India’s Modi stuns opposition with huge election win

Indian supporters and party workers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dance as they celebrate on the vote results day for India's general election in Bangalore on May 23, 2019. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP)
Updated 23 May 2019
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India’s Modi stuns opposition with huge election win

  • Election Commission data showed the Bharatiya Janata Party leading in contests for 206 seats
  • A party or coalition needs a simple majority, or 272 seats, to govern in India

NEW DELHI/AYODHYA: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi scored a dramatic election victory on Thursday, putting his Hindu nationalist party on course to increase its majority on a mandate of business-friendly policies and a tough stand on national security.
His re-election reinforces a global trend of right-wing populists sweeping to victory, from the United States to Brazil and Italy, often after adopting harsh positions on protectionism, immigration and defense.
Official data from the Election Commission showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead in 300 of the 542 seats up for grabs, up from the 282 it won in 2014 and more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament.
That would give his party the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984.
“Together we will build a strong and inclusive India,” Modi said on Twitter. “India wins yet again!“
Modi has slashed red tape in the world’s fifth-largest economy, though some overseas firms, including Amazon, Walmart and Mastercard, have complained about policies they say are designed to benefit domestic rivals.
He will face demands to provide jobs for the tens of millions of young people coming on to the market in the next few years and to boost depressed farm incomes.
“The immediate challenges are to address employment, the issue of agricultural income and revive the banking sector,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care Ratings in Mumbai.
But making good on his promise of unity will be difficult as the BJP campaign was often divisive, and India’s Muslim minority has expressed fears that policies aimed at pleasing the Hindu majority could imperil their livelihoods.
Modi’s pledge of a strong stand against a separatist movement in Muslim-majority Kashmir has fueled tension with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, although its prime minister, Imran Khan, congratulated Modi on his win.
“Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Khan added on Twitter.
Besides a harder line on national security, BJP members will look to Modi for progress on a project to building a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindu zealots in the northern holy town of Ayodhya in 1992.
“I want Modi to finish terrorism from Kashmir (and) make Pakistan bite the dust again and again,” said Shekhar Chahal, a BJP worker from the capital, New Delhi.
“I am confident that Modi will also make the temple in Ayodhya.”

Celebrations begin

Cheering supporters set off firecrackers and showered the mastermind of the campaign, BJP President Amit Shah, with petals as he arrived at party headquarters in New Delhi.
“It’s a stamp of approval by voters on the honest and decisive leadership of Prime Minister Modi,” said Nalin S Kohli, a BJP spokesman.
The NDA’s predicted margin of victory, at 348 seats versus 85 for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, according to broadcaster NDTV, far exceeds survey forecasts in the run-up to the vote.
Most polls indicated a victory for Modi’s alliance but expected it to fall short of an overall majority.
Final results are due by Thursday evening.
(Click HERE https://reut.rs/2VXBoxz for graphic of live updates of election results)

Security swing
Modi was under pressure when he began campaigning, losing three state elections in December amid rising anger over farm prices and unemployment.
However, campaigning shifted toward India’s relationship with Pakistan after a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian police in February in the Himalayan region of Kashmir claimed by both countries.
Modi ordered an air strike on what India said was a militant training camp on the Pakistani side of the border, a tough response that benefited the right-wing BJP, analysts said.
While Pakistan has signalled a willingness to open talks with India, it also displayed its military might, with the test of a surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of up to 1,500 miles (2,400 km).
The BJP has also capitalized the star power of Modi, a frenetic campaigner, as well as its superior financial resources.
It outspent Congress by six times on Facebook and Google advertising, data showed, and by as much as 20 times overall, sources told Reuters this month.
The main opposition Congress party was ahead in just 52 seats, but its leader Rahul Gandhi, twice defeated in general elections by Modi, refused to rule out resigning as party chief in a brief televised news conference.
Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister, lost to the BJP candidate in the northern constituency of Amethi the family has held almost continuously for the last four decades.
But he was leading in the southern constituency from which he is also running for parliament.
“The Congress party has not been able to improve at all,” said Rahul Verma, a fellow at the center for Policy Research in New Delhi.
“One big story is the emerging challenge for the Congress to remain a national alternative to the BJP. That now is under question.”

Strong leader
In the populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the largest number of lawmakers to parliament, the BJP was leading in 60 of the 80 seats in the fray, out in front of a powerful alliance of caste-based parties campaigning to improve rural conditions.
“After the air strike on Pakistan, almost all these important issues started fading and farmers decided to cast their ballot for the BJP,” said Raghubar Das, 55, who grows rice and wheat on the outskirts of Ayodhya, which many devout Hindus believe to be the birthplace of the God-king Rama.
“Mind you, they didn’t vote for the BJP, they voted for Modi. Everyone loves a strong a leader.”
The party also won seats in several states where it has long struggled, including West Bengal, where it took on the Trinamool Congress, a powerful regional party. Data showed it leading in 19 of 42 seats, surpassing the two it won in 2014, data showed.
Investors welcomed Modi’s victory, hoping his government will push through reforms.
Indian stocks surged more than 5 percent this week to hit record highs on Thursday, but the euphoria fizzled quickly, with stocks and the rupee ending the day weaker, as the focus returned to a faltering economy.


World population expected to rise to 9.7 billion in 2050: UN

In this Jan. 31, 2014 file photo released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), shows residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, lining up to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. (AP)
Updated 48 min 25 sec ago
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World population expected to rise to 9.7 billion in 2050: UN

  • The global fertility rate fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 births in 2019 and is projected to decline further to 2.2 births by 2050

UNITED NATIONS: The world’s population is getting older and growing at a slower pace but is still expected to increase from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, the United Nations said Monday.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division said in a new report that world population could reach its peak of nearly 11 billion around the end of the century.
But Population Division Director John Wilmoth cautioned that because 2100 is many decades away this outcome “is not certain, and in the end the peak could come earlier or later, at a lower or higher level of total population.”
The new population projections indicate that nine countries will be responsible for more than half the projected population growth between now and 2050. In descending order of the expected increase, they are: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States.
In sub-Saharan Africa, population is projected to nearly double by 2050, the report said.
Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Lu Zhenmin said in a statement: “Many of the fastest growing populations are in the poorest countries, where population growth brings additional challenges in the effort to eradicate poverty,” promote gender equality and improve health care and education.
The report confirmed that the world’s population is growing older due to increasing life expectancy and falling fertility levels.
The global fertility rate fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 births in 2019 and is projected to decline further to 2.2 births by 2050.
A fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman is need to ensure population replacement and avoid declines, according to the report.
In 2019, the fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa was the highest at 4.6 births per woman, with Pacific islands, northern Africa, and western, central and southern Asia above the replacement level, said the report.
But since 2010, it said 27 countries or areas have lost one percent or more of their population.
“Between 2019 and 2050 populations are projected to decrease by one percent or more in 55 countries or areas, of which 26 may see a reduction of at least 10 percent,” the UN said. “In China, for example, the population is projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or around 2.2 percent, between 2019 and 2050.”
Wilmoth, the head of the Population Division, told a news conference launching the report that the population growth rate is slowing down as the fertility level gradually decreases. That decrease usually follows a reduction in the mortality level that initially instigated growth, he said.
Wilmoth stressed that multiple factors lead to lower fertility including increasing education and employment, especially for women, and more jobs in urban than rural areas, which motivate people away from costly large families to smaller families.
But to achieve this, he said, people also need access to modern methods of contraception.
According to the “World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights” report, migration is also a major component of population growth or loss in some countries.
Between 2010 and 2020, it said 14 countries or areas will see a net inflow of more than one million migrants while 10 countries will experience a similar loss.
For example, some of the largest outflows of people — including from Bangladesh, Mepal and the Philippines — are driven by the demand for migrant workers, the report said. But some migrants are driven from their home countries by violence, insecurity and conflict, including from Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela.
The UN said countries experiencing a net inflow of migrants over the decade include Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.