Karnataka polls 2023: Battle of survival for JDS or kingmaker once again?

News Network
January 15, 2023

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Will the 2023 Karnataka assembly polls be a battle of political survival for former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda-led JD(S), or will the regional party once again emerge as a kingmaker, like it did in 2018, in the event of a hung verdict?

Plagued by desertions, internal rifts, and with the image of a "family party", it remains to be seen how Gowda's son and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, who is in a way single handedly managing the JD(S)' affairs with aging father taking the back seat, would steer the party in the upcoming Assembly polls.

Since the time of its formation in 1999, JD(S) has never formed a government on its own, but had been in power twice in coalition with both national parties- for 20 months with BJP from February 2006 and with Congress for 14 months after the May 2018 assembly polls- with Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister.

This time however, the party has set an ambitious target of "mission 123" to independently form a government on its own by winning at least 123 out of total 224 seats going for polls by May, and has been seeking votes repeatedly invoking regional Kannadiga pride and asserting itself to be the only Kannadiga party.

There are however doubts among political observers and within a section of the party itself about JD(S) meeting this ambitious target, as the party's best ever performance so far has been in the 2004 assembly elections, when it won 58 seats, and 40 seats in 2013 was its second best.

In the 2018 polls, JD(S) had managed to win 37 seats. However, some party leaders are hopeful about the JD(S)' prospects of coming to power, by winning a few more seats than they did last time, and once again using the knack of power politics, by holding the key for government formation, in the event of a hung verdict.

"If such a situation arise we will certainly push for our Kumaranna (Kumaraswamy) to become the Chief Minister, but we will be more cautious on our choices and the bargain with the probable alliance partner this time after last time's bad experience," a JD(S) functionary not wanting to be named said, as he maintained that if not 123, the party will at least better its tally this time.

The party’s vote share is stagnant, if not shrinking. It has been ranging between 18-20 per cent, as the party has managed to continue its hold on a sizable number of constituencies, predominantly in the Vokkaliga belt of Old Mysuru region. It is this Gowda family’s hold over the Vokkaliga community that dominates the Old Mysuru region comprising 61 seats (excluding the 28 constituencies in Bengaluru), which the ruling BJP and Congress are looking forward to breaking and improving their prospects.

Congress is considerably strong in Old Mysuru region and has been a traditional rival for the JD(S) in the belt, the BJP however is weak here and is aiming to make swift inroads with an aim to get a clear majority.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his recent visit had asked his party leaders to concentrate on the region.

According to political analyst A Narayana from the Azim Premji University, how strong or weak the JD(S) actually is can be decided only after the candidates list is announced, because its survival depends on how many strong aspirants rejected by other parties join it. "It decides two things- the percentage of votes JD(S) is going to poll and the number of seats they win. In constituencies where JD(S) doesn't have strong candidates, they depend on rejects from other parties," he said.

Further, he said that the question is also whether the JD(S) is stronger or weaker in their core area of old Mysuru, when compared to 2018. It appears on the face of it that they are weak, for two reasons- one series of desertions since 2018, second Congress is in a better position among the Vokkaligas; one of the factors for it is D K Shivakumar (a Vokkaliga) as President.

"Also in the 2018 elections, JD(S) won in Mandya and Hassan districts, only because of Vokkaliga anger against Siddaramaiah, and that seems to have not disappeared now but subsided," he said, adding that how the BJP making inroads in Old Mysuru region will affect the JD(S) or Congress, is the question that cannot be answered at the moment.

Political observers are also of the view that the perception about JD(S) being too family centric is one of its major drawbacks.

Eight members of Gowda's immediate family are into active politics. Gowda, who is the JD(S) supremo, is also Member of Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, while his son Kumaraswamy is a former CM and MLA from Channapatna. Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha is MLA from Ramanagara segment, and his son Nikhil, who is the JD(S) youth wing President, had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Mandya. The party supremo's elder son H D Revanna is a former minister and MLA from Holenarsipura, his wife Bhavani Revanna was a member of the Hassan Zilla Panchayat, and their sons Prajwal and Suraj are MP from Hassan and a MLC respectively.

The Gowda family has its representation in all the four major houses of public representatives- Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council.

James Manor, University of London professor, who has been a keen observer of Karnataka's politics, during a webinar recently said, family-centred politics is causing discontent and leading to desertion. "JD(S) suffers from over-centralisation and dictatorial leadership." Narayana too echoing similar sentiments said, the party is perceived to be "over family centric", even among Vokkaligas, leading to leaders deserting the party. "It was also one of the primary reasons for JD(S)' rout in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which was its lowest point ever since the party's formation."

According to some political observers, JD(S) inability to grow beyond the Vokkaliga-dominated old Mysuru region, other than in certain select pockets of north Karnataka is seen among its other drawbacks.

Kumaraswamy on Saturday however exuded confidence that his party will grow beyond its traditional old Mysuru region in the upcoming assembly polls and form a government on its own strength in Karnataka. He also claimed that there is a strong undercurrent in favour of him and his party, especially in rural areas.

Narayana further pointed out that Vokkaliga's support for JD(S) has not been consistent. "Of all the caste groups in Karnataka, I would say that Vokkaligas are more matured voters...In one election they will support Deve Gowda and when they perceive that his government or party has not done well or have disappointed them, they don't hesitate in shifting to Congress. This has happened consistently."

Amid questions of the party's survival and "shortage" of active leaders, Kumaraswamy is on a "Pancharatna Ratha Yatre", a statewide tour that he is undertaking ahead of polls.

This Yatre is to inform people about a five-fold programme called 'Pancharatna' that the JD(S) plans to implement on coming to power, which includes quality education, farmer welfare and employment. He has already announced a list of 93 candidates for the assembly polls, and will announce the second list of 50-60 candidates in about 10 days. " I want to give opportunity to fresh faces...want to build a second line of leadership in the party," he has said.

JD(S) believes it suffered damage in 2018 polls, when the Congress repeatedly called it the BJP’s ‘B’ team, which resulted in Muslim votes going away. The party's decision to bring C M Ibrahim as its state president might be a step towards regaining minority votes. However, noting that any such impact would be marginal, Narayana said, as there a growing sense of insecurity among Muslims this time they may go for strategic voting in which they may completely vote in favour of a party or in favour of the candidate, who is most likely to win against BJP in their segment.

Whatever said and done, one needs to be careful before writing off the JD(S), as before every election since 2008, discussions have always taken place in media and political circles, about it being a battle of survival for the regional party, but it has continued to remain a relevant force, according to political analysts.

Pointing out that this is seen by some quarters as Deve Gowda’s last election, Manor had recently said, "His emotional pleas for votes may attract more support from Vokkaligas than that of Shivakumar’s. Also, some Vokkaligas resent Siddaramaiah’s emphasis on minorities, backward classes and Dalits. Perhaps, the JD(S) may not do too badly, and if it does even somewhat well, it will be bad news for the Congress." 

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News Network
November 18,2023

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London: What should have been a time of great joy and excitement has become a living nightmare for thousands of new and expectant mothers living under siege and constant Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip.

For Layla, 28, whose name has been changed for her safety, bringing a new life into the world at a time of so much death and destruction fills her with dread. “What worries me most is falling in love with life, amid all the death, once I hold my baby,” she said.

Like 5,500 other pregnant women in the Gaza Strip, Layla is due to give birth very soon amid an inhuman Israeli aggression that has devastated healthcare infrastructure and deprived the population of access to nutritious food, clean water and public sanitation.

The closure of hospitals and clinics under the intense bombardment and chronic shortages of electricity, fuel and medicine are among the biggest challenges faced by the roughly 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza.

As of Nov. 10, some 18 hospitals and 51 primary care centers across the embattled enclave are no longer operational, meaning fewer than 60 percent of hospitals and 30 percent of public health centers are operating to some degree.

Fikr Shalltoot, Gaza director for Medical Aid for Palestinians, or MAP, a British charity operating in the Palestinian enclave, said that pregnant women in Gaza “face a dire reality, with limited access to essential health services amid a near-total humanitarian disaster.”

“With over 180 births daily and a staggering 235 attacks on healthcare infrastructure since Oct. 7, the situation is critical,” Shalltoot told Arab News. This leaves women deprived of emergency obstetric services and forces many to give birth in unsafe conditions.

“Closed hospitals force births in shelters, homes and streets amid rubble, raising infection risks,” she said. “Maternity hospitals, like Al-Hilo, face attacks.”

Hospitals in Gaza have been on the frontline of the conflict, overwhelmed by wounded civilians since the start of Israel’s genocide campaign.

Some 135 health facilities across Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. Although these facilities are protected under international humanitarian law, Israel claims Hamas has been using hospitals, particularly Gaza’s largest, Al-Shifa, to host underground command centers.

Hamas and medical staff deny these facilities are being used to store weaponry, conceal hostages, or move fighters along a sophisticated network of tunnels. Israeli forces who took control of Al-Shifa on Wednesday failed to provide evidence to support their claim.

There are at least 650 patients, including 22 in intensive care and 36 premature babies, at Al-Shifa, according to local media, in addition to some 400 medical staff. More than 2,000 Gazans have also taken refuge within the facility.

Amid the destruction and shortages, made worse by Israel’s restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, physicians have been forced to take extreme measures, such as performing cesareans without anesthetic or pain relief.

“Some women face complications while giving birth, and to stop the problem and because there are no (capabilities), tools, (or) time, (physicians) are faced with the extreme option to take out the uterus,” Soraida Hussein-Sabbah, gender and advocacy specialist at ActionAid Spain, said.

At Al-Awda Hospital, the only provider of maternity services in northern Gaza, doctors performed 16 cesarean C-sections last weekend under extremely challenging circumstances, according to local media.

Hussein-Sabbah said that although there are many trained and specialized obstetrics physicians and nurses in the Gaza Strip, as well as private and public maternity hospitals, “these cannot operate normally right now.”

Despite this, “any specialized person found in a shelter, or any place… will continue serving as much as possible,” she added.

Elaborating on the dangers of conducting cesareans under such extreme circumstances, Zaher Sahloul, head of MedGlobal, a US-based medical NGO, said that while “doctors typically try to deliver as fast as possible,” performing such surgery requires them to “cut through multiple layers” and then “suture multiple layers.”

Performing such an operation without anesthetic, or even a partial dosage of pain relief, would be agonizing.

“It is, as you can imagine, an extremely traumatic experience, something that would be associated with PTSD,” Sahloul told Arab News. Medical professionals are also forced to discharge new mothers within three hours, which poses additional risks.

New mothers are typically monitored for a minimum of 24 hours because the postpartum period is associated with various complications, including hemorrhage. Even before the latest outbreak of violence in Gaza, “the two biggest causes of (maternal) deaths were bleeding and sepsis,” said Sahloul.

“The lack of water and sanitation puts them at an even higher risk of infection and sepsis. (Hospitals) do not (even) have any blood to transfuse these patients if they start to have complications.”

Even if they survive the ordeal of childbirth in these conditions, mother and baby are not out of danger. The lack of hygiene facilities, nutritious food, clean drinking water, safe sleeping spaces, and other basic comforts and necessities threaten health and development.

Fatty acid and vitamin deficiencies in lactating mothers can compromise newborns’ immune systems, putting them at risk of communicable diseases as well as cognitive development challenges, said Sahloul.

Fatema, another woman trapped inside Gaza, has resorted to using clean clothes to manage discharge as she lacks access to sanitary towels. Embarrassed, and with limited privacy, she has then buried those clothes, she told ActionAid.

More than 1.4 million Palestinians have been displaced since Oct. 7, according to the UN’s humanitarian office, OCHA. Many have set up makeshift tents outside hospitals, while others have squeezed into the corridors of schools or have slept out in the open.

MedGlobal’s Sahloul warned that with limited access to food and water, malnourished women face the risk of “preterm delivery,” which is also associated with fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.

Shalltoot of MAP, meanwhile, cautioned that as access to obstetrics services becomes increasingly difficult, “maternal deaths will rise, stress-induced complications soar, and malnutrition worsen, affecting childhood survival.” Moreover, “without fuel, premature babies relying on neonatal care face a life-threatening crisis.”

She added: “Maternity care at Al-Awda Hospital hangs in the balance. Doctors report a surge in premature births due to the bombing of homes, a heartbreaking crisis where premature deliveries are performed while mothers lay dying.”

Three premature babies at Al-Shifa died on Tuesday after the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit was knocked out of operation. The lives of at least 36 others are in danger amid a lack of electricity and fuel for incubators, according to the facility’s director.

With women and children making up more than 70 percent of the casualties — one in four of them women of reproductive age — access to maternal health services is critical, said Shalltoot.

“Gaza is in urgent need of support to protect the lives of mothers and newborns,” she said, adding that “a ceasefire is imperative for pregnant women and infants.”

She said: “Without immediate access to fuel, aid, and medical experts, we face the looming threat of infectious diseases. Mass starvation, treatable deaths and a healthcare system in ruins are imminent unless swift action is taken.

“Opening multiple crossings is crucial to prevent a humanitarian freefall. Our plea is clear — act now to avert a catastrophic crisis.”

MAP has delivered a range of items, including medications and medical disposables that can be used to support delivery and the treatment of women and babies. “With our partner in Gaza, Ard El Insan, we have released all of our medications and food items for malnourished children and their families,” Shalltoot added.

Save the Children and ActionAid have also called for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of a humanitarian aid corridor.

“For this to happen, there is a need for a unified and coordinated call and pressure for the Rafah crossing to open, and the Israeli occupation forces to comply with international humanitarian law and allow for aid to come and civilians to be saved,” said ActionAid’s Hussein-Sabbah.

As of Nov. 17, over 12,000 people, including 5,000 children, according to officials in Gaza. There are also more than 30,000 injuries, 75 percent of which are women and children.

There are 3,750 missing persons, including 1,800 children who are still under the rubble, it said as the official death toll in Gaza had not been updated for days due to the collapse of the its health system.

Earlier this month, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, described Gaza as “a graveyard for children” and “a crisis of humanity.”

In a statement, Save the Children said: “During this humanitarian catastrophe, civilians, especially children, continue to pay the heaviest price for the ongoing violence.

“Children are being killed at a devastating rate, whole families are being wiped from the registry, and a growing number of people, including children, are being left with no surviving family members.”

Attacks on schools and hospitals are considered “a grave violation against children by the UN and may amount to violations of international humanitarian law.”

Calling for an end to “the continued, systematic assaults,” the NGO said that “hospitals and schools cannot be battlegrounds, and children cannot be targets. Yet in Gaza, all three are attacked on a daily basis.

“Even during wartime, basic elements of humanity must prevail.”

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News Network
November 22,2023

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In the competitive world of Indian engineering entrance exams, where lakhs aspire and only a few succeed, one extraordinary individual stands out. 

Satyam Kumar, the son of a farmer from Bihar, embarked on a journey that began at the tender age of 12 and culminated in an astonishing achievement – cracking the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) at just 13 years old.

A YOUNG RECORD-BREAKER

Back in 2013, Satyam Kumar made history when he secured the 670th rank in the IIT-JEE, becoming the youngest Indian to achieve this remarkable feat, breaking the record of Delhi's Sahal Kaushik who had achieved the feat at the age of 14 in 2010.

Satyam's journey was not without its share of challenges, but his unwavering determination and hard work were instrumental in his success. Born and raised in Bihar's Bhojpur district, Satyam set his sights on a brighter future through education.

Interestingly, this was Satyam's second time cracking the IIT exam at such a young age. He first cleared the exam in 2012, at the age of 12. But after achieving an all-India rank of 8,137, he decided to retake the IIT-JEE, aiming for a higher rank.

Satyam's journey continued as he pursued higher education. He completed his BTech-MTech Dual Degree in Electrical Engineering at IIT Kanpur in 2018, after which he set off for the University of Texas at Austin for his PhD.

He is currently specialised in brain-computer interfaces and working as a graduate research assistant. He worked on 3 projects in 2016 while at IIT: 'Electrooculogram based eye blink classification During EOG signal accuistion', 'Optimisation of electrode positions in Different Brain Computer Interfaces', and 'Imaginative Speech based Brain-Computer Interface'.

A BRIGHT CAREER AT APPLE

According to Satyam's LinkedIn profile, he embarked on a career journey that led him to prestigious institutions like ETH Zurich and Inria before landing a research internship at InterDigital Inc.

Most notably, he worked at Apple as a Machine Learning Intern until August 2023, highlighting his prowess in the tech industry.

THE YOUNG VISIONARY

In an interview with India Today in 2013, Satyam expressed his desire to make a significant impact in the world of technology, mentioning his aspiration to develop something akin to Facebook.

He also harbors ambitions of a future in bureaucracy and envisions teaching the children of his home district.

Satyam Kumar's remarkable journey is a testament to the power of determination and unwavering commitment. From a young boy with a dream to a professional excelling at Apple, his story continues to inspire the youth of India.

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News Network
November 21,2023

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Mangaluru: Chandrashekhara MK, 33, from Mujoor village of Kadaba, who was arrested after hackers used his credentials to open a bank account and make an illegal transaction in Riyadh, was released from the Saudi Arabian jail on Monday.

In November last year, Saudi Arabian police arrested him for a banking fraud involving SAR 22,000 (approximately Rs 4.8 lakh), after he shared an OTP number with an unidentified person.

Social activist Shridhar Gowda, who helped the family of Chandrashekhara to reach out to the Indian Embassy through people’s representatives, said he reached home via Mangaluru International Airport on Monday evening.

Gowda said that Chandrashekhara was working for Al Fanar Co in Riyadh. “More than a year ago, Chandrashekhara had visited a shop in Riyadh to buy a phone and SIM card. The shop had taken his thumb impression twice and thereafter he received a message in Arabic. Later, he received a call asking him to share an OTP sent to his mobile phone. Without knowing the consequences, he had shared the OTP,” he said.

In November last year, Saudi Arabian police arrested him for a banking fraud involving SAR 22,000 (approximately Rs 4.8 lakh). Finally, with the help of his friends and the company in which he was working, Chandrashekhara could walk out of the jail through a court order,” Gowda added.

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