If speaking on UCC, opposing Muslim quota religion-based campaign, then BJP will continue doing it: Amit Shah

News Network
May 26, 2024

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New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asserted that the BJP will get a bigger win in opposition-ruled states due to a 'positive mandate' for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls, as he slammed the opposition's criticism of the Election Commission as a ploy to cover up for its impending loss.

In an interview with PTI, Shah claimed that his party has not resorted to any religion-based campaign but insisted that if canvassing against reservation for Muslims, and reaching out to voters on the abolition of Article 370 and implementing a Uniform Civil Code is religion-based campaign, then the BJP has done it and will continue doing so.

He dismissed the opposition's criticism of the Election Commission for its handling of poll data and the issue of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), saying that similar protocols and practices have been followed in previous assembly polls, including Telangana, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh where the BJP lost.

"If those elections were fair, then this election is also fair. When you see defeat, you start crying in advance and try to find excuses to go abroad. This can't go on and on. They want to go on vacation on June 6. So, they are telling something or the other," he said.

The Congress's questions about the polling process is aimed at covering up Rahul Gandhi's failure, he said.

Shah said the opposition party had not offered any such suggestion at the customary all-party meeting called by the poll watchdog before the elections. "Whenever the opposition loses an election, they raise some questions. There is zero possibility of rigging in EVMs and they want an election which can be rigged."

With six phases of the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls over, the BJP's key strategist said the party's assertion that its alliance will cross the 400-seat mark when the poll results are out on June 4 is not merely a poll slogan but a well thought-out goal.

He said, "We will surely cross 400 seats. We will also form governments in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh."

Assembly polls in the three states have been held alongside the Lok Sabha elections.

"If we get 399 seats and you say we have not crossed 400, then it is your wisdom. But the '400 paar' slogan is based on calculation and considered opinion," Shah said in his characteristic combative and sure-footed manner.

Asked if the party was overly dependent on Modi and if a relatively weak opposition was benefitting from its alliance, he said it was not a negative but a positive vote which the ruling alliance is receiving.

"This is not a negative vote. Please accept one thing. This is a positive vote. We will get people's support where (in states) we are in power. And mark my words...where we are not, we will be getting a bigger mandate. So this is a positive mandate for the work of the central government," he said.

As Modi has brought to fruition the BJP's core ideological plans, be it the poor's welfare, a secure country, abrogation of Article 370, a uniform law (UCC) across the country, women's reservation and Ram temple, his popularity naturally becomes the strength of the BJP, he added. "He is our biggest leader."

He accused the main opposition party of misleading people on the issue of Muslim reservation, insisting that its accusation that the BJP has been telling a lie rings hollow as it has already implemented such a religious quota in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

"If they divide the truth in pieces to mislead people, then isn't it our duty to put these pieces together and inform people," he said, defending Modi's intense attack on the Congress over the religious quota and the issue of redistribution of wealth.

"You might have heard and understood Rahul Gandhi's X-ray speech. So you want X-ray of what? And if you want to distribute it equally, then who will you distribute to? Manmohan Singh Ji said minorities are their priority. What do you make of this," he asked when questioned about the Congress's allegations against Modi.

To a question about the Congress's promise of giving Rs 1 lakh to women in poor households, he said the party has a history of making populist assurances to come to power but never fulfilling them.

Shah said, "They are in power in two-three states. They should at least fulfil this promise there. At least start giving Rs 1,500 which you promised (in Himachal Pradesh). You are talking about Rs 1 lakh, at least start giving Rs 1,500. Who will trust them."

Making his projection for the BJP in the states where the ruling party is eying major gains, he said it will anywhere between 24 to 30 seats in West Bengal and 16-17 in Odisha. Its alliance will bag nearly 17 seats in Andhra Pradesh. The three states have 42, 21 and 25 Lok Sabha seats, respectively.

Shah claimed that the BJP is set for a maiden majority in the Odisha assembly and expects to win 75 seats in the 147-member House. Its alliance will storm to power in Andhra too, he said.

People are angry with the Mamata Banerjee-led government over issues of corruption, cow and coal smuggling and infiltration, and the Sandeshkhali issue has exposed as to what extent she can stoop in her appeasement politics, he said.

With Modi spearheading the BJP's push in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, two states where the party has been so far unable to make much headway, in these polls, Shah said the party will certainly increase its vote share in the Dravidian state.

He said, "It is a very tight contest. We have a new team. I will not make an estimate with figures. But our seats and vote share will increase and we will certainly lay a strong foundation in Tamil Nadu. We can open our account in Kerala. We are in a good position in three seats."

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News Network
June 16,2024

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Tech mogul Elon Musk has sent a storm across social media after he tweeted that electronic voting machines should be replaced by paper ballots since he believes such devices are prone to getting hacked.

"We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high," said the Tesla CEO as he retweeted Independent POTUS candidate Robert F. Keddy, who in a post talked about voting irregularities in voting machines in Puerto Rico.

"Luckily, there was a paper trail so the problem was identified and vote tallies corrected. What happens in jurisdictions where there is no paper trail?," Kennedy said.

"US citizens need to know that every one of their votes were counted, and that their elections cannot be hacked. We need to return to paper ballots to avoid electronic interference with elections," he further added.

Soon after Musk's post, BJP leader and former IT Minister of State Rajeev Chandrashekhar took to X and said, "This is a huge sweeping generalization statement that implies no one can build secure digital hardware. Wrong."

He further added, "@elonmusk's view may apply to US n other places - where they use regular compute platforms to build Internet connected Voting machines.(sic)"

Chandrasekhar continued, "But Indian EVMs are custom designed, secure and isolated from any network or media - No connectivity, no bluetooth, wifi, Internet. ie there is no way in. Factory programmed controllers that cannot be reprogrammed.(sic)"

He even went on to say, "Electronic voting machines can be architected and built right as India has done. We wud be happy to run a tutorial Elon. (sic)"

Soon after, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi posted an image of a news article that says an individual had access to a mobile phone with which an EVM can be unlocked.

Rahul said in his post, "EVMs in India are a "black box," and nobody is allowed to scrutinize them. Serious concerns are being raised about transparency in our electoral process. Democracy ends up becoming a sham and prone to fraud when institutions lack accountability."

The news report by Mid-Day reveals that the accused in question, Mangesh Pandilkar, is a relative of Mumbai North West MP Ravindra Waikar, who belongs to the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

The article cites police officials as saying that the phone can be used to generate a one-time password (OTP) to unlock an EVM machine, and was used on June 4 inside the NESCO Centre. The phone in question has been sent for forensic tests.

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News Network
June 10,2024

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New Delhi: The 71 Union ministers who were sworn in alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday include 10 Dalits, 27 from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 21 from the ‘upper’ castes, five from tribal groups and five representing religious minorities. However, there are no Muslims. 

In the previous term of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was the minority affairs minister, but he resigned in 2022 after his term in the Rajya Sabha came to an end and was replaced by Smriti Irani. This time, no Muslim minister has been sworn in. No Muslim MPs from the NDA were elected to the Lok Sabha this time.

The five ministers from minority communities in the Modi Government 3.0 include Hardeep Singh Puri, Ravneet Singh Bittu, George Kurian, Kiren Rijiju and Ramdas Athawale. While Puri and Athawale are Rajya Sabha MPs and Rijiju won the Lok Sabha elections from Arunachal Pradesh, Bittu lost the elections from Punjab and Kurian, a Kerala BJP general secretary, did not contest.

After the 2019 general election, 57 ministers were sworn in, of whom 32 were from ‘upper’ castes, 13 from OBCs, six from Scheduled Castes and four from Scheduled Tribes. However, the Council of Ministers was subsequently expanded in 2021 and included 27 OBCs, 12 SCs, eight STs and 30 from the ‘upper’ castes. 

The share of representatives of the ‘upper’ castes is down after many ‘upper-caste’ candidates lost in Uttar Pradesh.

Dalit and tribal groups

In Modi’s second term, the late Ram Vilas Paswan, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Virendra Kumar were among the Dalit ministers. Kumar, who had succeeded Gehlot as the minister for social justice and empowerment, has made it to the cabinet this time, too, after winning his eighth Lok Sabha election from Madhya Pradesh. 

Besides him, Paswan’s son and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan, and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, are among the new Dalit cabinet ministers.

Arjun Ram Meghwal from Rajasthan, who was serving as the law minister in the previous term, has been inducted this time as minister of state (independent charge). In addition, Athawale, S.P. Singh Baghel, L. Murugan and Kamlesh Paswan will be ministers of state.

 A senior BJP leader said, “More Dalit ministers have been added this time, which was necessary since the party lost a significant chunk of Dalit votes. Not just that, religious minorities ranging from Sikhs to Christians have been given representation.” 

There are also five ministers from tribal groups, same as the 2019-2024 term. Jual Oram from Odisha, who had also served as a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet and has won the Lok Sabha elections six times, has been elevated to the position of a cabinet minister. Arjun Munda, another prominent tribal leader from the party, lost the election this time.

Sarbananda Sonowal, Savitri Thakur and Durga Das Uikey are other ministers from tribal groups.

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News Network
June 11,2024

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New Delhi: Indian universities and higher education institutions will now be allowed to offer admissions twice a year on lines of foreign universities with the University Grants Commission giving a go ahead to the plan, UGC chief Jagadesh Kumar said.

The two admission cycles will be July-August and January-February from the 2024-25 academic session.

"If Indian universities can offer admission twice a year, it will benefit many students such as those who missed admission to a university in the July-August session due to a delay in the announcement of board results, health issues, or personal reasons," Kumar said.

"Biannual university admissions will help students maintain motivation since they do not have to wait one full year to be admitted if they miss admission in the current cycle. With biannual admissions in place, industries can also do their campus recruitment twice a year, improving employment opportunities for the graduates," he added.

The UGC chief explained that biannual admissions will also enable the higher education institutes (HEIs) to plan their resource distribution, such as faculty, labs, classrooms and support services, more efficiently, resulting in a better functional flow within the university.

"Universities worldwide already follow a biannual admission system. If Indian HEIs adopt the biannual admission cycle, our HEIs can enhance their international collaborations and student exchanges. As a result, our global competitiveness will improve, and we will align with the global educational standards," Kumar said.

"If HEIs adopt biannual admissions, they need to work on administrative intricacies, good planning for increased use of available resources, and providing seamless support systems for the smooth transition of students admitted at dissimilar times of the year. HEIs can maximize the usefulness of biannual admissions only when they sufficiently prepare faculty members, staff and students for the transition," he added.

Kumar, however, clarified that it will not be mandatory to offer biannual admissions for universities and those HEIs that have the required infrastructure and teaching faculty can utilise the opportunity.

"Offering biannual admissions will not be mandatory for the HEIs, it is the flexibility that UGC provides to the HEIs which want to increase their student intake and offer new programmes in emerging areas. To be able to admit students twice a year, HEIs must make suitable amendments to their institutional regulations," he said. 

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