New political alliance increases pressure on India’s ruling party

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati (L) speaks as and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav address a news conference to announce their alliance for the upcoming national election, in Lucknow, India, on January 12, 2019. (REUTERS/Pawan Kumar)
Updated 12 January 2019
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New political alliance increases pressure on India’s ruling party

  • Uttar Pradesh is a bellwether of national politics, accounting for 80 of the 552 members of Parliament in New Delhi
  • The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have joined hands to counter the ruling party

NEW DELHI: Two regional parties that were former bitter rivals announced an unlikely alliance on Saturday to fight Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party in a looming general election.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — key players in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — said they would set aside their differences to jointly fight Modi in the bedrock state.
The two central-left parties have widespread support among lower castes and poor voters across the state — India’s most populous, with 220 million people.
Uttar Pradesh is a bellwether of national politics, accounting for 80 of the 552 members of Parliament in New Delhi. An election is expected to be held in April and May and one recent poll indicated Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may fall short of a majority.
Akhilesh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party head, said the alliance would counter the “divisive politics” of the BJP, which won a landslide victory in 2014.
“The BJP is dividing the country, it is stoking fear and hatred among communities,” Yadav told a news conference sat alongside Mayawati, a popular low-caste leader who heads the BSP. The parties, which will contest 38 seats each out of the state’s 80, left the main opposition Congress party out of the alliance.
The two have been fierce rivals in recent years. They teamed up in 1993 and formed the Uttar Pradesh state government but relations soured after Mayawati said she was assaulted by Samajwadi Party activists in 1995.
Modi’s BJP suffered a rare reverse when it lost three key state elections to Congress last month, amid discontent over unemployment and economic inequality.
A BJP spokesman played down the importance of the alliance.
“We are confident. Even if all the parties come together, we will still win,” Sudhanshu Trivedi told reporters in Delhi where the BJP is holding a key convention.
Modi rallied 10,000 party workers at the convention, dismissing critics who say his policies harm the poor.
“During our time there has not been a single corruption allegation against us,” he said. “We believe in treating everyone equally and taking the country on the path of development.”


Bangladesh police kill three suspected Rohingya traffickers; rescue 15 refugees

Updated 25 June 2019
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Bangladesh police kill three suspected Rohingya traffickers; rescue 15 refugees

  • The group of smuggled refugees included a number of girls
  • Bangladeshi authorities sent the refugees to two different camps after questioning

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh police killed three people suspected of trying to smuggle 15 Rohingya Muslim refugees to Malaysia in a clash on Tuesday near the South Asian nation’s main refugee camp, an official said, the second such incident in as many months.
Nearly 900,000 Rohingya who fled a military-led crackdown in neighboring Buddhist-dominated Myanmar in 2017 live in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp, and other temporary settlements in Bangladesh’s beach town of Cox’s Bazar.
“On sensing the presence of our team, they fired on police, and police also responded,” said Prodip Kumar Das, a police official in the nearby town of Teknaf.
The men attempting to smuggle the refugees, who included some girls, were shot and died on the way to hospital, Das added. The refugees were rescued and sent to two different camps after initial questioning.
The clash, around 30 km from Kutupalong, followed a tip-off to police, Das told Reuters, adding that they had retrieved three locally-made guns and 15 rounds of ammunition.
The men were themselves Rohingya known to be human traffickers living in the area since their arrival in Bangladesh before 2017, he added.
Rohingya civilians who left Myanmar have said they faced atrocities at the hands of its armed forces but almost all such accusations have been denied by the authorities.
With doubts over whether they will ever return to Myanmar, some refugees in Bangladesh are being drawn toward drugs and violence, say people in the area and aid workers.
The risks of being trafficked have increased as refugees are lured by the promise of work. Anti-trafficking groups fear that routes through the Bay of Bengal are being used to smuggle out Rohingya refugees.
In recent months, police and the coast guard have rescued several dozens of them. Last month police killed two suspected smugglers in a gun fight in a nearby area.