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Election

Abe sweeps to resounding victory in Japan vote

The new centre-left Constitutional Democratic Party fared slightly better than expected but still trailed far behind Abe with 58 seats.

Shinzo Abe, Japan's PM and President of the LDP, center, raises his arm during an election campaign rally in Tokyo.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swept to a resounding victory in a snap election today, winning a mandate to harden his already hawkish stance on North Korea and re-energise the world’s number-three economy.

Abe’s conservative coalition was on track to win 311 seats in the 465-seat parliament, according to a projection published by private broadcaster TBS, putting the blue-blooded nationalist on course to become Japan’s longest-serving leader.

The comfortable election win is likely to stiffen Abe’s resolve to tackle North Korea’s nuclear threat, as the key US regional ally seeks to exert maximum pressure on Pyongyang after it fired two missiles over Japan in the space of a month.

Abe was heading for a “landslide win”, the top-selling Yomiuri daily said on its website, as the premier’s gamble to hold a snap election appeared to be paying off.

But it was unclear in the immediate aftermath of the vote whether Abe’s coalition would retain its two-thirds “supermajority,” requiring 310 seats, as some media had it falling just short.

A “supermajority” would allow Abe to propose changes to pacifist Japan’s US-imposed constitution that forces it to renounce war and effectively limits its military to a self- defence role.

Millions of Japanese braved torrential rain and driving winds to vote as a typhoon bears down on the country, with many heeding warnings to cast their ballots early.

“I support Abe’s stance not to give in to North Korea’s pressure,” said Yoshihisa Iemori as he cast his ballot in a rainswept Tokyo.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) benefited from a weak and splintered opposition, with the two main parties facing him created only a matter of weeks ago.

Support for the Party of Hope founded by popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike fizzled after an initial blaze of publicity and it was on track to win around 50 seats, the TBS projection suggested.

Speaking from Paris where she was attending an event in her capacity as leader of the world’s biggest city, a sullen- faced Koike told public broadcaster NHK she feared a “very severe result”.

“As the person who launched the party, I will take my responsibility.”

The new centre-left Constitutional Democratic Party fared slightly better than expected but still trailed far behind Abe with 58 seats.

“The LDP’s victory is simply because the opposition couldn’t form a united front,” political scientist Mikitaka Masuyama from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, told AFP.

The short 12-day campaign was dominated by the economy and the global crisis over North Korea, which has threatened to “sink” Japan into the sea and has traded barbs with US President Donald Trump.

Nationalist Abe stuck to a hardline stance throughout, stressing that Japan “would not waver” in the face of an increasingly belligerent regime in Pyongyang.

Despite the sabre-rattling from North Korea, many voters said reviving the once-mighty Japanese economy was the top priority, with Abe’s trademark “Abenomics” growth policy failing to trickle down to the general public.

The three-pronged combination of ultra-loose monetary policy, huge government spending and structural reform has catapulted the stock market to a 21-year high but failed to stoke inflation and growth has remained sluggish.

“Neither pensions nor wages are getting better… I don’t feel the economy is recovering at all,” said 67-year-old pensioner Hideki Kawasaki.

Although voters turned out in their millions to back Abe, support for the 63-year-old is lukewarm and surveys showed his decision to call a snap election a year earlier than expected was unpopular.

Voter Etsuko Nakajima, 84, told AFP: “I totally oppose the current government. Morals collapsed. I’m afraid this country will be broken.”

“I think if the LDP takes power, Japan will be in danger.

He does not do politics for the people,” added the pensioner.

Koike briefly promised to shake up Japan’s sleepy political scene with her new party but she declined to run herself for a seat, sparking confusion over who would be prime minister if she won.

In the end the 65-year-old former TV presenter was not even in Japan on election day.

“I thought that I would vote for the Party of Hope if it’s strong enough to beat the Abe administration. But the party has been in confusion … I’m quite disappointed,” said 80-year-old pensioner Kumiko Fujimori.

The campaign was marked by a near-constant drizzle in large parts of the country and rallies frequently took place under shelter and a sea of umbrellas.

But this did not dampen the enthusiasm of hundreds of doughty, sash-wearing parliamentary hopefuls, who have driven around in minibuses pleading for votes via loudspeaker and bowing deeply to every potential voter.

Election

Karnataka BJP MP Sreeramulu contesting assembly polls

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Bengaluru, April 22 (IANS) BJP’s Lok Sabha lawmaker from Karnataka’s Ballari, B. Sreeramulu on Saturday filed nomination to contest in the May 12 assembly elections from Molakamuru (reserved) seat in Chitradurga district.

Sreeramulu, 47, filed the nomination in the presence of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa.

Molakamuru constituency is reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs).

As per his poll affidavit, Sreeramulu declared his income and assets, including that of his wife Bhagyalakshmi, to be valued at Rs 18.17 crore.

He has disclosed cash and bank deposits valued at over Rs 4.5 crore and other immovable assets including property and buildings worth over Rs 12 crore.

Sreeramulu was the Health and Family Welfare and Tourism Minister from 2008-2011 in the state’s first Bharatiya Janata Party government, but stepped down from the post and resigned from the party to protest the alleged ill-treatment by the party to then cabinet minister and Ballari mining baron G. Janardhan Reddy.

He had rejoined and contested the Lok Sabha election in 2014 as a BJP candidate from the rich mining district of Ballari.

After quitting the BJP in 2011, Sreeramulu floated a regional outfit Badava Shramika Raitha Congress (BSR Congress) and won four seats in the 2013 assembly polls, after which he quit his own party to rejoin BJP. However, his BSR Congress remains and is identified as a BJP ally in the state.

Sreeramulu is also one of the two MPs among the candidates announced so far by the BJP to contest the assembly elections, with the other being Yeddyurappa, A Lok Sabha member from Shivamogga.

In a related development, the opposition BJP’s sitting MLA from Molakamuru, S. Thippeswamy, has decided to contest from the constituency as an Independent after he was not re-nominated by the party and in protest against the selection of Sreeramulu, an outsider, from Ballari district.

Till Friday, the BJP has announced 213 candidates to contest the 224-member Karnataka assembly polls. The party had, in its second list of 82 candidates released on April 16, fielded G. Somashekar Reddy, younger brother of Janardhan Reddy, from Ballari City segment.

The third list released on Friday had includedAKarunakar Reddy, another of Reddy’s brothers, from Harapanahalli in Ballari.

OANS

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Income Tax sleuths seize cash, gold in poll-bound Karnataka

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Income Tax
Income Tax. (Photo: Twitter/@IncomeTaxIndia)

Bengaluru, April 21 (IANS) Income-Tax (I-T) sleuths seized Rs 4.13 crore in cash and 4.52 kg gold jewellery valued at Rs 1.32 crore during raids conducted over the last three weeks in poll-bound Karnataka, an official said on Saturday.

“Of the Rs 4.13-crore seized, Rs 4.03 crore is in Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 currency notes, with Bengaluru accounting for Rs 2.47 crore and Ballari Rs 55 lakh,” said state I-T Director-General (Investigations) G. Ramesh in a statement here.

The rich mining Ballari town is 330 km from Bengaluru.

A single-phase election to the 225-member Karnataka assembly, including one nominated is scheduled on May 12 across the southern state, with vote count on May 15.

“We have stepped up surveillance and monitoring of activities in view of the state assembly election. Seizure in higher denomination rises eyebrows, as people are finding difficulty in drawing cash from banks and ATMs due to its shortage in some parts of the country,” asserted Ramesh.

High alertness at airports and railway stations across the state led to detection of a person carrying Rs 16.5-lakh in cash at one of the airports without valid proof of its source.

“A follow-up action against the accused person led to detection and seizure of additional Rs 37 lakh in his Mumbai premises. We have seized all the cash amounting to Rs 53.50 lakh,” pointed out Ramesh.

In raid, the sleuths seized Rs 55 lakh in cash from a person to whom a contractor paid in a districts and confession by the latter of concealing Rs 16 crore to evade paying income tax on it.

In another case, household articles valued at Rs 9.51 crore intended for distribution was found in a warehouse near Mysuru.

“Investigation revealed that the articles were meant for distribution was found in a warehouse near Mysuru,” claimed Ramesh.

Rs 50 lakh cash was sized from a person, whose name and place has not been released.

“We have set up a 24×7 control room in the city to receive election related complaints from the public and other state agencies. Strike teams have also been formed with powers in all the 30 districts to act,” said Ramesh.

The bank’s investigation cell has gathered details of contract payments made in the last quarter of the fiscal 2017-18 and comparing them pervious years to identify abnormality.

“We are also co-relating bank transactions and cash withdrawals with other officials,” added Ramesh.

IANS

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Siddaramaiah files nomination from Chamundeshwari seat

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Karnataka-Chief-Minister-Siddaramaiah

Bengaluru, April 20 (IANS) Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday filed his nomination to contest the ensuing state Legislative Assembly elections from Chamundeshwari constituency in Mysuru, an official said.

“Siddaramaiah, along with his son Yathindra, visited the Chamundeshwari temple atop Chamundi Hills in Mysuru to pray to goddess Durga before filing his nomination,” an official from the Chief Minister’s Office told IANS here.

The 69-year-old veteran leader contested from Chamundeshwari seat seven times since 1983 and won five times. He later shifted his constituency to Varuna in Mysuru district, from where he was elected twice since 2008, including the last assembly polls in 2013.

Siddaramaiah has paved way for his son, Yathindra, to contest the May 12 assembly elections from his home constituency Varuna. Yathindra, who will be contesting the state elections for the first time, also filed his nomination papers on Friday.

Siddaramaiah switched over to the Congress from the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in August 2006 following differences with its supremo and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his second son and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.

He is also only second lawmaker in the southern state to complete the five-year term as Chief Minister in 40 years after Devaraj Urs did from 1972-78, as about 10 chief ministers could not complete their full term in between for various reasons.

Meanwhile, JD-S state president Kumaraswamy filed his nomination for the state polls from both Channapatna and Ramanagara assembly segments in Ramanagara district, about 50km southwest from here.

IANS

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