India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

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A young Indian National Congress supporter waves the National Congress party flag during a political rally of National Congress president Rahul Gandhi at Asarana village, in Bhavnagar district, some 300 kms from Ahmedabad on April 15, 2019, ahead of the second phase of India's general election. (AFP)
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Indian National Congress supporters cheer during a political rally of National Congress president Rahul Gandhi at Asarana village, in Bhavnagar district, some 300 kms from Ahmedabad on April 15, 2019, ahead of the second phase of India's general election. (AFP)
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This combination of file pictures created on April 8, 2019 shows (L) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaving from 10 Downing Street in central London on April 18, 2018; and (R) India's Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Mumbai on March 1, 2019. (AFP)
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Indian electoral officials carrying Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) leave a distribution centre to get the machines in Ahmedabad on April 22, 2019, the day before the third phase of India's general election. (AFP)
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Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi (C) gestures after laying a wreath to pay tribute on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs memorial in Amritsar on April 13, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2019
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India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

  • Rahul Gandhi is standing in Wayanad in Kerala state, taking a risk as south India is considered a stronghold of regional parties
  • This election is seen as a referendum on his five-year rule — which has seen impressive economic growth but not the jobs that the BJP promised

NEW DELHI: Indians are voting Tuesday in the third phase of the general elections with campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party and the opposition marred by bitter accusations and acrimony.
People lined up outside voting station at several places even before the polling started at 7 a.m.
The voting for 117 parliamentary seats in 13 states and two Union Territories on Tuesday means polls are half done for 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The voting over seven phases ends May 19, with counting scheduled for May 23.
The election is seen as a referendum on Modi’s five-year rule. He has adopted a nationalist pitch trying to win the majority Hindu votes by projecting a tough stance against Islamic neighbor Pakistan.
The opposition is challenging him for a high unemployment rate of 6.1% and farmers’ distress aggravated by low crop prices.
Modi is scheduled to vote on Tuesday in his western home state of Gujarat, though he is contesting for a parliamentary seat from Varanasi, a city in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The voting also is taking place in Wayanad constituency in southern Kerala state, one of the two seats from where opposition Congress party president, Rahul Gandhi, is contesting. His home bastion, Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh state will have polling on May 6. He will give up one seat if he wins from both places.
The voting is staggered to facilitate movement of security forces to oversee an orderly election and avoid vote fraud.
India’s autonomous Election Commission intervened last week to block hate speeches by imposing a temporary ban on campaigning by some top politicians across political parties.
Uttar Pradesh state chief minister Yogi Adityanath of Modi’s BJP was barred from campaigning, in the form of public meetings, road shows or media interviews, for three days for making anti-Muslim speeches. He said a Hindu god will ensure the BJP victory in elections, while the opposition was betting on Muslim votes.
Mayawati, a leader of Bahujan Samaj Party, was punished for 48 hours for appealing to Muslims to vote only for her party. India’s top court ordered strict action against politicians for religion and caste-based remarks.
Hindus comprise 80% and Muslims 16% of India’s 1.3 billion people. The opposition accuses the BJP of trying to polarize the Hindu votes in its favor.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP leader, filed a contempt of court petition against Rahul Gandhi in the Supreme Court for misrepresenting a court order while accusing Modi of corruption in a deal to buy 36 French Rafale fighter aircraft. Modi denies the charge.
Modi has used Kashmir to pivot away from his economic record, playing up the threat of rival Pakistan, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy on Feb. 14 that killed 40 soldiers, in a bid to appear a strong, uncompromising leader on national security. The bombing brought nuclear rivals India and Pakistan close to the brink of war.
Opposition parties have consistently said that Modi and his party leaders are digressing from the main issues such as youth employment and farmers’ suicides.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.


WHO: Tanzania not sharing information on Ebola

Updated 52 min 28 sec ago

WHO: Tanzania not sharing information on Ebola

  • WHO issues rare public rebuke as the region struggles to contain an outbreak already declared a global health emergency

DAR ES SALAAM: Tanzania is refusing to provide detailed information on suspected Ebola cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, a rare public rebuke as the region struggles to contain an outbreak already declared a global health emergency.
Transparency and speed are key to combating the deadly hemorrhagic fever because the disease can spread rapidly. Contacts of any potentially infected person must be quarantined and the public warned to step up precautions like handwashing.
WHO said in a statement released late on Saturday that it was made aware on Sept. 10 of the death of a patient in Dar es Salaam, and unofficially told the next day that the person tested positive for Ebola. The woman had died on Sept. 8.
“Identified contacts of the deceased were unofficially reported to be quarantined in various sites in the country,” the statement said.
WHO said it was unofficially told that Tanzania had two other possible Ebola cases. One had tested negative and there was no information on the other one.
Officially, the Tanzanian government said last weekend it had no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola. The government did not address the death of the woman directly and did not provide any further information.
Despite several requests “clinical data, results of the investigations, possible contacts and potential laboratory tests performed ... have not been communicated to WHO,” the UN health agency said.
“The limited available official information from Tanzanian authorities represents a challenge.”
Authorities in east and central Africa have been on high alert for possible spill-overs of Ebola from the Democratic Republic of Congo where a year-long outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people.
Last week the US health secretary, Alex Azar criticized Tanzania for its failure to share information on the possible outbreak. The next day he dispatched a senior US health official to Tanzania.
Uganda, which neighbors Congo, has already recorded several cases after sick patients crossed the border. A quick government response there prevented the disease spreading.
The 34-year-old woman who died in Dar es Salaam had traveled to Uganda, according to a leaked internal WHO document circulated earlier this month. She showed signs of Ebola including headache, fever, rash, bloody diarrhea on Aug. 10 and eventually died on Sept. 8.
Tanzania is heavily reliant on tourism and an outbreak of Ebola would likely lead to a dip in visitor numbers.
The WHO statement is not the first time international organizations have queried information from the government of President John Magufuli, nicknamed The Bulldozer for his pugnacious ruling style. Earlier this year both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund contradicted the government’s economic growth figure for 2018.