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Decoding Congress failure in the 2019 general election

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The recently held general election was different from any other held in India in the sense that for this election, the ruling party as well as the opposition were in serious election mode for almost four years before it was held. On the ruling party side, the BJP knew well that its 2014 victory was more a mandate against the incumbent UPA government, and this factor would not be there in 2019.

So, from 2014 itself, it was preparing for the 2019 election. On the other side, the Congress party, which had its worst-ever performance in 2014, knew that the sentiment in the country was against it, and it had to fix many a thing to be able to pose a challenge to the BJP in 2019.

It must be noted here that till 2019, the Congress was never out of power for two complete consecutive terms, and this had ensured that no non-Congress party or alliance got to establish itself as a serious option in national politics. The message which the Congress party always passed on was that it was the Congress party alone which could govern the country.

In 2019, the Congress didn’t want to lose this psychological supremacy in Indian democracy. And for that it was willing to share power with or support regional parties for the 2019 general election. There was similar realization by regional parties as well, who were worried about losing political ground to the BJP in their respective states. Therefore “Modi Hatao” became the common single point agenda for the whole opposition and the same was the uniting force for the opposition parties.

With such clarity on both the sides’, years before the general election, it was expected to be one of the closest contests in India’s parliamentary history, but the results say it was actually one sided. So, where did the grand old party fail in its strategy? Let’s look back and try to understand it.

In the 2014 general election, Narendra Modi had emerged as the most popular leader in the country, and his popularity had stayed intact later on. Very soon it was clear that the BJP would contest the next general election in the name of Narendra Modi and would push for a scenario where the election would be centred on him. So, it’s important to understand what the major political credentials were for Narendra Modi — it was his image of an honest and a Hindu nationalist leader.

Sensing the BJP’s strategy, the Congress party decided to attack Narendra Modi on these two credentials, and its strategy was centred on this. If we look at the statements of Congress President Rahul Gandhi in the last two years, it will be evident that the Congress had a strategy to target the honest image of Narendra Modi by alleging corruption charges against him, and adopt a soft Hindutva policy to minimize the impact of his Hindu Nationalist image.

Gandhi levelled multiple corruption charges against Narendra Modi ranging from the Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi fraud cases to demonetization and the Rafale deal. As the 2019 general election approached, the Congress party sharpened its attack on Narendra Modi and it got more and more personal. Gandhi coined the slogan “Chowkidar Chor Hai” and voiced it in every election rally. On the other hand, he made it a point to visit temples wherever he went for rallies as per the Congress party’s soft Hindutva policy.

Over time, the “Chowkidar Chor Hai” campaign got bitter and personal, but it could not create the impact the Congress party had expected. Rather the “Main Bhi Chowkidar” campaign launched by the BJP to counter it, became a bigger success, and this explains that the crucial strategy of the Congress party to attack the honest image of Narendra Modi failed to work, in fact the personal attacks created sympathy for Modi.

Just before the election, the Indian Air force conducted air strikes across the border to avenge the terrorist attack in Pulwama. This was a last minute change in the political scenario in the country, and the Congress which had been working on the strategy to minimize the impact of Hindu nationalist image of Narendra Modi, got little uneasy with this changed scenario and was quick to question the authenticity of the strikes. This was not taken well by the voters, rather it backfired for the Congress.

The soft Hindutva policy adopted by the Congress party was also attributed to the BJP – the BJP made it a point to tell the country that it was the BJP which forced the Congress and other opposition party leaders to show respect for Hinduism and its traditions. Overall, it looked like the Congress party fell into the trap of Amit Shah and fought the 2019 general election the way Shah wanted it to. Generally, the general election was centred on Narendra Modi and Hindu nationalism. This pulled the electoral battle to the BJP’s home turf. Obviously, the BJP dominated on its home turf, and the Congress party failed in its strategy and performed badly in the election.

So, is it that the Narendra Modi government has done everything good and the opposition had nothing to corner the government on? Not really. In fact, the Narendra Modi government didn’t come up to the expectations of the common man on many fronts, but it ensured that the message went out to the common man that this government was sensitive to the concerns and issues of the common man and worked for the pride of the nation, and this helped it minimize the anti-incumbency against the government.

The Congress party tried to counter the BJP on the issues where the BJP was inherently strong, and here it fell into a trap. It should rather have picked issues which had affected the common man and the incumbent government had failed to address those issues.

Unemployment was one such major issue, as per a government report, the unemployment rate in 2017-18 was 6.1 per cent, which is the highest in the last 45 years. Most affected by this was the middle class which has been the backbone of the BJP. We must remember that it was one of the major issues which had caused the incumbent BJP governments to lose the November 2018 assembly elections held in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. But it looks like, the Congress party failed to understand the gravity of this issue.

Another major issue was rural distress and farmers’ plight. The Narendra Modi government had taken some initiatives to address the concerns of rural India, but overall it didn’t help improve the situation. There were many agitations by farmers all over India, but the Congress party failed to lead this discontent and turn it into a national movement.

One other issue of concern was the growing feeling in the country, especially among the minorities, that under the Narendra Modi regime intolerance in the country had increased. There were several cases of mob lynching. Though Narendra Modi condemned such incidents, it was clearly not enough to discourage such elements.

Had the Congress party picked up the issues of real concern to the common man – unemployment, rural distress and increased intolerance, and had led the agitations from the front, it could have turned them into a nationwide movement and created an environment against the incumbent government. But, the Congress failed to pick the right issues and devise effective strategy to counter the Narendra Modi government.

Now that the 2019 general election is over, the Congress party is once again at the very same point where it was after losing the 2014 general election. At this point of time, it looks like it is in serious reality check mode. Provided it takes lessons from its mistakes for 2019, and returns afresh with a positive mindset for 2024, picks issues which are relevant, speaks up for the common man, plays the role of a constructive opposition in Parliament and leads the common man on such issues outside Parliament, it will not only help the Congress party re-establish itself, but will be a positive sign for the parliamentary democracy in the country.

(Rahul Vatsa is a researcher. The comments are his own. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Indian-origin man in FBI ’10 Most Wanted’ list carries $100k reward

The FBI’s notice says that the accused “should be considered armed and extremely dangerous”.

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Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel,

New York, Nov 28 : The US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is reminding the public of a $100,000-reward offer for information leading to the capture of Indian-origin Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, who has been listed by the agency as one of the “10 Most Wanted” since 2017.

Patel has been on the run since 2015 when he allegedly killed his wife, Palak, with a knife inside a Dunkin Donuts coffee shop in Hanover, Maryland state.

He has been charged with murder.

Although he was put on the list in 2017 with the $100,000 reward for information leading to his capture he has not been caught and on Friday the FBI tweeted information about him and the reward to draw attention to the case and the reward offer.

The FBI is asking anyone who knows where he is to contact the agency or the nearest US consulate or embassy.

Patel, who was 24 at that time, allegedly hit his 21-year-old wife in the face with a kitchen knife and stabbed her several times in the backroom of the shop where they both worked while customers were still there, according to officials quoted by WTOP radio.

He was last known to have taken a taxi from a hotel in New Jersey to a train station in Newark in the state.

Tim Altomare, who was the police chief of Anne Arundel County at that time, told the radio: “The violence in this case was stark. It was heart-wrenching and it was a shock to our collective conscience on the police department.”

WTOP reported that investigators think that Patel was still in the US in 2017 when he was put on the FBI list and according to Altomare investigators believe that someone was knowingly helping Patel or was interacting with him without knowing about his alleged crime.

The radio reported that according to Gordon Johnson, who was the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office in 2017, Patel was put on the list because of the brutality of the crime and the likelihood that someone outside the US knows where he was.

The couple’s visas expired about a month before the killing and investigators believe that Palak Patel wanted to return to India, but her husband opposed it, WTOP reported.

The FBI’s notice says that the accused “should be considered armed and extremely dangerous”.

According to the FBI he was born in Kantrodi Ta Viramgam in Gujarat.

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National Milk Day: Know history, significance of this day; Interesting facts about milk here

National Milk Day was established in 2014 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered the father of India’s White Revolution.

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Amul Milk Production

Every year, National Milk Day is celebrated on November 26 across India. The largest milk producing country celebrates this day to demonstrate the importance of milk in everyone’s life. It is worth noting that National Milk Day and World Milk Day are two different events, observed on different dates with different significance.

National Milk Day was established in 2014 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered the father of India’s White Revolution.

Why is National Milk Day Celebrated?

National Milk Day is celebrated on November 26 all over India, and it was established by the Food and Agricultural Organisation in 2014.

The day is dedicated to honouring Dr. Verghese Kurien, who is considered to be the father of India’s White Revolution. November 26 is also his birth anniversary, which is why this day is even more important as it also highlights his contribution to the country’s dairy farming and production.

First National Milk Day:

The Indian Dairy Association (IDA) in 2014, took the initiative to celebrate this day for the first time. The first National Milk Day was marked on November 26, 2014, in which various milk producers from 22 states participated.

Kerala-born, Dr Verghese Kurien is known as the ‘Milkman of India’ and the father of the 1970s White Revolution. He came with the one billion litre idea of turning a milk-guzzling country into world’s top dairy producer.

National Milk Day: Interesting facts about milk here

Milk is one of the best sources of calcium and the only drink in the world that contains such a large amount of natural nutrients.

Dr Verghese worked towards enabling the country to have its own production centres of milk. His support was crucial in making the Amul girl ad campaign-which is one of the longest-running campaigns for decades.

His accolades include Ramon Magsaysay Award, World Food Prize, Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Wateler Peace Prize.

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Global availability of Covid vaccine for public only by mid-2021: Moody’s

The report said mass vaccination that significantly reduces individual and public health concerns would lift sentiment and present a significant upside to global growth.

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Covid 19 Vaccine

New Delhi: While recent news about the high effectiveness of two coronavirus vaccines is a promising sign in the effort to combat the pandemic, a vaccine for Covid-19 will not be widely distributed before mid-2021, Moodys Investors Service said on Tuesday.

“However, these developments do not change the assumption underpinning our economic forecasts that widespread, global availability of the vaccine to the general public is only likely by around mid-2021,” Moody’s said in a report.

It added that the recent positive news about the effectiveness of vaccines under development will do little to ease the immediate concern that the current rise in coronavirus cases across the US and Europe will dampen sentiments and economic momentum in these regions this quarter and the next.

“Our baseline economic forecasts balance the downside risks of increasing infections and new lockdowns in the next two months, against the potential for widespread vaccinations over the next 12 months. If lockdowns are more severe than we expect, the negative effect on GDP could be offset if a coronavirus vaccine is available quicker and uptake is wider than we had expected,” it added.

Although successful Phase 3 trials of vaccines are a big step, there are numerous hurdles ahead, including satisfying approval requirements by regulators in individual countries, production of the billions of doses required for mass vaccination, ensuring proper storage and building distribution networks.

Distribution will likely occur in phases once regulators approve a vaccine, with health officials prioritizing access for healthcare workers and those in other high-risk professions, as well as for people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as older people and individuals in care homes.

Moody’s said two important variables in overall success of vaccines in curbing the pandemic will be the public’s willingness to get vaccinated and what percentage of the population will need to be vaccinated in order for the spread of the virus to be brought under control. Vaccine availability likely will vary across countries, with cost and access major hurdles in particular for less-developed economies.

Many advanced and a handful of middle-income emerging market countries have already secured contracts for hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccines. Residents of these countries will be among the first to get the vaccinations, with their economies benefiting from the associated easing of the public health crisis. The earlier the health crisis in a country subsides, the stronger the country’s economic recovery will be, it added.

The report said mass vaccination that significantly reduces individual and public health concerns would lift sentiment and present a significant upside to global growth.

As long as the coronavirus remains a health risk, social distancing restrictions and the reluctance of consumers to engage in high contact social and economic activity will mar the recovery of services sectors. As vaccines become broadly available, health fears and concerns about an uncertain economic and financial outlook should recede, allowing for a quicker resumption of activity in high contact sectors such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, mass transit, airlines and travel and tourism.

Moody’s said the pandemic has already inflicted enormous damage on the hardest-hit sectors and will continue to undermine their financial condition and prospects, with repeated virus outbreaks and lockdown measures suppressing demand. The risk of business failure increases exponentially the longer the pandemic prevents a return to some semblance of normal activity.

A vaccine will help accelerate the recovery. But for many of these businesses, survival will remain challenging until the virus is no longer viewed as a significant public health threat. It is difficult to know how many businesses will survive several more months of below-normal revenue, it added.

Small and midsized businesses across advanced and emerging market countries are at risk and more of them will undoubtedly close on account of the prolonged cash flow shock. And those that do survive will have the long and arduous task of rebuilding their balance sheets while also, in many cases, facing significant changes in consumer behavior and demand patterns. “Therefore, even if economic activity returns to healthy levels once a vaccine is widely available, the detrimental economic impact and transformed operating environment will be felt for years to come”, Moody’s said.

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