India’s ruling BJP loses three crucial states in regional elections

Congress party supporters hold a cut-out of party President Rahul Gandhi and celebrate outside the party headquarters in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. The Congress party won in the states of Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan, while it was in a close fight with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh state. (AP)
Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s ruling BJP loses three crucial states in regional elections

  • BJP blames 'anti-incumbency factor' for defeat in Indian states under its rule for 15 years
  • Rahul Gandhi has emerged as the main contender with PM Narendra Modi, says political analyst

NEW DELHI: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a big political blow in the regional elections results on Tuesday, losing three major states previously under its belt.
In a surprise performance, the main opposition Congress party defeated the BJP in the northern and central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
The party also performed poorly in the southern Indian state of Telangana and the north-east state of Mizoram, which also went to polls.
The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) retained its hold over the state, widely defeating the opposition Congress.
The tiny, hillside state of Mizoram went with the regional Mizo National Front (MNF), giving a thumping defeat to the ruling Congress party there.
However, the main contest was in the Hindi heartland, where the BJP and the Congress were pitted against each other.
In Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh, the Congress enjoyed a decisive victory. However, the party remains in a neck-to-neck battle overall with the BJP, which has been ruling the state for the last 15 years.
“It was incredible odds against which these elections were fought, where the Congress was outspent by a large margin by the BJP’s incredible resources,” Congress leader Shashi Tharoor told reporters after the victory.
“The result is a very strong expression of the popular will,” added the senior Congress leader.
The BJP says that “the result is a setback, but it is more to do with anti-incumbency factor.”
“We have been ruling Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh for the last 15 years. Naturally, there was some anti-incumbency against us. But we are performing quite well in Rajasthan despite losing,” says Amit Malviya, chief of the BJP’s Information Technology cell.
Political analyst Dr. Satish Mishra of New Delhi-based think tank, Observer Research Foundation, says that “with the victory of the Congress in the regional elections, the invincibility of Prime Minister Modi has now been shattered.”
“For the Congress leader, the result has come as a blessing. He is becoming acceptable to the opposition parties now. With the results on Tuesday, he has managed to shed considerable baggage that has been labeled on him by his political opponent,” said Mishra.
New Delhi-based political analyst, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, said that “for the Congress, the good news is its return not just as a credible alternative, but also to be considered once again a party of governance in the crucial Hindi heartland.”
“After this round of elections, Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a main challenger to Modi because it is under Gandhi’s leadership that Congress has performed well in all the three states,” Mukhopadhyay told Arab News. “His stock is high. He will be a serious challenger to Modi next year.”
“The results will speed up the process of alliance formation that can take on Modi next year. The Indian prime minister will have to cover a lot of ground now. I am sure he is not taking the 2019 elections for granted.”
However, Malviya doubts the results will impact the general elections in 2019. “The next elections would be fought around Modi’s achievement; his leadership and his vision. I don’t think any opposition alliance can defeat us,” he said.
Mukhopadhyay, meanwhile, underlines that “it would be paramount for the BJP to evaluate the ways in which it can recover lost ground in barely four months when it faces the electorate in 2019. The BJP had won 62 of the 65 parliamentary seats from the three states in 2014 and unless the present swing away is reversed, the results could be disappointing and impact its overall tally considerably.”


Portugal suspends visas for Iranians for 'security reasons'

Updated 16 min 53 sec ago
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Portugal suspends visas for Iranians for 'security reasons'

  • Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said Portugal does not play around with entry into its territory

LISBON: Portugal has suspended the issuance of entry visas for Iranian nationals for unspecified security reasons, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.
Answering a question from a committee member on whether such a move had been taken, Santos Silva said during the televised meeting: “Yes, we suspended those for security reasons ... I will provide explanations later, but not publicly.”
“Portugal does not play around with entry into its territory,” he added, without disclosing when the decision was taken.
The chairman declared the meeting closed after about two hours without further off-camera testimony.
Joao Goncalves Pereira, the lawmaker from the conservative CDS-PP party who asked the question, told Reuters: “We received information that visas for Iranians had been suspended for two or three weeks, and we just wanted to confirm that.”
He would not say what was the source of that original information or whether any Iranian nationals had complained about the situation.
Foreign ministry officials had no immediate comment and nobody was available for comment in the Iranian embassy in Lisbon.