Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially launched his party’s general election campaign on Thursday with a rally in India’s most populous state, promising development with national security in seeking votes for another term.
A coalition led by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to retain power in a staggered election beginning on April 11, especially given recent tension with old rival Pakistan. “This country has seen governments that only made slogans, but for the first time, they are seeing a decisive government that knows how to demonstrate its resolve,” Modi told the rally in the city of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh state, which has the most members of parliament of all states.
“Our vision is of a new India that will be in tune with its glorious past,” he said to roars of approval from the crowd who waved BJP flags and chanted for another term for Modi. The rally was held in a field flanking a main road, surrounded by farm land. Vendors sold BJP mugs, T-shirts and clocks.
The general election, the world’s biggest democratic exercise with about 900 million eligible voters, will be held in phases ending on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.
Tension with neighbouring Pakistan soared last month after a suicide bomb attack in the Indian part of the disputed Kashmir region killed 40 Indian paramilitary police. The bombing was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group. India retaliated with an air raid against a suspected militant camp in northern Pakistan.
In December, the main opposition Congress party defeated the BJP in three major rural states as a lack of jobs and weak farm prices dented Modi’s popularity. But pollsters say Modi’s chances have improved significantly thanks to his tough stance on Pakistan At the rally, Modi repeatedly spoke about the Indian bombing of the suspected militant camp. He also referred to a test on Wednesday in which India shot down one of its own satellites in space, which he said made India a space power.
Modi also promised economic growth and a prosperous society for all. Modi’s main challenger is the opposition Congress party, which was for decades India’s dominant political party. One Modi supporter derided a recent Congress offer to hand out 6,000 rupees ($87) a month to the poorest families if it was voted back into power. (RTRS)
Pakistan dismisses dossier: Pakistan on Thursday dismissed a dossier handed over by India in the wake of a suicide attack that nearly sparked a full-blown conflict earlier this month, saying the allegation that Pakistani groups were involved was unsubstantiated.
At least 40 Indian security personnel were killed when a suicide bomber from Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM) attacked a convoy on Feb 14, at Pulwama, a town in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Jaish later claimed responsibility for the attack carried out by a young Muslim man from Pulwama.
Pakistan maintains that the insurgency in the disputed region is being fought by Muslim separatists from India’s side of Kashmir. Following the Pulwama attack, both countries carried out aerial bombings missions on each other’s soil and their warplanes also fought a brief dogfight over Kashmir’s skies.
Tensions cooled when global powers intervened to prevent a full-scale conflict between the nuclear armed neighbours and Pakistan handed back a captured Indian pilot.
India, which alleges Islamabad had a hand in the suicide bombing, last month presented what it said was a dossier of evidence about the Pulwama attack, and alleged links to Pakistan. Pakistan has consistently denied playing any role. And after briefing foreign diplomats in Islamabad, Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement asserting that most of India’s dossier was based on “social media content”. (RTRS)