95 Seats Vote Today, All Of Tamil Nadu, Half Of Karnataka: LokSabha Elections 2019
More than half of the 95 seats voting in the second round of Lok Sabha elections today are in Southern India, representing nearly nine crore voters. People in 38 constituencies of Tamil Nadu, 14 of the 28 in Karnataka and the lone seat in Puducherry began queuing up early on Thursday in the second phase of the mammoth, seven-round general election in which opposition parties are trying to stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi from winning a second term. The main opposition Congress party and its allies need to win big in the southern states if they hope to oust the BJP.
Here is the 5-point guide to what is at stake in this key battle:
1. Karnataka is mostly a two-sided contest between the BJP and the ruling Congress-Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) coalition. Congress leader Siddaramaiah and JDS supremo HD Deve Gowda, who have shared a rocky equation for over 15 years, campaigned together this time in their attempt to pitch a united front against the BJP.
2. The ruling alliance is grappling with resentment among its workers over the seat-sharing agreement that has eaten into the two parties' share of constituencies. An adverse result could impact the longevity of the coalition government in the state.
3. It is much more complex in Tamil Nadu which has a four-cornered contest. The ruling AIADMK-led alliance including the BJP and a host of smaller state parties are up against a coalition led by its longtime rival DMK that includes the Congress and the Left. The AIADMK spin-off TTV Dhinakaran's AMMK or Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam and actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan's MNM or Makkal Needhi Mariam are the two other parties.
4. Tamil Nadu is also holding by-elections for 18 assembly constituencies most of which the ruling AIADMK must win in order to stay in power. It is also the first election in several decades when the two main parties don't have their iconic leaders J Jayalalithaa, who died in 2016 and M Karunanidhi, who died in 2018.
5. The elections in Tamil Nadu are once again mired in allegations of voters being bribed. The election in the Vellore Lok Sabha constituency was canceled after a huge haul of cash.
Will the BJP win seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu?
Ramdev's U-Turn: Backs Narendra Modi As PM Again With 'Vote For BJP' Call
Yoga guru Ramdev today gave a fresh endorsement for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a move seen as a U-turn from his position a few months ago. The 53-year-old, who accompanied Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore as he filed his nomination for the Jaipur Rural Lok Sabha seat, called on people to vote for the BJP in the national elections.
Highlighting the BJP's focus on nationalism and national security, the yoga teacher sought a stronger mandate for PM Modi, whom he once termed his "close friend".
"To make India a world economic and political superpower in next 20-25 years, we have to make Modi stronger. In his hands, the country is safe; the future of our jawans is safe, honor and respect of women is safe and farms of farmers are safe," Ramdev said.
PM Modi is the only one who can protect the nation, Ramdev, said, calling the prime minister "the pride of Bharat Mata".
He also targeted the Congress party over its basic minimum income scheme, NYAY. "Now is the time to punish them. 'Nyay' will happen now at every booth and will be delivered by the public. Voters will do justice now," Ramdev said.
Once a staunch supporter of the ruling BJP, he had distanced himself from the party a few months ago. In September, a special youth conclave, Ramdev was asked whether he would campaign for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections 2019.
"Why would I?" he had shot back. "I have withdrawn myself politically. I am with all parties and I am with no parties," he said at the conclave that featured celebrities, leaders, and influencers.
More recently, Ramdev said it would be difficult to say who will be the next prime minister. The statement, given in December, was seen as a huge rebuff to PM Modi.
Ramdev had supported the BJP national election campaign in 2014 and was closely associated with the party. A year later, he was named BJP-ruled Haryana's brand ambassador and granted cabinet minister rank. He was allotted a car with a beacon, security personnel, and an escort vehicle whenever he visited the state.
Is India really changing under PM Modi?
Yogi Adityanath, Mayawati Punished For Poll Code Violation
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been barred from campaigning for the next three days for his communal comments by the Election Commission, which recently faced opposition allegations that it is soft on leaders of the ruling party violating the Model Code of Conduct. The commission also took action against Mayawati, barring her from campaigning for 48 hours for her provocative speech in Deoband.
In 2014, the Commission took action against BJP chief Amit Shah and Samajwadi Party's Azam Khan for hate speech.
Its action this time came on a day the Supreme Court pulled it up for failing to take action in cases of Model Code violation and questioning if it was even aware of its powers to force errant political leaders to fall in line.
Within a couple of hours, the poll body - which earlier issued notices to Yogi Adiyanath and Mayawati -- ordered a ban, invoking special powers under Article 324 of the Constitution.
At a recent meeting in Deoband, Mayawati had warned the Muslim community not to "split votes" between the Congress and her alliance. Appealing to caste or communal feelings to secure votes is a no-no under the model code, which is a series of dos and don'ts for political parties ahead of elections.
Days later, hitting out at Mayawati, Yogi Adityanath said, "If the Congress, the SP and the BSP have faith in Ali, then we too have faith in Bajrang Bali" - a comment that triggered outraged protests from the opposition. While Ali is revered by Muslims as Prophet Mohammad's successor, Bajrang Bali is another name for Lord Hanuman.
Asked about the opposition criticism during an interview today, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora told that while there are options like barring the candidate from the polling process, "I don't think sending an advisory to a person who is a Chief Minister of biggest state, that too in black and white - that is a slap on the wrist".
He, however, added that the Commission now has the full transcript on Yogi Adityanath's "Ali, Bajrang Bali" comment. "We will be taking a call tomorrow," he added.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court - which was hearing an appeal seeking action against political parties using use religion and caste to seek votes - was extremely upset when the Election Commission's representative said, "We don't have any powers. We can't bar them from contesting. We can de-recognize them".
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Not What We Said: Supreme Court Asks Rahul Gandhi To Explain Rafale Remark
Rahul Gandhi has been accused by the Supreme Court of misquoting it on its Rafale order and has been given a week to explain before the ruling BJP's contempt case against him is taken up next Tuesday.
"We make it clear the statement attributed to this court in the address made by the respondent (Rahul Gandhi) to the media and public have been incorrectly attributed to this court. We make it clear this court never made such observation. We only decided on the admissibility of documents," three judges led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.
Rahul Gandhi had last week made the comments in response to the Supreme Court ruling that classified documents accessed by the media can be used as evidence to consider requests to review a verdict clearing the Rafale jet deal.
"I want to thank the Supreme Court. The entire country is saying that Chowkidar chor hai (Chowkidar has committed theft). It is a day of celebration that the Supreme Court has talked about justice," the Congress president had said in his constituency Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP accused him of putting words in the mouth of the supreme court and sued him for contempt.
The Supreme Court today said it wanted Rahul Gandhi's response. "We never made any such observations commented on by Rahul Gandhi," said the court.
Is questioning the decision by Supreme Court of India on Rafale right?
Supreme Court Rejects Centre's "Classified Documents" Stand On Rafale Papers
The Supreme Court today flat-out rejected the center's argument that classified documents accessed by the media on the Rafale fighter jet deal can't be evidence. The court said it will examine the secret documents while considering petitions asking for a review of its order giving the government a clean chit on the deal that the opposition alleges was corrupt.
The judges today unanimously dismissed the center's objections to considering documents leaked from the defense ministry as evidence and said they would go ahead with the hearing of review petitions, which would be decided on merit.
This means classified documents sourced by the media without authorization can be considered by the court. It is a huge win for a free press at a time questions have been raised over strong-arm tactics to suppress the media.
Pointing to the documents, petitioners had called for a review of the verdict. "These are sensitive documents relating to defense, but that was precisely what we said too - that because they are documents of importance, they must be treated as part of supporting documents," said former union minister Arun Shourie, one of the petitioners.
The center had told the court that the documents filed by the petitioners are "sensitive to national security", those who conspired in photocopying the papers have committed theft and put national security in jeopardy by leaking them to the public.
Dismissing the argument, the court said it would fix a date to hear the petitions.