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Congress plenary sets stage for keen, bitter contest with BJP in 2019

The Congress has suffered a string of reverses after its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but its performance in Guajarat assembly polls and victory in Lok Sabha bypolls in Rajasthan has boosted the morale of party workers.

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Rahul Sonia

The Congress made a strenuous effort to energise its workers for the electoral battles ahead at the party plenary that concluded on Sunday, pitching itself as the real alternative to BJP while also expressing its willingness to cooperate with like-minded parties to unseat the Modi government in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The session, with fiery speeches of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, gave an inkling that the 2019 battle will be keenly fought and the campaign could get bitter as the election approaches.

The Congress gave indications that it will run a relentless campaign, try to set the agenda for the polls ahead and seek to put the Modi government on the defensive on various issues.

Amid calls for sustained hard work to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister in 2019, the party signalled it would not shirking from a presidential-style contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Much will depend on the outcome of the verdict in states going to the polls this year — Karanataka first and Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh later this year. Except for Karnataka, the Congress and BJP are locked in a direct contest in the three other states.

The three-day plenary took place at a time when efforts are underway to forge a third front of parties opposed to BJP as also the Congress.

The speeches and the resolutions adopted at the plenary were a reaffirmation of the Congress claim of being the natural leader of the grouping of anti-BJP parties.

The Congress faces a stupendous challenge of building a counter-narrative against Modi to weaken his credibility among the people, win back sections that have drifted away and match the BJP’s deftness as a poll-fighting machine.

But it also has a natural advantage as a challenger to the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and to the Modi government in 2019. In these battles, the BJP will be tasked with defending performance of its governments and beat anti-incumbency.

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The Congress is also keen to make Modi’s 2014 pitch of “acche din” an albatross around the BJP’s neck.

Rahul Gandhi, who took over as party chief in December from his mother Sonia Gandhi, sought to energise the party rank and file and promised to address their grouse that well-connected within the party often “parachute” down at the time of ticket allocation at the cost of genuine, dedicated workers.

He also promised to make party leaders more accessible to workers by breaking the “walls” and giving more tickets to the youth.

With several state units plagued by factionalism, Gandhi indicated that he would enforce discipline so that party’s effort at winning elections is not wrecked in any way.

He framed the 2019 battle as a fight for truth by the Congress and for power by the BJP — likening it to the clash between the Pandavas and the Kauravas during the Mahabharata battle.

The “worker-centric” gathering was held in a different format than the past plenaries with leaders were not seated on the stage.

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Rahul Gandhi said he had kept the stage empty for talented youth from within the party and outside.

Sonia Gandhi exhorted party rank and file not to think of personal egos and ambitions and work with determination to face challenges that are not ordinary.

While the party’s political resolution talked of adopting a pragmatic approach for cooperation with all like-minded parties and evolving a common workable programme to defeat the BJP-RSS in the 2019 elections, its leaders, in their speeches, exhorted workers to work for party’s victory in the general elections.

They also said that Congress was the only party that can reverse the “ill-effects” of BJP’s economic policies.

There was hope that Rahul Gandhi would unfurl the Tricolour from the Red Fort in 2019.
There was also hope that Congress will “once again” become a party that represents the aspirations and expectations of all the communities and is the anchor of the political and social dialogue.

While the party’s four comprehensive resolutions – political, economic, foreign affairs and on `agriculture, unemployment and poverty alleviation’ sought to address concerns of various sections of society, Rahul Gandhi, in his concluding speech, focused on youth and farmers – two sections that are perceived to be getting disenchanted with the Modi government and represent a vast section of population.

More than half of country’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood and almost two-third of population is below the age of 35.

The Congress has suffered a string of reverses after its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but its performance in Guajarat assembly polls and victory in Lok Sabha bypolls in Rajasthan has boosted the morale of party workers.

By : Prashant Sood

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])

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Xi-Modi summit:China regional power, India to remain cautious

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There should not be high expectations from the informal summit between PM Modi and President Xi in the Wuhan on the banks of Yangtze as India has already bowed to please regional power China by cancelling the events of Dalai lama in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi jinping are likely to discuss US President Donald Trump’s “protectionist” trade policy, changes in the world order,bilateral issues including China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

India and China have been competing for political ,economic and strategic influence in the region.

Moreover,Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is desperately searching for a new slogan to win the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,is eager to enter into elite club of 48-member NSG Nuclear Suppliers Group and China remains biggest obstacle as it has been opposing India’s bid primarily on the grounds that Delhi is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

China has knitted close ties with countries in India’s neighbourhood and invested billions of dollars in the economies of Pakistan, Bangladesh,Nepal,Sri Lanka and the Maldives.In Addition,Beijing has been pursuing territorial and maritime claims .

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who invited the leaders of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional cooperation) countries and Mauritius to attend his swearing-in ceremony to convey the message that he is the leader of this region and foreign policy remains his top priority.But ,alas,his foreign policy has failed so miserably that China,not only influences this region but also through One Belt,One Road project, China has inarguably increased its global influence, social and cultural cooperation.

Xi Jinping’s ambitious Silk Road Economic Belt has three routes connecting China to Europe (via Central Asia), the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean (through West Asia), and South Asia.

Beijing and New Delhi are rivals and are already engaged in territorial disputes and the India-China border covering the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) is disputed between the two sides and notably, Beijing claims Arunachal Pradesh to be the part of its southern Tibet. The territory, a key focus of a 1962 war fought between the Asian giants.

Another hotly contested territory by both countries is Aksai Chin, which New Delhi considers part of its Jammu and Kashmir state while China believes the zone belongs to its Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Talks to resolve the boundary dispute have been stalled but standoffs between the Indian forces and the Chinese PLA
has emerged as a common phenomena.China has taken the 72-day military confrontation in 2017 on the Doklam plateau at the trijunction of Bhutan, India and China seriously and President  Xi Jinping vowed to protect “every inch” of his country’s territory in a nationalistic speech at the annual National People’s Congress in which he claims that his nation was ready to “fight bloody battles” against its enemies.

On the contrary, the official Chinese media commented, “The Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit could be as significant as the one between former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then leader of China Deng Xiaoping in 1988,the meeting can be as significant as the one in 1988… and will set the course for bilateral ties.”

Modi government had criticised President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative but how Xi is going to convince Modi for a India-Nepal-China economic corridor .China has proposed a India-Nepal-China economic corridor with multi-dimensional connectivity through the Himalayas after Nepalese Foreign Minister held talks with his Chinese counterpart.

Ahead of Xi-Modi summit on April 27-28, Chinese officials have made enough positive signals : promised to resume the Kailash Mansarovar yatra through the Nathu La route for pilgrims and data sharing on rivers such as Brahmaputra and Sutlej which originate in China and flow into India and to consider India’s major concerns seriously.

Meanwhile,External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during her address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting also attended by Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif,
raised the issue of global terrorism and protectionism.

Terrorism is an enemy of the basic human rights: of life, peace and prosperity,the criminal terrorist militias are not impeded by borders as they seek to destroy the architecture of international stability and build walls of fear in societies that believe in pluralism,Sushma said.

“We strongly believe that our fight against terrorism should not only seek to eliminate terrorists but should also
identify and take strong measures against States that encourage, support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups without mentioning any country”,Sushma said.

It is pertinent to mention that Delhi has also embraced the Trump Administration’s concept of Indo-Pacific and revived the quadrilateral security dialogue with Washington, Tokyo and Canberra.

While North Korean leader Kim Jong un’s friendly meeting with Xi Jinping in Beijing has brought China into a central position by reinserting into the diplomatic negotiations.

India is trying to reset relations with Beijing but China’srise as Asian great power status  and influence in the region has diminished India’s geographical advantage.

While rolling out its “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy at the US- India-Japan trilateral dialogue,US official Alex Wong said “it is in the US’ interest that India plays a more weighty role in the region.”

US President Donald Trump initiated US-China trade war which has wider implications as  US Department of Commerce banned American companies from selling components to state-owned Chinese phone maker ZTE for a period of seven years.

India, which is an ally of US and after it signed an agreement on sharing military logistics (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement), it will be interesting to watch the outcome of Modi-Xi summit but Prime Minister should be cautious to safeguard national interests as it should not give ammunition to the Opposition that may attack the BJP led NDA government for any wrong decision..

Blog : By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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86% NCR residents cite lack of severe punishment for sexual harassment: Study

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

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New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Lack of severe punishment is considered as the most rampant cause of sexual harassment by 86 per cent respondents in the NCR region, as per as study.

The study, done by Indian Institute for Integrated Women and Child Development (ISI-WCD) and released by the Women and Child Development Ministry, was one of 18 projects the ministry had sponsored, between 2015-17, in areas like economic empowerment of women, skill development, child trafficking, nutrition management and others.

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

According to the survey, 84 per cent of the responsdents think that availability of pornographic materials on mobile phone is also a cause of sexual harassment in NCR region while 83 per cent believes it is because of easy access to social media site Facebook or the internet.

“Revealing dresses of women has been seen as the reason for sexual assault by 53 per cent, 35 per cent and 37 per cent by residents of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida respectively while informal behaviour of women has also been seen as the reason by 49 per cent, 30 per cent and 70 per cent from the three locations respectively,” the study notes.

The study also revealed that 35 per cent of men and 50 per cent women have perceived sexual aggression in men as responsible for sexual harassment of women.

It is also found that 70 per cent of the respondents have said to face sexual abuse from work partners or colleagues, 63 per cent from office seniors, 48 per cent from friends and 38 per cent from teachers.

According to the study, 87 per cent respondents agreed that women suffer from verbal abuse, 88 per cent have suffered from physical abuse and 94 per cent stated that they are being stared at.

On enhancing safety for women in public places, 96 per cent respondents suggested that crowded buses or stations should be under constant camera surveillance, 93 per cent wanted public places well lit, 90 per cent prefers frequent police patrolling, 94 per cent said legal punishments should be made harsher while 92 per cent said judicial disposals should be made quicker.

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Kim’s message: North Korea will not abandon its nuclear weapons

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North Korean Kim Jong un

As North Korea announced that it will cease nuclear weapons and missile testing is considered as a major boost to the upcoming meeting between Supreme leader Kim Jong un and US President Donald Trump.

But Kim’s statement has also made it clear that North Korea is only freezing the testing of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles but shows it clear intentions of not giving up the production of warheads or nuclear program or eliminate its existing arsenal .

while Defense Secretary James N. Mattis met with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera of Japan at the Pentagon and discussed ways to further strengthen the U.S.- Japan Alliance, positively noting the increasing role the Japan Self-Defense Force is playing in regional security, including UNSCR enforcement and mutual asset protection operations.

Recognizing the threat posed by North Korea’s unlawful nuclear and missile programs, Secretary Mattis and Defense Minister Onodera has affirmed the importance of close cooperation among the United States, Japan, Korea and other like-minded nations in providing credible military backing to the maximum pressure campaign.

Additionally, the ministers finally agreed to continue enhancing the alliance capability to deter and respond to any North Korean aggression.

Mattis also discussed the recently released U.S. National Defense Strategy, and welcomed Japan’s determination to similarly review its National Defense Program Guidelines by the end of this year, the statement said.

Both leaders reaffirmed the importance of continued progress on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, including recent efforts to realize the permanent location for a field carrier landing facility, the statement said.

Trump will find it difficult to persuade Kim to dismantle the entire nuclear arsenal of North Korea in exchange
for sanctions relief and compensation as Supreme leader takes the nuclear weapons program as a matter of pride.

Main aim of International community is to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear missile programmes since the early 1990s but in 2017 it tested an H-bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

North Korea is seeking to replace 1953 Korean War armistice with a peace treaty and the most significant issue for Kim is to lift the sanctions which is hurting DPRK’s economy.

Blog : By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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