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Analysis

The year when Narendra Modi’s charisma appeared to wane: 2018 In Retrospect

The results of the recent Assembly polls in five states, where the Congress snatched power from the BJP in the Hindi heartland, has given a major boost to the opposition parties and could be a factor in the battle for control of the next Lok Sabha.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP face a tough challenge in the Lok Sabha elections in the coming summer in the wake of its defeat in the recent Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and mounting worries on the economic front.

Even at the end of 2017, no one would have given the opposition a chance in the next general elections after BJP’s sweeping success in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in the wake of demonetisation and surgical strikes on terror hideouts across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and its ability to come to power in other states where it was not the largest party.

However, the BJP was contained in Modi’s home state of Gujarat in the year-end Assembly elections where it was stopped short of the 100 mark, signalling the green shoots of recovery for the Congress.

The change in the last one year became evident after a united Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samajwadi Party defeated the BJP in the Lok Sabha by-elections in its strong holds like Gorakhpur and Phulpur and along with the RLD, in Kairana in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress worsted the BJP in parliamentary by-elections in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and in Karnataka.

Also, the Congress was quick to learn from BJP’s game elsewhere and surrendered the Chief Minister’s post to the JD-S in a post-poll tie up to keep the BJP out of power in Karnataka, despite the saffron party emerging the single largest in the summer of this year.

The results of the recent Assembly polls in five states, where the Congress snatched power from the BJP in the Hindi heartland, has given a major boost to the opposition parties and could be a factor in the battle for control of the next Lok Sabha.

During the year, the BJP had lost seven out of the 13 by-elections in parliamentary constituencies. Of these, it held nine since 2014. It could retain only Palghar in Maharashtra and Shimoga in Karnataka.

Since 2014, the BJP managed to retain just six Lok Sabha seats in by-polls. Besides Palghar and Shimoga, it had won Lakhimpur in Assam, Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh, Beed in Maharashtra and Vadodara in Gujarat.

In the last four-and-half-years, the party has lost Lok Sabha by polls in Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, Gurdaspur in Punjab, Alwar and Ajmer in Rajasthan, Kairana, Phulpur and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Bhandara-Gondiya in Maharashtra and Bellary and Mandya constituencies in Karnataka. The BJP’s tally in the Lok Sabha has come down to 268 from 282 in 2014.

The results of the recent Assembly polls and the by-elections may have signalled the weakening of the “Modi wave” of 2014 the road ahead may not be easy for the saffron party, given the fact that major parties like SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh are planning an anti-BJP alliance and formation of the RJD-led alliance in Bihar, the two states which send 120 of the 543 elected MPs to the 545-member Lok Sabha, where two members are nominated.

Although the BJP-led government has been counting various of its schemes including Mudra, Ujwala, Saubhagya, opening of ‘jan dhan’ bank accounts, One Rank One Pension, and decisions on demonetisation, GST and the surgical strikes across the border in Pakistan as its major achievements in last four-and-a-half-years, the issues related to farmers and impacts of demonetisation and GST, NPAs crisis have come as a major dampener for the ruling party.

Unlike in 2014, when they were the challenger at the Centre and in many states, when an untested Modi made various promises, he and his party would now face a lot of questions to answer on the “achhe din” they had offered to the electorate.

During the last election campaign, Modi had promised one crore jobs a year and depositing of Rs 15 lakh in each persons account from the black money to be repatriated from abroad. The opposition is likely to rake up the issues and demand answers over the crisis of unemployment and agrarian distress among others.

Besides, the party is also facing the heat from the VHP and RSS, which have been mounting pressure on the government for constructing a Ram temple at Ayodhya by bringing a law or ordinance. Opposition parties allege that the sangh parivar, headed by RSS, may like to raise the political temperature on their pet issues to polarise the political situation.

Although the Supreme Court has given a clean chit to the government on the Rafale fighter jet deal, the issue remains live as the Congress has been pushing for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe.

In the Hindi hearltland of Bihar, where the BJP had won 22 of the 40 seats in 2014, Chhattisgarh (10 out of 11), Haryana (10-10), Himachal Pradesh (04-04), Jharkhand (12-14), Madhya Pradesh (16-29), Rajasthan (25-25), Uttarakhand (05-05), Uttar Pradesh (71-80) and Delhi (07-07), 182 out of 225 seats came into the party’s kitty in 2014.

In the present political scenario, political analysts feel the BJP is unlikely to repeat its performance of 2014, especially in key states like Uttar Pradesh as the coming together of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, social equations are likely to change.

In Bihar, the ‘mahagathbandhan’ of Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress, Hindustani Awam Morcha and Rashtriya Lok Samata Dal has already been formed. Though the Janata Dal-United has now allied with the BJP and the LJP, the grand alliance remains focussed on social engineering of Maha Dalits, extremely backward communities, along with RJD’s traditional Muslim-Yadav votebank.

In Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh the BJP has already lost power to Congress and the BJP’s numbers are likley to drop in 2019.

In Maharashtra, the BJP ally, the Shiv Sena, may cause anxiety as both the parties don’t sharing good vibes. Maharashtra is the largest state after Uttar Pradesh as it sends 48 MPs to Lok Sabha. In the last election, the BJP won 23 seats and the Shiv Sena won 18.

In Gujarat, which is considered the BJP’s bastion and the Hindutva laboratory, the state to which Modi and BJP President Amit Shah belong, it may not be easy to repeat the 2014 performance given the Congress’ fightback in last year’s Assembly polls.

Andhra Pradesh has 25 seats in the Lok Sabha. Earlier, the BJP and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) fought together, with the BJP winning two seats and the TDP 15. Now, the TDP is out of its fold, the BJP is trying to woo a new ally in the form of YRS Congress – at least post poll.

In Tamil Nadu, where it is facing heavy headwinds, the party is trying to woo the ruling AIADMK, which is itself split, to take on a formidable DMK-Congress combine in which a number of other regional parties will also find a place. The state has a tradition of voting one way and the results in 40 seats including one in Puducherry will be crucial to the national outcome.

By Brajendra Nath Singh

(Brajendra Nath Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

IANS

Analysis

The US presidential elections and future of India-US relations

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Donald Trump Joe Biden

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates global news in the United States, progress toward the next presidential election scheduled to be held on November 3 moves slowly forward. President Donald Trump had no real opposition in the Republican party and is running for re-election. And it has now become apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden will be his opponent as the Democratic candidate for president.

What would a Trump victory bode for the future of US-India relations? What would a Biden victory bode? Let me answer each of those questions in turn.

Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.

Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some — perhaps many — Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.

To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.

In a word, the best way to characterize the current relations between the US and India is “functional”. The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media s saying: “This has been a landmark year for US-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”

Then, in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the US and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the US terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the US duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the US by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.

This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.

Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First”. This involves making the US more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs, and confronting businesses who are allegedlly stealing American trade secrets.

This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the US if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As I have said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are.

Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as Vice-President in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.

He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the Congressional passage of the Indo-US civic nuclear deal in 2005. At a dinner convened 10 years later in 2015 by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Vice President Biden discussed the tremendous joint progress that had been made by the two countries in the past and declared “We are on the cusp of a sea change decade.”

Early in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in July of 2019, in laying out his foreign policy vision, Biden stated that the US had to reach out to India and other Asian partners to strengthen ties with them. The items on Biden’s foreign policy agenda for strengthening which are of importance for India include climate change, nuclear proliferation and cyberwarfare.

During his vice presidency, Biden worked side by side with President Barack Obama to do things that would contribute to achieving Obama’s vision stated in 2010 of India and America being “indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of our time.” In 2020, those challenges are even greater than they were a decade ago.

That is why it is so essential that India and the US develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. That can happen if Biden assumes the presidency on January 20, 2021. It cannot happen if Donald Trump remains as president for a second term.

The results of this upcoming election in the US matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-US relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal)

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Analysis

Covid-19 toll across world crosses 35,000

The COVID-19 is affecting 132 countries and territories around the world.

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Patients infected with the novel coronavirus

New Delhi, March 30 : The death toll around the world due to coronavirus crossed 35,000 on Monday evening, with Italy heading the list of 35,097 deaths with 10,779, while the number of cumulative cases rose to 737,929, with US leading with 143,055 of them, as per data from the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Spain was second with 7,340 deaths, followed by China with 3,308 (3,186 of them in Hubei where the outbreak was first recorded), Iran with 2,757 deaths, France with 2,606 deaths, the US with 2,513 (776 of them in New York) and the UK with1,228 deaths.

In number of cases, Italy was second with 97,689, followed by Spain with 85,195, China with 82,198, Germany with 62,435, Iran with 41,495 and France with 40,747.

Meanwhile, 156,652 people around the world had recovered, with nearly half of them (75,923) in China, followed by 16,780 in Spain, 13,911 in Iran and 13,030 in Italy.

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Analysis

45% of Indians do not back up their data, files: Survey

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.

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Data Privacy

New Delhi, March 30 : Nearly half of Indians do not back up because they think their data or files are not important enough and most of those who back up their data, do it once a month, a survey said on Monday.

Other reasons cited by the respondents for not backing up their data included not knowing how to do it, not having time and forgetting about it, according to the survey by cybersecurity company Avast.

“It could be that many aren’t aware they are backing up, as it could be happening automatically, in the background, however, others really might not be backing up at all, thinking it is not worth it,” Luis Corrons, Security Evangelist at Avast, said in a statement.

“Losing personal documents, photos and videos can be a painful experience and it’s not until this happens that they realize how valuable it actually is,” Corrons added.

Of those who do back up their data, nearly 42 per cent Indians back up to a cloud storage, 36 42 per cent back up their data to an external hard drive, 23 42 per cent back up to a USB or flash disk, 18 42 per cent back up their phone to their PC, and 10 42 per cent back up to a network storage drive, the results showed.

Corrons recommended to back up data to two different locations, like the cloud, and a physical storage, like an external hard drive.

When it comes to iPhone and Android phone owners, the percentage that backs up is nearly the same, 69 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

The percentage of smartphone owners that don’t know how to back up their data does not vary much between iPhone and Android owners, with 13 per cent and 17 per cent claiming not knowing how to, respectively, the study revealed.

Data loss can be caused by users accidentally deleting their data themselves, hardware damage and failure, as well as malware, causing valuable data such as photos, videos, documents, and messages to be lost forever.

Ransomware and other malware, such as wipers, can either encrypt or completely destroy files, and there is no guarantee that files can be decrypted if a ransom is paid.

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.

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