New political alliance increases pressure on India’s ruling party

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati (L) speaks as and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav address a news conference to announce their alliance for the upcoming national election, in Lucknow, India, on January 12, 2019. (REUTERS/Pawan Kumar)
Updated 12 January 2019
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New political alliance increases pressure on India’s ruling party

  • Uttar Pradesh is a bellwether of national politics, accounting for 80 of the 552 members of Parliament in New Delhi
  • The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have joined hands to counter the ruling party

NEW DELHI: Two regional parties that were former bitter rivals announced an unlikely alliance on Saturday to fight Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party in a looming general election.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — key players in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — said they would set aside their differences to jointly fight Modi in the bedrock state.
The two central-left parties have widespread support among lower castes and poor voters across the state — India’s most populous, with 220 million people.
Uttar Pradesh is a bellwether of national politics, accounting for 80 of the 552 members of Parliament in New Delhi. An election is expected to be held in April and May and one recent poll indicated Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may fall short of a majority.
Akhilesh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party head, said the alliance would counter the “divisive politics” of the BJP, which won a landslide victory in 2014.
“The BJP is dividing the country, it is stoking fear and hatred among communities,” Yadav told a news conference sat alongside Mayawati, a popular low-caste leader who heads the BSP. The parties, which will contest 38 seats each out of the state’s 80, left the main opposition Congress party out of the alliance.
The two have been fierce rivals in recent years. They teamed up in 1993 and formed the Uttar Pradesh state government but relations soured after Mayawati said she was assaulted by Samajwadi Party activists in 1995.
Modi’s BJP suffered a rare reverse when it lost three key state elections to Congress last month, amid discontent over unemployment and economic inequality.
A BJP spokesman played down the importance of the alliance.
“We are confident. Even if all the parties come together, we will still win,” Sudhanshu Trivedi told reporters in Delhi where the BJP is holding a key convention.
Modi rallied 10,000 party workers at the convention, dismissing critics who say his policies harm the poor.
“During our time there has not been a single corruption allegation against us,” he said. “We believe in treating everyone equally and taking the country on the path of development.”


UN report: Sex abuse in UN peacekeeping drops, up elsewhere

A UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) liaison fixes her colleagues hat as they attend the UNIFLIS's 40th anniversary celebration at its base in Lebanon's southern border town of Naqura on the border with Israel, south of Beirut, on March 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 36 min 16 sec ago
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UN report: Sex abuse in UN peacekeeping drops, up elsewhere

  • Guterres said the increase in those allegations was possibly due to "awareness-raising" and improved reporting by the 30 U.N. agencies, funds and programs

UNITED NATIONS: Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in U.N. peacekeeping missions decreased in 2018 — but allegations against other U.N. personnel and against staff of organizations implementing U.N. programs increased, according to a U.N. report released Monday.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the U.N. General Assembly circulated Monday that the alleged victims were mainly women and children.
The United Nations has long been in the spotlight over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo. But the latest figures demonstrate again that sexual misconduct spans the entire U.N. system and beyond to outside organizations helping to implement its programs on the ground.
Guterres stressed the U.N.'s "zero-tolerance" policy and said he has embarked on "a cultural transformation" to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation throughout the U.N. system, which comprises more than 90,000 staff and over 100,000 uniformed personnel.
According to the report, the number of cases in U.N. peacekeeping and political missions dropped to 54 in 2018 from 62 in 2017, and from 104 reported cases in 2016. It said 74 percent of the allegations in 2018 came from the U.N. peacekeeping forces in Central African Republic and Congo, and the remaining 24 percent from the peacekeeping missions in Mali, Haiti, Liberia and South Sudan.
By comparison, there were 94 reported cases of sexual exploitation elsewhere in the United Nations system, and 109 allegations involving U.N. partner organizations, the report said.
Guterres said the increase in those allegations was possibly due to "awareness-raising" and improved reporting by the 30 U.N. agencies, funds and programs.
The U.N. chief stressed that continuing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse "harms those we serve, undermines the United Nations values and principles and tarnishes the reputation of the women and men who work with integrity and dedication to realize the objectives of the organization."