Maharashtra Election News

Divided house approves GOP inquiry into ‘weaponisation’ of government
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Written by Luke Broadwater and Catie EdmondsonA divided House voted on Tuesday to launch a wide-ranging investigation into federal law enforcement and national security agencies, as Republicans promised to use their new power in Congress to scrutinise what they said was a concerted effort by the government to silence and punish conservatives at all levels, from protesters at school board meetings to former President Donald Trump.On a party-line vote of 221-211 with all Democrats opposed, the House approved the formation of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponisation of the Federal Government, which is to be chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the incoming chair of the Judiciary Committee and a staunch ally of Trump.Jordan, who was deeply involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, has for months been investigating what he says is a bias in federal law enforcement against conservatives. Now that Republicans have the majority, he plans to use his gavel and his subpoena power to escalate and expand that inquiry, including searching for evidence that federal workers have become politicised and demanding documents about ongoing criminal investigations.In a floor speech, Jordan said his goal was not to target Democrats or law enforcement officers who have scrutinised Trump’s behavior. He said his interest was merely in “protecting the First Amendment” at a time when he said the right was being unfairly targeted.“We don’t want to go after anyone,” he said. “We just want it to stop.”Still, the panel has such broad reach that it appeared positioned to become a main instrument for Republicans to go after the Biden administration, potentially prompting showdowns over access to highly classified information and the details of criminal inquiries.The subcommittee will have open-ended jurisdiction to scrutinise any issue related to civil liberties or to examine how any agency of the federal government has collected, analysed and used information about Americans. It also has authority to obtain some of the most sensitive secrets in the government, including information about covert actions that is usually the exclusive territory of the congressional intelligence committees.While Republicans have traditionally styled themselves as the party of law and order, in recent years they have contended that law enforcement has treated Trump unfairly, citing the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida for classified White House documents he did not return for more than a year after leaving office, as required by law. They have added other complaints to their ledger to investigate, including allegations that the federal government encouraged Twitter to discriminate against Republicans and the treatment of conservative or right-wing protesters at school board meetings and abortion clinics.They say they have modeled the new subcommittee after the well-respected Church Committee, referring to a 1970s investigation by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, that uncovered decades of intelligence and civil liberties abuses, including the surveilling of civil rights groups.But Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the panel was more akin to the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee, which demonised Americans suspected of being sympathetic to communism.“I call it the McCarthy committee, and I’m not talking about Kevin; I’m talking about Joe,” McGovern said, adding: “This committee is nothing more than a deranged ploy by the MAGA extremists who have hijacked the Republican Party and now want to use taxpayer money to push their far-right conspiracy nonsense.”Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., echoed that sentiment, arguing the goal of the panel was to “enable the House Republicans to interfere with the free operation of businesses they do not like, to inhibit the fight against domestic terrorism and to settle political scores on behalf of Donald Trump.”The Justice Department has traditionally resisted making information about open criminal investigations available to Congress, suggesting that legal and political fights over subpoenas and executive privilege are most likely looming.It remains to be seen who else will serve on the panel. Speaker Kevin McCarthy made numerous concessions to a far-right faction of his party to win the speakership, and the full extent of his promises is not known. Both Jordan and McCarthy have spoken for months about their desire for such an investigation and pledged to voters during the 2022 campaign to carry one out.“It is undeniable that in recent years, the executive branch of the federal government has abused its authority and violated the civil liberties of American citizens often for political purposes,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said in endorsing the legislation on the floor.Late last year, Jordan, then the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, oversaw a 1,000-page staff report — which was mostly a collection of letters mailed by his committee — that claimed that the FBI had “spied on President Trump’s campaign and ridiculed conservative Americans” and that the “rot within the F.B.I. festers in and proceeds from Washington.”The resolution appears to enable Jordan to issue subpoenas to the Justice Department for information about the special counsel inquiry into Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents, along with other politically charged matters like an open tax investigation into Biden’s son Hunter Biden.While Jordan’s inquiry will be housed within the Judiciary Committee, its 13 members — eight of whom would be Republicans — will not be limited to lawmakers on that panel. That could result in lawmakers trying to scrutinise a Justice Department investigation while the department examines some of those same lawmakers’ conduct concerning the events of Jan. 6, 2021.As the House debated the select committee’s creation on Tuesday, Democrats repeatedly emphasised that both McCarthy and Jordan had refused to comply with subpoenas from the committee investigating Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, an inquiry that they both sought to block. Jordan strategised with Trump about an effort to disrupt the certification of the results of the 2020 election on the floor of the House.“The primary purpose of this special subcommittee is to interfere with the special counsel’s ongoing investigation into a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election,” said Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., who was a top aide to Democrats who led the first impeachment of Trump in 2019. “This is a shocking abuse of power. But it’s not just the usual efforts by members on the other side of the aisle to once again do Donald Trump’s dirty work; this time they’re trying to protect themselves.”Republicans have made little secret of the fact that they plan to shower the Biden administration with investigations, some of them overtly political in nature. But they won bipartisan support on Tuesday for the formation of a separate select committee focused on the strategic competition between the United States and the Chinese government.On a vote of 365-65, the House formed a special committee to investigate the Chinese government’s “economic, technological and security progress, and its competition with the United States.”The panel is set to be led by Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, a Marine veteran known as a sober-minded national security hawk. Its mission is to examine a slew of topics, including the economic dependence of the United States on Chinese supply chains, the nation’s security assistance to Taiwan, and lobbying efforts by the Chinese government to influence local and state government, as well as academic institutions.Gallagher said the two countries are “in the early stages of a new Cold War.”“We see this aggression here at home, where the party has stolen American intellectual property, technology and industrial capacity, undermining our economy and good paying American jobs,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.Most Democrats supported the panel, but some had reservations.Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said that while there were “legitimate concerns” about the actions of the Chinese government, she opposed the bill because “of the known risks of xenophobic rhetoric intensifying anti-Asian hate here in the United States.”Republicans on Monday also approved a third wide-ranging investigation to look into the coronavirus pandemic, including the origins of the virus, so-called gain-of-function research, the production of vaccines and the conduct of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s former chief medical adviser, whom Republicans have pledged to call before them for questioning.

Divided house approves GOP inquiry into ‘weaponisation’ of government
Ram Temple and Congress: A political dilemma and tightrope walkPremium Story
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Home Minister Amit Shah last week contrasted the BJP’s decisive approach to the Ram Temple with the attitude of Congress-led governments that he said had kept the matter in the courts for years.“…From the time the country gained Independence, Congress people got it (the temple) embroiled in courts — Sessions Court, High Court, Supreme Court, again Sessions Court. (Then) Modiji came. One morning, the Supreme Court order came. Modiji performed the bhoomi pujan for Ram Lalla’s temple and the construction work began,” Shah said at an election rally in Tripura on January 5.Mocking Rahul Gandhi for never committing to a date to build the temple, he advised people to “book their tickets” to Ayodhya — because “on January 1, 2024, you will find a grand Ram temple ready”.Over the decades, the Congress attitude towards the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute was never unequivocal. In its attempts to keep both Hindus and Muslims happy, the party vacillated — and ultimately got the support of neither.Parivar ups anteIn the 1980s, when the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute was already in the courts for several decades, the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) adopted the position that the construction of a temple was a matter of faith, not of litigation. In 1986, the RSS Pratinidhi Sabha urged the government to “hand over the Janmabhoomi site and adjacent land to the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust”; the following year, it said that like the Somnath temple in Gujarat, “the ancient but dilapidated Ram Janmabhoomi temple too needs to be restored to its old glory”.The BJP too held the view that the dispute was outside the purview of courts. Its Palampur Resolution of 1989 said it “should be resolved through mutual dialogue between the two communities or, if this was not possible, through an enabling legislation. Litigation is in no way a solution for this matter.” In later years, in keeping with its coalition dharma, the party revised its position in favour of a resolution in court or through aapsi baatcheet (consultations).Opening of locksIn the VHP team for the agitation, Ashok Singhal included former UP Congress leader and minister Dau Dayal Khanna and former IPS officer Shreesh Chandra Dixit. The VHP held several meetings with officials of Rajiv Gandhi’s government, but no resolution was reached. The VHP remained firm on its demand for opening the locks of the Babri Masjid.The Congress was unable to either address Hindu sentiments around the temple or pacify its Muslims voters. On September 24, 1985, the Congress, fighting an erosion of its support base, replaced N D Tiwari with Vir Bahadur Singh as chief minister of (undivided) Uttar Pradesh. On February 1, 1986, a local court in Faizabad (now Ayodhya) ordered the opening of the locks of Ram Janmabhoomi. Congress leaders could not openly claim credit for the development, but worked to silently spread the message that it was their government that the locks had been opened.Congress flip-flopsThe BJP under L K Advani ratcheted up the pressure with allegations of “pseudo-secularism”, and by openly joining the Ram Temple movement. After the opening of the Babri Masjid locks, the Sangh accelerated its campaign for the temple through programmes of “mass awakening”. There were communal riots in several places, including in Barabanki and Allahabad (now Prayagraj). In 1987, personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) massacred Muslims in Hashimpura near Meerut. The Vir Bahadur Singh government was accused by several Congressmen of allowing a pro-Hindu line on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute — allegations that Singh denied.In his attempts to keep both the Congress’s Hindu upper caste and Muslim bases intact, Vir Bahadur tried to play both sides. In June 1986, his government impounded three raths of the VHP’s Ram Janmabhoomi Mukti Yagya Samiti in Ayodhya, but on November 22, sent them to Lucknow under police escort to appease the VHP. Earlier on December 19, 1985, Singh had attended a three-day Ramayan Mela in Ayodhya, an annual gathering of sants and mahants that one of his predecessors, Sripati Mishra, had started in 1982.Loss in, and of, UPThe Congress was fighting multiple crises at the time, including the rebellion of V P Singh, one of its tallest leaders in UP and chief minister of the state from 1980-82. In June 1988, after V P Singh won the Lok Sabha by-election from Allahabad, Rajiv called Vir Bahadur to Delhi as a Union Minister, and N D Tiwari was sworn in as chief minister for the fourth time.The Congress was facing an exodus by then, with several leaders joining either V P Singh or the BJP. In 1989, the party lost its governments in both Delhi and Lucknow. The government of Prime Minister V P Singh held a series of deliberations with the state government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and the VHP. After the BJP withdrew support from the governments of V P Singh and Mulayam Singh, the Congress propped up the government of Chandra Shekhar in Delhi and saved Mulayam’s government in UP.But the Congress’s days as a consequential player in UP were ending. Mulayam took a hard line on the temple and captured the Congress’s minority vote bank. The BJP’s social engineering project combined the politics of kamandal with that of Mandal, and in the Assembly elections of 1991, the party won 221 out of 425 Assembly seats on a consolidation of Hindu votes.Efforts by Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao to resolve the temple issue did not succeed. The demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, and the dismissal of BJP governments in four states did not bring the Congress any benefit. In UP, the political polarisation was between the BJP and parties like the SP and BSP.

Ram Temple and Congress: A political dilemma and tightrope walkPremium Story
French football president accused of improper conduct by agent
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

A sports agent has accused the president of the French soccer federation of improper conduct over several years, saying he only was interested in her sexually.Noël Le Graët has had a tumultuous week in France after saying he “couldn’t care less” about Zinédine Zidane’s future as a coach. The 81-year-old soccer executive has previously faced claims of sexual harassment and the French federation is the target of an investigation ordered by Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra.The agent, 37-year-old Sonia Souid, said in an interview with L’Equipe sports daily that Le Graët repeatedly tried to approach her from 2013-17.She said that while she wanted to develop a business relationship with Le Graët to promote women’s soccer, he was more interested in leaving messages on her voicemail late in the evening to invite her to drink champagne.France’s sports minister ordered an investigation into the federation in September after the body said it would file a defamation lawsuit against So Foot magazine, which reported that Le Graët allegedly harassed several female employees.The French magazine published a six-page investigation quoting anonymous former and current employees, and inappropriate text messages that Le Graët allegedly sent to the women. So Foot also described an alleged toxic culture at the federation.Souid, who said she first met Le Graët in 2013, also told L’Equipe that he texted her to ask her out or tell her he missed her. Souid said he never went too far verbally but made clear she should have sex with him to move her ideas forward.“He never looked at me like an agent but like a piece of candy,” Souid said.Souid said she was hurt by Le Graët’s attitude and that she thought about ending her career as an agent. Asked whether Le Graët helped her professionally at some point, Souid said he helped her find the phone number of coach Corinne Diacre and that he tried to help her with business class plane tickets for France player Amandine Henry.In addition to his role at the French soccer federation, Le Graët also has been a member of the FIFA Council since being appointed by UEFA in May 2019. The position pays $250,000 annually.Le Graët is currently a candidate for another four-year term on FIFA’s ruling committee. He is being challenged for the seat by Portuguese soccer federation president Fernando Gomes. The election is set for April 5, when UEFA member nations meet in Lisbon.Le Graët’s candidacy must pass a FIFA-run eligibility and integrity check. He can stand for election despite UEFA imposing an age limit of 70 for candidates to its own executive committee.

French football president accused of improper conduct by agent
Ex-Army chief Gen Kapoor brushes off row: 'Will be part of any yatra that unites India'
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Deepak Kapoor (retd) is not new to controversies. Much of these were pushed back into the spotlight when the General, who led the Army between 2007 and 2010, joined the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra on Sunday while it was passing through Haryana, along with other retired top officers of the defence services.When contacted, Gen Kapoor told The Indian Express that he does not want to comment on any allegations being levelled at him over the Yatra. “But any yatra, which unites Bharat, I am for it,” he said.Commissioned into the Artillery Regiment in 1967, the decorated officer held several important command and staff appointments in his four-decade-long tenure in the Army. He took part in the India-Pakistan war in 1971 and Operation Parakram in 2001-2002, among other important military operations.But as Army Chief, Gen Kapoor ruffled feathers when he amended the single-stream promotion policy for Major Generals and brought back a two-stream promotion policy that put officers into two different lists – those commanding troops and those holding administrative (staff) appointments – without listing specific criteria for doing so, even as this made the former better eligible for promotions compared to the latter.The decision, which led to massive heartburn among officers in the force, remains in effect till date, despite his successors examining the matter, and the Armed Forces Tribunal holding it discriminatory.More recently, in 2017, Gen Kapoor along with another former Army Chief, General N C Vij, and other senior officers, was named by an inquiry committee set up by the Defence Ministry in the Adarsh Housing Society scam of Mumbai.The report, however, mentioned that Gen Kapoor was not directly connected with the case and hence not advised well against becoming a member of the society, which was meant for families of Kargil heroes.The same year, the former Army Chief found himself in another controversy when, during an election speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged Pakistan’s interference in Gujarat elections referring to a dinner meeting hosted by Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar at his residence.Gen Kapoor was present at the meeting, along with some former diplomats, ex-PM Manmohan Singh and former vice-president Hamid Ansari, and was held during the visit to India of former Pakistan foreign affairs minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.The matter had fizzled out after the election heat was over, with Kapoor pointing out that nothing more than India-Pakistan relations were discussed at the meeting.In 2019, he was among a group of over 100 veterans who signed a letter sent to then President Ram Nath Kovind, stating that political parties must not use the military to further their political agendas. This was soon after India conducted the Balakot air strikes inside Pakistan, with the BJP projecting it as a symbol of the Modi government’s no-nonsense approach towards Pakistan.Then defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had called the letter condemnable, stating that at least two senior officers had not given their consent to the letter.However, on matters such as India’s response to China in the ongoing border standoff at the Line of Actual Control, Gen Kapoor has appreciated the government’s actions, telling news agency PTI that India had given an excellent and firm response to Chinese aggressions.He has also been vocal about developing more cohesion in the military and the possibility of a two-front threat to India, from China and Pakistan.

Ex-Army chief Gen Kapoor brushes off row: 'Will be part of any yatra that unites India'
BJP names dominate list of nominees for January 30 legislative council election in Maharashtra
Times of India | 3 weeks ago | |
Times of India
3 weeks ago | |

MUMBAI: The selection of candidates for the legislative council teachers constituency election on January 30 is dominated by the BJP even as the party claims that it is fighting the poll in alliance with the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena (BSS), the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena with which it shares power in the state.On Monday, BJP state unit president Chandrashekhar Bawankule at the Dadar office of the party announced the name of Dnyaneshwar Mhatre as the party candidate for the Konkan seat (Thane teachers constituency). He will be given the BJP's AB form. Bawankule said his candidature has been approved by the central leadership as well as chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. Mhatre's family was formerly associated with the Shiv Sena. Addressing a press conference along with Uday Samant of the BSS, Bawankule said the party had so far won only the Amravati graduate constituency seat.Bawankule said the Nagpur seat had always been contested by the Shikshak Parishad, which is ideologically inclined towards the BJP and this time too they would be announcing a candidate for the seat. "In Aurangabad the parishad did not have a candidate so we gave them Kiran Patil. In Amravati it is the BJP's Ranjit Patil," he said, adding that the Shikshak Parishad had been asked to withdraw its candidate for the Konkan seat. While the election is by first preference votes, the BJP is not taking any chances.For the Nashik graduates seat, Bawankule said a decision would be taken soon. The Shinde group of the Shiv Sena is keen to contest the seat as all the councillors of the Nashik Municipal Corporation had crossed over to its side after the split in the Shiv Sena.

BJP names dominate list of nominees for January 30 legislative council election in Maharashtra
  • Maharashtra BJP dominates MLC candidates’ selection
  • Times of India

    MUMBAI: The selection of candidates for the upcoming MLC teacher’s constituency is clearly being dominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) even as the party claimed it was fighting the elections in alliance with the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena (BSS), the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena.The elections are to be held on January 30.BJP state unit president Chandrashekhar Bawankule on Monday announced the name of Dnyaneshwar Mhatre as the party’s candidate for the Konkan MLC seat (Thane Teacher’s constituency).He will be given the BJP’s AB form. Bawankule said his candidature has been approved by the central leadership as well as chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis.Mhatre’s family has been formerly associated with the Shiv Sena. Addressing a press conference along with Uday Samant of the BSS, Bawankule said the party had so far won only the Amravati graduate constituency seat.The Nagpur seat, he said, has always been contested by the Shikshak Parishad that is ideologically inclined towards the BJP and this time too they would be announcing a candidate for the seat. “In Aurangabad the Parishad did not have a candidate so we gave them Kiran Patil. In Amravati it is the BJP’s Ranjit Patil,” he said, adding the Parishad had been asked to withdraw its candidate for the Konkan seat.While the election is by first preference votes, the BJP is not taking any chances.For the Nashik graduates seat, Bawankule said a decision would be taken soon. The Shinde group is keen to contest this election as all the councillors of the Nashik Municipal Corporation had crossed over to its side after the split in the Shiv Sena.It is therefore intent on fielding a candidate here. However, given Nashik’s religious importance the BJP is not willing to cede the seat to its alliance partner, said political observers.(With inputs from PTI)

EC against bringing parity between age for voting and contesting polls
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its reservations over bringing parity between voting age and the minimum age for contesting elections even as it told a parliamentary panel that it has developed “credible and modified version of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM)” and would make a presentation of it for all parties at Vigyan Bhavan in January, sources said.The EC officials, as per sources, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice on Monday said it was not in favour of bringing down the minimum age limit as the eligibility for contesting elections for Lok Sabha, legislative assemblies, Rajya Sabha and upper houses of the state assemblies.Sources said the parliamentary panel had asked if the minimum age could be brought down from 25 to 21 for the Lok Sabha and assemblies while reducing it from 30 to 25 for the upper house bodies. The suggestion was also part of a few reform proposals referred to the poll panel in 1998 also.The officials pointed out that there were such suggestions before the Constituent Assembly, but B R Ambedkar had moved a resolution to insert a new Article – which is currently Article 84 of the Constitution – to oppose such a move. Ambedkar had suggested that people who have some higher qualification and a certain amount of knowledge and practical experiences in the affairs of the world should serve the Legislature. The poll panel was of the view that legislatures have been entrusted with the most crucial and vital role and responsibility of laying down the policies and the programmes and enacting laws for the country. It wanted the status quo in this, said sources.But the panel informed the members that it has been considering various options to study the feasibility of remote voting in the election. Although a modified version of EVM has been developed, it is going through comprehensive analysis apart from the technological issues, the officials told the MPs. Its legal basis, electoral-roll related matters, administrative issues, technology, timing and mode of remote voting, etc. are under analysis, sources said.The Commission has scheduled a presentation before an all party meeting on January 16 at Vigyan Bhavan and a similar presentation would be made before the standing committee also later.With an aim to increase voter turnout, the EC had on December 28 written to all national and state political parties about the Remote Voting Machine (RVM) that has been developed by Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL). The machine would be stand-alone and not connected to the internet, it had said. After registering with the Returning Officer of the home constituency, the migrant electors would be able to cast their vote at special remote polling stations at various locations. The RVM would be able to cover 72 constituencies at one time.Another issue came up before the panel was the feasibility of linking Aadhaar with electoral photo identity card, an exercise that has been going on for a while.

EC against bringing parity between age for voting and contesting polls
Bolsonaro, Trump: A tale of populists and two capital city riots
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

On January 8, supporters of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro stormed and ransacked important government buildings in Brasilia, including the country’s Congress, the Presidential Palace and the Supreme Court. In scenes reminiscent of the January 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington DC, Bolsonarists demanded that the result of the presidential election of October 2022 be overturned.The uprising, lasted a little more than three hours. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has vowed to “punish” the wrongdoers and has blamed Bolsonaro, currently living in Florida and yet to officially concede defeat, for inflaming his supporters with false rhetoric on election fraud.Bolsanaro and Trump are among the rightwing populist leaders who have come to power in several countries by harnessing popular anti-establishment sentiment through intense anti-globalist and anti-minority rhetoric, and who have subsequently gone on to attack and subvert a range of democratic institutions in their countries.Trump and Bolsonaro have openly expressed support and admiration for each other, and Trump has earlier urged Brazilians to vote for the “Trump of the Tropics,” as Bolsonaro is often called.The events in Brazil on January 8 were a near-replay of what happened at the United States Capitol two years ago. In both cases, angry supporters of a president who had been defeated in an election — unfairly, they believed — stormed government buildings with the intention of “taking back” their country. In both cases, they were egged on by their leaders — Trump and Bolsonaro — with baseless claims of election fraud.In a speech on December 2, 2020, Trump said, “If we don’t root out the fraud, the tremendous and horrible fraud that’s taken place in our 2020 election, we don’t have a country anymore.”Two years later, Bolsonaro’s son used almost identical language, claiming that his father was the victim of “the greatest electoral fraud ever seen”.Both claims were debunked by authorities and the media in the two countries. But the claims of the leaders and their repeated parroting by their diehard followers was “proof” enough for many. Social media was used to spread disinformation and to organise demonstrations and protests against the “stolen elections”.The parallels between the uprisings in Washington DC and Brasilia are not coincidental. Rather, they are a part of a common playbook that rightwing populists have used to exploit anti-institutional anger and ultra-nationalist urges.Thomas Traumann, a Rio-based political expert, told The Guardian: “Trump is his (Bolsonaro’s) idol and his model. And what did Trump do? He contested, he didn’t accept defeat, he called people on to the streets and encouraged violent protests and left power without backing down and continued to engage his followers so they didn’t recognize the authority of the new government and thus kept his base fired up. This, for me, is Bolsonaro’s roadmap.”Brian Winter, a Brazil specialist, told The Guardian that Bolsonaro’s tactic of questioning the elections after he lost was “100 percent Trump inspired”.“They (Bolsonarists) have noticed that January 6 and Trump’s continuous denial of the election has not cost him his future – as a matter of fact it may have saved it. Because this image of invincibility is so important to both of these movements – and the only way that Donald Trump could lose and survive was by insisting that he didn’t lose,” Winter said.It takes years of undermining rhetoric and action to persuade almost half the population of a country to begin doubting the sanctity of its democratic elections and institutions.The attack on “Washington elites” and vows to “drain the swamp” became central to Trump’s rhetoric in 2015-16 as he launched his election campaign. Bolsonaro came to power after Brazil was rocked by corruption scandals and a crippling recession, and he promised to “clean things up”.Both men promised to deregulate businesses and reduce taxes, they sought to dismantle environment protection frameworks in their countries, and pushed unscientific and dangerous public policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.They exploited racial tensions and nativist insecurities to push their agendas. Importantly, both Trump and Bolsonaro expressed vocal opposition to “political correctness”, and engaged in openly racist, misogynistic, and homophobic messaging to pander to their base.The rise of leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro – also Viktor Orban of Hungary, Marine Le Pen of France, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands – has been situated in the context of growing wealth inequalities and changing racial and gender dynamics that have put people’s lives and identities in flux and engendered widespread insecurities. Right wing populism is a direct outcome of this, and grows by channelling people’s fears and frustrations.Philosopher and political scientist Noam Chomsky said in an interview that right wing populism is a manifestation of the “general collapse of the centrist political institutions during the neoliberal period.”He said, “What is taking place is reminiscent of Gramsci’s observations about an earlier period, ‘when the old is dying and the new cannot be born’; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Bolsonaro, Trump: A tale of populists and two capital city riots
  • Pro-Bolsonaro protesters storm Brazil's Congress in capital
  • The Indian Express

    Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress in the capital on Sunday, climbing on top of its roof and breaking the glass in its windows. Others demonstrators were gathering outside the presidential palace and Supreme Court, although it was not immediately clear whether they had managed to break into the buildings.The incidents, which recalled the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol, come just a week after leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in on Janauary 1st.Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting against Lula’s electoral win since Oct. 30, blocking roads, setting vehicles on fires and gathering outside military buildings, asking armed forces to intervene.

Facebook owner Meta removing content backing Brazil assault
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Facebook parent Meta said on Monday it was removing content supporting or praising the weekend ransacking of Brazilian government buildings by anti-democratic demonstrators.Tens of thousands of supporters of Brazil’s far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro smashed presidential palace windows, flooded parts of Congress with a sprinkler system and ransacked rooms in the Supreme Court in a more than three hour uprising.“In advance of the election, we designated Brazil as a temporary high-risk location and have been removing content calling for people to take up arms or forcibly invade Congress, the Presidential palace and other federal buildings,” a Meta spokesman said.“We are also designating this as a violating event, which means we will remove content that supports or praises these actions,” he said. “We are actively following the situation and will continue removing content that violates our policies.”Leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office on Jan. 1 after defeating Bolsonaro in a runoff election in October, ending Brazil’s most right-wing government in decades.Bolsonaro refused to concede defeat and some supporters have claimed the election was stolen, with people taking to social media and messaging platforms from Twitter, Telegram and TikTok to YouTube and Facebook, to organise protests.Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes has ordered social media platforms to block users spreading anti-democratic propaganda.Telegram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Sunday’s occupation of the government buildings had been planned for at least two weeks by Bolsonaro’s supporters in groups on social media messaging platforms such as Telegram and Twitter, yet there was no move by security forces to prevent what one group called “the seizure of power by the people”.Messages seen by Reuters throughout the week showed members of such groups organising meeting points in several cities around the country, from where chartered buses would leave for Brasilia, with the intention to occupy public buildings.During a demonstration by Trump supporters in January, 2021, social media companies were criticised for not doing enough.

Facebook owner Meta removing content backing Brazil assault
What’s happening in the capital of Brazil: Who tried to take over the seat of government and why?
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

In scenes reminiscent of those at the United States Capitol in Washington DC almost exactly two years ago, thousands of supporters of Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential offices in the capital Brasilia on Sunday (January 8).They broke windows, set off fires, fought with the police, and raised slogans. They draped themselves in Brazilian flags, announced that the country and Congress belonged to them, and filmed their actions on cell phones.The situation is under control now. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet, raised concerns about the events, and said “Democratic traditions must be respected by everyone.”They are supporters of the far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, who lost last year’s presidential election narrowly to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Bolsonaro had long claimed that Brazil’s election system was rotten with fraud and that the entrenched elite was plotting to remove him from power.He had been quiet since being edged out by Lula in the runoff election on October 31, but his supporters, who are convinced that a cabal of the “establishment”, elites, and the media had “stolen” the election, have been growing increasingly restive.Bolsonaro’s supporters had demanded that the Brazilian military step in and prevent President Lula from assuming charge of the country on January 1. Between the announcement of Lula’s victory and now, they had clashed several times with police, set official vehicles on fire, and protested violently. After Lula was inaugurated, they carried out an online campaign to mobilise people to gather at the seats of government and justice on January 8 for a mass demonstration.On Sunday afternoon, the Bolsonarists marched up to Brasilia’s Praça dos Três Poderes, or Three Powers Square, where the three buildings housing the country’s three branches of power are located. The main group of protesters walked about 8 km in a procession from the military headquarters where they had been gathering for weeks, and entered the Three Powers plaza through the Esplanada dos Ministérios, or Ministries Promenade, where the ministerial buildings are located.They apparently faced no resistance from police or security forces anywhere during their march through the city.An AP report said they climbed on roofs, smashed windows and invaded all three buildings. They overturned furniture and looted items inside the buildings, The New York Times said, upon evidence of videos that the rioters posted online. They shouted that they were taking their country back and that they would not be stopped, The NYT report said.Media reports said police used rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas to dispel the protesters. Helicopters hovered overhead, and eventually, the military moved in to help retake some of the government buildings from the protesters, The NYT report said.President Lula, who was not in Brasilia and arrived on the scene in the evening, blamed Bolsonaro squarely for the violence, saying he “triggered” it. “He spurred attacks on the three powers whenever he could. This is also his responsibility,” Lula said in an address to the nation, The NYT reported.The President invoked emergency powers allowing the federal government to take “any measures necessary” to restore order in the capital, Minister of Justice Flávio Dino said an investigation was underway, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Rosa Weber said all those responsible for security in Brasilia would be investigated, the BBC reported.“There is no precedent for what these people have done, and for that, these people must be punished,” The NYT report quoted Lula as saying.The former president is believed to be in Florida, United States where he flew in late December last year. The NYT reported that he had plans to “stay for at least month”, and that he has been renting a rented house owned by a professional mixed-martial-arts fighter a few miles from Disney World in Orlando.Before leaving in the dying days of his presidency, Bolsonaro had urged his followers to stay calm — an appeal that events of Sunday show came too late. On Sunday evening, he posted on Twitter, “Peaceful demonstrations, in the form of the law, are part of democracy.However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today, as well as those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule.” (Translated from the Portuguese)– Manifestações pacíficas, na forma da lei, fazem parte da democracia. Contudo, depredações e invasões de prédios públicos como ocorridos no dia de hoje, assim como os praticados pela esquerda em 2013 e 2017, fogem à regra.— Jair M. Bolsonaro 2️⃣2️⃣ (@jairbolsonaro) January 9, 2023In Brasilia as in Washington DC, the rioters who took over the seat of government in the capital were supporters of defeated presidents — Donald Trump in the case of the US — who believed the election had been stolen from their leader. Trump had egged the rioters on publicly, which Bolsonaro did not do — but both men fed their base a constant diet of fake news and false claims about election fraud that convinced them.“Democracies of the world must act fast to make clear there will be no support for right-wing insurrectionists storming the Brazilian Congress,” US Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, tweeted. “These fascists modeling themselves after Trump’s Jan. 6 rioters must end up in the same place: prison.”Democracies of the world must act fast to make clear there will be no support for right-wing insurrectionists storming the Brazilian Congress. These fascists modeling themselves after Trump’s Jan. 6 rioters must end up in the same place: prison.— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) January 8, 2023

What’s happening in the capital of Brazil: Who tried to take over the seat of government and why?
‘Democratic traditions must be respected’: PM Modi on Brazil violence
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday expressed “deep concern” over reports of rioting in Brazil by supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro and asserted democratic traditions must be respected by everyone.The supporters of far-right leader Bolsonaro, who refuse to accept his election defeat, stormed the Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace in the Brazilian capital Sunday, a week after the inauguration of his leftist rival, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.Modi tweeted on Monday, “Deeply concerned about the news of rioting and vandalism against the State institutions in Brasilia. Democratic traditions must be respected by everyone. We extend our full support to the Brazilian authorities.”Deeply concerned about the news of rioting and vandalism against the State institutions in Brasilia. Democratic traditions must be respected by everyone. We extend our full support to the Brazilian authorities. @LulaOficial— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 9, 2023This is not the first that Modi has commented on such reports of violence. In January 2021, when the US Capitol in Washington DC was stormed by then US president Donald Trump’s supporters on what they called was a rigged election and its outcome, the prime minister had condemned the violence at that time.After the January 6 incident, Modi had condemned the violence and the storming of the US Capitol, saying “orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue”.Taking to Twitter, the prime minister had said, “Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.”

‘Democratic traditions must be respected’: PM Modi on Brazil violence
  • Here’s how leaders from across the world reacted to riots in Brazil
  • The Indian Express

    As rioters, supporting former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who refused to accept his election defeat, stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace in Rio De Janeiro on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his concern, saying democratic traditions must be respected by everyone.Deeply concerned about the news of rioting and vandalism against the State institutions in Brasilia. Democratic traditions must be respected by everyone. We extend our full support to the Brazilian authorities. @LulaOficial— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 9, 2023“Deeply concerned about the news of rioting and vandalism against the State institutions in Brasilia. Democratic traditions must be respected by everyone. We extend our full support to the Brazilian authorities. @LulaOficial,” PM Modi tweeted on Monday morning.Thousands of demonstrators bypassed security barricades, climbed on roofs, smashed windows and invaded all three buildings, which were believed to be largely vacant and sit on Brasilia’s vast Three Powers Square. In a news conference from Sao Paulo state, Lula said Bolsonaro had encouraged the uprising by those he termed “fascist fanatics,” and he read a freshly signed decree for the federal government to take control of security in the federal district.Police fired tear gas in their efforts to recover the buildings, and were shown on television in the late afternoon marching protesters down a ramp from the presidential palace with their hands secured behind their backs. By early evening, control of the buildings had been reestablished, Justice Minister Flavio Dino said in a press conference that roughly 200 people had been arrested, and officers were firing more tear gas to drive lingering protesters from the area.Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden too condemned the violence and said in his tweet: I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined. I look forward to continuing to work with @LulaOficial. I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined. I look forward to continuing to work with @LulaOficial.— President Biden (@POTUS) January 8, 2023Antonio Guterres, the United Nations General Secretary urged that the will of people in Brazil be respected and condemned the violence.I condemn today’s assault on Brazil’s democratic institutions. The will of the Brazilian people and the country’s institutions must be respected. I am confident that it will be so. Brazil is a great democratic country.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) January 8, 2023 

Birender Singh to hold show of strength at Jind on March 23
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

BJP leader and former Union minister Birender Singh, who had sat on a dharna in support of the protesting farmers against three farm laws in 2020, Sunday announced his plans to hold a rally at Jind on March 23.The rally is seen as a show of strength by the grandson of Sir Chhotu Ram amid changing political equations in Haryana, particularly in Hisar parliamentary constituency. Birender Singh’s son Brijendra Singh had won the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Hisar by defeating JJP’s Dushyant Chautala and Kuldeep Bishnoi’s son Bhavya Bishnoi. After the October 2019’s Assembly polls, the JJP had joined hands with the BJP for a coalition government which had made Dushyant the deputy chief minister. A few months ago, Kuldeep had also joined the BJP after quitting the Congress. Later, the BJP fielded his son Bhavya Bishnoi for Adampur bypoll who won the poll. These developments have changed the political scenario in Hisar as it would be interesting to see whom the BJP fields for Hisar parliamentary poll in 2024.On Sunday, Birender’s associates gathered in Hisar at a function organised by a platform known as “Birender Singh Ke Sathi”. Addressing the gathering, Birender said that his comrades have estimated that as many as one lakh people will attend the Jind rally. Every year, March 23 is observed as Shaheed Diwas in the country to pay homage to legendary freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.Birender said:“This will not be a rally of any party. It won’t be against Congress, BJP, JJP or Communists but for consideration (of some issues). It’s 75 years when this country got freedom but the problems which were before Independence still persist. It may be poverty, unemployment and corruption. The politicians in their speeches say ‘corruption can be reduced but can’t end’. Such a statement makes happy those keen to indulge in corruption. I urge you to listen to those who say that corruption can be uprooted. And it will happen as our society is changing.”Referring to the thumping majority of the AAP in the Punjab Assembly elections in 2022, Birender said: “If AAP thinks it won 92 seats, that’s not the case. It was because of a lack of trust in both parties (Congress and SAD) which were ruling the state for 35 years. In that election, corruption was the biggest issue. The people will lose their confidence in a political party and administration which doesn’t have the strength to uproot corruption.”The former Union minister said: “I don’t say I am a big honest person. Sometimes my mind also used to intend to make ‘something’ thinking I may not get this opportunity again. But one thing always stopped me that if I turned corrupt, I won’t be defamed, but the name of Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram would be defamed.” Birender is the son of Sir Chhotu Ram’s daughter.The BJP leader also said now there is a trend in Haryana villages too where youths are moving abroad like youths of Punjab. “This is compulsion of these youths,” said Birender referring to the shrinking landholdings of their families. “When youth looks for employment, he doesn’t get it. The unemployment has increased.” The senior leader suggested an arrangement of passports, visas and guarantee of the state for those who are keen to go abroad for higher education and jobs. He also pushed for higher salaries to those doctors who prefer to go to village hospitals and dispensaries.

Birender Singh to hold show of strength at Jind on March 23
Tavleen Singh writes: Is BJP getting worried of Rahul Gandhi?Premium Story
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Two things became clear in the first week of this year. The BJP is going to use Hindutva as its main weapon in the next general election. And Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra appears to be causing concern at the highest levels of Narendra Modi’s inner circle. I base this bit of political analysis on a speech that the Home Minister made in Tripura. As reported on the front page of this newspaper last Friday, Amit Shah directed his remarks at ‘Rahul baba’ and said that he should ‘open his ears and listen carefully’ to the announcement that on January 1, 2024, the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will be ready to welcome worshippers.This revelation was preceded by fulsome praise of Narendra Modi and a short history lesson. “From the time Babur destroyed it and left, from the time the country gained independence, these Congress people got it embroiled in courts – sessions court, High Court, Supreme Court again sessions court. One morning the Supreme Court order came. Modiji performed the ‘bhoomipoojan’ for Ram Lala’s temple and the construction work began.”When the second most powerful politician in India invokes Babur’s name in the same breath as he attacks the Congress Party for not building the temple, it tells us a few things. It tells us that the Ram Temple will open just weeks before the next general election. And making the announcement now means that we can expect a campaign in which temples and Hindutva will be used to deepen the fault lines that exist between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus will be reminded that there are terrible wounds in this country’s past. And Muslims will be reminded that Muslim invaders caused those wounds. Does it also tell us that Hindutva and historical grievances will be used to distract voters from dwelling on unpleasant subjects like high unemployment and high inflation? It is hard to say for sure because the Lok Sabha election is still 16 months away and who knows what changes could happen by then.It intrigued me that for the second time in the past few weeks, senior ministers of the Government of India have spoken directly to Rahul Gandhi. First it was the Health Minister who wrote a letter to him with the warning that unless Covid protocols were followed, the Bharat Jodo Yatra would not be allowed to go forward. To make the warning seem serious, senior BJP leaders appeared in Parliament that day wearing masks. This exercise has now been abandoned. This time it is the Home Minister who is talking directly to ‘Rahul baba’. Why? And why did the Home Minister choose to refer to him in the way in which ayahs address their wards?Could it be because there is growing concern in the highest echelons of the BJP about Rahul emerging as a mature leader who can no longer be mocked and jeered at? It has been a favorite pastime of BJP spokespersons to mock him in primetime TV debates as a man who is too juvenile and too much of a clown to pose any threat to the big leader. But there are signs that they are no longer as sure that their derision is working as well as it did in those pre-Yatra years when Rahul was hard to take seriously because he disappeared so often on mysterious foreign travels. And, because he was given to making muddled speeches about issues that he seemed not to fully understand.His speeches still sound very confused when he speaks on economic issues. He recently said that the only purpose of demonetisation was to take the people’s money and give it to Adani and Ambani. There was a great deal wrong with demonetization even if it was legal (as the Supreme Court has ruled) but it was not done to steal money from ordinary people and give it to the two richest Indians. Clearly, when it comes to economic issues the Dynasty’s heir has much to learn. This does not diminish the astonishing image makeover that Rahul has achieved with his Bharat Jodo Yatra.It is not possible yet to assess if the huge crowds he has drawn on his journey from Kanyakumari will vote for Congress. What it is possible to say is that Rahul’s political messaging has been appreciated even by people who do not count as Congress supporters. What it is possible to say is that Rahul’s personal stature has grown remarkably and there is no question that he has emerged as Modi’s main challenger. When the Home Minister mocks him as ‘Rahul baba’ he appears not to have noticed that the jibe is no longer effective.What it is possible to say is that millions of Indians are sick of religion being dragged into politics as it has been in the past eight years. What it is possible to say is that slowly but surely there is space being made in India’s political landscape for a leader who can pose a challenge to Modi. As someone who once said that the Bharat Jodo Yatra was a waste of time, I admit that I spoke too soon. But it may still prove to be a waste of time if immediate efforts are not made to revive the Congress Party’s crumbling organisational machinery. Unless this happens, Congress will not be able to take on Modi’s electoral juggernaut.

Tavleen Singh writes: Is BJP getting worried of Rahul Gandhi?Premium Story
  • Is BJP getting worried about Rahul Gandhi?Premium Story
  • The Indian Express

    Two things became clear in the first week of this year. The BJP is going to use Hindutva as its main weapon in the next general election. And Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra appears to be causing concern at the highest levels of Narendra Modi’s inner circle. I base this bit of political analysis on a speech that the Home Minister made in Tripura. As reported on the front page of this newspaper last Friday, Amit Shah directed his remarks at ‘Rahul baba’ and said that he should ‘open his ears and listen carefully’ to the announcement that on January 1, 2024, the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will be ready to welcome worshippers.This revelation was preceded by fulsome praise of Narendra Modi and a short history lesson. “From the time Babur destroyed it and left, from the time the country gained independence, these Congress people got it embroiled in courts – sessions court, High Court, Supreme Court again sessions court. One morning the Supreme Court order came. Modiji performed the ‘bhoomipoojan’ for Ram Lala’s temple and the construction work began.”When the second most powerful politician in India invokes Babur’s name in the same breath as he attacks the Congress Party for not building the temple, it tells us a few things. It tells us that the Ram Temple will open just weeks before the next general election. And making the announcement now means that we can expect a campaign in which temples and Hindutva will be used to deepen the fault lines that exist between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus will be reminded that there are terrible wounds in this country’s past. And Muslims will be reminded that Muslim invaders caused those wounds. Does it also tell us that Hindutva and historical grievances will be used to distract voters from dwelling on unpleasant subjects like high unemployment and high inflation? It is hard to say for sure because the Lok Sabha election is still 16 months away and who knows what changes could happen by then.It intrigued me that for the second time in the past few weeks, senior ministers of the Government of India have spoken directly to Rahul Gandhi. First it was the Health Minister who wrote a letter to him with the warning that unless Covid protocols were followed, the Bharat Jodo Yatra would not be allowed to go forward. To make the warning seem serious, senior BJP leaders appeared in Parliament that day wearing masks. This exercise has now been abandoned. This time it is the Home Minister who is talking directly to ‘Rahul baba’. Why? And why did the Home Minister choose to refer to him in the way in which ayahs address their wards?Could it be because there is growing concern in the highest echelons of the BJP about Rahul emerging as a mature leader who can no longer be mocked and jeered at? It has been a favorite pastime of BJP spokespersons to mock him in primetime TV debates as a man who is too juvenile and too much of a clown to pose any threat to the big leader. But there are signs that they are no longer as sure that their derision is working as well as it did in those pre-Yatra years when Rahul was hard to take seriously because he disappeared so often on mysterious foreign travels. And, because he was given to making muddled speeches about issues that he seemed not to fully understand.His speeches still sound very confused when he speaks on economic issues. He recently said that the only purpose of demonetisation was to take the people’s money and give it to Adani and Ambani. There was a great deal wrong with demonetization even if it was legal (as the Supreme Court has ruled) but it was not done to steal money from ordinary people and give it to the two richest Indians. Clearly, when it comes to economic issues the Dynasty’s heir has much to learn. This does not diminish the astonishing image makeover that Rahul has achieved with his Bharat Jodo Yatra.It is not possible yet to assess if the huge crowds he has drawn on his journey from Kanyakumari will vote for Congress. What it is possible to say is that Rahul’s political messaging has been appreciated even by people who do not count as Congress supporters. What it is possible to say is that Rahul’s personal stature has grown remarkably and there is no question that he has emerged as Modi’s main challenger. When the Home Minister mocks him as ‘Rahul baba’ he appears not to have noticed that the jibe is no longer effective.What it is possible to say is that millions of Indians are sick of religion being dragged into politics as it has been in the past eight years. What it is possible to say is that slowly but surely there is space being made in India’s political landscape for a leader who can pose a challenge to Modi. As someone who once said that the Bharat Jodo Yatra was a waste of time, I admit that I spoke too soon. But it may still prove to be a waste of time if immediate efforts are not made to revive the Congress Party’s crumbling organisational machinery. Unless this happens, Congress will not be able to take on Modi’s electoral juggernaut.

Correction call for 32 lakh photos on electoral roll in Maharashtra
Times of India | 3 weeks ago | |
Times of India
3 weeks ago | |

PUNE: Around 32 lakh photos on the electoral roll in the state are either not clear or of poor quality, a recent report by the Election Commission of India (ECI) said.Maharashtra is among the top six states with over 30 lakh photos of poor quality, needing correction, stated the report.Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, West Bengal, and Rajasthan also figure among the states with poor quality photos on the voter list. The report stated that there are altogether 3.54 crore photos of poor quality on the electoral roll across the country. The ECI has directed election officials to carry out an extensive drive to correct these photos.State chief electoral officer Shrikant Deshpande said that with 32 lakh photos to be corrected and updated, he has directed 90,000 booth level officers (BLOs) to conduct field visits to collect the photos of voters and get them to fill Form 8 as part of the exercise in the next six months."It will be a mammoth task as there are only 90,000 BLOs for this work, so it will take time," he added. The state has 9.02 crore voters as of January 5. Of these, photos of 32 lakh voters will need to be corrected. "Some of these photos have been taken over two decades ago. Officials from each state have identified unclear photos and the BLOs have been directed to visit the homes of these voters and collect photos for updating the electoral roll," said a senior official.While voters can themselves update their photos, if there are no photos, those whose photos are not up to the mark can also fill Form 8 and update the photos. S Reddy (49), whose photo is unclear on the electoral roll, said that he is hoping for a visit by a BLO so that he can give a fresh photo. "While these officials say that the BLOs will visit homes, there could be issues with people not being at home. There should be a mechanism for the voters to directly approach the BLO and submit their photographs," said Reddy.BLOs from the election department said that they are already loaded with other departmental work and collecting photos would be an added exercise.Deshpande added that although it is a cumbersome process, it will have to be done to ensure a clear electoral roll. "The drive has to start across the state as there are many key districts with poor-quality photo entries. The BLOs will have to prepare a list and visit homes to make the changes," he said The ECI is stressing on a clean electoral roll for which drives for correction of names, deletion, geographically similar entries, and photo similar entries are being assessed.

Correction call for 32 lakh photos on electoral roll in Maharashtra
Who is Kevin McCarthy, US House Speaker with a history of political opportunism and pandering to far right extremists?
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

In a historic post-midnight 15th round of voting, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Saturday (January 7) finally became the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives after he successfully persuaded the hard right rebels of his party to support him.In a five-day-long saga, which was the longest speakership election in 160 years, the California Republican made significant concessions to the GOP’s far right, ultimately garnering enough support to win the top job.This wasn’t the first time that a bloc of ultra-conservative Republicans had stood in the way of his becoming Speaker. In 2015, hardline Representatives had forced him to drop out of the race for the speakership as they saw him as power-hungry and too mainstream.Since then, McCarthy, a moderate in the early years of his political career, has bent over backwards to woo the hard right. He befriended those whom he once despised, supported former President Donald Trump, and even helped him spread lies about voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.However, he wasn’t able to win them over until Saturday. Just days before the election, Matt Gaetz, a hard right Republican Representative from Florida and one of McCarthy’s biggest critics, in an op-ed said, “Every single Republican in Congress knows that Kevin does not actually believe anything. He has no ideology.”The Indian Express looks at the tumultuous relationship between McCarthy and hard right members of the Republican party.Pandering to the Tea Party MovementBorn in Bakersfield, California, McCarthy started a sandwich shop after high school with $5,000 that he had won in a lottery. His fate turned around when he was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002. Owing to his affable nature, moderate ideology, and the ability to cut deals with the Democrats, McCarthy quickly became popular and, four years later, won the election to the US House of Representatives.McCarthy’s rise in Washington DC coincided with the rise of the Tea Party Movement, which was a fiscally conservative political movement that began in 2009 within the Republican Party. It consisted of members who believed in fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. According to a report in the BBC, the defining feature of the movement was its “vociferous anger at Congress and the White House”. Not only this, its members deeply distrusted the government and media.Several reports suggest that McCarthy, along with two other rising stars of the GOP, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, saw the opportunity to harness the popularity of the Tea Party Movement and help their party win the House. The New York Times reported that in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, the three of them not only projected themselves as an ally of the movement, but also recruited candidates who were anti-establishment and against taxes. The strategy worked, and the Republicans took control of the House. John Boehner was elected Speaker, Cantor became Majority Leader and McCarthy became the House Majority Whip — his job was to gather votes for Boehner and Cantor in order to get legislation passed.This is when McCarthy had his first skirmish with the conservative flank of the Republican party, which he had himself helped grow. Between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, the House needed to pass a bundle of momentous US federal tax increases and spending cuts, failing which the economy would have been in danger of plunging into chaos. However, the newly-elected Tea Party members and ultra-conservative lawmakers opposed a hike in taxes. Although McCarthy voted against the legislation, like the hardliners in the party, as the House Majority Whip, he managed to corral enough votes for it to pass in the lower chamber, according to The NYT report. The ultra-conservatives did not approve — they saw McCarthy as trying “to have it both ways”, The NYT report said.McCarthy’s struggle with the growing conservatism within the Republican party worsened in 2015. By this time, the Freedom Caucus had been established — it emerged from the Tea Party Movement and is considered to be the most conservative, far-right caucus of the GOP — and its members played a significant role in the ouster of then-Speaker Boehner, who deeply frustrated the party’s right flank.McCarthy was the likeliest candidate to become the next Speaker. According to a Reuters report, he “worked hard to build personal bonds with the restive conservatives who worked to topple Boehner”. But his plans did not work out.The Freedom Caucus saw him as pro-establishment and not much different from Boehner. Although McCarthy agreed to a bunch of their demands, he still remained deeply unpopular among them.Meanwhile, the rebellion against him intensified when, just before the election, he made a gaffe on Fox News. In an interview, he suggested that a Republican-appointed special committee on the 2012 Benghazi attacks was intended to undermine Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. McCarthy retracted his statement, but the damage was done. He had to drop out of the race.In a statement, the Republican leader said, “Over the last week it has become clear to me that our conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader”.A close confidant of TrumpMcCarthy’s bid to lure the hard right for political gains continued as he ardently supported Trump during his presidency.According to an analysis in NPR, the Representative from California “knew Trump — and winning over the hard right, of which he is no founding member — was his path to power.”It was this belief that forced McCarthy to backtrack after he vehemently criticised Trump and held him responsible for the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.On the day of the violence, the Republican leader demanded the resignation of the then-President, but when he realised the ultra-conservatives were offended by his statement, he rushed to meet Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, and posed for a photo with him.Subsequently, McCarthy refused to agree to a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection. Such a commission would have had an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, with equal authority to subpoena and interrogate witnesses. In fact, McCarthy dismissed the events of January 6, 2021 as not worth investigating.The thorny path to successAfter the Republicans won a thin majority in the House last year, experts predicted that McCarthy’s critics wouldn’t let him realise his dream easily. Therefore, in the run-up to the Speaker vote, the California Republican held weeks-long negotiations with the hardliners of the GOP.He promised to give leadership roles to them, agreed to reform the functioning of the House, and accepted “a rule that would allow five lawmakers to call a snap vote at any time to oust the Speaker”. According to a report in The Washington Post, McCarthy even “made peace” with Jim Jordan, a Republican Representative from Ohio and co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, who opposed his 2015 campaign to become the Speaker.And yet, on December 3, a group of 20 conservative Republicans blocked his ascension — McCarthy couldn’t reach the required 218 vote threshold. For the first time in 100 years, a majority party’s nominee in the House wasn’t able to win the first vote for the position of Speaker.What followed in the next few days was chaos, as the Republican leader failed over and over again to get enough rebels to turn over their votes to him. Instead of backing him, they showed support for other party members, such as Jordan, Paul Gosar, a far-right Republican from Arizona, and Byron Donalds, a Freedom Caucus member and second-term Republican Representative.According to The Washington Post, this led McCarthy to make fresh concessions to the hardliners. Notably, these included an offer to “lower from five to one the number of members required to sponsor a resolution to force a vote on ousting the Speaker”, which he had earlier refused to accept. He also agreed to allow “floor votes to institute term limits on members and to enact specific border policy legislation”, the report added.Finally, on Saturday (January 7), after 15 rounds of voting over the course of five days, McCarthy clawed his way to the speakership. With Republican House members like Eli Crane, Andy Biggs, Bob Good and Matt Rosendale switching their votes to “present”, the candidate prevailed as the final tally showed 216 votes for him — every lawmaker voting “present” lowers the overall tally needed to reach a majority, according to the rules of the House.However, McCarthy’s victory might have come at a heavy cost. According to an analysis in The NYT, he has essentially agreed to allow far-right members to disrupt the working of the House and “hold him hostage to their demands”.It further said, “Congress as an entity would struggle to carry out even its most basic duties in the coming two years, such as funding the government, including the military, or avoiding a catastrophic federal debt default.”

Who is Kevin McCarthy, US House Speaker with a history of political opportunism and pandering to far right extremists?
  • Republican Kevin McCarthy elected US House Speaker in 15th attempt
  • The Indian Express

    Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected House speaker on a historic post-midnight 15th ballot early Saturday, overcoming holdouts from his own ranks and floor tensions boiling over after a chaotic week that tested the new GOP majority’s ability to govern.After four days of gruelling ballots, McCarthy flipped more than a dozen conservative holdouts to become supporters, including the chairman of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus, leaving him just a few shy of seizing the gavel for the new Congress.“Therefore, the honorable Kevin McCarthy of the state of California, having received a majority of the votes cast, is duly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.”15th Ballot Result:Kevin McCarthy – 216Hakeem Jeffries – 211Present – 6 #118thCongress pic.twitter.com/m3ksWLVnuf— CSPAN (@cspan) January 7, 2023As the House resumed for the late night session McCarthy had been on the cusp of victory in the 14th round but he fell one vote short.He strode to the back of the chamber to confront Matt Gaetz, sitting with Lauren Boebert and other holdouts. Fingers were pointed, words exchanged and violence apparently just averted.At one point, Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama started to charge toward Gaetz before another Republican, Richard Hudson, physically pulled him back.“Stay civil!” someone shouted.Republicans quickly moved to adjourn, but then McCarthy rushed forward to switch his vote to remain in session as colleagues chanted “One more time!”The few Republican holdouts began voting present as well, dropping the tally he needed to finally seize the gavel in what was heading toward a dramatic finish on the fourth long day of a grueling standoff that has shown the strengths and fragility American democracy.McCarthy had declared to reporters earlier in the day that he believed “we’ll have the votes to finish this once and for all.”

NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT) target Eknath Shinde over Yogi Adityanath’s visit to Mumbai to attract investments
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Soon after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s visit to Mumbai to attract investments for his state, the NCP and Shiv Sena targeted Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.“Chief Minister Eknath Shinde should protect the jobs and investments of bhoomiputras in Maharashtra and should not fall prey to BJP’s plan of diverting projects out of Maharashtra,” said Mahesh Tapase, chief spokesperson of NCP.Tapase took a serious view of Adityanath’s attempt to lure Bollywood and industries into his state of UP. “After Gujarat, now the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has come to steal our projects,” he said.“Earlier, Foxcon and Tata Arbus projects were diverted to Gujarat to enable the BJP victory in the Gujarat state election and now the BJP seems to be playing the same game to transfer projects out of Maharashtra into UP keeping an eye on the Lok Sabha seats in UP,” Tapasa added.The NCP said the BJP has clearly started its calculation for the 2024 general election and hence BJP chief ministers are coming to Mumbai to “strip Maharashtra of its wealth created by the blood and sweat of the Marathi Manoos in the past 60 years”.The NCP asked the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to thwart the alleged conspiracy of the BJP and save jobs and livelihoods of the people of Maharashtra. “The BJP clearly has dubious plans and CM Shinde should ensure that no project goes out of Maharashtra,” said Tapase.Shiv Sena (UBT) spokesperson Sanjay Raut said while they have respect for Uttar Pradesh, they want to know from Shinde what he is doing about it. “Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath comes to Mumbai and takes away Rs 5 lakh crore investment. But what is our Chief Minister doing? Where is he? He seems to be happy with a piece of land they got in Ayodhya. In return, the UP CM has walked away with Rs 5 lakh crore investment. Why are you keeping quiet?” Raut asked.However, in the same breath Raut added, “Yogi Adityanath is a respectable leader and a saintly figure. We respect him. When we went to Ayodhya and Mathura, his government had ensured proper arrangements for us.”

NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT) target Eknath Shinde over Yogi Adityanath’s visit to Mumbai to attract investments
BJP's re-election in 2024 may consolidate an idea of India that is un-democraticPremium Story
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

What will India’s collective self look like in the mirror of the near future? Any analysis of the politics of the present moment — of today and tomorrow — needs to be anchored in this difficult question. The answer to it hinges on what India has become today. After eight years of the BJP’s single-party dominance, politics is at a crossroads: It can cling to the remnants of a nearly-demolished democratic spirit or slip into the abyss of more explicit authoritarianism. If the latter happens, we shall have transformed not just in politics but in identity too. Such a transformation represents no less than a hegemonic project that is still unfolding. Election outcomes and the shape of party competition, crucial as they are, should also be located in this larger inquiry. Let us, therefore, attempt to look not only at 2024 but a little beyond that; and not only at elections but much beyond that.Two interlinked processes are shaping today. One is taking place in the arena of competitive politics and is marked by the rise of the “second dominant party system”. The other is in the realm of politics of normative contestations. The single-party dominance that the BJP has achieved is vulnerable at the state level. There are states where this dominance has so far failed to make its mark. The BJP is also vulnerable in its exclusive dependence on a single leader who needs to toil for local body elections as hard as the parliamentary elections. Similarly, the hegemony that marks the public domain is earned and retained through a complex and frail process. It is ideologically weak and thrives on distortions, manipulations and intellectually inadequate cribbing over victimhood and whataboutery.Not surprisingly, the current hegemony and single-party dominance are coupled with crass repression by the state and by state-approved vigilantism of private actors. In coming years, the BJP might retain its hold on formal power and competitive politics. It may also successfully stabilise the current distortion of public culture. But its reliance on repression and celebration of masculine militarism against the citizenry will continue.During its second term, the current regime has made concerted efforts to undermine constitutional democracy but even before that, the process of hollowing the various institutions had begun. While constitutional bodies like the judiciary or the Election Commission have been tamed or threatened, the most abject surrender facilitating an authoritarian turn of governance has been by the bureaucracy and investigating agencies. So much so that these two have become partners of the political establishment in the crime against democracy.In this overall context, irrespective of electoral outcomes, we are bound to witness a further weakening of the liberal norm. It is true that all parties, when they acquire power, adopt a statist approach bordering on disguised authoritarianism either in the legal instruments they create or in the application of existing ones. Yet, the present moment must be distinguished from this more general tendency. The current regime is inherently antagonistic to the liberal norm. The liberal norm and majoritarianism are at odds and the latter is at the heart of the current regime’s ideological project. This dichotomy pitches today’s regime against all dimensions of the liberal ethic.Today, the acceptability of majoritarianism is linked to the nature of religious identity. Instead of a move from ritual practices to joyful festivities, each religious event is pulled back into the vortex of public performance of rituals and their linkage to religiosity and national pride. These developments have implications for how the project of evolving a political community necessary for democracy is undermined. This is happening through four processes.One, ever since the Ayodhya controversy was stoked in the late Eighties, Muslims are reminded of being Muslims rather than Indians. In a sense, a conservative Muslim-ness is forced upon the community through its isolation and now its conversion into second-class citizenry. To a lesser extent, this happens in the case of Christians as well. Two, through the onslaught of public display of religiosity, Hindus are persuaded to become more Hindu in a superficial sense. That is where the discourse of Hindutva has been very successful. Three, as a corollary, the plural nature of Hinduism is pushed aside in favour of a more pan-Indian, homogenised idea of Hinduism.As a result, the fourth process: The space for cultural intermixing in the social realm shrinks just as the space for cultural contestations and politics of culture in the party arena almost disappears. This is where we come back to the idea of a dominant party system. It is not so much about electoral expansion as it is about the ability of the dominant party to determine what will be the ideological contours of political competition. The idea of the middle ground of politics has been changing. Today, the BJP is poised to force not just the style and language of politics but also the substance of politics onto its opponents and once that exercise is complete, the transformation of India from an imagined constitutional democracy to a majoritarian regime will be complete.How long will this transformation take? In 2019, by allowing the BJP to win big, the non-BJP parties facilitated a major step in this direction. In 2024, the BJP would expect to take the final step in changing the idea that defines India. In this sense, elections will determine the image of India in the mirror of the future: With each day the present regime enjoys formal and cultural power, the decimation of the constitutional project and distortion of India’s collective self will come closer. This underscores the urgency of confronting the second dominant party system on two fronts. One is a mundane exercise of weakening the electoral prowess of the current regime. The arrogance of the present power machine, from top to bottom, may contribute to this exercise. The other is the rebuilding of the constitutional imagination with something almost unique to India — entwining diversity with the idea of democracy. This will automatically strengthen the liberal spirit. These efforts may prolong the fruition of the hegemonic project that is currently underway. This is where the innate tradition of accommodation and coexistence may prove valuable.As the BJP’s power saturates in some parts and remains vulnerable in many others, one may expect an open political battlefield but the core issue is: Both during electoral battle and after that, in the course of routine politics, will non-BJP parties have an agenda of protecting the democratic promise we once held? Can we, as Indians, look up straight in the face of our future image?The writer, based in Pune, taught political science and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics

BJP's re-election in 2024 may consolidate an idea of India that is un-democraticPremium Story
TMC declares Rs 528.14 cr from poll bonds, up from Rs 42 cr a year earlier
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The All-India Trinamool Congress got more than 96% of its income in 2021-2022 from electoral bonds, according to the party’s annual audit report submitted to the Election Commission.The audit report, which was published Friday by the EC on its website, showed that the party had a total income of Rs 545.74 crore in the last financial year. Out of that, Rs 528.14 crore came from electoral bonds and Rs 14.36 crore through fees/subscriptions/collections from primary members. The rest came from interest on bank deposits and donations from other party members.In the previous financial year, 2020-2021, the TMC had declared Rs 42 crore in income from electoral bonds, the report showed.The TMC’s expenditure saw an increase from Rs 132.52 crore in 2020-2021 to Rs 268.33 crore in 2021-2022, the financial year in which the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections concluded. Just over Rs 135.12 crore of the spending went to “election expenditure” in 2021-2022.Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) declared Rs 162.23 crore as its income in 2021-2022, according to its annual audit report that was also published Friday.The CPI(M), which has moved the Supreme Court, challenging the electoral bond scheme, got its income from fees and subscriptions (Rs 47.78 crore), grants/donations/contribution (Rs 65.87 crore), sale of coupons and publications (Rs 10.70 crore) and “other income” (Rs 37.86 crore). The party’s income saw a decrease from the previous financial year when it declared Rs 171.04 crore.The EC also published the Nationalist Congress Party’s annual audited accounts statement, which showed the party had an income of Rs 75.84 crore, of which Rs 14 crore were from electoral bonds.

TMC declares Rs 528.14 cr from poll bonds, up from Rs 42 cr a year earlier
Over 28 lakh voters as per final electoral rolls for Tripura Assembly polls
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

For this year’s Assembly elections in Tripura, the Election Commission has published the final electoral rolls with 28,13,478 voters–a net increase of 2.4 lakh since the 2018 polls.Chief electoral officer Kiran Dinkarrao Gitte said Friday that the final rolls were published Thursday after the summary revision that started on November 9 last year ended.As many as 14,14,576 voters are men and 13,98,825 are women, while there are a record 77 transgender voters. The number of first-time voters is 65,044 and 34,704 of them are men, 30,328 women and 12 transgender people. The number of 80-plus voters is 38,039 while 679 voters are over 100 years old.As many as 13,500 Bru migrants from Mizoram, who are being permanently resettled in parts of Tripura as per a central government initiative to end their protracted displacement, would be able to cast votes in the Assembly elections.Bru migrants who have not enrolled yet can register as voters till the last date for the nomination of candidates, according to the commission.There will be 3,328 polling stations at 2,504 places across the state, with average voters per station this year being 845.The Election Commission is running a special campaign called Mission Zero Violence and 929 to prevent poll violence and ensure free and fair elections. Mission 929 refers to an effort to boost voting percentage. In the 2018 polls, 929 of the 3,214 polling stations had a turnout lower than the state average of 88 per cent.“Poll violence should not happen. These hurt people and affect the image of our state. Elections will end but tourists may not visit again. We are taking a host of initiatives to ensure violence does not happen,” Gitte said.With the ruling BJP and the Opposition parties accusing each other of perpetrating violence, the poll panel has a tough job of ensuring free and fair elections, especially since the Opposition has accused it of having failed to maintain the law and order situation in the previous elections.Fifty new companies of central forces have arrived so far and as many will be arriving on Sunday.As per the Election Commission’s records, 370 FIRs were registered over poll-related violence during the 2018 elections.

Over 28 lakh voters as per final electoral rolls for Tripura Assembly polls
  • 9 crore voters on Maharashtra electoral rolls, 10.5 lakh fewer than a year ago
  • Times of India

    MUMBAI: Maharashtra has 9 crore voters according to the final electoral roll published Thursday, ahead of the spate of civic polls expected in state. It is 10.5 lakh lower than in January 2022, but has shown recovery of 4.4 lakh since November 2022, when the last draft was published.Officials say the number of voters has reduced over the past year due to multiple factors, including migration and a major purging of duplicate entries. "We examined 40 lakh duplicate entries, of which 16 lakh were deleted," said the state's chief electoral officer Shrikant Deshpande.Of the total voters, 4.7 crore are men, 4.3 crore women and 4,735 voters are transgender. Nearly 6.7 lakh are people with disabilities. Mumbai has 96.3 lakh voters, of which 71.8 lakh are in the suburbs and 24.4 lakh in the island city.'Poor registration of young voters a matter of concern'In the latest state electoral roll published on Thursday, the 30-39 year age category has the highest number of voters accounting for 2 crore while the 40-49 category follows close behind with 1.9 crore. However, the 18-19 year age group accounts for the lowest number of voters, with just 6.7 lakh, the data shows.Indeed, Deshpande said poor registration among the youth was a matter of concern and that his office had made it a priority to motivate them to register by reaching out to schools and colleges."While the 18-19 year category accounts for 3.5% of the state's population, the number of voters in this age group amounts to only 0.5% of the state's population. This means 90% of them have not registered to vote," said Deshpande.In the 20-29 year age group, the number of voters were also much below the population of the cohort, the data showed. While 20-29-year-olds account for 18% of the state's population, the number of registered voters account for 12.8% of the population. This means 30% of the 20-29 year age group have not registered to vote.Deshpande said the state had accepted 18-year-olds who wanted to register as voters up to January 1, 2023. He said registrations had improved since the last revision of the electoral roll in November 2022. The number of voters in the 18-19 age group was 4.3 lakh in November 2022, accounting for 0.3% of the population. It rose to 6.7 lakh in January 2023 or 0.5% of the population.The chief electoral office in the state will examine 29 lakh voters with duplicate photographs in the next revision of the electoral roll. The updation exercise is conducted through the year. Of the electorate, as many as 43% had Aadhar linkage. Deshpande said the chief electoral office had made efforts to improve registration among nomadic tribes, sex workers and people with disabilities; 6.7 lakh people with disabilities are registered to vote in the state.

In US House Speaker drama, strong echoes from similar showdown a century ago
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The House was in an uproar, unable to settle on its new speaker, forcing roll call vote after roll call vote. The Senate had quietly slipped out of the city while insurgents in the House demanded more power as the nation watched anxiously.“Radicals Force Deadlock in House as Congress Opens,” blared one national headline.The year was 1923, almost exactly a century ago, the last time the House required multiple days and repeated votes to settle on a new speaker before this week’s continuing stalemate over the candidacy of Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California.While it was long before the dawn of Twitter, super PACs and C-SPAN, things really haven’t changed all that much in Congress. In fact, the parallels between then and now are striking, down to the opponents of 1923’s eventual winner, Frederick H Gillett, Republican of Massachusetts, angling for basic changes in the rules of the House to give them more influence and more top committee slots, just as hard-right adversaries of McCarthy are doing today.Unable to overcome the opposition from a band of progressive Republicans, supporters of Gillett kept pushing the House into adjournment to allow backroom talks about how to resolve the stalemate, another tactic being employed this time around as the vote tallies remain inconclusive.Traditionally viewing itself as the more refined chamber, the Senate chose not to hang around for the slugfest in the House. Instead, senators organized without incident and expeditiously vacated the Capitol to let their counterparts across the Rotunda sully themselves alone.“What the Senate really did,” The New York Times of December 4, 1923, reported knowingly, “was to show respect for public opinion and its own dignity by not resorting to wrangling about the election of the president of the Senate. But in the House of Representatives the progressive bloc preferred to advertise itself and its insatiable passion for more places on the committees.”The 118th version of the Senate did the same this week, convening for a celebratory induction of new members and the swearing in of re-elected senators on Tuesday, then quickly fleeing the capital for three weeks to allow the House to occupy the political stage alone.While never common, stalemates over the speakership requiring repeated votes to resolve did occur with some frequency in the early days of Congress, almost all before the Civil War when party labels were not so firmly affixed. According to the archives of the House, there have been at least 14 cases of a speaker being chosen through multiple ballots, with the record being 133 in 1856.But before this year there have been none since Gillett’s contest, primarily because the two-party system has become so deeply entrenched. Members of the party that won control of the House would typically consider it foolhardy to risk their power and image by engaging in such a risky internal power struggle. Speakers Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and John Boehner, a Republican, had their challenges in recent elections, but never had to go beyond a single ballot to secure the post.Plus, Democrats held rock-solid control of the House for four decades before 1994 with their large majorities, allowing the certainty of who was speaker to be settled long before the pro forma vote on the House floor. And while the speaker is theoretically the constitutional officer for the whole House, the position has in reality evolved into the political and legislative leader of the majority party, making it the majority’s privilege to bestow.To many, the mess on the House floor the past few days has been the best illustration yet of Republican dysfunction, a potential inability to govern and an unfortunate political tendency for the party to devour its leaders. But as they held out against McCarthy, his Republican opponents sought to portray the return to the days of speaker uncertainty as healthy and a move away from ingrained party power.“We are making history in this process and we are showing the American people that this process works,” said Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, a leading McCarthy opponent. “Is it going to be painful? Is it going to be difficult? Yes, it probably is. That’s why it took 100 years.”John James, a newly elected Republican from Michigan, pointed out on Thursday that the differences that forced the House into a two-month, 133-vote marathon before the election of Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts as speaker in 1856 were much more consequential than those holding up the speakership of McCarthy.“Without question, the issues that divide us today are much less severe than they were in 1856,” James, who is black, said in nominating McCarthy for a seventh round of indeterminate voting. “The issues today are over a few rules and personalities, while the issues at that time were about slavery and whether the value of a man who looks like me was 60% or 100% of a human being. It was a long, drawn-out, painful process, but it had to happen.”“On that day long ago the good guys won,” he said. “The leading Republican nominee won then, and the leading Republican nominee will win again.”In the 1923 fight, the voting stretched over three days — the current deadlock hit three days on Thursday — and Gillett finally prevailed over Finis J Garrett of Tennessee by a vote of 215-197 on the ninth ballot. That was a quicker conclusion than this year’s version, which saw its 11th ballot end on Thursday without a winner.Ultimately, concessions made by Gillett and his supporters swung the bloc of progressive Republicans who had been supporting alternative candidates behind him while Democrats remained united behind their candidate — another familiar scenario.“The organization of the House proceeded after the speakership election,” The NYT of December 6, 1923, reported with an almost palpable sigh of relief.There was a note of optimism added that might cheer whoever comes out of the current leadership strife.“Even with his diminished powers,” the newspaper noted, “the speaker is in a position to exercise great influence upon legislation.”But the whole ordeal may have been too much for Gillett. The next year he ran for the Senate — and won.

In US House Speaker drama, strong echoes from similar showdown a century ago
Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde’s Sena sets up 6-member team to prepare for BMC polls
Times of India | 3 weeks ago | |
Times of India
3 weeks ago | |

MUMBAI: In an indication that his faction has started preparations for the upcoming BMC polls, CM Eknath Shinde has appointed six leaders, including two sitting MPs, to oversee his Shiv Sena's (Balasahebanchi) election preparations. In a letter issued on Wednesday, Shinde's Sena appointed MPs Rahul Shewale and Gajanan Kirtikar, state minister Deepak Kesarkar, former corporators Sheetal Mhatre and Kamini Shewale and Asha Mamidi to strengthen the party organisation for the BMC polls. Political observers said that the Shinde faction is preparing for the BMC polls even as there is no clarity on how many seats the BJP will leave for the CM's faction. While two MPs are on the election panel, none of the MLAs from Mumbai who joined the Shinde faction are on it. Five MLAs from the city, Sadar Sarvankar (Mahim), Dilip Lande (Chandivali), Mangesh Kudalkar (Kurla), Yamini Jadhav (Byculla) and Prakash Surve (Magathane) are with the Shinde camp. Out of the three Sena MPs in Mumbai, Shewale and Kirtikar are with the Shinde faction.Political observers said BJP may not leave more than 50 seats for the Shinde faction, given that they only have 5 MLAs from Mumbai and only a handful of former corporators. A majority of Sena MLAs from Mumbai are still with the Uddhav faction."These appointments are an indication that BMC elections may take place sooner rather than later. The Shinde faction is trying to make its presence felt in Mumbai, but BJP may not give them enough seats as they hardly have a grassroots presence. It is likely they will get close to 50 seats and will have to share those seats with Jogendra Kawade's People's Republican Party, with whom they have announced an alliance. BJP will look to fight the maximum number of seats," an observer said. In November, Sena (UBT) candidate Rutuja Latke's win in the Andheri East bypoll , where she crossed the winning votes of her late husband Ramesh Latke's 2019 tally, had come as a boost to the Uddhav camp.

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde’s Sena sets up 6-member team to prepare for BMC polls
Heat is on as poll season begins in Northeast, with VIP visits, alliance cracks, statehood talks
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Ahead of the coming Assembly elections, the poll season in the Northeast is heating up, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah dropping in for a visit to Tripura and Nagaland this week. Along with Meghalaya, the two states are scheduled to hold elections next month.The high-profile visits, following soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tour of Tripura and Meghalaya last month, signals the BJP’s early push in a region where it now is part of the ruling coalition in most states, in some form or another.In Tripura, Shah flagged off the BJP campaign with a rath yatra, its first for the state, to highlight its government’s achievements, after dislodging the CPI(M) from power after five years.Shah used his speech to make a special mention of the contribution of the Manikya royal dynasty to Tripura – an obvious gesture directed at royal scion Praydut Roy Barman Debbarma, whose TIPRA Motha is among the ruling alliance’s growing worries. The tribal party is rising from strength to strength at a time when the BJP’s tribal ally, IPFT, is beset with problems.The BJP is also fighting fissures at home, having replaced its sitting Chief Minister Biplab Deb overnight with a low-profile Manik Saha, who is having problems pulling his weight.Now, the BJP is facing the prospect of rivals Left and Congress coming together to fight it jointly, which will be a big blow to the party.In Meghalaya, where the BJP is in a ruling coalition with the National People’s Party (NPP), the ties between them are strained. The impression that the BJP is anti-Christian has been hard to shrug off, with misgivings of the community further strengthened after the surfacing of a letter by the Assam Police Special Branch, seeking information from local police stations in BJP-ruled Assam on religious conversions and the number of churches in the state.As the Opposition went to town with the letter, citing it as proof of the BJP’s “anti-Christian” sentiments, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma – the party’s Northeast face — issued a statement distancing himself from the move.The most vocal Opposition party against the BJP in the state is the Trinamool Congress (TMC), a new entrant to the Meghalaya arena. It has a popular leader in the form of former CM and ex-Congress leader Mukul Sangma, who can help the party, especially in his home turf of Garo Hills, which sends as many as 24 MLAs to the 60-member Assembly.The TMC, however, is beleaguered by its own image problem. Many in the state see it as a “Bengali” party, a tag with severe implications in a region long roiled by anti-outsider – specifically anti-Bangladeshi – agitations.In December, West Bengal CM and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee visited Meghalaya – her first since the party became a force to reckon with in the state. The party is expected to release its list of candidates later this week.The TMC’s rise has been at the cost of the Congress which, once a formidable force in the state, will face polls in Meghalaya this time with zero sitting MLAs. All its 17 MLAs have deserted it, with the last five joining the NPP last year and two more former leaders set to join another regional party, the United Democratic Party.Part of the government despite having only two MLAs, the BJP is lately enjoying a boost, with four prominent MLAs joining it in the last month or so.Nagaland, the other state headed for polls next month in the Northeast, will again see an election in the shadow of the long-awaited final settlement to the Naga political question. It was in hope of this that all parties here had joined hands in 2021 to form an Opposition-less government – the United Democratic Alliance.However, the Naga People’s Front (NPF), which once ruled the state, has announced that it will be contesting the election alone and against the BJP-National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), headed by the veteran Neiphiu Rio. Like in 2018, both parties have announced a pre-poll alliance, with the BJP set to contest 20 seats and the NDPP the remaining 40.Before the poll season begins, the ruling government has been served an ultimatum by the Eastern Nagaland Peoples’ Organisation (ENPO), representing the six remote and backward eastern districts of Tuensang, Mon, Longleng, Kiphire, Noklak and Shamator. They have threatened to boycott the elections unless their demand for a separate state called Frontier Nagaland is met.The Nagaland Cabinet earlier this week appealed to the ENPO to reconsider their demand, but the outfit remains steadfast. The ENPO representatives met with Union Home Ministry officials in Guwahati on Thursday. During his visit to Nagaland, Shah too is expected to hold talks with the ENPO.Meanwhile, news agency PTI reported that the Centre Thursday sanctioned Rs 12,882 crore – under the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) – for continuation of development schemes in the region. The funds were greenlit following a Cabinet meeting chaired by PM Narendra Modi.Minister for DoNER G Kishan Reddy said the development of the Northeast was a “major priority”for the Centre.

Heat is on as poll season begins in Northeast, with VIP visits, alliance cracks, statehood talks
  • Heat is on as poll season begins in NE, with VIP visits, alliance cracks, statehood talks
  • The Indian Express

    Ahead of the coming Assembly elections, the poll season in the Northeast is heating up, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah dropping in for a visit to Tripura and Nagaland this week. Along with Meghalaya, the two states are scheduled to hold elections next month.The high-profile visits, following soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tour of Tripura and Meghalaya last month, signals the BJP’s early push in a region where it now is part of the ruling coalition in all states, in some form or another.In Tripura, Shah flagged off the BJP campaign with a rath yatra, its first for the state, to highlight its government’s achievements, after dislodging the CPI(M) from power after five years.Shah used his speech to make a special mention of the contribution of the Manikya royal dynasty to Tripura – an obvious gesture directed at royal scion Praydut Roy Barman Debbarma, whose TIPRA Motha is among the ruling alliance’s growing worries. The tribal party is rising from strength to strength at a time when the BJP’s tribal ally, IPFT, is beset with problems.The BJP is also fighting fissures at home, having replaced its sitting Chief Minister Biplab Deb overnight with a low-profile Manik Saha, who is having problems pulling his weight.Now, the BJP is facing the prospect of rivals Left and Congress coming together to fight it jointly, which will be a big blow to the party.In Meghalaya, where the BJP is in a ruling coalition with the National People’s Party (NPP), the ties between them are strained. The impression that the BJP is anti-Christian has been hard to shrug off, with misgivings of the community further strengthened after the surfacing of a letter by the Assam Police Special Branch, seeking information from local police stations in BJP-ruled Assam on religious conversions and the number of churches in the state.As the Opposition went to town with the letter, citing it as proof of the BJP’s “anti-Christian” sentiments, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma – the party’s Northeast face — issued a statement distancing himself from the move.The most vocal Opposition party against the BJP in the state is the Trinamool Congress (TMC), a new entrant to the Meghalaya arena. It has a popular leader in the form of former CM and ex-Congress leader Mukul Sangma, who can help the party, especially in his home turf of Garo Hills, which sends as many as 24 MLAs to the 60-member Assembly.The TMC, however, is beleaguered by its own image problem. Many in the state see it as a “Bengali” party, a tag with severe implications in a region long roiled by anti-outsider – specifically anti-Bangladeshi – agitations.In December, West Bengal CM and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee visited Meghalaya – her first since the party became a force to reckon with in the state. The party is expected to release its list of candidates later this week.The TMC’s rise has been at the cost of the Congress which, once a formidable force in the state, will face polls in Meghalaya this time with zero sitting MLAs. All its 17 MLAs have deserted it, with the last five joining the NPP last year and two more former leaders set to join another regional party, the United Democratic Party.Part of the government despite having only two MLAs, the BJP is lately enjoying a boost, with four prominent MLAs joining it in the last month or so.Nagaland, the other state headed for polls next month in the Northeast, will again see an election in the shadow of the long-awaited final settlement to the Naga political question. It was in hope of this that all parties here had joined hands in 2021 to form an Opposition-less government – the United Democratic Alliance.However, the Naga People’s Front (NPF), which once ruled the state, has announced that it will be contesting the election alone and against the BJP-National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), headed by the veteran Neiphiu Rio. Like in 2018, both parties have announced a pre-poll alliance, with the BJP set to contest 20 seats and the NDPP the remaining 40.Before the poll season begins, the ruling government has been served an ultimatum by the Eastern Nagaland Peoples’ Organisation (ENPO), representing the six remote and backward eastern districts of Tuensang, Mon, Longleng, Kiphire, Noklak and Shamator. They have threatened to boycott the elections unless their demand for a separate state called Frontier Nagaland is met.The Nagaland Cabinet earlier this week appealed to the ENPO to reconsider their demand, but the outfit remains steadfast. The ENPO representatives met with Union Home Ministry officials in Guwahati on Thursday. During his visit to Nagaland, Shah too is expected to hold talks with the ENPO.Meanwhile, news agency PTI reported that the Centre Thursday sanctioned Rs 12,882 crore – under the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) – for continuation of development schemes in the region. The funds were greenlit following a Cabinet meeting chaired by PM Narendra Modi.Minister for DoNER G Kishan Reddy said the development of the Northeast was a “major priority”for the Centre.

What is Freedom Caucus, the group of Republican lawmakers blocking Mcarthy’s Speakership bid?
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Republicans in the House of Representatives failed for a second straight day to elect a leader on Wednesday (January 4), as a faction of holdouts continued to not vote for Kevin Mcarthy (R-CA). In a massive embarrassment for the GOP, this was the time since 1923 that a nominee of the majority party in the House wasn’t able to win the first vote for the position of Speaker.Most of Mcarthy’s opposition from his own party comes from some of the chamber’s most ultra-conservative, hard-right lawmakers. At least 95 per cent are members of the House Freedom Caucus (or were recently endorsed by its campaign arm), according to The New York Times.The Indian Express looks at the Freedom Caucus, the political positions it holds, who its members are, and why it has been opposed to Kevin Mcarthy becoming the House Speaker.The Freedom Caucus is considered to be the most conservative, far-right caucus of the Republican Party in the US House of Representatives. According to the website of its Political Action Committee (PAC) called House Freedom Fund, it “supports candidates for Congress who are dedicated to open, accountable, and limited government.”The caucus has roughly 30 members (more than the number voting against Mcarthy) and a long term goal to drag the Republican Party – and indeed American politics – further to the right. It was formed in 2015 out of general frustration that certain lawmakers shared about the GOP establishment. “That was the first time we got together and decided we were a group, and not just a bunch of pissed-off guys,” said founding member Mick Mulvaney.It emerged from the Tea Party Movement, a fiscally conservative political movement within the Republican Party that began in 2009. Members of this movement called for lower taxes and for a reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit through decreased government spending. The Freedom Caucus was a “smaller, more cohesive, more agile and more active” group of conservative representatives, according to its leader Jim Jordan.But as the speaker election fiasco has shown, the term “fringe” may not truly reflect the power the caucus holds on the Republican Party. As political scientist Daniel Ziblatt wrote in Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracies, the Republican Party has become increasingly more accepting of “ferocious right-wing populist politics, which threatens to swallow older, self-identified conservative political parties.”While it will be incorrect to view the House Freedom Caucus as a monolith, by and large, its positions can be characterised as being fiscally conservative and right wing populist. In the past, the group has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act multiple times – in general, it is in favour of budget cuts, lower taxes and decentralisation of government powers. The caucus also stands against immigration and has been called by many observers as “nativist”, “anti-globalist”, and “white supremacist.”In 2016, the Freedom Caucus put all its strength behind Donald Trump as he campaigned to a seemingly improbable victory in the Presidential elections. In its unwavering loyalty to Trump the Freedom Caucus came to be described as “more populist and nationalist, but less bound by policy principles,” wrote Politico.Nearly all of the lawmakers who voted against McCarthy made statements casting doubts on the 2020 election. Fourteen of the 15 incumbents who voted against McCarthy were among the 139 House Republicans who, on Jan. 6, 2021, voted to overturn the 2020 Electoral College results. “Trump wants to turn Washington upside down – that was his first message and his winning message. We want the exact same thing,” said Mulvaney upon Trump’s election in 2016.However, despite Donald Trump’s own closeness with Kevin Mcarthy and his open support for him as the Speaker candidate, many in the Freedom Caucus have still refused to back him.To be clear, not every member of the Freedom Caucus has opposed Kevin Mcarthy. Major names in the Freedom Caucus such as Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene have voted for Mcarthy. However 19 of the 20 GOP members who have voted for other candidates (so far), are from the Freedom Caucus. Dubbed the “Never Kevin” crew by US media, these far right holdouts suggest that “McCarthy is too closely aligned with a broken system and will do little to change how Washington is governed” , said the BBC.Andy Biggs, one of the prominent holdouts who has launched a longshot bid for Speakership himself, took to Twitter to say, “The American people want us to turn a page. They do not want excuses or performance art, they want action and results.” The holdouts have also sought to extract various concessions in exchange for their support, including promises to vote on bills that address congressional term limits and border security, and changes to the procedure by which to oust a sitting speaker.This is not the first that the Freedom Caucus has disrupted Speakership bids of GOP candidates. Back in 2015, Paul Ryan became Speaker when the Freedom Caucus made it clear that its members wouldn’t support Kevin McCarthy’s bid. This happened after The Freedom Caucus essentially forced the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, to resign in 2015 because its members felt “he wasn’t forceful enough against Obama”, wrote The New York Times.As the Republican establishment has stayed silent amidst the growing right wing surge within the party, groups such as the Freedom Caucus have been more emboldened than ever. For many, they do not even represent cogent and coherent political positions. Rather, they ostensibly stand against the “establishment” – a term used by its members for any lawmaker who calls out their antics. And they want to “burn it all down,” bringing radical change to how Washington works.According to the New York Times, they want “more headlines, more airtime, more spectacle and … more power. They aren’t interested in governing, but rather in teasing the growing urge among the Republican base to throw a wrench in the gears.”

What is Freedom Caucus, the group of Republican lawmakers blocking Mcarthy’s Speakership bid?
  • What is Freedom Caucus, the group of Republican lawmakers blocking Mcarthy's Speakership bid?
  • The Indian Express

    Republicans in the House of Representatives failed for a second straight day to elect a leader on Wednesday (January 4), as a faction of holdouts continued to not vote for Kevin Mcarthy (R-CA). In a massive embarrassment for the GOP, this was the time since 1923 that a nominee of the majority party in the House wasn’t able to win the first vote for the position of Speaker.Most of Mcarthy’s opposition from his own party comes from some of the chamber’s most ultra-conservative, hard-right lawmakers. At least 95 per cent are members of the House Freedom Caucus (or were recently endorsed by its campaign arm), according to The New York Times.The Indian Express looks at the Freedom Caucus, the political positions it holds, who its members are, and why it has been opposed to Kevin Mcarthy becoming the House Speaker.The Freedom Caucus is considered to be the most conservative, far-right caucus of the Republican Party in the US House of Representatives. According to the website of its Political Action Committee (PAC) called House Freedom Fund, it “supports candidates for Congress who are dedicated to open, accountable, and limited government.”The caucus has roughly 30 members (more than the number voting against Mcarthy) and a long term goal to drag the Republican Party – and indeed American politics – further to the right. It was formed in 2015 out of general frustration that certain lawmakers shared about the GOP establishment. “That was the first time we got together and decided we were a group, and not just a bunch of pissed-off guys,” said founding member Mick Mulvaney.It emerged from the Tea Party Movement, a fiscally conservative political movement within the Republican Party that began in 2009. Members of this movement called for lower taxes and for a reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit through decreased government spending. The Freedom Caucus was a “smaller, more cohesive, more agile and more active” group of conservative representatives, according to its leader Jim Jordan.But as the speaker election fiasco has shown, the term “fringe” may not truly reflect the power the caucus holds on the Republican Party. As political scientist Daniel Ziblatt wrote in Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracies, the Republican Party has become increasingly more accepting of “ferocious right-wing populist politics, which threatens to swallow older, self-identified conservative political parties.”While it will be incorrect to view the House Freedom Caucus as a monolith, by and large, its positions can be characterised as being fiscally conservative and right wing populist. In the past, the group has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act multiple times – in general, it is in favour of budget cuts, lower taxes and decentralisation of government powers. The caucus also stands against immigration and has been called by many observers as “nativist”, “anti-globalist”, and “white supremacist.”In 2016, the Freedom Caucus put all its strength behind Donald Trump as he campaigned to a seemingly improbable victory in the Presidential elections. In its unwavering loyalty to Trump the Freedom Caucus came to be described as “more populist and nationalist, but less bound by policy principles,” wrote Politico.Nearly all of the lawmakers who voted against McCarthy made statements casting doubts on the 2020 election. Fourteen of the 15 incumbents who voted against McCarthy were among the 139 House Republicans who, on Jan. 6, 2021, voted to overturn the 2020 Electoral College results. “Trump wants to turn Washington upside down – that was his first message and his winning message. We want the exact same thing,” said Mulvaney upon Trump’s election in 2016.However, despite Donald Trump’s own closeness with Kevin Mcarthy and his open support for him as the Speaker candidate, many in the Freedom Caucus have still refused to back him.To be clear, not every member of the Freedom Caucus has opposed Kevin Mcarthy. Major names in the Freedom Caucus such as Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene have voted for Mcarthy. However 19 of the 20 GOP members who have voted for other candidates (so far), are from the Freedom Caucus. Dubbed the “Never Kevin” crew by US media, these far right holdouts suggest that “McCarthy is too closely aligned with a broken system and will do little to change how Washington is governed” , said the BBC.Andy Biggs, one of the prominent holdouts who has launched a longshot bid for Speakership himself, took to Twitter to say, “The American people want us to turn a page. They do not want excuses or performance art, they want action and results.” The holdouts have also sought to extract various concessions in exchange for their support, including promises to vote on bills that address congressional term limits and border security, and changes to the procedure by which to oust a sitting speaker.This is not the first that the Freedom Caucus has disrupted Speakership bids of GOP candidates. Back in 2015, Paul Ryan became Speaker when the Freedom Caucus made it clear that its members wouldn’t support Kevin McCarthy’s bid. This happened after The Freedom Caucus essentially forced the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, to resign in 2015 because its members felt “he wasn’t forceful enough against Obama”, wrote The New York Times.As the Republican establishment has stayed silent amidst the growing right wing surge within the party, groups such as the Freedom Caucus have been more emboldened than ever. For many, they do not even represent cogent and coherent political positions. Rather, they ostensibly stand against the “establishment” – a term used by its members for any lawmaker who calls out their antics. And they want to “burn it all down,” bringing radical change to how Washington works.According to the New York Times, they want “more headlines, more airtime, more spectacle and … more power. They aren’t interested in governing, but rather in teasing the growing urge among the Republican base to throw a wrench in the gears.”

AAP gen secy: ‘9 states go to polls this year, seeing where our chances high’
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Sandeep Pathak is one of the most influential leaders in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hierarchy, second perhaps only to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal when it comes to its plans to expand nationally. Elected to the Rajya Sabha last April, Pathak was appointed the party’s National General Secretary (Organisation) last month. It was a recognition of his role in the AAP’s victory in Punjab last year and its entry into Gujarat – factors which have earned it the status of a national party.Pathak, a former IIT professor, talks to The Indian Express about the AAP’s objectives this year, looks back at the Gujarat Assembly poll results, and the party’s plans for the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2024.Post Gujarat, which are the states that are keeping AAP’s expansion manager busy?From the election point of view, nine states are going to the polls this year. We are trying to analyse where the chances of the party are high and carrying out surveys. It is just a matter of time regarding how we proceed. We are in the process of zeroing in on the states and will be in a position to say with clarity in a month.Since taking over you have been holding marathon meetings. You must have identified some states out of the nine by now.Right now, I can say that there is no doubt that we will contest in the poll-bound states and we will fight hard. But as of now, I cannot say whether that will be in one state or two states or more.The AAP in Gujarat could not build on its performance in the 2021 Surat municipal elections. Was that disappointing?I would not say that. For instance, in Kamrej, our candidate received over one lakh votes, compared to a few thousand votes when he had contested as an Independent. It is quite a leap. But yes if you aim high, you can say Surat did not deliver seats. But I believe in terms of vote share we have done quite well. Surat is quite complex and the BJP dominated. Achieving what we did is quite a success. The corporation polls, state polls, and general elections are completely different.Did the Congress make your task easier this time by not fighting aggressively?Our party is quite young and professional. Irrespective of whether the Congress fights or not, we fight elections hard. Even if the Congress had fought hard, they had nothing to gain. People do not see the Congress as a hope anymore. They have some good local candidates who also do not get support from the top leadership. Still, they won because of their work. Whenever there is a third force, the Congress collapses.Currently, the AAP does not have a single Lok Sabha MP. In 2024, apart from Delhi and Punjab, where do you see your MPs coming from?I totally agree that the number of elected representatives makes an organisation credible or prominent on the national stage. Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat, and Goa overall look good for us. In addition to that we have a mayor in MP, and more than 2,000 elected representatives across states. If you have local-level representatives, it helps you in organisation building. In MP, the Rewa belt and the Gwalior belt look promising for us; so do some belts in Rajasthan, adjoining Gujarat, and parts of Chhattisgarh.The AAP contested nearly every seat in the 2014 polls. Is that a mistake you want to avoid?If you look in terms of numbers, yes we won very few. But we won seats from Punjab. Had we not contested, we would have never known that Punjab was ready to vote for alternative politics. At that point, the party had just come out from the movement. It was not a mistake, I would say it was quite an audacious attempt. I think it was a good idea. There are so many states where our volunteer base is very strong. It all consolidated during that election even though we did not do much beyond that. You will see that in Odisha, Tripura, and Mizoram. Now we have learnt the art of fighting elections. We will fight strategically and to win. We will not fight for the sake of fighting but to maximise the numbers.As you enter more and more states, you will be expected to take a position on issues related to caste and religion. Will we see that from the AAP?Wherever it is required, we will. Sometimes it is a political trap. You have to be wise and smart enough not to get trapped. If you are fighting polls to win and someone frames a trap for you, you should not be naive to walk into that. Our agenda is very simple: we will stick to education, health, and good governance. But wherever there are critical issues, we will take positions.Do you see a situation where Muslims start deserting you due to a sense of betrayal? We saw the AAP losing some Muslim-dominated seats in Delhi in the MCD polls.I do not think so. We do not focus our policies on a particular segment. Good governance is for all. The civic polls in Delhi were very localised and local dynamics influenced them. Our focus is very clear – that we are neither focusing on anyone nor deserting anyone. That’s the novelty of this politics. The old-school politics will try to trap you in the same old tactics and if you get trapped you are done and dusted. Our agenda is refreshing. Kejriwal’s guarantees are for all. Promises on education, power, and governance may sound simple, but it is redefining politics.You say the BJP has not delivered on governance despite having a majority. Do you feel the party wins by pandering to majoritarian sentiments?They have been playing on sentiments and all these things. But they have been coming back with a greater majority because of a lack of fight from the Opposition, the Congress. They did not fight in Gujarat, why blame the BJP? I would not blame the BJP. They fought the way they fight. You have to counter it. The growth of the BJP can also partly be attributed to the failure of the Congress. As a political party, you have to go to the people with clarity of thought of ideas. You cannot blame people for your own failure to convince them.Arvind Kejriwal says honesty, die-hard patriotism, and humanity are the pillars of the AAP’s ideology. But some say they sound more like personal virtues rather than an ideology. Do you believe in secularism?Of course, this country believes in secularism, which is enshrined in the Constitution. No one can deny the Constitution. Ideology is a fundamental belief you have. I do not think complicated ideologies help. You deliver what you have been voted for. People do not vote for ideology but for what you have delivered. We will keep that simple. As a new political party, a new age party it is your governance you are voted for.Are you getting enough funding from corporates?No, we are not. So we reach out to people. So far that has worked. We have survived so far and will continue to do so. We will not compromise for the sake of big corporate support. People like us were primarily drawn by the idea of honesty in politics and governance. If people fall in love with you, everything falls into place.How do you explain the changes in your Gujarat unit announced on Wednesday? Why has Gopal Italia been removed from the post of state president?The party has grown manifold. It is a routine reshuffle based on volunteers’ aspirations. Italia has been brought to national politics and given a bigger role.

AAP gen secy: ‘9 states go to polls this year, seeing where our chances high’
The story of Lula: how a shoe-shiner became Brazil's beloved president
The Indian Express | 4 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
4 weeks ago | |

On Sunday (January 1) Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, mononymously known as Lula, was sworn in as Brazil’s president for a record third term. He was previously president from 2002 to 2010, leaving office with an 83 per cent approval rating only due to Brazil’s presidential term constraints.Lula inherits a polarised Brazilian society on the back of a closely contested election against far-right incumbent Jair Bolsanaro. The economy is in its worst condition in years with pandemic-induced precarity and rising commodity prices key issues that he needs to address. Also, his approach towards the conservation of the Amazon rainforest, notoriously mistreated by his predecessor, will be crucial.However, supporters are confident of Lula’s competence, often citing his origins and upbringing as reasons to have faith in the 77-year old. Unlike all of Brazil’s previous presidents, Lula hails from the working class. His relatability, charisma and sincere dedication towards Brazil’s less-privileged populations has been crucial to his political success and popularity over the years.The Indian Express takes a deeper look.Hardships shaped Lula’s politicsLula was one of eight children born into a farming family in Brazil’s northeast region. When his parents realised that they could not feed eight children with their meagre farm income, Lula, six siblings and his mother moved to the port town of Santos near Sao Paulo. They would later move to Sao Paulo.Lula’s childhood was difficult. He dropped out of school in the fifth standard to help his family survive, initially working as a shoe-shiner on the streets of Sao Paulo. He would also work as an office boy, running various errands. In his teens, Lula got a job in a factory where he lost his left little finger in a machinery accident at the age of 17. The family of six lived in the backroom of a bar, where drunks would often puke and piss, and rains would bring all sorts of creatures in.Lula’s rise as a union leaderA young Lula was a football fan with little interest in politics. However the grind of his factory work as well as the repressive regime in Brazil during the 1970s pushed him towards political awakening. As he witnessed the daily suffering of his working class compatriots, Lula would become active in workers’ unions.A pivotal moment in his life would come in 1975 when one of Lula’s brothers was captured and tortured by the security forces for his dissident activities.That year, Lula was elected as the president of Brazil’s union of metal workers.He became Brazil’s most famous union leader after organising a bunch of strikes in 1979 challenging the country’s dictatorial military government. He was imprisoned for a month after a kangaroo court found these strikes illegal, only adding to his popularity with the masses. Many compared him to Poland’s Lech Walesa.Founding the Workers’ PartyIn 1980, Lula, other working class leaders, public intellectuals and artists founded a pluralistic left-wing party called Partido dos Trabalhadores (TP) or the Workers’ Party. This party brought together trade unionists, intellectuals, artists and liberation theology practitioners, among others and posed the most credible challenge to Brazil’s military regime in years.Lula first ran for office in 1982, for the state government of São Paulo, and lost. This loss almost led to him quitting politics if not for Cuban leftist leader Fidel Castro. According to Lula’s biography, Castro said to Lula, “Listen, Lula … you don’t have the right to abandon politics. You don’t have the right to do this to the working class… Get back into politics!”The 1980s would eventually be better for Lula and Brazil overall – as the military’s grip on the country weakened, Lula was elected to the Brazilian Congress in 1986. In the Congress Lula and his Worker’s Party helped draft the new Brazilian constitution, strengthening workers’ rights.However, despite his popularity, electoral success at the national level eluded Lula. He would lose three elections after military dictatorship ended (1989, 1994, 1998) till success would finally beckon in 2002.Brazil’s most popular president everLula’s 2002 victory was a historic triumph for the working classes. Here was a man who held the highest office in the country but could relate to the everyday lives and struggles of ordinary Brazilians. “I cried so much,” Fernando Morais, Lula’s close friend and biographer, told the Guardian in 2022.Lula’s presidency is remembered as one of Brazil’s finest. His reign saw an economic boom as well as mass-scale social welfare programmes that lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty. He invested heavily in nutrition, housing and education. His Bolsa Família (Family Allowance) programme was extremely popular, providing targeted families with monthly allowances for food, gas and schooling, drawing from things he wished he himself had in his childhood.He was also lauded internationally for his efforts to conserve the Amazon rainforest.A tough decade and a miraculous return to powerLula left the presidency in 2010 with soaring popularity. However, the 2010s was a dreary decade for Brazil. Soon after Lula stepped down, his successor Dilma Roussef got embroiled in multiple corruption scandals. Brazil’s economy also entered into recession. In 2016, Roussef was unceremoniously impeached with many observers calling it a political coup.Lula himself was having a hard time. In 2011, Lula himself was diagnosed with throat cancer, undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy. Then in 2018, the former president was arrested on charges of corruption. His arrest was divisive. While Brazil’s elites including its military was fully for it, Lula’s supporters themselves alleged a larger political agenda.In 2019, The Intercept published leaked Telegram messages between the judge in Lula’s case and the lead prosecutor in his case in which they allegedly conspired to convict Lula to prevent his candidacy for the 2018 presidential election. 2018, saw far right leader, isolationist and darling of Brazil’s industrial lobbies, Jair Bolsanaro come to power.Lula would spend 580 days behind bars, returning to contest the 2022 elections after the Brazilian Supreme Court overthrew his conviction in 2019.

The story of Lula: how a shoe-shiner became Brazil's beloved president