed the letter as it was not on official letterhead. The letter claim was later debunked by the NPP. Also, the BJP had held a joint press conference with the NPP before meeting the Governor and the NPP had announced that it would go with the anti-Congress grouping in the Manipur assembly.

To make matters worse for the Congress, it is believed that the Governor has asked Ibobi Singh to parade the four NPP MLAs before to validate his claims, something that looks an improbable task now after the BJP has firmed up numbers in its favour. Then there are reports that around a dozen Congress MLAs are ready to defect to the BJP fold.

Whether the Congress will move to the Supreme Court in the Manipur case depends on what respite it gets from the Supreme Court tomorrow with its Goa petition. If the Supreme Court puts a stay on Parrikar’s oath-taking ceremony, Manipur will also see a prolonged uncertainty till the apex court finally comes with a definitive interpretation. But if we go by the interpretation of the experts, inviting the largest party is more of a convention and the Governor is not bound to follow it if another political formation convinces him of having the required numbers.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY CONGRESS’ CLAIM OF VICTORY IN THREE STATES IS A POOR ATTEMPT TO HIDE BEHIND STATS

The Congress may have found a way to draw some solace from the assembly election verdicts announced yesterday which were like a massive tsunami of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s electoral victory. After yet another round of electoral humiliation, the grand old party of India is trying to put up a brave face by highlighting the fact that it won three of the five states where polls were held. The party has scored an impressive victory in Punjab and has emerged as the largest party in Goa and Manipur.

It says while it lost one state in Uttarakhand, it won one in Punjab, has dethroned the BJP in Goa and is looking to retain Manipur after it emerged as the largest party by winning 26 of the 60 assembly seats on offer. But the BJP has outdone the Congress even here, in staking claims to form the governments in Goa and Manipur.

When we go beyond these mere claims to look for elements to substantiate them, we found them as empty claims which are nothing lame attempts to hide behind data manipulation, both in terms of numbers of states that the party claims to win and the geographical extent and population under its rule in the country.

THE PARTY MAY END UP WITH JUST ONE STATE

The Congress party has won a clear and absolute majority in Punjab with 77 seats in the 117-member strong Punjab assembly and 38.5% vote share and is going to form the government there under Captain Amarinder Singh.

But that is not the case with Goa and Manipur where Amit Shah, the BJP president, had claimed yeaterday that his party would form the government. Though the Congress has emerged as the largest party in both states, it is still short of majority with hung verdicts in both states. And the developments so far say that both of these states may actually end up with the BJP.

GOA

While the Congress is still contemplating its moves, the BJP has met the Goa Governor to stake its claim to form the government in the state. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will resign from the union cabinet to become Goa’s chief minister again. He had resigned from the position in November 2014 to join Narendra Modi’s union cabinet.

The BJP, the incumbents in the state, have won 13 assembly seats this time, four less than Congress’ 17. To prove majority in the 40-member Goa House, support of 21 members are needed. Congress needs four MLAs to scale the gap while the BJP needs eight. And it seems the BJP has arranged its eight before the Congress could garner support of four MLAs.

The BJP claims to have support of 22 MLAs including three MLAs each of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and three independents. That the Congress has resigned to its fate becomes clear from the development where its Goa in-charge Digvijay Singh, who was claiming to form the government yesterday, was quoted saying today that the Congress was ready to sit in Opposition if the BJP had the numbers.

MANIPUR

Himanta Biswa Sarma, senior BJP leader and Assam minister just tweeted to inform us that the BJP is going to stake claim to form the government.

@himantabiswa
Meeting her Excellency Guv of #Manipur Smt Najma Heptullah ji to stake claim to form a @BJP4India led Govt in state. #MissionAccomplished

In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, the ruling Congress party has won 28 seats while the BJP is trailing at the second position with 21 seats. A simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs.

Smaller parties like the Naga People’s Front (NPF) has won four seats, National People’s Party (NPP) has won another four seats and Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) has won one seat. All these are NDA constituents and have extended their support to the BJP in Manipur. The BJP is also claiming support of the lone independent MLA. That takes the tally of the BJP and its allies to 31, crossing the halfway majority mark in the Manipur assembly. Then there are reports that the lone All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) MLA is also supporting the BJP alliance and a Congress MLA has defected to the BJP camp.

So, in effect, based on the developments so far, the Congress has won just one states, i.e., Punjab, while losing two, i.e., Manipur and Uttarakhand.

SHRINKING AREA OF INFLUENCE

And even if we go by the Congress’ claim that it won three states, it will still add nothing significant to the spread of its influence – geographically as well as in terms of the human headcount. The Congress party has effectively lost the electoral space to act as a national alternative to the BJP.

The BJP and its allies were already ruling over 60% of India’s geographical area with 43% of its population before yesterday’s verdict and the sweep has taken it to around 70% of the landmass and 58% of the population. Even if we don’t count Goa and Manipur in BJP’s stable as of now, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand make BJP the ruling party of 15 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just five states with Karnataka as the only big state in its fold. The party has limited presence in another two states. The Congress has an alliance government in Puducherry while it is the junior-most alliance partner in Bihar’s ruling coalition.

In terms of the geographical spread, the Congress has shrunk to just 13% of Indian territory which houses the country’s 11% population. The BJP is now in all corners of the country, in north India, in central India, in south India, in West India, in east India and in north-east India, the footprint the Congress enjoyed earlier while the Congress has reduced to only few pockets.

If, in spite of all these bitter ground realities, the Congress leaders and spokespersons are still not ready to see the writing on the wall, no one can help in its revival to reclaim the past glory.

©SantoshChaubey

VERDICT 2017: ELECTORAL LANDSCAPE OF INDIA IS GOING TO BE BJP VS COALITIONS

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

Counting day trends of the five state assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur are now in. The way the electoral wind has blown has become clear in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand while it is still neck to neck contest in Goa and Manipur. As per the trends available so far, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), along with its allies, has won 325 seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly, an overwhelming majority in the state’s electoral history, ending the party’s 15 year old political exile in the state. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was the BJP’s last chief minister in Uttar Pradesh in 2002. The party has repeated its emphatic show in Uttarakhand, winning 56 of the 70 assembly seats on offer. The Congress has taken Punjab with 76 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly.

The verdict 2017 is going to write the electoral landscape of India for the next parliamentary polls in 2019, settling down the most important question of the representational camps in the state level and national politics.

And the message is loud clear.

It is going to be the coalitions Vs the BJP in the upcoming assembly polls that may finally culminate in a grand alliance taking on the ruling party in the Centre in the 2019 general elections. In 2018, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura are going to polls while ten states including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan have their state polls slated for 2019.

It is to be seen whether these coalitions will learn from the lessons of the experiments done in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In spite of all the big projections, the BJP had to bite the dust in the 2015 Bihar assembly polls as it was a clear two way fight between the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the grand political alliance of the Janata Dal United (JDU), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress party that ensured that the anti-BJP votes did not split.

That could not happen in Uttar Pradesh.

While the BJP targeted non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalit votes, in addition to its traditional vote bank of upper castes and middle class, the triangular contest between the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Congress coalition, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the BJP led NDA saw the anti-BJP votes split between the SP-Congress coalition and the BSP. At the same time, the BJP was able to consolidate its pie riding high on the factors like the Modi wave and polarisation along religious and community lines.

In Bihar, two arch rivals, the JDU and the RJD, could bury their past differences to prevent the BJP juggernaut. Uttar Pradesh would have been a different story had it been for a grand alliance of parties say the SP-BSP-Congress and even Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). Crisis of political survival may push these parties to come under one umbrella in future as we saw in the overtures of Akhilesh Yadav who offered to go along with the BSP to prevent the BJP’s sail in UP after the exit polls predicted a BJP victory or a hung assembly with the BJP as the largest party in the UP assembly.

The Congress party has effectively lost the electoral space to act as a national alternative to the BJP. The BJP and its allies were already ruling over 60% of India’s geographical area with 43% of its population before today’s verdict and the today’s sweep has taken it to around 70% of the land and 58% of the population. Even if we don’t count Goa and Manipur in BJP’s stable along with today’s results, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand make BJP the ruling party of 14 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just five states with Karnataka as the only big state in its fold. The Congress has an alliance government in Puducherry while it is the junior-most alliance partner in Bihar’s ruling coalition. And we should not forget that the states of Goa and Manipur are wide open till majority governments are formed there. When it comes to that, the state may well end up with the BJP.

Though the huge anti-incumbency against the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine has given Congress an emphatic victory in Punjab, the party has seen a humiliating loss in Uttarakhand where even its chief minister Harish Rawat could not save his assembly constituencies. To make Congress’ plight more visible, we have examples of Goa and Manipur. Congress claimed to win both of these states but the trends so far belie such claims. The north-eastern state of Manipur has been a traditional stronghold of the Congress party while it was expecting the anti-BJP incumbency to deliver Goa for it.

Manipur and Goa are small states, with 60 and 40 assembly seats respectively and the trends available so far say that it is a neck to neck fight between the BJP and the Congress in both of these states and the smaller parties and the independents will play the kingmaker in deciding who is going to form the government next. If the BJP has been able to form its government in Manipur, it will give the ruling party of India its second direct opening in the north-eastern region of India after Assam win in 2016.

If it happens so, the BJP will have presence in four of the eight north-eastern states, i.e., Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. After a series of dramatic upheavals, the BJP has its government in Arunachal Pradesh while Nagaland’s ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) is its alliance partner. So another BJP advance in the region at the cost of the Congress will limit the Congress’ influence like the one of regional parties while will add one more, and necessary, feather in the BJP’s drive to become a true pan-India political party.

This BJP spread is a crisis moment for the Congress, the SP, the BSP and many other state and regional parties and it will write the way further for the electoral politics in India. The crisis will eventually force them to come together to take on the BJP might. The future electoral landscape of India is thus expected to be dotted by coalitions and more coalitions against the BJP, in the upcoming assembly polls and in the mega electoral show in 2019 when we will chose our next set of parliamentarians. And Congress will have no choice but to become part of such coalitions, accepting junior roles, like it did in Bihar, and like it has done in Uttar Pradesh.

©SantoshChaubey

TOMORROW WILL WRITE THE ELECTORAL LANDSCAPE OF INDIA FOR 2019

So, the day has finally arrived. In few hours, the Election Commission will begin the exercise that will write the electoral landscape of India for the next parliamentary polls in 2019. The most important question that it will settle down will be about representation in the national politics.

The counting of votes for the assembly polls conducted in five states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, would be done tomorrow and by 12 PM, the trends will become more or less clear.

Anti-incumbency is expected to play the lead role in determining the poll outcome in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, and even in Manipur.

Congress’ fall from grace, it seems, is yet to see its lowest point as evident by no visible anti-incumbency against the BJP government in Goa where Congress is the main political opposition. To make Congress’ plight more visible, we have before us Manipur, the North-Eastern state that may go to the BJP fold, giving the ruling party in Centre its first direct opening in the North-Easter region of India.

If it happens so, the BJP will have significant presence in three of the seven North-Eastern states, i.e., Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. That will restrict Congress’ influence like the regional parties while will add one more (and necessary) feather in the BJP’s drive to become a true pan-India political party.

And that will write the way further in the electoral politics in India. It will be dotted by coalitions and more coalitions against the BJP, in assembly polls that will lead us to the mega electoral show in 2019 when we will chose our next set of parliamentarians. And Congress will have no choice but to become part of such coalitions, accepting junior roles, like it did in Bihar, and like it has done in Uttar Pradesh.

©SantoshChaubey