India elections set for April 11 to May 19

India's Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora during a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 11 March 2019
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India elections set for April 11 to May 19

  • 900 million voters to decide 543 parliamentary seats
  • They are the two strongest challengers from a field of hundreds of political parties from across the country

NEW DELHI: India on Sunday announced the dates for its 17th general elections to be held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.  The result will be announced on May 23. The Election Commission of India announced the much-awaited poll date at a packed press conference on Sunday. The chief election commissioner, Sunil Arora, declared that 900 million voters will decide the fate of 543 members of the Lower House of Parliament.
“The overall electorate of around 900 million is 84.3 million more than the number of people recognized as voters during the 2014 parliamentary elections,” Arora said.
He added that 10.5 million first-time voters would exercise their franchise this year. There will be one million polling stations spread across 29 states and seven Union territories to conduct the seven- phase polls.
With the formal announcement of the election dates the electoral code of conducts come into play and the government is barred from taking new policy decisions or announce new schemes.
The main interest of this crucial election is whether the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, manages to retain power.
In the 2014 general elections Modi won 282 seats — a majority of 10 — breaking a 30-year-old jinx. He rode to victory on popular sentiment against Dr. Manmohan Singh’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, led by the Congress Party.
Opinion polls predict electoral victory for the BJP but no absolute majority. However, Prime Minister Modi remains the most popular leader in the country.
However, the Congress-led opposition hopes to regain some lost ground by forming an alliance with the regional parties in different states.
Victory in the three regional elections last December gave it new confidence and it hopes to maintain the momentum in the parliamentary elections.
Some of the issues expected to dominate the elections are joblessness, the economic slump and the environment of fear created by the rise of majoritarian politics.
However, the ruling party hopes to retain power on the basis of its social sector schemes, its anti-corruption drive and its hard-core nationalistic agenda.
The prevailing hyper-nationalism in the wake of the recent military engagement with Pakistan is a big electoral asset for the BJP. The party has already announced that military action against Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir would be an election issue.
In a tweet immediately after the announcement of the election dates, Modi sought “the blessing” of voters again.
“The last five years have shown that with the blessings and participation of 130 crore Indians, what was earlier deemed impossible has now become possible. 2019 polls are about a spirit of confidence and positivity with which India is fulfilling the aspirations of its people,” he tweeted. “NDA (National Democratic Alliance ) seeks your blessings again. We spent the last five years fulfilling basic necessities that were left unfulfilled for 70 long years.”
The most important recent alliance between the opposition parties was in the eastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 members to Parliament. Two strong regional parties — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — formed an electoral alliance. They also have a broad understanding with the Congress party in the state. The BJP won 71 seats last time, which was crucial in securing an absolute majority. The strategy now is to challenge the ruling party in its bastion and bring down its tally radically.
Similar alliances have been formed in larger states such as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Bihar. If the opposition’s game plan succeeds it will be a tough battle for Modi.
“This is the most significant elections in India since 1977, when the country voted after the two-year Emergency,” says Delhi based political analyst, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.
“The basic foundations of democracy had been shaken at that time. India has been facing a similar kind of situation in the past five years,” Mukhopadhyay told Arab News. “I won’t predict the winner at this stage. It’s going to be a tough battle.”


Woman shot dead in N.Ireland in ‘terrorist incident’

Updated 13 min 19 sec ago
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Woman shot dead in N.Ireland in ‘terrorist incident’

  • A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry earlier this year were blamed on a dissident paramilitary group
  • A 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland between republican and unionist paramilitaries

LONDON: A woman has been shot dead during riots in the city of Londonderry in Northern Ireland and the killing is being treated as a terrorist incident, police said Friday.
Images posted on social media showed a car and van ablaze and hooded individuals throwing petrol bombs and fireworks at police vehicles.
It was not immediately clear who the woman was or who shot her.
“Sadly I can confirm that following shots being fired tonight in Creggan, a 29-year-old woman has been killed,” Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said in a statement on Twitter.
“We are treating this as a terrorist incident and we have launched a murder enquiry.”
The violence came in the run-up to the Easter weekend, when Republicans opposed to British presence in Northern Ireland mark the anniversary of a 1916 uprising against British rule.
A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry (also known as Derry) earlier this year were blamed on a dissident paramilitary group.
Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Union Party, which is in favor of Britain’s presence in Northern Ireland, described the death as “heartbreaking news.”
“A senseless act. A family has been torn apart. Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s & 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019. No one wants to go back,” she wrote on Twitter.
A 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland between republican and unionist paramilitaries, as well as British armed forces, in a period known as “the Troubles.”
Some 3,500 people were killed in the conflict — many at the hands of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Police have blamed a group called the New IRA for the flare-up in violence in recent months.
Some have expressed fears that recent attacks could be a sign that paramilitaries are seeking to exploit the current political turbulence over Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic of Ireland caused by Brexit.
Michelle O’Neill, the deputy leader of Irish republican party Sinn Fein, condemned those responsible for the killing.
“My heart goes out to the family of the young woman shot dead by so-called dissidents,” she wrote on Twitter.
“This was an attack on the community, an attack on the peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement,” she added, while calling for calm.
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