BJP Secures ‘Grand Alliance’ With Parties In Northeast Prior To Lok Sabha Polls 2019

After significant deliberations on Tuesday between the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies in the northeast have led to the formation of a ‘grand alliance’. 

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav announced the development on his Facebook page early on Wednesday morning claiming that the alliance has the potential to win at least 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats from the northeast.

In another development, after parting ways two months ago in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) forged a pre-poll alliance with the BJP late on Tuesday night.

“While the opposition is still talking and talking about ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance), we already have ours in place in the northeast and the rest of the country,” Madhav wrote.

Madhav held meetings in Dimapur and Guwahati with chief ministers of BJP-led governments Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and the heads of coalition governments in Nagaland and Meghalaya before sealing the deals.

While Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) heads the government in Nagaland, National People’s Party (NPP) is the majority partner in Meghalaya.

Besides chief ministers Sarbananda Sonowal (Assam), Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland), Conrad Sangma (Meghalaya), N. Biren Singh (Manipur), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), senior Assam minister and convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Himanta Biswa Sarma was also present in several of the meetings.

Leaders from Bodo People’s Front (BPF), BJP’s coalition partner in Assam and AGP were also part of some deliberations.

“The BJP, NPP, NDPP, AGP and BPF will fight together in Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with the mission of defeating Congress party in the hustings,” Madhav wrote.

The BJP leader also stated that the party would fight the election together with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), its coalition partner in Tripura and will contest from Sikkim in partnership with the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, the main opposition party in the state.

“This alliance has the potential of winning not less than 22 out of the 25 seats in the region and playing an important role in seeing Modiji as the PM once again,” he wrote.

No details are yet available on how many of their own candidates will BJP field in the region. Assam has 14 seats, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh has two seats each and Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim have one seat each.

For Assam, despite several senior leaders of the state unit denying possibility of any tie-up with AGP, the BJP high command decided to forge an alliance with the regional partner once again.

Of the total 14 seats, AGP is expected to field candidates in 2-3 seats, while BJP will give tickets to its candidates on 10 seats. BPF has already announced Assam minister Pramila Rani Brahma as the alliance’s candidate for the Kokrajhar seat.

Rafale Deal Updates: CAGs Report Compares UPA And NDA Deals

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has presented a detailed report on the long- running argumentative Rafale deal in Parliament. In 2007, the offer was for 126 aircrafts. This included 18 aircrafts in flyaway condition and 108 were to be produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). However, in 2016 the contract was only for 36 aircrafts in flyaway condition. Following are the comparisons: 

ALIGNED PRICE 

To arrive at a comparative price, audit adopted the price escalation formula and used the industrial cost indices published by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. This was the Aligned Price, i.e., the price of 36 flyaway aircraft in 2016 if the prices were the same as the bid of 2007. This included going into the increase in cost of items used to make the aircraft and its weaponisation. 

The contract consisted of six different packages with 14 items.

Price of seven items were higher than the Aligned Price, i.e., the price at which the contract should have been signed. Three items, including basic aircraft, were procured at the same price. Four were purchased at lower than the Aligned Price. 

Overall, the contract of 2016 was concluded at 2.86% less than the price of the 2007 offer. 

(Prices have been redacted by the CAG at the request of MoD) 

SPEED OF DELIVERY 

In 2007, the first 18 flyaway aircraft were to be delivered between 37 months and 50 months of signing the contract. In 2016, the first 18 aircraft were to be delivered in 36 to 53 months after signing of Inter-Governmental Agreement. The remaining 18 to be delivered in 67 months. This is better than the delivery schedule of 2007 by five months. However, with India specific enhancements, the aircraft will come in 71 months as against 72 months in the 2007 offer. 

PEFORMANCE GUARANTEE 

In 2007, Dasault Aviation had offered performance and financial guarantees, which were about 25% of the contract value. This was embedded in the bid cost. In 2016, there was no such guarantee. This led to savings for Dassault not passed on to India. 

METHOD OF SELECTION

MoD said the 36 Rafale IGA procurement was undertaken with the L-1 (lowest) bidder in the DPP (Defence Procurement Procedure). 

OFFSET

CAG will come out with a separate report on all offset deals of the last five years for procurements by Army, IAF and Navy. The offset draft report has been sent to MoD for comments but is not likely to be ready before LS polls.

What Is Making The BJP Take So Much Efforts For West Bengal ?

BJP President Amit Shah, senior qBJP leaders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the past few months prior to the upcoming elections have held several rallies in West Bengal. The party, putting in all the possible efforts, failed to take out a rath yatra and is consistently trying hard for the controversial bill that seeks to provide citizenship to ‘non-Muslim’ immigrants. 

Recently, PM Modi addressed two consecutive rallies in West Bengal marking the start of BJP’s campaign for the upcoming elections. The question is, why is the BJP making all these extra efforts in Bengal?

For quite some while now, political analysts have been speculating that BJP might not be able to repeat its 2014 Lok Sabha performance in the upcoming polls, mainly on account of a possible poor show in the Hindi-heartland.

The party had swept the heartland in 2014, bagging 192 out of the 226 seats available in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Delhi. It was this region that propelled it to an absolute majority in the Parliament for the first time.

Among these 192 seats, the BJP had won 71 of the 80 seats in UP the last time. But with Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party forming an alliance this time around, the competition is expected to be much tighter. 

Similarly, BJP had swept Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in 2014 but with recent defeats in the first three states, the chances of the replication of previous results look bleak.

Looking  east

Since 2014, BJP has managed to form governments—either on its own or in alliance—in six out of the seven states in the North-East. The BJP has been eyeing the region, which holds 24 seats in total, to make-up for its losses elsewhere.

But that probably won’t be enough and that’s where West Bengal becomes crucial for the party. The state has 42 seats, the third largest share in the parliament after Uttar Pradesh (80) and Maharashtra (48). Amid the Modi wave, BJP had won two seats in the state with a vote share of 17 percent, its highest ever and behind only the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) and the CPM. 

Other than the seats won, BJP had a vote share of over 20 percent in at least 9 constituencies and was at the second spot in three of those.

The gains

Data shows that although AITC still stands tall in the state, BJP has slowly been able to invade the vote share of the Congress and CPM. Consider this: BJP’s vote share of 17 percent in 2014 was almost thrice what it got in 2009. At the same time, CPM’s vote fell by 10 percentage points while for the Congress, it came down to 9.7 per cent in 2014 from 13.5 per cent in 2009.

The party has emerged as the main opposition to the AITC, collecting the second highest vote share in all the bye-elections held since 2015 in the state.

Even in last year’s Panchayat polls, where AITC registered a landslide victory, BJP performed significantly better than CPM and Congress and its own performance in 2013. So, while the CPM came down to one Zila Parishad seat from 213 in 2013, BJP went from zero in the last election to 23 in 2018. 

Similarly, CPM won 24 Gram Panchayats in 2018 compared to 810 in 2013. BJP on the other hand, went from 32 Gram Panchayat seats in 2013 to 202 in 2018.

Sanjay Kumar, director at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), said that BJP is targeting West Bengal because it may not be able to offset its losses from southern states.

“There are definite chances of BJP losing seats in the Hindi-heartland compared to the number of seats (BJP) won in 2014. So, if they are losing in these five-six states, they need to make up for these losses. They cannot make up for the losses in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana or in Kerala because BJP’s presence in these states is very less. So, they have to look for some states and look for the possibility whether they will be able to increase their tally. In that context, West Bengal is the target for BJP,” said Kumar.

According to Kumar, the contest in West Bengal will only be between Mamata Bannerjee’s AITC and the BJP in 2019 as Congress and the Left have lost their relevance in the state.

“There is no doubt that BJP is the number two party in West Bengal now. And the contest of 2019 is going to be between Mamata Banerjee and BJP. I won’t be surprised if both Congress and the left end-up with zero seats or maybe just one or two seats between both of them in West Bengal. While I don’t think that Mamata Banerjee has lost ground, BJP is just trying to galvanise all the anti-Mamata votes in its favour because people don’t see Congress and the left in the contest. I won’t be surprised if BJP ends up with 9-10 seats in WB,” Kumar opined. 

With continuous gains in recent years, if the BJP manages to put up a good show in West Bengal in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections then they could very well offset at least some of their damage in the Hindi-heartland.

J&K Tasted The Flavour of Democracy In Modi’s Reign, Says Amit Shah

Describing the local body election in the valley as a “big achievement”, Shah said the Narendra Modi government at the Centre ensured the rights of sarpanchs and councillors and also allocated funds to them.

BJP chief Amit Shah on Thursday said the Modi government has strengthened the democracy at grass-root level in Jammu and Kashmir, which was mainly ruled by “two families”. Addressing the party’s national minority convention, Shah said the BJP has strengthened democracy in the valley by holding local body elections in the state and strengthening the sarpanchs there.

“People kept on saying Kashmir, Kashmir, Kashmir… It has been ruled by two families… Abdullah family and the Mufti family. Local body elections were not held for more than a decade in the state. The BJP government ensured that local body elections should happen in the state to strengthen the hands of sarpanchs,” Shah said.

The BJP chief’s remarks come months after his party withdrew support from the Mehbooba Mufti-led government in the state. PDP and the BJP had entered into an alliance after the 2014 assembly elections threw a fractured mandate.

“It (local body elections) was a big achievement to strengthen democracy in the state at the ground level,” Shah said, adding that only Modi government can ensure the safety of the country against terrorism. Municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held for the first time in the last 13 years in October 2018. In total, municipal elections have been held in the state only five times since 1947.

Rahul Gandhi’s Minimum Income Plan Is Getting Masses Approval

Along with its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Congress has a simple majority in Rajasthan and is placed more comfortably. The BJP has 73 members in the Rajasthan assembly.

The party soaked up the win as a bonus after its recent three-state haul months before the national election, due by May.

The ruling Congress in Rajasthan today touched the half-way mark of 100 in the state after scooping the Ramgarh seat, which couldn’t vote in last month’s state polls because of the death of a candidate. The Congress’s Shafia Zubair won the seat by a margin of over 12,000 votes over her nearest rival, the BJP’s Sukhwant Singh.

“The message that Congress president Rahul Gandhi gave on the agenda set for farmers, employment for youth, for controlling price rise, and the basic minimum income plan were revolutionary ideas and the people of Ramgarh have put their stamp on them,” said Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who took charge on December 17. He was referring to the announcement by the Congress that it would ensure a guaranteed minimum income for the poor across the country, much like the system of social security in the US.

His deputy Sachin Pilot added: “It was the first election after the government formation and the result is an indication that BJP has lost the support they had.”

Shafia Zubair, 51, polled 44.77 per cent of the votes, Rajasthan election officials said. The BJP blamed its defeat on Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Jagat Singh, who finished third. Jagat Singh, the son of former union minister and Congress veteran Natwar Singh, had quit the BJP after the party didn’t field him in the election.

As a BSP candidate, Jagat Singh had been counting on the party’s surge in the Alwar-Ramgarh region. Six lawmakers of Mayawati’s party won the state polls in the region.

Voting was stalled in Ramgarh due to the death of the BSP candidate ahead of the December 7 polls.

Ramgarh saw a very polarised campaign after incidents of cow vigilantism and the lynching of Rakbar Khan, a 28-year-old who died last year after he was attacked in Alwar by villagers who thought he was smuggling cows. His death was caused by a three-hour delay by the police in taking him to a hospital 20 minutes from where he was attacked; they first arranged transport for his cows and then stopped for a tea break before reaching the hospital.

Shafia Zubair is a local office bearer of the Congress and her husband Zubair Khan is a senior party leader. The BJP dropped hardliner Gyan Dev Ahuja and chose Sukhwant Singh instead.

By-Election Concludes With A 70% Turnout in Haryana

The ruling BJP, Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), which was formed after a split in the INLD, have pulled out all the stops for a victory, which could prove to be a morale booster for the rank and file.

Over 70 per cent turnout was reported on Monday in the by-election to the Jind assembly constituency in Haryana, dubbed as a prestige battle for all four major contenders ahead of parliamentary and assembly polls.

As per preliminary figures, poll percentage at 5 pm has crossed 70 per cent.

According to the officials, the final turnout is likely to be higher as there were people in queues in several booths after 5pm, the scheduled time for voting to end. The polling began at 7 AM.

The bypoll was necessitated following the death of INLD MLA Hari Chan Middha, whose son Krishna Middha recently joined the BJP and is the saffron party’s candidate for the by-election.

The Congress fielded chief national spokesperson and sitting MLA from Kaithal constituency Randeep Singh Surjewala.

The INLD is banking on Umed Redhu to retain the seat.

The JJP has put its weight behind Digvijay Chautala, the younger son of jailed leader Ajay Singh Chautala, who broke away from the INLD and floated the party.

Twenty-one candidates including two women are in the fray.

In the 2014 Haryana Assembly polls, Jind constituency had registered 75.91 poll percentage.

In the final two hours of polling, there was a rush outside booths, especially in rural parts of the assembly constituency, as voters queued up to exercise their franchise.

Officials here said 15 per cent polling was recorded in the first two hours and by 3 pm, the poll percentage had crossed 60 per cent.

The polling remained peaceful, they said.

A couple of nonagenarians were amongst those to cast votes early in the morning.

BJP Lawmaker In the Spot for Her “Nasty” Comments on Mayawati

Akhilesh Yadav strongly condemned BJP lawmaker Sadhana Singh’s derogatory remarks on Mayawati, saying it was an “insult to the women of the country”.

The lawmaker of the ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh has drawn severe criticism for her shocking comments targeting Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who among other things, she said, “was a blot on womankind” having sold her “dignity for power”.

After daylong rap from various opposition leaders, Sadhana Singh issued a terse apology. But by then, the BSP had filed a complaint with the police and the women’s commission had pulled her up, saying they would officially demand an explanation.

“She (Mayawati) has no self-respect… she was almost molested earlier and yet… in history, when Draupadi was molested, she took a vow to seek revenge… but this woman, she lost everything, but still sold her dignity for the sake of power. We strongly condemn Mayawati ji. She is a blot on womankind. A woman who gulped insults for comfort and power… is a blot on womankind,” Sadhana Singh, the legislator from Mughalsarai, said at a rally on Saturday.

The comments were an apparent reference to the infamous episode when Ms Mayawati was assaulted by Samajwadi Party workers at a guest house in Lucknow in 1995 that triggered decades of animosity between the two parties. The leaders buried the hatchet last year, and joined hands earlier this month to beat the BJP in the national elections.

But days after the alliance was announced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi taunted her for “forgetting” the guest house episode while allying with the Samajwadi Party.

Sadhana Singh’s unsavoury comments drew a sharp reaction from Mayawati’s party, which said the language reflected the party’s “frustration with the SP-BSP alliance”. “They have lost their mental balance in fear of losing the election in Uttar Pradesh,” said the BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra.

Akhilesh Yadav, who had declared that “insulting Mayawati ji is like insulting me” shortly after formalising their alliance, strongly condemned the lawmaker’s remarks. “The objectionable and filthy terms that have been used by the BJP MLA from Mughalsarai against Mayawati ji are deplorable. They are a sign of BJP’s moral bankruptcy and frustration. It is also insulting for the women of this country,” he said.

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav announced an alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 general elections

The Congress, cold-shouldered by Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav for the alliance in UP, described the lawmaker’s comments as “disturbing”.

“One may have differences on issues and ideas but it is disturbing: That this lady represents the ruling party in UP-BJP (not surprising) -To hear a lady speak in such a derogatory way about another lady -To see people in the audience cheering such words,” Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted.

Taking note of the objectionable remarks, the National Commission for Women said it will send a notice to the BJP lawmaker tomorrow.

This is not the first time that a BJP leader has made objectionable remarks against Mayawati. In 2016, a senior UP BJP leader Dayashankar Singh was expelled for using “filthy language” against Mayawati. His wife Swati Singh, who defended him at that time, is now a minister in the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in the state.

PM Modi Lashes Out At Kerala Government for Sabarimala Mismanagement

In Kollam today for the launch of two projects, PM Modi said: “The CPM government’s conduct on Sabarimala will go down in history as the most shameful action of any government in power… We know CPM government never respected spirituality, religion… but no one thought it would turn so shameful”.

The Congress-led UDF, which is now in the opposition, is “no better”, he said. Accusing the Congress of having multiple stands, he challenged the UDF to “clearly state your stand”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today ripped into Kerala’s Left-led government and the opposition Congress over the handling of the Sabarimala temple issue since the Supreme Court verdict ended the shrine’s traditional ban on women of reproductive age. Amid the massive protests — against the verdict and the women who reached Sabarimala — the state government had said it was duty-bound to implement the top court’s orders.

The state’s stand had drawn enormous criticism from the right-wing groups who had hit the streets over the issue. Attacks also came from the BJP, which has been trying to expand its footprint in the state.

While the state BJP had openly backed the traditional ban and the strikes to protest against the court order, the Congress had not been vocal about its support.

In his interview of ANI on New Year’s day, PM Modi said the ban on women between the ages of 10 and 50 at the Sabarimala temple was a matter of tradition. “There are some temples which have their own traditions, where men can’t go. And men don’t go,” he said.

Further, referring to the dissenting verdict of Indu Malhotra — the only woman judge in the top court bench that delivered the order — the Prime Minister said she had made certain “observations”.

“It needs to be read minutely. There is no need to attribute those to any political party. As a woman, she has made some suggestions. There should be a debate on that as well sometimes,” he had added.

PM in Kerala: The conduct of Kerala LDF govt on Sabarimala issue will go down in history as one of the most shameful behaviour by any party & govt. We knew that communists do not respect Indian history, culture and spirituality but nobody imagined that they will have such hatred.

Critics, however, said the method of the Kerala government’s implementation of the top court’s order left much to be desired. With nominal police protection, the women who had attempted the arduous trek to the hill shrine had to turn back in face of angry protesters, who, the government said, were backed by the BJP and right-wing groups.

After three months of protests,  a young woman managed to enter the shrine for the first time on January 3.

BJP Not Complying With Atal Bihari Vajapayee’s Principles, Says Gegong Apang Before Resigning from the Party

Former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Gegong Apang on Tuesday called it a day to the party, saying it was no longer following the principles of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Mr Apang appealed to Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remember the teachings of Mr Vajpayee about ‘Raj Dharma’ and then he said history will judge them.

“I am disappointed to see that the present day BJP is no longer following the principles of the late Vajpayeeji,” Mr Apang said in his resignation letter sent to BJP President Amit Shah.

“The party is now a platform to seek power, it serves a leadership which hates decentralization or democratic decision making and no longer believes (in the values) the party was founded for,” he added.

Mr Apang said the Bharatiya Janata Party did not get the people’s mandate in 2014 in Arunachal Pradesh.

“But the BJP leadership used every dirty trick in the trade and installed the late Kalikho Pul as Chief Minister. Despite an adverse Supreme Court ruling, a BJP government was reinstalled.

“Neither a proper investigation was done in Pul’s suicide nor the present BJP leadership thought of morality and ethics by installing many more BJP governments in the northeast,” said Mr Apang.

He said that during the state level executive committee meeting held on November 10 and 11 at Pasighat, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav did not allow many members and office bearers to place their views.

“The decision to put Pema Khandu’s name as Chief Minister before the election is neither the norm nor the tradition that a cadre-based party like BJP had followed. The BJP in the past has always asked the views of legislature and party members and then decided on leadership issues. Such undemocratic practices are not for the parties that grew under the leadership of Advani, Vajpayee, B.S. Shekawat, Kushabhau Thakre, Madan Lal Khurana, Rajmata Scindia and Sikandar Bakhl,” he added.

“From issues like grass-root delivery of government schemes to matters like Naga peace talks, Chakma-Hajong issue, amendments of Citizenship Bill, telecommunications and real time digital connectivity to peaceful and cordial relation with neighbours like Bangladesh, Myanmar and China, both the party and the Modi government are not addressing the real issues,” he said.