SIGNS THAT SHOW BJP IS WORRIED IN GUJARAT

First phase of Gujarat state election is over. The second phase is on 14 December and the results will be out on 18 December. But the chances for the BJP, which has ruled Gujarat since 1995, are not looking so bright this time. There are, in fact, signs that say the BJP may lose the polls this time. Signs, that reflect in pre-poll surveys and trends in election campaign.

PRE-POLL SURVEYS

An opinion poll just days before the first phase of Gujarat assembly election on 9 December projected it to be neck and neck contest between Congress and the BJP. The ABP-Lokniti-CSDS survey projected equal vote share for both parties at 43 per cent. According to the survey, BJP is expected to win 91-99 seats and Congress 78-86.

Though the survey still gives the BJP more seats, when we see it in continuation of its previous pre-election surveys, we can easily see the rising graph of Congress as the campaign is progressing. The same agency in its November survey had predicted 113-121 seats for the BJP and 58-64 for Congress while its August opinion poll had given the BJP even a wider margin projecting 144-152 seats for it against Congress’ 26-32 seats.

Another set of surveys by Times Now also shows a declining graph for the BJP. Its October survey gave the BJP 118-134 seats which came down to 106-116 seats in its December tally. On the other hand, though not much rosy, the Congress pie went up from 49-61 in October to 63-73 in December.

The BJP is facing 22 years of anti-incumbency and to make matters worse this time, there are factors that can derail its juggernaut there, Narendra Modi, demonetisation, GST, atrocities against Dalits and demands of Patel reservation. Narendra Modi is not the chief minister of the state and the CSDS opinion poll showed that the trading class is not happy with demonetisation and GST. And the biggest faces of Patel reservation protests and the movement against Dalit atrocities, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani, are with Congress.

DEPLOYMENT OF A LARGE TEAM TO COUNTER ONE PERSON

The BJP has unleashed its full force in the Gujarat campaign. Apart from dozens of union ministers, many chief ministers and senior BJP leaders, Narendra Modi himself has devoted fulltime to the party’s prospects in Gujarat. He is addressing multiple rallies in a day with at least a big rally scheduled in every district of the state. Though Vijay Rupani is Gujarat’s chief minister, the BJP face in the Gujarat polls is no doubt Narendra Modi. And all this is to counter a single face from Congress, Rahul Gandhi, who has been pivot of Congress’ campaign.

RELEASE OF MANIFESTO IN THE 11TH HOUR

The BJP released its manifesto just a day before the first phase of Gujarat state election. Though the party quoted busy campaign schedule and technicalities behind this delay, the truth is, the BJP move came after Congress made it an electoral issue with Rahul Gandhi calling it a disrespect to the people of Gujarat. Congress had released its manifesto on 4 December.

RAHUL GANDHI’S UNORTHODOX MOVES

Two stands taken by Rahul Gandhi stand out here, saying he is a mature politician now and can take his journey as Congress’ president further. First, he had issued a written instruction to his party leaders last month not to launch personal attacks against Narendra Modi, seeing how a long list of below the belt comments by Congress leaders targeting Narendra Modi had hit the party’s electoral prospects, be it Sonia Gandhi’s ‘maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death) or Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘chaiwala’ or his very own ‘khoon ki dalali’ in last year.

Second, he immediately got Mani Shankar Aiyar suspended from the Congress party for his ‘neech aadmi’ (vile man) comment on Modi saying, “The Congress has a different culture and heritage and I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM and both, the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said.”

While asserting that “the BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party”, Rahul, at the same time, denied the BJP the plausibility of using Congress’ personal attacks on Narendra Modi in its favour. And it is evident from the fact that Aiyar’s ‘neech aadmi’ jibe could not get much echo beyond few rallies.

RELIGION CARD

Rahul Gandhi started his Gujarat election campaign from Dwarka and has visited several temples across the state so far while on the campaign trail. He has declared his family and himself ‘Shiv bhakts’ (devotees of Lord Shiva) and is trying consciously to adopt the Soft Hindutva image to counter the BJP’s Hindutva politics. And it seems he has been successful so far in his attempts.

Otherwise the BJP would not have made Rahul Gandhi’s religion such a big issue, and that too based on a fake news. The BJP went big time saying Rahul was not a Hindu as he signed a non-Hindu visitor’s register during his Somnath Temple visit, a claim which was later refuted by the Somnath Temple trust.

‘DEVELOPMENT IN GUJARAT’ NARRATIVE MISSING

The BJP initially said its poll plank was all about development in Gujarat, something that would speak for itself. To counter it, Congress mounted a well-lubricated social media campaign focusing on ‘how development in the state had gone crazy’. But one look at BJP campaign speeches and one can easily see the development plank missing from there, something even its ally Shiv Sena pointed out today in its editorial Saamna.

DRAGGING PAKISTAN AND CHINA IN GUJARAT POLLS

The final days of campaigning in Gujarat has seen Narendra Modi and the BJP dragging in the issue of China and Pakistan meddling in Gujarat polls with Narendra Modi going as far as to allege that many including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a secret meeting involving the High Commissioner of Pakistan and an ex-Pakistani minister to discuss the Gujarat election.

There have also been allegations that Mani Shankar Aiyar colluded with Pakistan and even put out a contract to eliminate Narendra Modi. But the issue is not finding much traction as evident from the media coverage of elections. Apart from few news outlets, most of them are desisting from taking any stand on these allegations and counter-allegations.

©SantoshChaubey

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OMAR BIN KHETAB, NO 2 OF AL-QAEDA IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN

The article originally appeared on India Today on 7 December. 

Omar bin Khetab, the second-in-command of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), has been killed in a joint operation by Afghan intelligence and the US military.

Not much information is available about the terrorist – apart from some sketchy details – but the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) called him the seniormost Al Qaeda leader killed in Afghanistan since 2001, when Taliban was driven out of the country.

A NATO release on Khetab’s elimination described him as an expert in heavy weapons and explosives, who trained the Taliban for night attacks.

Also known as Omar Mansoor, Khetab was killed in the Gilan district in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, the Washington Post reported. He was in his early 40s, and came from the restive tribal regions of Pakistan, the report said.

A 2016 UN report put the AQIS operatives’ count in Afghanistan at 300, and said they mainly came from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and India. The same report said Khetab handled AQIS operations in the east of Waziristan.

Courtesy: Tolo News

80 more Al Qaeda terrorists were killed along with him, including the top three al-Qaeda leaders in the country. Those who were killed included “Qasim, Hassan Hamza, Jonaid and Mustafa, military head of al-Qaeda, three Punjabi Taliban and two local Taliban fighters”, Tolo News reported quoting the NDS.

Air and military operations were conducted in the past few weeks in Ghazni, Paktia and Zabul provinces of Afghanistan. Details of the operations have not been released yet.

Courtesy: Tolo News

AQIS TRYING TO MAKE PRESENCE FELT IN INDIA

The AQIS has virtually been non-existent so far in India and is trying to make its presence felt in the country. It recently named former Hizbul terrorist Zikar Rashid Bhat – alias Zakir Musa – the chief of its India unit Ansar Ghawzat-Ul-Hind. Before that, in June, AQIS had released a new code of conduct for its members and other terrorists who wanted to show allegiance to Al Qaeda.

In a tape released in August, Al Qaeda chief Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri confirmed that slain Al Qaeda commander Abu Dujana al Pasha was the main driving force behind the formation of AQIS as he “united several jihadi groups belonging to the Indian Subcontinent”.

Abu Dujana al Pasha, who was also known as Abu Dujana al Basha, was the son-in-law of Zawahiri and played a key role in Al Qaeda’s terror operations. Reports say he was known as the “hidden commander” in Al Qaeda, because though he was relatively unknown to the outside world, he worked hard to establish AQIS. The US had declared him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2009.

Zawahiri had announced the formation of the AQIS in a video message in September 2014. Though it was widely reported that al Pasha was killed in a US drone strike, Al Qaeda never accepted it.

©SantoshChaubey

SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY MAY WANT INDIA TO MOVE ITS EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM BUT MAHATMA GANDHI WAS EVEN AGAINST FORCED SETTLEMENT OF ISRAELIS IN PALESTINE

Subramamian Swamy may demand India to follow the United States and move its embassy to Jerusalem but it is against India’s principled stand of solidarity with the Palestinian cause that was against the forced settlement of Israelis in the Palestinian territory. Like the whole issue of Israeli settlement in Palestine, the issue of sovereign claims over Jerusalem, too, has been a contentious issue as the city is the ancient seat of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

The origin behind this principled stand can be traced back to Mahatma Gandhi, our Father of the Nation, who believed that Israelis could settle in Palestine only with the permission from Arabs and it was wrong for them to enter with the might of the British gun.

Writing in Harijan on November 26, 1938, Mahatma Gandhi says that his sympathies are with the Jews some of whom have been his friends since his days in South Africa. Thus, he knows about the age-long persecution of the Jews. He refers to the Jews as the untouchables of Christianity, like the untouchables of Hinduism and that religion is used in their persecution, as was happening then with the Jews in Germany.

But, he draws a line here saying his sympathy for the Jews cannot blind him to the requirements of justice.

He says in his write-up, The Jews, in Harijan, “The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me.” He says that “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French and it is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs.”

Mahatma Gandhi says the settlement of the Jews in the Palestinian territory is akin to a religious act that rules out use of force, “The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs.”

In this article written in 1938, before the organized massacre of the Jews in the German concentration camps began, Mahatma Gandhi argues that the Jewish people are the citizens of the world and they should be treated as such, a Jew born in France as French, a Jew born in Germany as German. He advises the German Jews to use the civil movement through non-violence to take on the German persecution.

Though, we can see a change in approach in the later writings of Mahatma Gandhi on German persecution of the Jews after the German concentration camps massacred millions of Jews, his stand on Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land remains the same.

In another Harijan article titled “Jews and Palestine”, written on July 21, 1946, after the Second World War and the German massacre of the Jews were over, he says, “I do believe that the Jews have been cruelly wronged by the world. “Ghetto” is, so far as I am aware, the name given to Jewish locations in many parts of Europe. But for their heartless persecution, probably no question of return to Palestine would ever have arisen. The world should have been their home, if only for the sake of their distinguished contribution to it.”

But in the next paragraph, he reiterates his long held stand on the forced Jewish occupation of the Palestinian land, “But, in my opinion, they have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism.”

And he held this view on the Palestine-Israel problem till his death, blaming Christianity for singling out and wronging the Jews, “Their citizenship of the world should have and would have made them honoured guests of any country. Their thrift, their varied talent, their great industry should have made them welcome anywhere. It is a blot on the Christian world that they have been singled out, owing to a wrong reading of the New Testament, for prejudice against them. If an individual Jew does a wrong, the whole Jewish world is to blame for it. If an individual Jew like Einstein makes a great discovery or another composes unsurpassable music, the merit goes to the authors and not to the community to which they belong.”

JERUSALEM CLAIMS

Swamy, the senior BJP leader, tweeted last night, hours after US President Donald Trump made his formal announcement to move US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “Israel has international recognition of a part of Jerusalem as its territory; hence India should shift its Embassy to this part of the city.”

But the contention is about East Jerusalem that houses Islam’s third holiest shrine Al Aqsa mosque and Palestine and the whole Muslim world see Jerusalem as Palestine capital. While West Jerusalem has been Israel’s seat of government, it occupied East Jerusalem in 1967’s Six Day War.

Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has created outrage in the Muslim world amid the global concern that it will disturb status-quo in one of the most dangerous conflict theatres of the world where escalating tension may easily give way to a larger war involving many countries.

The issue has been so sensitive that almost no country so far had recognized Israel’s sovereign claim over Jerusalem and the global consensus has been that the issue must be resolved through negotiation between Israel and Palestine. Even the previous US presidents recognized it and that is why none of them thought to cross the line even if the US Congress had enacted a law in 1995, Jerusalem Embassy Act, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and had decided to move its Embassy there. The UN has also condemned the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem through the UN Security Council Resolution 478.

INDIA’S STAND

India’s has reacted cautiously on the development, “India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.”

In fact, if it took 45 years after the independence for India to allow Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, as it always tried to maintain balance between its principled stand on Palestine and its geopolitical concerns that Israel could have addressed. India and Israel established full diplomatic ties on January 29, 1992 but it took another 25 years for India’s first ever prime ministerial visit to the nation in July this year. In these 25 years, Israel has emerged as India’s most reliable defence partner and India as Israel’s largest defence market, accounting for 41 per cent of its arms export.

©SantoshChaubey

FIVE DEVELOPMENTS DURING CONGRESS REGIMES THAT POLITICISED AYODHYA

The article originally appeared on India Today on 6 December.

Ayodhya has changed the political discourse of the country with various events unfolding since 1949, after India started its journey as an independent sovereign nation on August 15, 1947.

The right-wing forces are blamed for doing so. But if we look back at historical developments on the issue, it appears the issue was already politicised during the successive Congress regimes, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi, and the right-wing forces only built on to it.

It is worth mentioning here that it was during a Congress government, headed by PV Narasimha Rao, that the Babri Masjid was demolished on 6 December, 1992.

DECEMBER 22-23, 1949 – RAM LALLA IDOL PLACED: It was done by Abhiram Das and his colleagues, ending over 400 years of status-quo. Though the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was furious at the idol being placed in the Babri Masjid, that finally made it a disputed structure, he could never find time to visit Ayodhya even once.

FEBRUARY 19, 1981 – MEENAKSHIPURAM CONVERSIONS: A Tamil Nadu village, Meenakshipuram, saw a mass conversion, and was renamed Rahmat Nagar. It was the beginning of the ascendance of right-wing politics in the country. Talks of Ayodhya and Ram Janmabhoomi to be taken in a mission mode began here.

1984 – THE SHAH BANO CASE: The way Rajiv Gandhi surrendered before the compulsions of minority appeasement and overturned a Supreme Court ruling on a social malaise that was affecting millions of Muslim women, it further sent out a message that the government was ready to go to any extent to save its votebanks.

It also sent a powerful message that the government that was so appeasement centric that if it could overturn a historic decision of the top court of the land, it could never be friendly to the interests of the majority. And there were many takers for it.

FEBRUARY 1, 1986, ORDER TO UNLOCK THE GATES: Though a local court ordered it, the governments- at the Centre and Uttar Pradesh very complicit and they never thought to challenge it in a higher court.Instead, the padlock was immediately opened after the judge’s order who quoted his religious experiences while delivering the judgment.
The stand taken shows Rajiv Gandhi had started feeling the pressure of a parallel right-wing political movement taking shape and had chosen the most direct tool to reach out to the masses – religion.

1989 SHILANYAS OF TEMPLE BY VHP: It is said that both the Congress government in Uttar Pradesh and the Centre could have stopped it but their lackadaisical attitude helped the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) lay the foundation stone of the Ram Temple on November 10, 1989.

The VHP began a big movement and had already revealed the date but none of the governments took proper legal interest to stall its plans, a failure that emboldened the forces to such an extent that it resulted in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE AFTERMATH THAT LED TO BABRI DEMOLITION IN 1992

1989-90 – JAN MORCHA AND MANDAL PROPOSALS: VP Singh, who was the then defence minister, revolted against the Bofors scam and formed a co-alition government in December 1989. He gave us the caste-based affirmative action, the reservation system that we follow today, through the Mandal proposals.ANTI-MANDAL VIOLENCE AND PRESSURE ON VP SINGH: Implementation of the Mandal proposals led to widespread demonstrations and violence. It increased pressure on the VP Singh government to such an extent that he had to go soft on Ayodhya.

But he could not reap the Mandal benefits as he was replaced by Chandra Shekhar in November 1990. Chandra Shekhar, who also lasted for only seven months, prompting mid-term elections. It was during the campaigning that Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991.

SEPTEMBER 25, 1990: ADVANI KICKS OFF RATHYATRA – THE MANDAL SPIN: The BJP cleverly used the deepening Ayodhya sentiments and the anti-Mandal protests to its advantage. It could make voters believe that it was their right representative in these circumstances. The electoral gains made by the BJP supported it. The party that could win just two seats in the previous Lok Sabha polls in 1984, won 85 seats in 1989.

OCTOBER 30, 1990: Police firing on kar sevaks in Ayodhya led to five deaths. Mulayam Singh Yadav was Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister. 15 more kar sevaks were killed in police firing on November 2.

1991: While Congress came back to power in June 1991 with a government led by Narasimha Rao, the BJP’s also saw its first big political foray in the mainstream. It came to power in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. It was the beginning of the emergence of a political alternative in India that would make Congress like a regional party in 25 years, as the Congress’ situation is now.

DECEMBER 6, 1992: Babri demolition and the aftermath – the riots of December 1992 that engulfed the country. The Bombay riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and subsequent serial blasts in India’s financial capital that killed scores.

©SantoshChaubey

TRUMP’S JERUSALEM DECLARATION: AL QAEDA, ISIS THREATEN BLOODBATH

Al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS) have threatened attacks on US for its decision to shift its Israel Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While ISIS warning says it is coming to liberate Al-Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem) and will unleash bloodbath, pro Al Qaeda channels appeals Muslims that “demonstrations must be followed by explosions and civil disobedience by military anger killing those of the crusaders we find on our land and destroy the western interests until they stop supporting Israel.”

Yesterday, US President Donald Trump had announced that the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and today he made its formal declaration. The decision has created outrage in the Muslim world amid the global concern that it will disturb status-quo in one of the most dangerous conflict theatres of the world where escalating tension may easily give way to a larger war involving many countries. If Israel considers Jerusalem its holiest shrine, the Muslim world also views the historical city as the third holiest shrine of Islam and the Palestinians consider East Jerusalem that houses Al Aqsa mosque as their capital. The terror warnings say the whole of Jerusalem in Palestine’s capital and assert that “O Aqsa, we are coming to liberate you.”

The issue has been so sensitive that almost no country so far had recognized Israel’s sovereign claim over Jerusalem and the global consensus has been that the issue must be resolved through negotiation between Israel and Palestine. Even the previous US presidents recognized it and that is why none of them thought to cross the line even if the US Congress had enacted a law in 1995 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and had decided to move its Embassy there. The UN has also condemned the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem through the UN Security Council Resolution 478.

The Trump’s announcement has breached that global consensus. And while he may have been able to fulfil one of his campaign promise with this announcement, there are fears of its immediate aftermath that it will become rallying point for jihadists and terror groups from across the world and these warnings from ISIS and Al Qaeda only confirm it.

Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intel Group, a US based terror monitor agency, has posted the terror threats on her Twitter handle. She says “the jihadists are capitalizing on the possibility of the US moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and warns that the world should expect to see a long, ongoing campaign by jihadists about the move.” While pro ISIS channels have posted warnings and graphics in English, Arabic and Hebrew in line with the ISIS propaganda practices, the Al Qaeda channels are exhorting Muslims to come forward with comments of Osama bin Laden and other leaders on Palestine.

Rita Katz‏ @Rita_Katz
1. Both AQ & ISIS supporters threatening attacks as US prepares to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. One pro-ISIS Telegram channel posted graphics of Aqsa Mosque, warning in Arabic, Hebrew and English: We will cut off your heads and we will liberate Jerusalem from you.”

2. Jihadists are capitalizing on the possibility of the US moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, insisting: “All of al-Quds is the capital of Palestine”, posting threats, graphics, jihadi leadership statements, and documents.

3) Likewise, pro-AQ channels disseminating statements by leaders like slain AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, instructing to “kill those of the Crusaders we find on our land, and destroy the Western interests” until they stop supporting Israel.

4) We should expect to see a long, ongoing campaign by jihadists about the move of the US capital in Israel to Jerusalem, including warnings and threats by jihadi leaders, as the matter is a major rallying point within the global jihadi movement across ISIS/AQ lines.

©SantoshChaubey

BELT AND ROAD GOING OFF-ROAD? PAKISTAN, NEPAL AND MYANMAR CANCEL AGREEMENTS WITH CHINA

Though reports made headlines yesterday that China had stopped funding of three major China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) road projects in Pakistan citing corruption as the reason, there are more worrying signs ahead for whole One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR), also known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s ambitious plan to establish global hegemony by building economic corridors linking Asia, Europe and Africa. The CPEC, a long term $75 billion project from Gwadar port in Balochistan to Kashgar China’s Xinjiang province, is just a part of it.

According to a report in Voice of America (VOA), in recent weeks, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar have either put on hold or cancelled major hydroelectric projects worth $20 Billion.

Last month, Pakistan withdrew Diamer-Bhasha Dam project from the CPEC as it found the lending conditions imposed by the Chinese consortium too tough. The dam is a $14 Billion project to be built on the Indus River in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Pakistan has now decided to fund it through local resources.

The proposed Daimer-Bhasha dam is a controversial project as it lies in Gilgit-Baltistan, part of PoK that India considers its own and for that very reason, agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have refused to fund it. India is also opposed to the CPEC for the very same reason as it passes through PoK. For strategic reasons also, India doesn’t welcome a Chinese presence just across the border in a disputed territory that is legally India’s.

Similarly Nepal, on November 13, cancelled the agreement with a Chinese state firm for the Budhi Gandaki hydropower project citing corruption. The $2.5 Billion project was signed recklessly and shadily, Nepal said while cancelling the deal that was supposed to make it a BRI project. Nepal too, like Pakistan, is going to fund the project internally.

In case of Myanmar, the Myitsone dam project is a classic example to see China’s hegemonic designs.

The $3.6 billion dam project was financed by China. Built on the Irrawaddy River, the project was doomed from the beginning. After being in making for years, the project was suspended in September 2011 amid democratic reforms as the Burmese Junta government had taken a unilateral decision to allow the controversial project that was expected to bring cultural, environmental and sociological disaster for Myanmar and its people. The ethnic Burman majority of Myanmar is against any dam on the Irrawaddy River as it traces its roots of civilization there.

Add to it the cunning Chinese business model. The project was sold saying the electricity it would produce, 90 per cent of it would be sold to China while 10 per cent was to be given free to Myanmar. Being a power starved country, protests were held against it in Myanmar. Under pressure, China later said Myanmar was the primary market and rest was to be exported. That was when Myanmar is among the countries with lowest electrification rate and no grid structure to connect its cities and town. A World Bank report says only 33 per cent of the country’s population has an electricity connection.

And China has tried this junked project that has displaced thousands of people to leverage its position in Myanmar or we can say, to blackmail the Myanmarese government as it would have to give China back a huge compensation, or the way China wants it, i.e., “concessions on other strategic opportunities in Myanmar”, Reuters report says. The Myanmarese experience has been so bad here that the country has declared that it would not go for big hydroelectric dams in future even if it is power starved.

PUMPING MONEY THE CHINESE WAY

China is pumping huge sums of money in projects that fit in the Chinese narrative of its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative albeit, at much higher interest rates. Critics of the BRI say the Chinese design is simple, lend in huge sums to the financially weaker countries in need and then blackmail them when they fail to pay back.

If the international line of credit by different organizations or countries for soft loans ranges from 0.1 per cent to 3 per cent, the Chinese lenders charge anything above 6 per cent. In 2015, Japan sanctioned a loan amount of $50 billion with interest rate of 0.1 per cent and a repayment period of 50 years for India’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor.

India’s neighbourhood countries that China is eyeing through BRI are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. Having a strong Chinese presence in these countries would give China strategic advantage over India. So, China, in the name of building economic corridors, is offering these countries huge loans for infrastructural projects at higher interest rates and when these economically poor countries are not able to repay the loans, China goes on to acquire controlling stakes in them, as high as 85 per cent.

The growing consensus about Chinese designs on the BRI was aptly summed up in a Quartz analysis, “While most countries along the Belt and Road initiative welcome foreign investment and assistance in building modern infrastructure, the pressure being exercised by Beijing doesn’t always go down well. Countries on the receiving end of Chinese cash are starting to realize that when all is done and dusted, the infrastructure that is built is likely to end up controlled by China.”

©SantoshChaubey

AFTER HIGHLIGHTING WHY ROY MOORE SHOULD WIN, TRUMP EXHORTS HIM TO ‘GO, GET DEMOCRATS’

Hours after his strongest defense of Roy Moore yet, the controversial Republican nominee for the United States Senate election who has even been refuted by many Republicans, US President Donald Trump formally endorsed him in a phone call, pushing the Republican National Committee (RNC) to resume campaign ties with Moore which it had severed last month after allegations by many women that Moore sexually abused them when they were minors.

Trump’s formal endorsement of Roy Moore extended the line of strong views on why he was supporting Moore. Trump exhorted Moore to ‘go, get them (his Democratic rivals)’ after letting America, the world and Moore’s Republican critics know why a Moore victory was a crisis issue for Trump and his party (the Republican Party).

Linking Moore’s victory to the successful implementation of the Republican agenda in the US Congress, Trump highlighted that how the refusal of the Democrats was obstructing the passage of many Republican legislative reforms including the new US tax code. The Republic tax code has divided the US society with many strongly disapproving it. Democrats are calling it a scam that would benefit only wealthy Americans and corporations. “Democrats’ refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, border wall, military, pro life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more,” Trump wrote on Twitter highlighting the Republican legislative agenda.

Targetting the Democrat nominee Doug Jones, a former attorney, Trump called him a puppet of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the minority leaders in the US Congress. “Putting Pelosi/Schumer Liberal Puppet Jones into office in Alabama would hurt our great Republican Agenda of low on taxes, tough on crime, strong on military and borders…and so much more. Look at your 401-k’s since Election. Highest Stock Market ever! Jobs are roaring back!” Trump wrote further on Twitter.

Roy Moore is former chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. His life and career have been controversial and it is not just these sexual abuse allegations that he has vehemently denied. He was who was removed twice from his position of chief justice for abusing his position to take contrary positions from established judicial norms. Trump has defended Moore to garner more numbers in the US Congress to support his agenda that even many Republican don’t follow. For the record, he says as Moore has denied all allegations against him and nothing has been proved, so there is no case.

Moore, who is nicknamed ‘The Ten Commandments Judge’ for installing a Ten Commandment granite monument in a judicial building for which he was punished, is a hardliner like Trump whose first indication on supporting Moore was the statement that “we don’t need liberals there (in the US Congress). Moore says the US Congress should not have Muslim members and calls homosexuality illegal despite the US Supreme Court making it legal a long back. The Senate election from Alabama is due on December 12 and was necessitated after resignation of Jeff Sessions in February this year after he was appointed US Attorney General by Trump.

©SantoshChaubey

TRUMP BATS FOR ROY MOORE, IN HIS STRONGEST DEFENSE YET

In his strongest defense yet of Roy Moore, the controversial Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Alabama, US President Donald Trump has linked the victory of Moore to successful implementation of the Republican agenda.

Tying Moore’s election from the state, represented by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier, with numbers game in the US Congress, Trump highlighted that how the refusal of the Democrats was obstructing the passage of the new US tax code that Republican consider a sweeping reform. The Republic tax code has divided the US society with many strongly disapproving it. Democrats are calling it a scam that would benefit only wealthy Americans and corporations.

With the Senate passing the new US tax code this Friday, both chambers of the US Congress, including the House, have passed the legislation that intends to introduce sweeping structural reforms to the taxation practices in the US. The legislation will also be the first major legislative victory for the Republicans who have failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, their long-term agenda and one of the main campaign promises, despite their numerical dominance in the US Congress, indicating that their own house is not in order.

Batting for Moore, former chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and a controversial figure who was removed twice from his position and who is also facing allegations of being involved in sexual abuse on minor girls, Trump targeted the Democrat nominee Doug Jones, a former attorney, without naming him. He called him a puppet of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the minority leaders in the US Congress, whose election would further hurt the Republican agenda of introducing measures on lowering taxes, tougher laws on crime, stopping illegal immigration, strengthening military and defending the US borders.

Trump has defended Moore to garner more numbers in the US Congress to support his agenda that even many Republican don’t follow. For the record, he says as Moore has denied all allegations against him and nothing has been proved, so there is no case.

Moore, who is nicknamed ‘The Ten Commandments Judge’ for installing a Ten Commandment granite monument in a judicial building for which he was punished, is a hardliner like Trump who endorsed his nomination saying “we don’t need liberals there (in the US Congress). Moore says the US Congress should not have Muslim members and calls homosexuality illegal despite the US Supreme Court making it legal a long back and says.

The Senate election from Alabama is due on December 12 and was necessitated after resignation of Sessions in February this year after he was appointed US Attorney General by Trump.

©SantoshChaubey

THE AMETHI LOSS IS SYMPTOMATIC OF CONGRESS’ ROUT IN UTTAR PRADESH

The results of local body polls in Uttar Pradesh today once again confirm that Congress has become totally irrelevant in India’s politically most important state that sends 80 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

While the party has expectedly come fourth in the overall tally dominated by the BJP, what is symbolic of Congress’ plight in India’s most populous state is its rout in Amethi, the perceived bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, currently represented by Rahul Gandhi, which is proving a slippery ground for the grand old party of India if we see the past results.

The BJP has registered spectacular win in Uttar Pradesh and Amethi while Congress has literally been wiped out. Amethi has two Nagar Palika and Nagar Panchayat seats each. It lost both Nagar Palika elections in the constituency, Jais and Gauriganj while it had not fielded candidates for Nagar Panchayat polls in Amethi and Musafirkhana. In Jais, in fact, the candidate fielded by the party came fourth. On the other hand, the BJP won the Jais Nagar Palika and Amethi Nagar Panchayat elections.

Moreover, to compound the misery of Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made an impressive debut in the polls winning two chairman and 33 councillor posts. The party came fifth, just behind Congress.

The drubbing of Congress in Amethi civic polls is symptomatic of its rout in Uttar Pradesh, the state that has given nine prime ministers to India. The party that has ruled Uttar Pradesh for almost three decades is in imminent danger of being totally wiped out from the state including the Amethi and Raebareli Lok Sabha seats, its traditional strongholds since the days of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Rahul Gandhi’s mother and Congress’ president Sonia Gandhi is the current Raebareli MP. While Sonia Gandhi may not contest the next Lok Sabha polls in 2019 due to her health concerns, Amethi becomes important for Congress to retain as the seat will represent Congress’ next president with Rahul’s elevation scheduled later this month.

But if we go by the results of the assembly constituencies that fall in the Amethi Lok Sabha seat, we can say the Congress citadel has never overwhelmingly supported Congress, especially after Rahul Gandhi took over the constituency from his mother in 2004 Lok Sabha polls that he won comfortably.

Amethi parliamentary constituency (PC) has five assembly constituencies (ACs) – Tiloi, Salon (CS), Jagdishpur (SC), Gauriganj and Amethi.

In fact, in his first two LS polls from the Amethi constituency, Rahul won comfortably and massively, increasing his vote share from 49.33 per cent in 2004 to 57.25 per cent in 2009 but we also need to keep this in mind that whenever it came to parliamentary polls in Amethi, Rahul almost always got walkover from the main opposition parties, SP and BSP. And BJP was nowhere in the scene as a potent political force with a consistent downward spiral in Uttar Pradesh.

But that changed in 2017 assembly election. Stunning even the most seasoned political pundits, BJP won the assembly elections with a huge margin with 325 seats in the 403-member UP legislative assembly, so much so that no Muslim candidate could win even the minority concentration districts of western UP and their overall representation in UP assembly came down to a historically low of 25 MLAs, from a high of 68 Muslim MLAs in the UP assembly just five years ago, in 2012 assembly election. The 2017 outcome followed the massive BJP wave of 2014 LS election when the party had 71 out of the 80 LS seats in India’s most populous state.

And it reflected even in Amethi, in 2014 and now in 2017.

The battle for 2014 proved a tough one for Rahul Gandhi with senior BJP leader Smriti Irani as his main opponent. She gave a spirited fight and it reflected in Rahul’s winning margin coming drastically down to 12.36 per cent. Following is the break-up on how Congress has performed in Amethi assembly polls since Rahul Gandhi took over the Constituency.

2017 ASSEMBLY ELECTION IN AMETHI

In assembly election earlier this year, BJP won four out of five assembly constituencies falling in the Amethi PC, the party that had failed to win even a single AC in Amethi in 2007 and 2012 assembly polls. Congress failed to open even its account with the other left seat going to SP. Moreover Congress didn’t remain even the main opposition in two ACs, ending up third in Tiloi AC and fourth in Amethi.

TILOI (178)
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – BJP – 96119 votes
Mohd Saood – BSP – 52072 votes
Vinod Kumar Mishra – Congress – 3rd – 35837 (18.55%) votes

SALON (SC) (181)
Dal Bahadur – BJP – 78028 votes
Suresh Chaudhary – Congress – 61973 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (184)
Suresh Kumar – BJP – 84219 votes
Radhey Shyam – Congress – 67619 votes

GAURIGANJ (185)
Rakesh Pratap Singh – SP – 77915 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 51496 votes

AMETHI (186)
Garima Singh – BJP – 64226 votes
Gaytri Prasad – SP – 59161 votes
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 4th – 20291 (10.85%) votes
BSP – 3rd – 16.13% votes

But even earlier, in 2007 and 2012 assembly election, Amethi PC was not clearly a Congress bastion, if seen from the perspective of AC voters.

2012 ASSEMBLY ELECTION IN AMETHI

In 2012 election, SP, the party that had won that year’s assembly polls with 224 seats overall, ended up winning three out of five ACs falling in Amethi PC including the Amethi AC while Congress could win only two. The only solace that the party could have drawn was, it remained the principal opposition in other three ACs.

TILOI (178)
Dr Mohammad Muslim – Congress – 61249 votes
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – SP – 58539 votes

SALON (SC) (181)
Ashakishore – SP – 69020 votes
Shiv Balak Pasi – Congress – 48443 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (184)
Radhey Shyam – Congress – 56309 votes
Vijay Kumar – SP – 50912 votes

GAURIGANJ (185)
Rakesh Pratap Singh – SP – 44287 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 43784 votes

AMETHI (186)
Gayatri Prasad – SP – 58434 votes
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 49674 votes

2007 ASSEMBLY ELECTION IN AMETHI

2007 was tad better for Congress when it could win three out of five seats in the parliamentary constituency. The 2008 delimitation had not affected the basic AC composition of the Amethi PC and it still consisted of the abovementioned five assembly segments – Tiloi, Salon, Jagdishpur, Gauriganj and Amethi – of which Congress won three including Amethi and remained the principal opposition in other two – out of which one went to SP and the other to BSP.

TILOI (92)
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – SP – 44513 votes
Dr. Mohammad Muslim – Congress – 44056 votes

SALON (SC) (97)
Shiv Balak Pasi – Congress – 45078 votes
Asha Kishor – SP – 31969 votes

JAGDISHPUR (SC) (107)
Ram Sewak – Congress – 34563 votes
Shri Ram – BSP – 21356 votes

GAURIGANJ (106)
Chandra Prakash – BSP – 34386 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 28393 votes

AMETHI (105)
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 48108 votes
Ashish – BSP – 35684 votes

©SantoshChaubey

INDIAN RAILWAYS ENQUIRY SYSTEM – LYING, AS USUAL….

My parents were travelling from ShivGanga Express (12559 – Varanasi to New Delhi) last evening. The train, considered the most important one between Varanasi and New Delhi, starts from the Manduadih station (MUV), one of the sub-stations of the Varanasi Railway Junction, at 7:40 PM and arrives in New Delhi (NDLS) at 8:10 AM the next day. And the thing is, its gets delayed daily. Okay, don’t get swayed by Indian Railways’ National Train Enquiry System (NTES) app on your smartphone or – https://enquiry.indianrail.gov.in/ntes/ – its desktop version.

They work overtime to do the damage control that has become synonymous with Indian Railways – chronic delays. Most of the time, they end up showing ‘earlier than real’ time of a train’s arrival. But this ‘jugaad’ hurts the Indian Railway’s misplaced pride even more. The network that has been busy fleecing passengers during some last years to increase its revenue, with measures like dynamic fare pricing as air carriers do or Premium Tatkal scheme that makes even a sleeper class ticket as expensive as AC-II or AC-III, has absolutely failed to meet the most basic need of any transport network – timely arrival and departure of trains. And mind you, most of this is due to its human network. The irony of all this is, you can easily find cheaper airfares for the same route than what some of premium trains offer.

And when even most of its premium trains routinely get delayed – including Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto – we don’t need to do much data digging about the state of affairs with the superfast trains, like the one my parents were travelling from. And last evening and this morning were no different. The train usually starts getting late as it passes the Allahabad Junction. By the time the train arrives in Kanpur, already an hour or two late, it enters the phase where it adds up delayed minutes to its quantum quite regularly, so much so, that by the time it reaches in the catchment area of Delhi, it becomes a nightmare for passengers.

These are the snapshots of the NTES app this morning that show how Indian Railways takes us for a ride. The screenshots taken at 10:36 AM show the train is delayed by 2.21 hours and will reach Delhi by 10:31 AM. We can give the NTES benefit of doubt here as the site may take some minutes in updating the information.

So I called my parents at 10:41 AM to confirm if the train had arrived so that I could ask the driver to approach them but what they told me, in turn told me, that the train was still hours away, even if it was just 15 Kms away from the New Delhi railway station. The train was just crossing the Anand Vihar Terminal. I again called them at 11:10 AM and they said the same thing, that they were still in the Anand Vihar area.

I again checked the NTES app at 11:13 AM. It was now showing the train was delayed by 2.48 hours with its expected New Delhi arrival at 10:48 AM. But here is this thing to see. This information on the NTES app was updated at 10:39 AM, 39 minutes after the last update at 10 AM as we can see in the screenshots but both show the same last station departed – ‘Departed from Chipyana Buzurg at 9:55 AM 23 Nov. 29 Kms to arrive New Delhi.’ So, in a sense, no real time update. The maps of the train route are also showing the same pointers.

I again checked the NTES app at 11:24 AM. And bingo, this time it showed the train had arrived New Delhi at 11:05 AM (delayed by 2.55 hours). The information was updated at 11:18 AM. Keeping in mind the history of the NTES app for giving misleading information, I called my parents at 11:25 PM to confirm it. And guess what they said. They told me that the train was still standing at the Shivaji Bridge station, almost 1.5 Kms away from the New Delhi railway station. The train finally arrived at the New Delhi railway station at 11:37 AM, delayed by 3.27 hours.

©SantoshChaubey