The counting of votes in the Assembly Elections across five states are currently underway. The Left Front is set to retain power in Kerala, it’s a tight contest in Tamil Nadu but DMK appears to be heading towards a comfortable victory and the BJP alliance in Puducherry looks set to win Puducherry. But it is West Bengal and Assam that we will be focusing on here.
Assam and West Bengal are two states where minority vote-share impacts BJP’s chances of victory majorly. In Assam, the percentage of minority vote share is actually greater than in West Bengal. And yet, it is in Assam that BJP has managed to secure a comfortable victory while facing a rout in West Bengal.
According to the official website of the Election Commission of India (ECI), the Trinamool Congress is leading in 201 seats while the BJP only in 78 (as of 1.40 p.m.). The corresponding vote-shares are 48.55% for the TMC and 37.40% for the BJP.
The BJP might seek to take some consolation from the fact that it is set to see an exponential increase in its seat share these elections but there is really no way to spin this. The saffron vote-share has actually gone down from the 2019 General Elections, where the BJP managed to secure over 40% of the votes.
The answer is clear, the kind of Hindu consolidation that was observed in 2019 just did not occur in 2021 in favour of the BJP. A significant enough section of its Hindu votes went over to the TMC instead.
The questions that need to be answered is why did it happen and the underlying factors behind it. And for that, the BJP needs to look at what it did right in Assam. In Assam, the BJP’s strategy was consolidation of Hindu votes without a hyper focus on individual group identities in its narrative.
It was the polar opposite in West Bengal with the party focusing on the Matua community and the Mahisya community greatly. The result was that Hindu consolidation did not happen on the ground and the hyper focus on these identities did not pay off in the polls.
Mamata Banerjee appears to be sweeping Matua and Mahisya dominated constituencies as well. It is true that the concerns of individual identities need to be address to secure elections but in West Bengal, there was a hyper focus on such identities without an overarching Hindu centric narrative.
In Assam, leaders made no qualms about banking on Hindu consolidation to win elections. A great deal was focused on the fact that the anti-CAA sentiment in Upper Assam was going to cost BJP severely. But it did not.
Because the narrative was that differences between Assamese Hindus and Bengali Hindus could be sorted by political arrangement between the two, which was not possible with the growing Muslim community in the state.
The fact of the matter is that the BJP did not go hard enough on Hindu consolidation in Bengal. It is also unclear as of now the extent to which not implementing the CAA affected the election outcomes in the state.
There will be those sympathizers of the party who will blame the voters of Bengal for the results. But such conversations are futile. In a democracy, not a single vote is owed to any political party. Every political party must earn its vote.
A significant share of people (around 3-4%) who voted for the BJP in 2019 voted for Mamata Banerjee this time around. Why was it the case? That is for the parties to analyse the results and find out but it’s pointless to blame voters for the same.
In 2019, the vote in Bengal was polarised along religious lines and in 2021 it was not. As a consequence, BJP lost massively in 2021 and even had their strongholds breached. In Assam, both in 2019 and 2021, the vote was polarised along religious lines and hence, the party won.
Some will argue that it was the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 where Prime Minister Modi himself was on the ballot and this time around, it is the Assembly Elections. But the fact remains that many issues in these two states that were relevant in 2019 are relevant this time around as well.
The CAA, illegal immigration and the influence of minority vote-share were equally significant now as they were in 2019. Going forward, the path forward for the BJP is clear. Instead of a hyper focus on individual identities, the part must tread the path of unabashed Hindu vote consolidation.
There is also the case that the BJP did not have strong local leaders in West Bengal. But indeed, Dilip Ghosh and Suvendu Adhikari are extremely popular. And yet, the BJP has lost massively in these constituencies as well. The party surely has to spend significant time on a great deal of introspection on the setback, which it undoubtedly is.
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Delhi police interrogates Youth Congress president in court ordered probe
The Delhi police today questioned Youth Congress president Srinivas B V over the allegations of illegal procurement and distribution of Covid-19 drugs in an ongoing investigation ordered by the Delhi High Court. The police have already questioned some AAP and BJP leaders in the case, and will question more politicians from various parties.
A team of the Delhi Police Crime Branch today reached the headquarters of the Indian Youth Congress to interrogate President Srinivas B V about the source of COVID-19 relief material his organisation is using to help the people. The police were acting on the directions of the Delhi High Court, who had asked it to conduct an enquiry into the involvement of politicians in the alleged illegal distribution of COVID-19 medicines.
दिल्ली पुलिस की क्राइम ब्रांच की टीम यूथ कांग्रेस अध्यक्ष श्रीनिवास से पूछताछ करने पहुँची है,पूछ रहे हैं ज़रूरतमंद लोगों के लिए राहत सामग्री कहा से लाते है ? pic.twitter.com/uUAHdEoFai
— Aadesh Rawal (@AadeshRawal) May 14, 2021
While the Congress party raised an outrage over the questioning, and ‘neutral’ journalists questioned the appropriateness of investigating someone for distributing Covid-19 aid, it may be noted that BJP leaders have also been questioned and are being questioned in the same case. On May 11, Delhi BJP leader Harish Khuranna had informed that he was also questioned by Delhi Police, and he had given a statement.
“I gave them my statement and said I have never hoarded, purchased or sold any medicines. I went through official channels to help people get access to medicines. They showed me a copy of the High Court order based on which the enquiry is taking place,” Khurana said.
On the same day, the Delhi Police Crime Branch had questioned AAP MLA Dilip Pandey too in connection with alleged “illegal distribution of Covid medicines, etc”.
Delhi HC directs Police to enquire into the charge of “medical-mafia-political nexus” in the distribution of COVID-19 medicines
The inquiry by the Delhi Police is being conducted in accordance with a Delhi High Court order, which asked them to carry out an investigation into the involvement of politicians in the alleged illegal distribution of COVID-19 medicines. The Delhi Police is likely to summon BJP MP Gautam Gambhir, who is also at the forefront of helping people during the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.
A petition was filed by Dr Deepak Singh, Chairman of Hruduya Foundation, in the Delhi High Court, seeking a CBI probe into an alleged “medical mafia-politician nexus” and illegal distribution of COVID medicines by politicians. The petitioner had mentioned Gambir, Srinivas, as well as BJP leaders Sujay Vikhe, Gautam Gambhir and Shirish Chaudhari, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Congress MLA Mukesh Sharma, NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Rohit Pawar, citing the instances of Remdesivir distributed by them. The petition had also asked for the detention of such persons for allegedly indulging in black-marketing of Covid-19 medicines as per the National Security Act, 1980, and to disqualify the MLAs and MPs.
The court on May 4 had turned down the plea of filing FIR and CBI probe, but had asked the Delhi Police to examine the issue. The Court had asked the police to look into the instances of politicians allegedly directly procuring Remdesivir and distributing them to Covid-19 patients, and to file FIR if any irregularities were found. The court asked the state to file a status report within a week and listed the case for hearing on May 17.
“In case alleged incidents are found to have taken place in Delhi, Delhi Police should take appropriate steps by registration of FIR,” said the division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli in an order.
Surge Tests, Vaccine Measures as B1.617.2 Covid-19 Variant Spreads Rapidly in Parts of UK
The case numbers related to the B1.617.2 variant of Covid-19, first identified in India, have more than doubled within a week in the UK, resulting in further surge testing and enhanced vaccine measures to be deployed in parts of the country where the strain is beginning to spread increasingly rapidly. Public Health England (PHE) said on Thursday that its latest analysis shows the number of cases of the highly transmissible variant first detected in Maharashtra has risen from 520 last week to 1,313 cases this week.
Most cases are in the northwest of England, with some in London, and additional measures are being put in place to “rapidly break chains of transmission”. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the health authorities are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary, indicating that the roadmap to lifting all lockdown measures from June 21 may have to be reassessed.
This data demonstrates why our swift and decisive measures are in place. Everyone has a part to play in controlling this variant, from participating in surge testing, to following the rules, to getting the jab, said Hancock. We are committed to working with local areas and deploying our world-leading genomic sequencing to get this variant under control. We are supporting areas where the cases of this variant are rising, he said.
The minister said it is imperative that people who live in one of the 15 areas currently covered by surge testing processes get a free PCR test and everyone who’s eligible needs to come forward and get their vaccine. PHE said that while there is no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on the severity of disease or that it evades vaccines, the “speed of growth is concerning”.
Cases of this variant are rising in the community and we are continuously monitoring its spread and severity to ensure we take rapid public health action, said Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE. Testing and isolating when required not only limits spread, it helps us to better understand how the variant behaves in the community which is vital to taking effective and proportionate action moving forward “The way to limit the spread of all variants is the same. Keep your distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when inside, keep buildings well ventilated and meet people from other households outside, she said.
The variant was confirmed as a “Variant of Concern” by PHE on May 7 after a rise in cases and evidence of spread in some areas. Since then across the northwest of England, significant work is underway with local councils and partners. In Bolton, mobile testing units have been deployed and door to door PCR testing has been offered to 22,000 residents. A vaccine bus has been established in the heart of the community to increase vaccine uptake as part of a wider drive.
PCR testing, whole genome sequencing and enhanced contact tracing are being used throughout London to target the many small dispersed clusters. All positive tests in London with a high enough viral load are also being prioritised for genomic sequencing to check for variants, and surge testing can begin immediately if it is needed. Taking this community-led approach has already proved effective in reducing transmission of variants in London to date, PHE said.
To help identify variant cases, surge testing is being deployed in 15 areas across England to suppress transmission, with more than 800,000 additional PCR test kits distributed. According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), over 4,400 cases and over 14,000 close contacts have been traced and instructed to self-isolate.
Over 200 existing test sites and 130 schools have distributed test kits, with Mobile Testing Units deployed to provide PCR testing for people without symptoms. The public is also being urged to continue to take up the offer of two free rapid tests a week, to help identify asymptomatic cases. Anyone who does test positive in this way should take a follow-up PCR test, which can be sent for genome sequencing to help catch new variant cases.
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