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Sonia takes pole position in finding next Presidential Candidate

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Sonia met President on EVM's alongwith opposition leaders
File Photo IANS

The forthcoming Presidential election in India could very well taste the commitment of opposition parties in India in forming a democratic and secular anti-BJP front. Most of the major parties like Congress, Janata Dal, Rashtriya Janata Dal, CPI, USCPI(M), Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj party have publicly spoken about coming on a single platform to challenge the resurgent BJP.

After a series of behind the door conversations, Ms Sonia Gandhi the Congress President has taken a lead to build a consensus on finding a common Presidential candidate. Sonia recently met Bihar Chief Minister Mr Nitish Kumar and also the CMI (M) head Sitaram Yechury after returning from her routine health check up from the US. She also had a detailed discussion with CPI’s D Raja and NCP head Sharad Pawar.

NITISH Sonia

There is general agreement across the opposition parties that the Presidential candidate must have outstanding secular credentials. D Raja of CPI said that during their internal meetings they have decided to join hands and will have structured talks in the coming days.A final push for the joint candidate will be given only when National Democratic Alliance announces its candidate.

The groundwork for the proposed alliance began in February 2017 when Nitish Kumar met Yechury, Pawar and Om Prakash Chautala of National Lok Dal and discussed the idea of putting up a common Presidential candidate. But despite Nitish Kumar’s effort, the opposition leaders were not very keen to go ahead as they wanted Congress to take a leading role since they are the largest opposition party in the Parliament.

sitaram yechuri

Janata Dal’s senior leader Sharad Yadav and the former Prime Minister H Deve Gowda’s names are being considered for the coveted post as candidature of either of these leaders will send a very strong political message since BJP is also looking for a candidate from the backward class and preferably from Southern India.

Leaders from opposition parties are well aware that BJP with its recent landslide victory in the UP assembly elections will have no problem getting their Presidential candidate elected. If we talk about the numbers the ruling BJP alliance is short by 25000 votes but BJP can easily bridge that gap with the help of friendly regional parties like AIADMK, Telangana Rashtriya Samiti, Biju Janata Dal and other smaller parties.BJP is also working behind the scene to get the two warring factions of AIADMK united which will further add to its tally.

The spokesperson for the JD(U) K C Tyagi remarked that they know that the numbers are not in their favour but then they will like to make it a united fight which will act as a precursor to the 2019 Parliamentary elections. Tyagi also recalled that when Congress was the dominant party the opposition had come together on several occasions to fight against their official candidate as the idea was to give a symbolic fight and not necessarily to win the election.

sharad_yadav-wefornews

The opposition leaders had this feeling that they made a good beginning in the recently concluded budget session of Parliament when they all united to submit a petition to the President Pranav Mukherjee about the tampering issue of EVMs and a host of other issues. Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party took the initiative on this occasion and most of the opposition parties rallied around her though some of the leaders were not very gung-ho about the tampering of EVMs.

The opposition parties do not want their unity to be confined to Parliament only as they intend to bolster their ties for the future elections. However, their joint efforts could still be thwarted if BJP picks up a candidate which will be difficult to be opposed as it happened in 2002 when Atal Behari Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister proposed the name of leading scientist and eminently popular APJ Abdul Kalam for the post of President.

Congress had no choice but to support the candidature of Kalam because of their political compulsions. From BJP’s perspective, Vajpayee was forced to select a candidate which could be readily acceptable to the opposition since they didn’t have the requisite numbers and they wanted the opposition to be on board.

Prime Minister Modi does not have such compulsion this time around but then he just may pull a rabbit out of that to unsettle the opposition and deny them an opportunity to come together. Modi means business as suddenly after the stupendous performance in the assembly polls, the corruption cases involving the opposition leaders have picked up the pace. Alternatively, Modi can make the task of opposition leaders much easier if he chooses a hardliner as his Presidential candidate.

Chandrakent

Chanderkent

DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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Conflict between Western Europe and US over Russian pipeline

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Angela Merkel

There is a greater likelihood of an economic conflict breaking out between Europe and US over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia. Fearing that the project would result in increase Russia’s influence in Europe, the Trump administration has threatened Germany of harsh economic sanctions if Berlin proceeds ahead with the Nord Stream 2.

United States main aim is to counter Russia and China that have flooded the global markets with cheap products and for this President Donald Trump has turned on tariffs plan as a part of his economic agenda but in the process, it is hurting American allies.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is projected to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas annually from newly tapped reserves in Siberia across the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed US criticism of the pipeline project due to the transit route through Ukraine with President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, on Friday.

Merkel said, “The question of what sort of guarantees can be offered to Ukraine in the industrial project of Nord Stream 2.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the White House, has been opposing Russia’s gas export monopoly Gazprom PJSC from completing the Nord Stream 2 link under the Baltic Sea and is in favour of imposing sanctions on Germany to prevent it.

Sandra Oudkirk, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy, said in Berlin that Washington is concerned about Nord Stream 2 that could increase Russia’s “malign influence” in Europe. “There are security issues linked as Russia could install undersea surveillance equipment in the Baltic Sea, a sensitive military region.”

The United States is opposing the project as it seeks to export its own LNG to Europe.

Germany is switching off coal and all nuclear plants by 2022 and making gas the only fuel to be used to fulfill the country’s pledge to sharply reduce carbon emissions and it also promises much-needed jobs in Berlin.

Some of the most vocal critics have been the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whose foreign ministers traveled to Washington last week to meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 — prompting EU sanctions in response.

The Trump administration has announced that it is giving Europe 30 days to strike a deal with the US that would limit the amount of steel and aluminum it exports to the US. If no deal is struck, the US will initiate a 10 percent tariff on Europe’s aluminum exports and a 25 percent tariff on its steel exports to the US.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker threatened to put tariffs on goods like blue jeans, bourbon, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles in response to Trump’s move. That could decrease demand for those products and lead to US workers losing their jobs.

Acknowledging that America  is facing the re-emergence of great power competition among the US, Russia and China, the US Department of Defence considers the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR’s) analysis and recommendations are grounded in a realistic assessment of today’s strategic environment.

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said the U.S. military must be prepared for a high-end fight as these evolving challenges reflect the changing character of war. “We are entering an era where our forces will be under constant observation, disrupted communications – if not nonexistent communications,” he said.

The 2018 review takes all the challenges under consideration and maintains the traditional deterrence strategy to shape potential adversaries calculations, with some tweaks to ensure there is no miscalculation of America’s intent.

By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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Karnataka: Modi  stands exposed, Congress gains

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narendra modi

This time, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have failed to foist a BJP government in Karnataka and the high drama surrounding forcible installation of BJP government showed that Modi could resort to anything to grab power.

The entire sequence of events after the Karnataka elections verdict from BS Yeddurappa taking oath and then resigning just ahead of the floor test and culminating to the announcement of formation of Congress-JD(S) coalition government revealed how it has become difficult for a party to protect their legislatures from being poached by the BJP.

BJP again indulged in using money and muscle power to lure MLAs of other parties to reach the half mark as the Saffron party emerged as the single largest party with 104 members but short of majority while Congress with 78 seats immediately after the verdict sent Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot to form an alliance with JD(S) having 37 MLAs .

The desire of adding Karnataka to the list of 19 states where it is in power has been dashed and the disgraceful exit of BS Yeddyurappa two days after assuming the office of the Chief Minister of Karnataka was triggered after the Supreme Court had directed BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa 24 hours to prove majority in the Karnataka assembly due to the fractured mandate in Karnataka assembly elections earlier this week.

The governor, constitutionally, should invite the party or alliance that could ensure a stable government but Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala called the BJP to form the government.He erred as he acted in an unconstitutional manner that could encourage horse-trading consequently JD (S) alongwith Congress were shifted to Hyderabad to guard against poaching of their legislatures.

Governor Vajubhai was a minister in BJP government in Gujarat from 1997 to 2012 and is a vetran Sangh memeber since 1971.

In Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, the Congress won the largest number of seats and also staked claim before the respective governor to form government but the BJP manipulated and resorted to horse-trading to grab power .But the entire drama in Karnataka has exposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi who claims to be non corrupt and respect  the peoples mandate as audio clips were heard in which even Yeddyurappa appeared to be luring MLAs of Congress to join the BJP .

Congress has even released an explosive audio clip alleging horse-trading by the BJP. The party in a press meeting in Bengaluru on Friday evening released a 2 minute 41 second audio clip, and alleged that it had the voice of mining baron and former BJP minister Janardhana Reddy, who can be heard speaking to Congress Raichur Rural MLA-elect Basavanagouda Daddal.

The Congress has alleged that Janardhana Reddy has sanction from top BJP leadership, as he mentions ‘National President’ in the conversation.

The whole exercise has proved that the aura of clean image of Narendra Modi has suddenly vanished.

Hours before BS Yeddyurappa resigned as chief minister in the Karnataka assembly, two Congress lawmakers had gone MIA this morning. But they were both back with the Congress just in time for the floor test that never happened. The Congress alleged that they had been held captive inside a hotel in Bengaluru by the BJP.

Anand Singh and Pratap Gowda Patil reached the assembly, the Vidhana Soudha, about an hour before the trust vote was scheduled. Pratap Gowda Patil was seen pushing away BJP lawmakers and rushing to join his Congress colleagues.

“Pratap Gowda won’t betray us,” Congress leader DK Shivkumar said, who has been in charge of guarding his party’s lawmakers and organizing their “protection”.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has termed the resignation of B S Yeddyurappa as Karnataka Chief Minister a “victory of democracy”and said “this is not an ordinary victory. Entire people of the country will be happy. It is a proud day for all of us.”

 

Congress moved Supreme Court On May 16 late evening against the governor’s invitation to the BJP.The Apex court opened its doors at midnight for an urgent hearing.Hearing began at 2.11 am on May 17 and concluded at 5.28 am in which SC refused to stay oath-taking ceremony of Yeddyurappa.Yeddyurappa was sworn in as Chief Minister at 9 am. on May 17. On May 18 , Supreme Court ordered floor test at 4 pm on May 19.Janata Dal Secular leader HD Kumaraswamy said he will take oath as the chief minister of Karnataka on Monday, hours after the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa conceded defeat and resigned from the top post without facing a floor test when it saw that it had fallen
short of the target of 112 in the 224-member House.

BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said “In a democracy, everyone has a right to form an alliance but an alliance without ideology won’t work,People don’t accept alliances which are not formed on ideological similarities.”

It is pertinent to mention that in Jammu and Kashmir BJP cemented alliance with PDP which has diametrically opposite stand on most key issues and ideological difference between Mehbooba’s Valley-centric Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its ally, the Jammu-centric Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has resulted into crisis in Kashmir with renewed surge in militancy,situation in the Valley remains volatile and unstabile and ceasefire in tatters.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi has given two direct messages to the entire Opposition that Congress is ready to ally with any regional party to defeat Narendra Modi’s attempt to grab power .But there is one important factor that Congress and the parties in alliance will have to guard against the poaching of their MLAs by the BJP as they will make an attempt to break the Congress led coalition government.
On the contrary, Rahul Gandhi has displayed leadership by benefitting both the parties and not by manipulating results in any states as done by BJP.

Blog: By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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Modi’s burden has become heavier after Karnataka setback

In the end, the Supreme Court’s directive apparently proved crucial, for the BJP chose not to wait have its legislative strength tested on the floor of the House.

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BS Yeddyurappa

The hopes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) adding Karnataka to the list of 19 states where it is in power has been dashed although it came close to fulfilling it. However, the eight seats which the BJP needed to cross the finishing line in the legislature eluded the party.

In hindsight, it might have been better for the BJP if it had conceded defeat when it saw that it had fallen short of the target of 112 in the 224-member House. Instead, by opting for a floor test, it provoked all the avoidable controversies about horse-trading which have haunted the Indian political scene ever since the Aya Ram-Gaya Ram days of defections in the late 1960s.

The Governor, too, did his office no service by swearing-in B.S. Yeddyurappa as the Chief Minister when the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress combine was pressing its claim, and allowing him a fortnight’s time to prove his majority. It was inevitable that the inordinately long period would be seen as some kind of a helping hand to the Chief Minister by not only the BJP’s opponents but also a fair number of observers.

The belief that 15 days was too long a period was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s drastic reduction of the time needed by Yeddyurappa to two days. At a time when the legislators have to be carted around from one town to another and holed up in luxury resorts to stop any of them from being lured away by the powers-that-be, it is necessary to give an aspiring Chief Minister as little leeway as possible.

In the end, the Supreme Court’s directive apparently proved crucial, for the BJP chose not to wait have its legislative strength tested on the floor of the House.

What is worrying for the BJP is that the setback in Karnataka has shown that, for once, the extra effort put in by Narendra Modi by raising the number of his rallies in the state from 15 to 21 did not pay dividends. It can even be argued that if the Prime Minister had stuck to his original plan to address 15 public meetings, the BJP might have fared worse.

Since Modi remains not only the party’s star campaigner but also the only one who can make the difference between victory and defeat, any hint that he can no longer easily enable the party to cross the winning line cannot but be of concern when the BJP faces three more crucial assembly elections in a few months’ time in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Clearly, the burden which he already carries as the spearhead of the BJP’s campaign will become heavier after the outcome in Karnataka.

As it is, the BJP’s tally of 104 fell short of the 110 it won in 2008 with a vote share of 33.8 per cent. Moreover, its percentage this time of 36.2 is well below the 43.4 per cent it received in 2014 when Modi was at the height of his popularity. There is little doubt that the Modi magic is not as effective as it once was.

As for the state itself, the early ringing down of the curtains on what was expected to be riveting drama on Saturday afternoon can hardly be seen as a welcome development (except for the hardened opponents of the BJP) because the prospect of a hodge-podge alliance between the Janata Dal-Secular and the Congress is not a pleasant one.

For a start, no one knows how long it will last since it will take time for the two parties to forgive and forget their recent verbal duels including the Congress’s jibe about the Janata Dal-Secular being the BJP’s “B” team.

Now, as virtually the Janata Dal-Secular’s “B” team in the government of H.D. Kumaraswamy, the Congress will have to shed some of its pretences as the Grand Old Party of Indian politics. Having already been reduced to such a secondary position in UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the Congress would not like Karnataka to be added to the list, especially when it polled 640,000 more votes than the BJP with a vote share of 38 per cent, up from 36.6 in 2013.

Even as the Janata Dal-Secular-Congress tie-up has been hailed by Mamata Banerjee as being in line with her idea of a federal front, there will be many a slip between the cup and the lip before such a grouping materialises.

It goes without saying that the new ruling group in Karnataka will provide the first test of the possibility of an anti-BJP glue holding two not-so-friendly parties together. The test will be all the more crucial since the Janata Dal-Secular was supposed to have had a tacit understanding with the BJP in constituencies such as Chamundeshwari, where the saffron party was said to have put up a weak candidate because the Janata Dal-Secular was expected to have the upper hand in a direct fight with the Congress. This was what led to Siddaramaiah’s defeat there. It remains to be seen if episodes such as these will be overlooked by the new allies.

By : Amulya Ganguli

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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