Serious differences in anti-BJP alliance over seat allocation

Serious differences in anti-BJP alliance over seat allocation
RJD lays claims on quite many sitting seats of JD-U

Image Credit: PTI
Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav addressing during ‘Bihar Dialogue’, a program on the upcoming Bihar elections, in Patna on Friday.

Serious differences have cropped up in the ruling Grand Secular Alliance over the issue of seat allocation with the allies encroaching into each other’s turf and laying claims on their sitting seats. The problem has turned so complicated that the allies are yet to iron out differences and reach out at the seat adjustments though the nomination process for the first phase of polling has already begun. The five-phase polling starts from October 12.

The fight for seats is more intense between the ruling chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal United (JD-U) and its ally Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) headed by wily politician Lalu Prasad. The JD-U has 115 members in the state assembly whereas RJD has 24. Their other ally, the Congress, on the other hand, has only five members.

Such things were expected to take place right since the time the allies reached at the seat-sharing deal last month. Under the deal, the JD-U and the RJD were given 100 seats each, while 40 seats came to the Congress’ share. No decision has come out over the remaining three seats which initially was spared for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and then to the Samajwadi Party (SP) after the NCP refused. Both the NCP and SP have pulled out of the grand alliance irked at their humiliating treatment.

In the light of the seat-sharing arrangement reached out among them, it was but natural for the JD-U to part with a significant number of sitting seats, some of whom include the ministers in the Nitish Kumar government. But, the JD-U had perhaps never expected that the RJD would go more aggressive in laying claims over seats citing its caste arithmetic and winnability.

Reports said the RJD has laid claims over some 27 sitting seats of the JD-U and also over two dozen seats of the Congress which the latter claim to be its own. While the RJD is said to be hell-bent in getting these seats, the JD-U does not look eager to part with them as that means annoying its “loyal lawmakers” who stayed with the party during the bitter power struggle between Kumar and his successor Jitan Ram Manjhi in February this year. The JD-U leadership apprehends the denial of tickets to these loyal leaders will cause rebellion in the party and lead to mass exodus which will only damage the poll prospects of the ruling alliance.

The problem has been further complicated by the fact that the Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav, children of RJD chief Prasad, have already staked claims on Raghopur and Mahua seats — the seats currently held by the JD-U — and have already launched campaigning in the areas although the issue of seat-allocation is yet to be settled. “The problem for the alliance is that such bids by Prasad’s children will incite others to stake claims on choice seats which will only mess up the situation,” remarked a JD-U leader wishing not be named.

However, the state JD-U president Vashishtha Narayan Singh hopes to sort out these differences soon. “We have sorted out almost 90 per cent of problems, yet 10 per cent still persists. We hope to settle the issue in next couple of days,” Singh claimed.

The RJD has also staked claims on quite many seats of the Congress party which it claimed to have been nursing for long and describe it as their stronghold, forcing the Congress to rebuff its ally. “We have nothing to do with the RJD. Our alliance is with the JD-U and the seat-adjustment talks should be concluded at the earliest,” a senior state Congress leader and former Bihar assembly Speaker Sadanand Singh told the media. The Congress is miffed at the way the RJD is eyeing quite many seats of the party


Pakistani police accuse businessman of helping Al Qaida
He also influenced two militants involved in an attack

KARACHI: Pakistani police have arrested a businessman who donated funds to the Taliban and Al Qaida, police told Reuters on Wednesday, in a rare case targeting those who financially contribute to militancy.

The suspect, Syed Sheaba Ahmed, was detained in the southern city of Karachi, police said although they did not say when. He paid for the treatment of wounded Taliban militants at a hospital in the city of Lahore, police said.

He also influenced two militants involved in an attack on a busload of Shiite Muslims in May that killed 45 people, senior police officer Naveed Khawaja from the provincial Counter Terrorism Department told reporters.

He will be charged with terror financing, said Khawaja.

“Ahmed has also been financing Afghan Taliban, we are still in the process of ascertaining if he has been providing financing through his businesses or someone else is behind him,” the officer said.

“Ahmed was also providing financial assistance to AQIS,” Khawaja said, referring to Al Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, a branch of Al Qaida that was founded a year ago.

The arrest is a rare success for Pakistan’s police force, struggling with militancy and corruption as well as crime.

After Taliban gunmen massacred about 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school in December, the government vowed to crack down on militancy. Attacks have fallen sharply as the military has also pushed further into the lawless regions bordering Afghanistan.

But militant groups remain a threat, and many have followers in Pakistan’s cities, which fall under the control of the chronically under-trained and under-funded police force.

Ahmad, 52, used to give sermons at a mosque in Karachi’s upscale Defence Housing Authority neighbourhood. His public sermons were moderate, but privately he encouraged radicalism, police said.

Police initially said Ahmad had been an air force pilot, but a spokesman for the air force later said although Ahmad had studied at the Pakistan Air Force College in Sargodha city in the 1980s, he was expelled for disciplinary problems and never graduated.

He later went into the paint and chemicals business.


Pakistan lifts bar on 65,000 people from traveling abroad
Thousands had been blacklisted for years for reasons ranging from militancy to petty family disputes

Islamabad: Pakistan will allow 65,000 nationals to go on foreign trips after removing their names from lists that barred them from leaving the country.

Among the people still on the list is name of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf who has been barred by the courts from leaving the country.

The decision was announced by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan on Wednesday.

Thousands of people have been placed on Exit Control List (ECL) and visa blacklist for years for reasons ranging from militancy to petty family disputes.

“After a thorough review, the government decided to delete 4,987 names from the ECL,” Khan said.

He said only those individuals had been retained in ECL who had been on the list for less than three years or were linked with militancy or bared by the judiciary from going abroad.

In addition to revamping the ECL, 59,603 persons were removed from the passport blacklist, he said.

He said that in future, individuals would be placed on the ECL and on the recommendations of defence institutions, intelligence agencies or the superior judiciary.

Khan said that ECL had become a joke and in the past people having links with ministers used the clout to place on ECL over petty domestic issues.


American woman says raped in Himalayan hill station of Dharamsala
Says she passed out after being grabbed by the unidentified men

NEW DELHI: An American tourist has accused two men of raping her in the popular Himalayan hill station of Dharamsala in northern India, police said Thursday, the latest sex attack on a foreigner.

The 46-year-old woman has told police she was walking through a crowded market area of the town, famed for its Tibetan community and home to the Dalai Lama, on Tuesday evening when the attack occurred.

The woman, who had been travelling in India for about a month and was alone in Dharamsala, said she passed out after being grabbed by the unidentified men.

“She says that after waking up she realised that she had been assaulted ... and decided to approach us a day later,” Abhishek Dhullar, police superintendent of Kangra district which includes Dharamsala, said.

“We have registered a case of rape and are investigating the matter. No one has yet been arrested,” Dhullar told AFP.

Police are awaiting detailed results of the woman’s medical examination, seeking witnesses to the incident and studying CCTV footage of the area which was crowded at the time with shoppers and families, he said.

There were no immediate details on how the woman passed out or where she was when she came to.

India introduced tougher laws against sex offenders in the wake of the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012 that sparked mass street protests and international outrage.

But violence against Indian women continues at alarming levels in the world’s second most populous country.

A series of foreign women have also reported sex attacks while visiting India. In February, a Japanese woman accused a tourist guide of drugging and raping her in the historic city of Jaipur.

Five men were arrested in January over the alleged gang-rape of a Japanese tourist who was held as a sex slave for nearly a month in the country’s east.

And six men are currently on trial for the rape of a Danish tourist in 2014 in Delhi.


China derides ‘groundless’ Philippine warning of election sabotage
Official did not elaborate on how he thought China might try to interfere with the votes

MANILA: China rejected on Wednesday a suggestion from a Philippines election official that China might try to sabotage a presidential election in the Philippines next year, saying it was “sheer fabrication”.

The suggestion of Chinese meddling in the May election appeared to stem from a dispute between the neighbours over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea.

Election Commission official Christian Robert Lim told legislators earlier that his agency had transferred production of vote-counting machines from China after intelligence reports that China planned to sabotage the elections because of the South China Sea dispute.

The spokeswoman at China’s embassy in the Philippines denied any such plan.

“The so-called ‘attempt by China’ to ‘sabotage’ the 2016 elections is totally groundless and a sheer fabrication,” the embassy spokeswoman, Li Lingxiao, said in a statement.

“China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference into other countries’ internal affairs.” Philippine voters will in May elect a president, vice president and more than 18,000 legislators and local government executives.

Lim did not elaborate on how he thought China might try to interfere with the votes but said the 20,000 vote-counting machines would be manufactured in Taiwan instead of China.

Philippine government spokesmen were not available to comment on Lim’s suggestion of Chinese skulduggery.

The Philippines and China have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, including areas of the Spratly Islands and the Philippines has lodged a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over the dispute.

China has declined to take part.

China claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei claim overlapping parts of the strategic waterway.


Japan lawmakers scuffle over controversial security bills
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to vent their anger

Image Credit: AP
Japanese lawmakers scuffle during a committee voting of security bills at the upper house in Tokyo on Thursday. Parliament braced for another battle of wills after opposition MPs used delaying tactics to block the committee from meeting to approve bills.

TOKYO: Japanese lawmakers scuffled on Thursday during a heated debate over a security bill that could see the military fight abroad for the first time in decades, after thousands rallied to voice their anger.

In scenes uncommon for Japan’s normally sedate parliament, members of the opposition and the ruling coalition pushed and shoved each other as a committee chairman was surrounded.

Opposition lawmaker Tetsuro Fukuyama later made an emotional speech outlining why his party had submitted a motion to delay the bills, which could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since World War II.

“Is the ruling party listening to the voices of the public? You can do whatever you want to do because you have a majority — is that what you think?” he said, on the verge of tears.

Tensions were running high after the committee vote was repeatedly delayed through Wednesday night, as opposition lawmakers blocked doorways and packed the corridors of parliament in protest.

A total of 13 people were also reportedly arrested during the evening for “interfering with officers” during a rally that saw an estimated 13,000 people gather outside parliament in Tokyo.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to vent their anger during almost daily rallies over the past weeks, a show of public feeling on a scale rarely seen in Japan.

Under the planned changes, the military — known as the Self-Defense Forces — would have the option of going into battle to protect allies such as the United States even if there was no direct threat to Japan itself or its people.

Although the constitution, which bars troops from taking part in combat except in pure self-defence, was imposed by US occupiers, many Japanese feel strongly any change in the law would alter the country’s pacifist character.

More protesters braved wet weather on Thursday, gathering outside parliament in plastic raincoats waving their umbrellas and shouting “stop the bills” as the committee debate rumbled on inside.

Some held up pictures of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a Hitler haircut and moustache.

The bills are scheduled to be sent to a plenary session of the upper house after being voted on by the committee, potentially seeing them become law this week.

Abe is keen to get the bills passed before a three-day holiday next week.

The proposed legislation sailed through the lower house — where Abe’s coalition commands a two-thirds majority — in July.

Parliamentary rules say if the upper chamber does not pass the bills within 60 days, they can be returned to the lower house and voted into law.

Abe is reportedly ready to take this step, despite the risk of further angering an already-hostile public.

There are growing signs the bills have taken a toll on Abe’s once high popularity. Opinion polls also show most voters oppose them.

Many legal scholars have said the changes are unconstitutional, and critics worry they would drag Japan into American wars in far-flung parts of the globe.

Abe and his supporters say the bills are necessary to deal with a changing security environment marked by an increasingly assertive China and unpredictable North Korea.

Serious differences in anti-BJP alliance over seat allocation Serious differences in anti-BJP alliance over seat allocation Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 7:54 PM Rating: 5

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