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News Wrap

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814 million eligible voters played their part in history’s largest democratic exercise in April-May, 2014 of India. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wo nan absolute majority of the 543 seats in parliament. The BJP leader and the new prime minister, Narendra Modi, has taunted the Gandhis of corruption and ineptitude allegations. His campaign has been overshadowed by claims that he did too little to prevent hundreds of Muslims dying in riots in Gujarat, in 2002, when he was the chief minister. Muslims account for 180 million of India’s 1.2 billion citizens.

Regional parties, like the Trinamool Congress party of West Bengal indulged in large scale booth capturing, and voting machines tamperering with the Election Commission adopting a laid back approach. The Congress Party as a last push mobilized the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, including the entire media machinery, Doordarshan TV (DD), All India Radio (AIR), Press Information Bureau, DAVP and Prashar Bharati to highlight the Centre’s Congress Government’s welfare and development initiatives. Over 54 lac voters exercised their right of ‘‘Not selecting any of the above candidates’. The BJP received 31.9% votes up from 18.8% (2209). Muslim representation in the 16th Lok Sabha is only 22.

Gujarat Model
Between 2002-11, agricultural growth accelerated 6.8% in Gujarat, compared to 4.1% all India. Manufacturing grew in Gujarat at 10.6%, and the all India average remaining at 9.6%. Industrial growth was 10.1% in Gujarat, and 9.1% all India. Construction progressed at 11% in Gujarat, and remained at 8.7% all India. Services in Gujarat grew at 10.7% and at 9.9% all India. The state domestic product sped to 9.7% in Gujarat, and at 7.5% all India. Acceleration in agricultural growth has sprung from Bt Cotton. During the period, the wages of the rich (non-disadvantaged) group increased at an annual rate of 2.2% per annum, compared to a higher 3.5% per annum for the poor. Gujarat has the lowest unemployment rate in India at 1.5%, compared to all India at 2.9%. The wages for the disadvantaged group (Muslim, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes) increased at 3.5%, while all India rose by 3.7%. The Human Development index for 2007-08 points to Kerala scoring 0.790, and Gujarat in the middle at 0.527. On backwardness, Gujarat’s composite score is 0.49 and the best ranked states, Goa at 0.05 and Delhi at 0.09. On a scale of 0 to 100, Gujarat has a score of 20 for environmental sustainability, and ranked at 23. For policy effectiveness, covering law and order, and economic variables, Gujarat is ranked at 10.

Shootings Resume
In March 2014, a police officer was shot and injured in the north of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s military on 11 April 2014 shot dead three men believed  to be trying to revive the separatist Tamil Tiger movement, five years after its defeat. The troops killed the three, including a man they identified as a local leader of the Tigers, as they tried to escape a military cordon in a jungle area of the former war zone, to the south of Jaffna. Three backpacks with food rations and medicines were abandoned by the trio nearby. The pre-dawn military operations were conducted in the sparsely populated jungles of Nedunkerni. Gopi, who was shot dead, was a leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eedam (LTTE) in the north of the island. Around 100 people, including 15 women have been detained by Sri Lankan police, in connection with attempts to reactivate the Tiger movement. Draconian anti-terror laws are being applied to deal with a possible resurgence of terrorism. The UN estimates that at least 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist conflict between 1972 and 2009. During the civil war, thousands of civilians were killed by government forces as well as Tamil Tiger rebels.

ANC wins elections
President Jacob Zuma has returned to power for a second term, as South Africa’s ruling Arfican National Congress (ANC) has won a fifth consecutive term, and huge controversies, including claims of corruption during Zuma’s first innings. The elections marked the twenty years, since the end of apartheid rule, and the first elections after the death of Nelson Mandela, the country’s first black president in December 2013. It was the first elections in which the ‘Born Frees’, people born in a democratic South Africa, exercised their franchise. Faced with Julius Malema’s radical programmes and his recently launched Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, the ANC has been forced to veer sharply to the left. The EFF’s red berets signified the badge of rebellious black youth. In South Africa where almost 80% of the population is black and less than 9% white, in the run-up to the elections, the ANC passed legislation, requiring all public and private sector enterprises to have demographically representative workforces at every level.

Frontier
Vol. 46, No. 49, Jun 15 - 21, 2014