India’s Modi wins Gujarat election with reduced margin

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Reuters)
Updated 19 December 2017
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India’s Modi wins Gujarat election with reduced margin

NEW DELHI: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the crucial regional election in the western Indian state of Gujarat. This is the party’s sixth consecutive victory in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The BJP also won the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh, defeating the ruling Indian National Congress there.
Gujarat, however, was a closely contested election in which the BJP was fighting not only a strong anti-incumbency factor but also vocal resistance from several caste groups. Modi staked all his political capital to regain his home state, which many call his political bastion.
Out of the 182 seats, the BJP seems to be winning 99, a substantial reduction of more than 20 seats compared with 2012. The opposition Congress Party registered the best ever performance in the past 20 years by winning 80 seats, a substantial jump of 4 percent.
Despite the victory, the mood in the BJP’s headquarters in Delhi was somber and there was hardly any celebration.
“Modi just survived the scare of defeat in Gujarat,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst and writer of Modi’s biography, “Narendra Modi: The Man, the Times.”
“For the first time after becoming prime minister, Modi has been seriously challenged by the opposition. Had he been defeated, there would be a nationwide political campaign to oust him and it would have severely dented the political image of the BJP strongman,” says Mukhopadhyay.
Sanjay Kumar of the Center for the Study of Developing Societies, a New Delhi-based think-tank, called the result “a victory neither for the BJP nor for the Congress Party. It is a status quo.”
Though the BJP has won the election, it is the Congress Party and its newly elected president, Rahul Gandhi, who are the talk of the town. Many see it as the “resurgence of the Congress and a transitional moment in Indian politics.”
“Gujarat was an opportunity for the Congress that it missed. But the leadership of the party will take a positive lesson from that and the result offers an opportunity for the party to revive. Despite the loss, Congress has reason to celebrate. Rahul Gandhi has started his innings on a positive note,” Mukhopadhyay told Arab News.
Kumar said “the result should not be seen as demoralizing for the Congress. They were able to push the BJP on the back foot.”
Meanwhile, BJP President Amit Shah, in a press conference, blamed the “negative campaign by Congress Party” for BJP’s reduced margin of victory. He termed the party’s victory as a “result of politics of performance.”
The Congress Party’s spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala, said: “The loss in Gujarat is a lesson for us … but we have done exceedingly well.”
Analysts say the Gujarat election results show that the 2019 general elections will be a close contest and Modi has a huge challenge ahead.
“Politics is now wide open and it will be keenly contested between now and 2019,” said Mukhopadhyay.
In the next round of 2018 regional elections, the BJP will have to defend three major states: Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and with a resurgent opposition, it would be tough for the right-wing party to retain the states that they have ruled for more than a decade.


Prince Charles visits UK site of nerve agent attack

Updated 10 min 28 sec ago
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Prince Charles visits UK site of nerve agent attack

  • Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited Salisbury on Friday to support the city as it tries to recover from the impact of this year’s poison attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter.
  • Visitor numbers have fallen since Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a bench in March.

SALISBURY: Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited Salisbury on Friday to support the city as it tries to recover from the impact of this year’s poison attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter.
They visited businesses and met local residents before attending a reception for those most closely involved in trying to restore the city’s tourist trade.
Visitor numbers have fallen since Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a bench in March.
They had been poisoned with a Cold War era nerve agent for which the government blamed Russia, plunging bilateral relations to a new low, although the Kremlin denied any involvement.
Charles and Camilla also held a private meeting with Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey who fell ill after coming into contact with the Novichok nerve agent after trying to help the Skripals.
For weeks, the predominant images coming from this elegant southern city were not those of England’s tallest cathedral spire but of police roadblocks and cordoned-off streets as investigators in hazchem suits swept the area.
Re-stimulating tourism in Salisbury has been a priority after visitor numbers fell some 20 percent. Nine businesses folded as a result of the incident, on top of a reduced footfall of up to 80 percent in the immediate vicinity of the poisoning.
Sergei Skripal, 66, was part of a spy swap between Russia and Britain in 2010 and had since made Salisbury his home. He was released from hospital last month after spending weeks in an induced coma.
Yulia Skripal, 33, left hospital in April and spoke last month to Reuters, outlining her desire to return to Russia in the future despite the poisoning.
“My life has been turned upside down,” she said.