Karnataka State Assembly Elections 2018

When was the election?

12th May 2018

What was it for?

To elect members to the Karnataka state assembly. There are 30 Districts and 224 constituencies.

Why was it important?

The Assembly election outcome will shape the future of Karnataka. The state has historically had a government which is in opposition to the national government and as a consequence tensions can run high during the election campaign.

Bangalore has 28 seats available in the state elections. This is more than 10% of the total seats available so makes it politically important. In 2013 the seats were 13 for Congress, 12 for BJP (the party of PM Modi) and 3 for JD(S) (a regional party with negligible urban presence).

What were the key issues?

  • Drinking water and the supply of water generally
  • Sewerage and waste management infrastructure
  • Lakes (dying) and water bodies
  • Traffic congestion and management
  • Infrastructure projects, especially roadside
  • Crime

Election Observations

A few observations for those who live outside Bangalore.

Politicians here wear all white clothing. Nearly every photo of politicians and Chief Ministers will see them wearing white. Historically this was to indicate that they don’t do manual work; they are clean and so can wear white and can keep it clean. Other retired men who no longer work, drink coffee and chat also wear white clothing. It’s like a uniform to indicate wealth and politics.

Voting is done using electronic voting machines, with at least one in every polling station. A lot of the campaigning focuses on asking the electorate to press the button of the party’s symbol e.g. “Give your vote to the Lotus Symbol” for the BJP. This is a necessity due to the sheer volume of illiterate population here.

Everyone is given paid holiday to go and vote, and they are all talking about needing to vote and don’t know which part of the day they will get free. This leads me to believe that there will be long queues at polling stations and people stood (in the heat) for hours to vote. (It takes less than 5 mins in the UK and there is rarely a queue!).

Diary

This is a diary of the election campaign.

Tuesday 3rd April

The Election Commission has sprung into action at the start of the official campaign period. The Chief Electoral Officer has stated that a total of 16 FIRs (First Information Reports required by the police before an investigation can commence into an alleged offence) have been registered in the last two days for “inducement and gratification to voters” in the state (i.e. buying votes). In the first two days alone they have seized ₹1.21 crore (£132,420) in cash, 139 litres of liquor, over 2kg of gold worth ₹49 lakh (£53,625), 160 laptops, as well as sarees and cookers. It’s so blatant!

In addition, in order to maintain law and order, 31,982 arms have been deposited, 239 people bonded over and 269 non bailable warrants executed.

The Election Commission’s teams have also removed banners, wall writings and posters from public and private places.

What a start.

Wednesday 4th April

Central Karnataka consists of 7 districts and the BJP and JD(S) are making efforts to end the ruling Congress party’s dominance in the region. The main issues in this area are drinking water and the failure to implement the Yettinahole project; problems of coconut, acrecanut and sericulture farmers; the Upper Bhadra Project.

Thursday 5th April

Three mobile apps were launched exclusively for Bengalureans to help create better awareness among voters about polling. The apps were all created in 3 days by the District Election Officer and Bruhut Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioners. (BBMP is effectively the state civil service).

Friday 6th April

Students of the Malleshwaram Ladies Association College demonstrated and held placards stating “Your vote matters get out and vote”, urging people to vote in the 12th May elections.

Saturday 7th April

The state government vehicle drivers federation has filed a complaint against the Chief Election Officer, Sanjeev Kumar, alleging harassment for forcing drivers to work without any intimation.

The BBMP is renaming 112/8278 polling stations and moving 393/8278 polling stations. (So that’s a late decision and bound to confuse people and probably mean that some people won’t vote as they don’t know where to go. )

The police have assigned one patrol car for every 15 polling stations and in addition set up 20 checkpoints along the city border.

The election facts and figures:

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is projecting himself as leader of the Ahinda (the Kannada acronym for minorities ‘backward classes’ and Dalits). This is traditionally the ground of the Congress party.

Sunday 8th April

We received the first election pamphlet with the newspaper this morning.

The BJP’s Central Election Committee announced its first list of 72 candidates for the 12th May Assembly elections in Karnataka. The meeting was was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Congress party organised and held a massive rally at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore in the late afternoon. We got corralled down back streets and lanes to avoid the main road and side roads blocked off by buses parking. The traffic jam heading in from the north backed up from the Palace Grounds past Hebbal flyover, effectively bringing the entrance to the city to a standstill.

The noise was incredible. I managed to take some video footage (but it is poor quality and won’t upload to WordPress!) of the sheer volume of chanting going on by the thousands inside.

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At the rally Congress President Rahul Gandhi attacked PM Modi for not helping Bengaluru which he hailed as a symbol of India.

Monday 9th April

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday led his party in a nationwide daylong fast against caste violence, communalism and the non-functioning of Parliament, for which the UPA major blames the ruling BJP.

Congress workers are observing a daylong fast in all state and district headquarters to voice their protest against the BJP government and to promote communal harmony and peace across the country.

JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy appealed to the Muslim community on Sunday not to believe the Congress, whose leaders were saying that voting for the JD(S) was akin to supportlng the Congress. He said the latter was not capable of preventing BJP from coming to power.

He criticised the two national parties as two faces of the same coin and said they were creating a gulf between Hindus and Muslims, in the coastal region especially, for electoral gains.

Kumaraswamy said the Siddaramaiah government had taken loans amounting to lakhs of crores of rupees, but had nothing to show for development.

The JD(S) leader said the government claims to have spent Rs 58,000 crore for irrigation, but water had not flowed to the farmers’ fields.

Tuesday 10th April

There is a “None of the above” (‘NOTA’) option on Assembly ballot papers; also known as ‘against all’ or ‘scratch’ option. This would be absolute genius in the UK and I believe more people would vote if it was available. It allows voters to indicate disapproval of all candidates in the election. The winning candidate (the person with the most votes) will still stand even if the NOTA votes exceed their total. It is an indication of disapproval. It was introduced in 2017 and over 15 lakh people exercised this option!

Other countries have NOTA votes including Columbia, Ukraine,Brazil,Bangladesh, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Chile, France, Belgium and Greece.

Wednesday 11th April

We drove past a police and military checkpoint on the way back from the school run today. They had automatic rifles. They are stopping vehicles at random to check for unaccountable large amounts of cash and seize it. This is to stop the literal buying of votes in the election.

The chief electoral officer is reviewing a report on the alleged violation of the code of conduct by BJP President Amit Shah by giving INR 5 lakh to the family of a deceased party worker.

The chief electoral officer has now seized INR 4.7 crore in cash and INR 1.2 crore in materials since 27th March.

The JD(S) Party is losing Muslim leaders which is damaging its polling prospects. The Muslim community has been the strong support base for the JD(S). Chief Minister Siddaramaiah (Congress Party) has been consolidating Muslim support through various programs of assistance over the last few years. It appears this shrewd action is winning him votes.

Friday 13th April

The congress party leadership have decided against allowing the Congress party’s president G Parameshwara and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah from contesting two seats in the elections.

Both Congress and BJP parties are going to micromanage polls in Karnataka with a mass contact program in order to win votes. The BJP has appointed ‘Vistaaraks’ (doorstep party faithful), ‘Page Pramukhs’ (people in chagprge of a page of the voter list) and ‘Shakti Kendra Karyakartas’ (people managing a set of booths and responsible for chasing 30 voters). Congress in the meantime has organised ‘Mane Manage Congress’ which is a door to door campaign across all 224 Assembly constituencies. They have assigned booth management to all party members under the banner ‘Namma Kshetra, Namma Hone’ (our constituency, our responsibility).

Saturday 14th April

The Congress Party had to defer the central election committee meeting yesterday to finalise candidates for election following a bitter row between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the Lok Sabha leader, Congress Party president and the former chief minister about selection of candidates. The meeting is to reconvene this morning.

Monday 16th April

Congress released a list of 218 names of candidates for the election. The party has re nominated 107/122 sitting Members of the Legislative Assembly (‘MLAS’). This does beg the question as to why the remaining 15 MLAs have not been selected as candidates. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah will contest only from Chamundeshwari rather then from two seats as he had hoped. Of the candidates announced, 15 are women, 15 are Muslim and 2 are Christians.

The BJP has strategically waited to announce the names of about the remaining 100 candidates after studying the list of Congress candidates.

Tuesday 17th April

This cartoon from the Times of India really does say it all. Filing of nominations begins today. The CM Siddaramaiah has been told he cannot stand for election in two constituencies by the Congress leadership.

Wednesday 18th April

There’s been a lot of mentions of the Reddy family in the newspapers. Janadharna Reddy was a Minister in the BSY Government between 2008 and 20011. He was found guilty of illegal mining, under invoicing iron ore exports and the use of tax havens through their company. He is out on bail. Karunakara Reddy is a former MP and ex minister in the BSY government between 2008 and 2011. He is a part owner in the company. Somashekara Reddy is a former MLA and also part owner of the company. The BJP have fielded Somashekara Reddy as a candidate in Bellari City and is considering Karunakara too.

The police were out again at the school junction checking vehicles for hoards of unexplainable cash that could be used for election bribes or buying votes.

A leaked casts census conducted by the state government was published in the Times of India. 19% of the state population is made up of Dalits and 60 of the 224 seats can be influenced by Dalits. 36 of the 224 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (‘SCs’).

Thursday 19th April

In a move that will surprise no one, three of the sitting Congress MLAs who have not been selected as candidates to contest their seats again have resigned from the party and quit. Two have crossed over the floor to join the BJP and JD(S) in opposition. One of the MLAs who has resigned (Inamdar) has won the seat for Congress 5 times, so the thought process around deselecting him is baffling; unless of course the election officials are being persuaded by something that’s not in the public domain.

Meanwhile a truck hit the convoy of the Union Minister Hedge in Haveri which is being investigated as an attempt by ‘jihadi’ elements to kill him (rather than being treated as a road traffic accident).

BJP President Amit Shah visited Hosakote town in Bengaluru Rural district as part of his election roadshow.

Friday 20th April

Candidates began to file their nominations across the state today. The BJP announced its third list of candidates. The Janata Dal (Secular) released its second list of candidates. (One has to wonder how a candidate feels being on a second of third list from a party and not on the first list published.) The JD(S) list has candidates who have crossed the floor to join them…so that will make interesting races in their constituencies.

Interestingly the candidates have to list their assets and liabilities when filing their nomination papers. (That’s something we could introduce in the UK to see how representative of the people they are and how much MPs profit from their positions.) Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s assets total Rs 11.2 crore (about £1.2 million) and liabilities total Rs 2.6 crore (£280,433) (making his net worth Rs 8.6 crore or £927, 587).

JD(S) and Congress supporters clashed at Mysore Palace as the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his rival candidate of the JD(S) ran into each other while filing their nominations.

Saturday 21st April

The Deccan Herald reported that on Thursday, the Static Surveillance Teams from the election law enforcement squads, seized Rs 74.8 lakh in cash, vehicles and other items. Together, it confiscated Rs 30.65 crore cash, 7.5 kg gold worth Rs 1.76 crore, silver valued at Rs 11.47 lakh, besides 4.5 litres of liquor and vehicles and other items Rs 1.8 crore.

“Flying squad” teams confiscatoed Rs 3.15 lakh in cash and 11 litres of 140 bottles of Indian Made Foreign Liquor worth Rs 3,600. They also seized 35.750 kg marijuana worth Rs 7 lakh, other items including a pistol and a double barrel gun!

In total, the squads seized Rs 1.8 crore in cash, 812.6 litres of liquor, and other items worth Rs 13.13 crore along with 83 vehicles worth Rs 1.92 crore.

Police also confiscated Rs 7 lakh in cash, 10 sarees, 160 laptops and 509.2 litres of liquor. 386 FIRs were registered on Thursday with around 22 of these for cases related to cash seizure and other model code of conduct violations.

The excise department on seized 9,981 litres of IMFL and other liquor worth Rs 50.8 lakh. It also registered 48 “heinous cases”, 66 cases for breach of license conditions and 127 cases under section 15(a) of Karnataka Excise Act. Overall, the department captured around 1.9 lakh litres of IML and other liquor worth Rs 8.9 crore and registered 1,000 heinous cases, 1463 cases for breach of licence conditions, 2 NDPS cases and 2,221 cases under section 15(a) of the Karnataka Excise Act.

Around 422 different types of vehicles, too, have been seized. It is absolutely incredible the amount of attempted corruption that is going on and one has to wonder what the percentage of the overall undetected corruption this is.

The Times of India is reporting that all the candidate lists are reinforcing the number of “controversial” candidates. Some candidates have been charged with criminal offences (yet unproved), there’s an actor, wealthy businessmen and children of sitting MLAs (nepotism).

Sunday 22nd April

Consumer protection activists from different parts of Karnataka have brought out a ‘Consumer Manifesto’, demanding the strengthening of the consumer protection policy.

Tuesday 24th April

Last day for filing of nominations.

Wednesday 25th April

Videos are circulating on WhatsApp criticising Congress’s record 8n Office with the aim of encouraging support for the BJP. They’re between 3-6 minutes long and demand answers from. Ingress ministers about what they have done in their constituencies.

Congress political ads are being posted on YouTube, appearing between music videos etc.

Scrutiny of nominations takes place today.

Thursday 26th April

5 data entry clerks were arrested for creating over 1000 fake voters in the electoral rolls. 2 of the 5 worked for the BBMP. The police confirmed that 10 such cases had been registered across the city and 7000 fake voters had been added to the register.

The BJP are pinning their hopes on a final two week push by PM Modi when he hits the campaign trail following a rather lacklustre campaign to date.

3,374 candidates have registered to date. Only 259 are women. 482 are over 60 years old with 5 of those aged between 81-90 years old. Only 242 candidates are aged between 25-30 years old.

Friday 27th April

The Times of India is reporting that poll officials are transferring bribes online paying voters INR 1000 before the vote on 12th May and another INR 1000 after if the candidate wins. As the average person earns about INR 500 a day that’s a very tempting offer. The funds are transferred from accounts of trusted workers or businessmen and as the amounts are so low they fall under the radar of the tax department.

Between 27th March and 25th April Election officials have seized cash and freebies worth INR 9.1 crore from 28 constituencies in Bangalore. Two FIRs have been filed against BJP and Congress for the illegal distribution of goods.

The polls are predicting a hung Assembly in Karnataka with Congress in the majority with BJP second.

Today is the last date to withdraw nominations.

Tuesday 1st May

Its a holiday for a lot of people today so the political parties are out advertising and rallying. PM Modi is in Karnataka state holding three separate rallies today.

Advertising on the front page of the Times of India.

Saturday 5th May

Full front page adverts appear in newspapers with the BJP’s policies.

Congress had provided a full manifesto separately in newspapers last week. Their advert:

There are rumours circulating in WhatsApp that Google are predicting a BJP win which is causing consternation amongst the locals I know.

So the BJP are promising a lot in their manifesto called “Namma Karnatakakakke Namma Vachana” (“Our promise for our Karnataka”) including a ban on cow slaughter. The party’s Hindu agenda is also reflected in other policies including the re establishment of a ‘Cow Protection Commission’.

It promises to make Bangalore a world class city with a modern infrastructure, including making it a “zero garbage” city (absolutely no chance of doing that without a culture change).

Obvious financial incentives to vote BJP include offering INR 25,000 and 3 grams of gold for brides in the BPL category, giving college students laptops, opening 300 canteens to provide low cost high quality food, waiver of crop loans and to provide direct income support to small and marginal farmers.

One of the BJP candidates for the Assembly has had a fatal heart attack. The election in the Jayanagar constituency has been postponed as a result.

Sunday 6th May

PM Modi is in Karnataka campaigning again. Yesterday he alleged that Congress had struck a deal with the JD(S) regarding the state assembly elections but did not say what exactly. PM Modi predicted a win for the BJP with Congress second and the JD(S) third.

The amount of money and goods seized by police and the flying squads has increased again. This is seized to prevent misuse during the election campaign. Up until Friday, cash goods and valuables worth INR 152.78 crore had been confiscated.

Lots more BJP adverts appearing in newspapers. The election commission has set up ‘Sakai’ or pink polling booths for women and ethnic polling booths for tribal people across the state. (Pink polling booths for women. I honestly don’t know where to start with the sexist stereotyping of women here.)

Yesterday Rahul Gandhi demanded answers from PM Modiregarding the BJP candidate selection for the election. Some candidates are allegedly involved in corruption, putting out a video on his twitter account titled ‘Karnataka’s Most Wanted’.

The 203 voters in Vyasanakere village in Hosapete talk have to travel 6km to vote at their nearest polling booth. The roads in the village are mud so people have to walk the 6km in the heat to vote.

Monday 7th May

The BJP have alleged that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had met ‘declared absconder’ Vijay Eswaran and accepted an “expensive gift” of a Hublot Watch. I had to look up Hublot watches as I have never heard of them but prices seem to start around ₹500000 (£6k).

The Election Commission has ordered that all political adverts to be published on 11th and 12th May have to be approved from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee.

The BJP and Congress parties have now published their manifestos but with only days to go before the poll the J.D.(S) have yet to publish theirs.

This is an interesting chart produced by the Deccan Herald on the candidates standing for election:

Whilst the number of candidates with serious criminal cases is alarming the fact that some of them are facing murder and attempted murder charges it’s staggering they are even being allowed to stand for election. 50 of the candidates are illiterate so how on Earth are they going to create and analyse laws they cannot read?

Tuesday 8th May

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has issued a legal notice to PM Modi for “civil and criminal defamation” and has claimed damages of Rs 100 crore he PM Modi failed to tender an “unconditional public apology”.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has accused PM Modi of polarising people in the Karnataka state and said it was “language unbecoming of the PM”. (I think this chap needs to have a quiet word with Donald Trump as well and do the whole world a favour!)

Another poll survey published yesterday (by ABP-CSDS) indicated that Karnataka was heading for a hung Assembly with the ruling Congress party with the most seats and BJP second. They predict that JD(S) and BSP combined will be the kingmakers.

The Election Commission is commandeering 5000 buses for election use on Saturday and Sunday, removing buses from routes with low demand (“where the demand is very less”). The daily rent for buses has been increased from Rs 86000 to Rs 100000 on these days by the enterprising companies hoping to rake in some cash.

The Election Commission released updated figures on cash and goods seized to Monday 7th May. Rs 43.52 crore in cash and 49 kilos of gold valued at Rs 15.26 crore. The Excise department also seized cash of Rs 54.46 and 5.15l of IML worth Rs 23.90 crore. In addition the police have registered 924 FIRs, booked 2,244 heinous cases and 2,357 cases for breach of licence. One of the expats here was stopped by the armed police yesterday and had her car searched. She asked to see the search warrant and they just looked at her blankly and proceeded to search the car and not find anything.

Commemorative stamps have been released to commemorate the 15th Karnataka Assembly Elections. The stamps represent Karnataka cultural heritage and the importance of voting.

The JD (S) finally published their manifesto yesterday promising to waive crop loans to the value of Rs 53,000 crore within 24 hours of coming into power. They have also promised free education to all girls. There is also promised financial assistance to those living BPL.

I got caught up in a BJP election convoy near where I was volunteering at a slum summer school. I was pawed at and grabbed by men wanting to talk to me and tell me about BJP and Congress. The children were polite and asked me questions and shook my hand. The grown men could learn a lot from them. It was quite intimidating and an example of how volatile Bangalore is – the atmosphere can change in an instant.

Wednesday 9th May

9,746 original voter ID cards have been seized by the Election Commission after a raid on an apartment in the Rajarajeswarinagar constituency yesterday, together with the equipment to make the voter ID cards. Both the BJP and JD(S) parties have requested that the election be countermanded in that constituency blaming the Congress candidate.

5,000 to 6,000 PSU bank officials and 1,700 staff from SBI and Canara banks have been assigned poll duty on 12th May, which is a bank holiday. The Sunday is also a bank holiday due to the election. They are expecting ATMs to run out of cash by Sunday.

PM Modi’s visit to south Bengaluru in the evening caused traffic chaos all afternoon. At the election rally PM Modi accuses the Congress leaders of not stopping at anything to defame Bengaluru. (Now, even I as a expat citizen of Bangalore, find that difficult to believe.)

The leaders of the other parties were criss crossing the state campaigning and across Bengaluru too.

Proper mud slinging political ad from the BJP. I had to look up ‘Goondaism’!

The Election Commission has issued the government mandate (“which cannot be violated”) stating that all private industries and organisations have to give paid leave to all employees on 12th May, polling day. The mandate starts at 6am in 12th May to 6am on 13th May.

Thursday 10th May

Today is the last day of election campaigning before the vote on Saturday. Purdah begins at 5pm this evening and the state goes dry too. Candidates can conduct door to door campaigns The ‘liqor’ store was busy when I visited to stock up on kingfisher beers at lunchtime. Paid campaigners are dressed up and out in force and I have only seen BJP so far.

All parties have been visiting home owners to encourage them to vote for them. My helper had told me that the owner of her flat has received Rs3000 from each of the BJP and Congress and JD(S) to vote for them. I suppose if bribes are being offered they may as well play the politicians at their own game and take the cash from all of them; Rs 9,000 is a months salary here.

The Election Commission is providing ambulances near polling booths on Saturday (for the first time) to cater for any medical emergencies.

The church sent out a message to everyone encouraging them to vote on Saturday.

I simply can’t imagine that happening in the UK.

Friday11th May

Campaigning is now complete. The BJP have concentrated on Modi’s record in Office at the Union Government and the Congress Party have concentrated on what they have achieved in Karnataka over the last 5 years in Office. The JD(S) campaign was a more straight forward plea to give a local party a chance.

The BJP is hoping to increase their vote share by a few percentage points and seats accordingly. It is why this election campaign has been so hotly contested.

Rahul Gandhi (Congress President) accused the PM Modi of “indulging diversionary tactics” by raking up his Italian ancestry.

BJP National President Amit Shah promised to investigate the corruption within the Congress Party in Karnataka if voted into power.The BJP have been accusing Congress of corruption throughout the campaign.

The Police have registered an FIR against 14 people in connection with the seizure of 9,896 voter ID cards from an apartment in Jalahalli. One of those is a Congress MLA.

The BJP held motorbike rallies and held roadshows in 27 of the Assembly constituencies yesterday. The JD(S) President made an emotional appeal for votes saying he will not live long if he didn’t receive votes.

There was a reminder for people today about the difficulty of travelling now that 40% of buses have been requisitioned for poll duty. Over 9,000 buses will be on poll duty and 45,000 cabs.

There are 32 Lakh people with disabilities and differing abilities in Karnataka and only about 50% vote. This is due mainly to the lack of facilities provided such as a ramp for wheelchair users. Accessibility is a huge issue in Bangalore with little, if any at all, consideration given to access for people with differing abilities. The Chief Electoral Officer has appointed 180 election officers to assist those voters with different abilities.

As purdah comes into force the Election Commission will be monitoring all candidates and parties for political activity. No more than 5 people belonging to the same political party will be allowed to move around the city in a group. No canvassing is allowed within a 100m radius of polling stations and cell phones are banned. A gag order has been placed on media outlets regarding political adverts, opinion polls or any other analysis regarding the election. (Which is interesting as today’s papers are carrying adverts and have pages of analysis).

Yesterday the police seized 1000 litres of alcohol which was being transported illegally in a water tanker from Telangana state into Karnataka. Estimated value is Rs 6 lakh.

PM Modi launched a blistering attack on Congress over the treatment of Dalits in the state and alleged that they “betrayed” them.

Seven people were injured, some with head injuries, and a hospital ransacked damaging equipment, windows and the water supply pipeline in the Emergency Room during a clash of campaigners from the BJP and Congress. The mob was only dispersed after the police resorted to a lathi charge.

Saturday 12th May

The state votes today to elect 222 MLAs in a vote that will have ramifications nationally. As many as 5.06 crore voters are set to elect the 15th Legislative Assembly of Karnataka between 7am to 6pm. 1.40 Lakh security personal have been deployed across the state to ensure free and fair voting during the elections.

More than 100 candidates fielded by Congress, the BJP and JD(S) are children of current and former ministers and MLAs.

By Friday the Election Commission had seized Rs87.01 crore cash and 5.26lakh litres of alcohol from various parts of Karnataka. Hordes of cash were hidden in cement sacks and under bus seats as well as their ingenious ways to hide contraband.

Considering there is a ban on political adverts and campaigning I am not sure how a full page, front page advert in the newspaper for the BJP and full page 3 advert for Congress is allowable. Clearly there are nuances I don’t understand. The Karnataka Election Commission has leased with Facebook to ensure an advert appears on news feeds to remind people to vote.

As ‘everyone’ has been given paid holiday to vote, drivers were not working today so I drove myself, for the first time ever, to the local shops. It was like playing wacky races. Cars overtaking, undertaking and cars, bikes and autos coming towards me the wrong way down the road. Rez was impressed at my Indian driving skills, which basically involved not flinching and much horn honking whilst weaving in and out of traffic and people from all and every direction. It was certainly an experience.

The election campaign has been a long, noisy and quite bitter with allegations and accusations flying around across parties. This unbecoming and demeaning behaviour focussed on issues such as caste, religion and community. It is an important election nationally. Congress want to retain power in Karnataka as it is the only major state ruled by it. The BJP want to recapture the state it lost in 2013 as it wants a foothold in the south, which is is lacking at the moment. The key though is that it may be an indicator for the next Lok Sabha elections. If it is, the state of politics in India is on a slippery slope to the bottom.

Sunday 13th May

The majority of exit polls are predicting a hung Assembly with the BJP as the largest party. Voter turnout was 70% across Karnataka but only 54% (estimated) in Bengaluru, the lowest in the state. The highest was in Ramanagaram with 80% turnout.

Tuesday 15th May

In a very confusing day, with seats and majorities being stated from early morning it took me a while to ascertain that these were actually predictions of who was in the lead. The Election Commission of India website has crashed all day long.

The anticipated results were declared at 6pm (but not that I could see in any official capacity).

AnticipatedResults:

BJP 104 (up 65)

Congress 78 (down 43)

JDS 38 (down2)

Others 2 (down 20)

The JD(S) are going to form the government with the support of Congress. They approached the Governor to state their plans. The Chief Minister will be from JD(S) – Kumaraswamy. As predicted it is a hung Assembly with the BJP with the most seats.

Official results page from the Election Commission website at around 7pm.

Wednesday 23rd May

Update.

The last 10 or so days in Karnataka have been incredible. The Congress and JD(S) parties submitted a formal written letter to the Governor confirming a coalition to govern as the majority parties united together. Despite this the Governor, a BJP loyalist of Modi, invited the BJP to govern and hold the Chief Minister post and gave them 15 days to prove their support in a floor test. Congress and JD(S) took all their MLAs out of Bangalore to resort hotels so that they could not be poached or persuaded to join or support the BJP. Congress and JD(S) petitioned the Supreme Court who then gave the BJP one day to prove their support in a floor test, especially as the BJP were reluctant in court to state who their supporters would be. The next day, instead of the floor test, the BJP Chief Minister reigned, after only 55 hours in Office. The JD(S) Chief Minister Kumaraswamy was sworn in today in a ceremony with much pomp and VIPs present. Rahul and Sonia Gandhi (Congress) flew in to be there and show support. An estimated 5,000 villagers attended, all dressed in white, to show their support. BJP supporters turned out to protest wearing black armbands. Roads were shut, traffic was more chaotic than usual and the schools closed at 12:40pm (with an hours notice to collect children.) It’s certainly been an incredible time.

Key:

  1. Rs = Indian Rupees
  2. Lakh = 100,000. (In monetary terms about £1,100)
  3. Crore = 10 million / 100 Lakh. (In monetary terms about £110,000)
  4. Crorepati = a Hindustani word for a millionaire. A crorepati is a person who resides in a household whose net worth or wealth exceeds ten million rupees or units of another currency.
  5. FIR = First Information Report, filed by police to open an investigation
  6. IMFL = Indian Made Foreign Liquor e.g. whiskey
  7. IML = Indian Made Liquor
  8. MLAs = Members of the Legislative Assembly
  9. JD(S) = Janata Dal (Secular)
  10. BBMP = Bruhathi Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike
  11. BPL = Below Poverty Line
  12. SC = Scheduled Castes
  13. BSP = Bahujan Samajwadi Party of Mayawati with a presence only in Uttar Pradesh.
  14. Goondaism = refers to anti-social behavior of persons who generally indulge in violent and other “illegitimate means” to get things done.
  15. Congress = Indian National Congress Party
  16. BJP = Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party.
  17. AAP = Aam Aadmi Party, making its debut in the state.
  18. Lathi = police baton
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Karnataka State Elections 2018

When is the election?

12th May 2018

What is it for?

To elect members to the Karnataka state assembly. There are 30 Districts and 224 constituencies.

Why is it important?

The Assembly election outcome will shape the future of Karnataka. The state has historically had a government which is in opposition to the national government and as a consequence tensions can run high during the election campaign.

Our church commenced praying for the elections last month. The are fervent prayers from the congregation and there is anticipation of corruption and violence.

Bangalore has 28 seats available in the state elections. This is more than 10% of the total seats available so makes it politically important. In 2013 the seats were 13 for Congress, 12 for BJP (the party of PM Modi) and 3 for JD(S) (a regional party with negligible urban presence).

What are the key issues?

  • Drinking water and the supply of water generally
  • Sewerage and waste management infrastructure
  • Lakes (dying) and water bodies
  • Traffic congestion and management
  • Infrastructure projects, especially roadside
  • Crime

The indelible ink mark of Indian elections

Indian voters show their index finger marked with ink by the election officer to indicate they have voted. It stays on the finger for 3-4 days and on the nail and cuticle for over 4 weeks. Election ink is a permanent stain on the cuticle which only disappears with new growth. It is a phosphoric ink, using Silver Nitrate, that is applied during elections. The ink is used to prevent Electoral fraud such as double voting. It is effective here due to the lack of identity documents of the citizens.

One candidate, multiple constituencies contested

In India political candidates can contest seats simultaneously in more than one constituency under S33(7) of the Representation of People Act. This is a historical provision to maintain the right of any citizen to represent the people in any part of the country, allowing for freedom of movement and work.

The problem with this is if the candidate wins in both places. One of the seats had to be vacated triggering a by-election and the associated additional costs and time wasted. (It’s also a slap in the face to voters who supported them!).

The Supreme Court is hearing a private petition to strike down S33(7) stating these grounds and the Court has asked for the Central Government’s response on the issue. The election Commission has already made it clear that it is against candidates contesting multiple seats.

It unlikely to change anytime soon if politicians have their say. Multiple seats contested widen their chances of being elected. This election is already seeing discussions and arguments about which party member can contest which seats.

Progress

I will be maintaining a diary of events during the election campaign to see how it progresses. I will publish it after the election. Watch this space!

The UK General Election 2017


What is it?

The UK had a General Election on Thursday 8th June 2017. This is when we elect a representative, in our constituency area, for Parliament. It is supposed to happen once every 5 years but we have had three elections in 7 years now (2010, 2015 and 2017). The Prime Minister Theresa May called the Election when she was significantly ahead in the polls from her nearest rival, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Theresa May called the Election purely on political grounds for her party. She expected and wanted to win an increased majority to give her a mandate in the upcoming Brexit negotiations as the UK leaves the European Union(‘EU’). She also did not have a personal mandate as she became leader of the Conservative party after David Cameron resigned following the UK Referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU. As she was now leader she automatically became Prime Minister (‘PM’) but had not been elected by the UK electorate. 

What happened?

What actually happened was that Labour gained 30 seats and the Conservatives lost 13 seats. She made the campaign about “strong and stable” leadership. As a consequence this is a huge failure for her; the gamble did not pay off. 

Minority Government 

Theresa May now has to form a government with the support of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (‘DUP’). This is hardly strong and stable – more like a weak and wobbly coalition. We shall see how the coalition pans out and what concessions have been made to the DUP to elicit their support.

The key moment will be the vote on the Queen’s speech. If Theresa May fails to get that passed in parliament then Jeremy Corbyn will be asked by the Queen to form a minority government. It could result in another general election before the year is out so that one party can take control.

It’s not a new thing though, the Scottish National Party ran a minority government in Scotland about 10 years ago and John Major survived without a majority in the dying days of his administration in the mid-1990s. Harold Wilson and James Callaghan governed with minorities for most of the 1970s (and probably the most memorable Labour administrations that everyone remembers for all the wrong reasons).

The Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, have 10 MPs and if they vote with the Conservatives, the government will be able to get its business through Parliament. The easiest way for the government to ensure regular DUP support in Parliament would be to agree a “confidence and supply” arrangement. The DUP would promise to back the government in votes of no confidence and budget (supply) issues. In return, the government would support or fund some of the DUP’s policies. 

Facts and figures

Women 

There are now 208 women in the Commons, up from 191 in 2015. This takes female representation in the Commons to a new high of 32% of MPs. There are significant variations between parties:  Labour 45% of their MPs are women and 21% for the Conservatives. 

Lost deposits

To stand as a candidate in the General Election, you have to submit an application to your local returning officer with a £500 deposit.When a party gets less than 5% of the vote in a constituency, it loses the £500 deposit each candidate needs to put down to stand. 

The Prime Minister’s constiuency always attracts a large number of candidates due to the guaranteed publicity on election night. The media always report live the outcome of the PM’s constituency as well as the leader of the opposition (as well as numerous other key or important, newsworthy constituencies). Now the majority of those standing in the PM’s constituency only got a few votes each, meaning that they lost their deposits. They included the Green Party, UKIP, Animal Welfare Party, Lord Buckethead (yes, really), the Monster Raving Looney Party (‘Howling Laud Hope’), Christian Peoples Alliance, the Just Political Party and three brave Independents. Lord Buckethead has now developed a following on social media as a consequence of his appearance in the election.

The Lib Dems lost deposits in 375 seats(£187,500), UKIP lost 337 deposits (£168,500). The Green Party lost the most deposits with 455; That’s a whopping £227,500 down the drain.

Other facts

Jeremy Corbyn increased Labour’s share of the vote more than any other leader since Clement Attlee (who had a 10.4% swing in 1945). Nine Conservative ministers lost their seats including Ben Gummer who co-authored the Conservative manifesto. Rosie Duffield won Canterbury defeating former defence minister Sir Julian Brazier and taking the constituency Labour for the first time since its inception in 1918. The Conservatives secured 13 seats in Scotland, making it their best performance since 1983. Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister in the coalitions government, lost his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour. A final punishment for his reversal on tuition fees and joining the Tories in coalition. 

The electorate was 46,843,896 and the turnout was 68.7% meaning that nearly a third of the electorate did not vote. There were 3,303 candidates contesting a total of 650 seats. This is down from the 3,971 candidates who stood in the 2015 General Election which in turn was 162 lower than the all-time high of 4,133 in 2010. 

The DUP

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest unionist political party in Northern Irelandand is far right on the political spectrum. It was founded by the late Rev Ian Paisley in 1971 (at the height of the troubles), breaking away from the Ulster Unionist Party (the ruling party in the country since its formation in 1922). Unionism in Ireland is a political ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. Since the partition of Ireland, unionism in Ireland has focused on maintaining and preserving the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. 

The Rev Ian Paisley led the party for 38 years. The current leader is Arlene Foster. It is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fifth-largest party in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. 

What next?

Theresa May will be forming her cabinet and changes will be necessary as she lost some ministers in the election. Jeremy Corbyn too will be forming a shadow cabinet. Then there is the Queen’s speech and the subsequent parliamentary vote, which will be the first test of the new coalition government. Theresa May is going to have to compromise on policy and legislation and carefully select that which she really want to get through Parliament as upsetting a few back benchers will mean a defeat. Watch out for MPs hanging aimlessly around parliament late at night waiting for a vote, as every vote really does count. It has been known in the past for MPs to be wheeled in from hospital to vote on crucial matters. 

Whatever happens it will certainly be interesting. Perhaps another General Election before the end of the year, who knows!

More Fallout from the U.K.’s Vote to leave the E.U.

The Official Opposition Implodes

It is difficult to under estimate the staggering events in UK politics at the moment. On Sunday, a day we thought would be a day of rest, ended up being a day when a lot of the the official opposition cabinet resigned after one of them was sacked in the early hours of the morning. The pace of the resignations was staggering. It was difficult to keep up. Monday was no better with another 3 resignations from the shadow cabinet by 8am BST. They continued throughout the day, making 23 in total. Statements were made by each of the those resigning and all of them questioned the leadership of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. His leadership is now in jeopardy and a leadership contest is now likely within the Official Opposition as well as within the Conservative Party. It is staggering that MPs, who are elected to govern this country, are abandoning their posts like rats leaving a sinking ship.

Scottish Independence

The statement by the SNP in the House of Commons today made it clear that Scotland voted to remain in Europe and have no intention of being dragged out of Europe along with the rest of the U.K., even if that does mean separating from the rest of the U.K. By gaining Independence. They are determined to stay within Europe, with or without the rest of the U.K. To be honest, I don’t blame them.

Another General Election?

The Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 introduced fixed terms for parliaments for the first time in the UK. The next one is not due until 2020. However with the massive change in events recently it is likely that a General Election will be held in the Autumn. However, today in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister stated clearly that the calling of a General Election would be for the new Prime Minister. That delays the decision to convene a General Election. It is not going to be made until the Autumn as well, when the Conservative Party should have elected a new leader, who will then automatically become the new Prime Minister. Then there needs to be a two thirds majority to overturn the legislation I.e. Support from all sides of the House of Commons. That support is likely in light of events.

Article 50

Article 50 is the means by which the UK can leave the EU. This needs to be ‘triggered’ by the UK to enable the 2 year negotiation process to begin. The Prime Minister has stated that it will be for any new Prime Minister to make the decision regarding timing of that ‘trigger’. In the meantime a new department is being set up in Whitehall purely to deal with the issue of Britain to leave the EU. This will be staffed by civil servants from across all departments. The detail was missing on the exact details but that will emerge over time no doubt. The Prime Minister confirmed that there would not be another or second referendum in any event. That will disappoint the millions of people who have signed a petition requesting a second referendum on different terms.

What next?

Well, who knows? 

“A week is a long time in politics”

Harold Wilson 1964

With the current pace of change in UK politics a day is a long time. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Stop the world – I want to get off!

What now? The U.K. Referendum Result

I woke early (5:30am) on Thursday 23rd June 2016 in Bangalore, India. 5000 miles away in the UK it was 1am. Polling stations would not open for several hours. Today was the day the UK was going to take a historic vote as to whether to ‘Remain’ within the European Union or ‘Leave’ it. I was nowhere near home and I was worried. So was my German friend who had WhatsApp me in the night with a message “I hope you vote Remain”. Like him, we have only viewed the campaign through the eyes of the foreign media, all of whom are bewildered as to why the UK would want to leave the EU. We have also seen snippets of the campaign through the eyes of BBC World News, more so in the last week in the run up to the vote. It has been interesting watching the different approach the BBC has taken. They have definitely given a lot more airtime to the ‘Leave’ campaign than any other news outlet in an attempt to be balanced in their approach.

When BBC Breaking News sent an alert to my phone that the Polling Stations had opened our 9 year old daughter burst into tears. “I don’t want the UK to leave the EU” she sobbed, “and I don’t want to have to leave the UK to be in the EU”. It shocked me that she had such a strength of feeling, had been paying attention to what was happening, understood the significance and had an opinion on it. She also bemoaned the fact that she didn’t have a vote as a child yet other adults were deciding on her future. The frustration of her position was upsetting her.

What was it all about?

A referendum was held on Thursday 23 June to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union.The European Union – known as the EU – is an economic and political group of 28 European countries. It started after World War Two for economic cooperation – as countries which trade together are less likely to go to war with each other. It has grown to become a single market allowing free movement of people and goods. It has its own currency, the Euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries but not the UK which has retained the pound.  The EU has its own parliament and sets rules in a wide range of areas including on the environment, transport, consumer rights etc.

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister(‘PM’), took the decision to hold a referendum following pressure from his own party, The Conservatives, who are divided on whether Britain should remain members of the EU. The rising support for the far right UK Independence Party (‘UKIP’) also put pressure on the PM to hold a referendum as far right Conservatives were starting to defect to UKIP. It was a political decision by the PM to ensure he could maintain control of his own party in Government. It was not a will or request of the general electorate and population. This Referendum was thrust upon them and forced many to make a decision about something they know, or knew, little about.  It has divided the Nation and further divided the Conservative Party. It has been disastrous for politics as the arguments became poisonous and nasty.

Voting and the result

The registered electorate were able to vote at designated polling stations across the UK from 7am until 10pm on Thursday 23rd June 2016. Counting started when the polls closed. Ballot boxes were taken to 382 local centres around the UK (representing 380 local government areas in England, Scotland and Wales, plus one each for Northern Ireland and Gibraltar) and the results collated at 11 regional centres in the UK and Gibraltar. The regional centres declared the total vote for each side. The chief counting officer announced the overall result at Manchester Town Hall (in the north of England). It was clear from quite early on that the Vote Leave campaign had won. As more votes came in, their lead strengthened. 

Leave 17,410,742          52%

Remain 16,141,241       48%

Turnout 72.2%

Rejected ballots 26,033

England and Wales voted to Leave the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU.

It was in shock. I was in mourning. It is so very sad that we have chosen to leave the EU. The ramifications are enormous and I don’t think clearly understood at all.

What now for the Prime Minister and the Conservative Government?

The Government is going to find it much harder to get any laws passed and doing the business of government as the divisions in the Tory party are huge. Now a lot of the party have not got what they wanted it is going to be frosty for quite some time. They only have a majority of only 12 so any contentious legislation is going to be hard to get through a vote in the House of Commons and get passed.

The prime Minister has resigned. There will be a leadership contest within the Tory party and a new leader elected within 3 months David Cameron’s leadership has been lacking during the campaign and the whole Referendum was his decision. It has divided his own party as well as the Nation. The country will get a new Prime Minister and one they didn’t vote for. The Conservatives notoriously did this with Margaret Thatcher replacing her with John Major in 1990, denying the electorate the choice. (So much for for being the oldest Democracy in the world!)

It is also likely that there will be another General Election before the end of the fixed term parliament. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but the First Past The Post system that Britain uses in General Election delivers unrepresentative results. That may cause even more unrest. The voting system needs to change so that all votes count and all voices are heard. Proportional Representation is needed now more than ever before. People need to be represented and their voices heard.

Could MPs block an EU exit?

MPs could block an EU exit as the decision is not legally binding as there is no mechanism for it to be so. It will be politically disasterous though for MPs to go against the will of the people. Parliament will have to pass laws that will enable Britain to exit the EU including repealing the European Communities Act 1972.

The withdrawal agreement would also have to be ratified by Parliament – the House of Lords and/or the Commons could vote against ratification. If the Commons resolves against ratification, the treaty can still be ratified if the Government lays a statement explaining why the treaty should nonetheless be ratified and the House of Commons does not resolve against ratification a second time within 21 days (this process can be repeated ad infinitum).

In practice, Conservative MPs who voted to remain in the EU would be whipped to vote with the government. Any who defied the whip would have to face the wrath of voters at the next general election.

One scenario that could see the referendum result overturned, is if MPs forced a general election and a party campaigned on a promise to keep Britain in the EU, got elected and then claimed that the election mandate topped the referendum one. Two thirds of MPs would have to vote for a general election to be held before the next scheduled one in 2020.

Scotland and an Independence Referendum 

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, has made a statement that a “material and significant change” has taken place . This triggers a promise to hold an Independence Referendum as the Scots seek to remain within the EU and not be dragged out along with England. There is a long road ahead with Scotland as they negotiate their terms with the EU and prepare for yet another referendum. 

Northern Ireland

There are significant issues  for Northern Ireland who also voted to remain within the Eu. Sinn Fein will likely call for a united Ireland to keep Northern Ireland within the EU. In any event Northern Ireland will have the only land border between the UK and the EU which will need to be defended. In a country with a peace agreement the added pressure is unwelcome.

June 24th

The pace of change and events throughout ‘Black’ Friday 24th June have been breathtaking. There have been so many events which on their own would be huge news stories but they pale into insignificance compared to the historic decision for the UK to leave the EU. We have been members for 43 years. The impact is global as well as for the rest of the EU. The world is in shock and will have to recover. What the future looks like is anyone’s guess. 

One thing is certain, the economic impact will be fast and hard. Emotion rather than economics drove this decision though so one has to assume that the leave voters think the economic consequences are worth it. I genuinely don’t understand it. I don’t recognise my own country anymore. I want to be part of the EU and not out on our own. I am sure the 16 million other people who voted remain feel the same way too. That has huge consequences for the British people – a significant proportion of people do not want to leave – how are politicians going to placate and reassure people?

What next?

Who knows? It’s anyone’s guess. It’s a brave new world out there and we’ll have to rise to the challenge. We are British after all – it’s what we’re good at.

Tiananmen Square Protests and Massacre 1989 – 27 years ago today

I was in the middle of studying for my Politics and Government degree at the time. I was at the end of my first year at City of London Polytechnic (it’s now London Guildhall University) and my second year was going to consist of studying the political systems of France, Russia, USA and China.  Then this happened. I watched the events unfold with a combination of disbelief and horror. These were students, like myself, protesting peacefully but were eventually massacred at the hands of the army on the instructions of the Governement.

Background to the protests

In April 1989 the former Communist Party General Secretary, Hu Yaobang, died. He was a liberal reformer who lost power to hardliners (notably Deng Xiaoping) regarding political and economic reforms. He had voiced concerns about inflation, limited career prospects and corruption in the party elite. 

Students marched to Tiananmen Square to mourn his death. They asked for government accountability, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the restoration of workers’ control over industry. (It’s incredible isn’t it – things we consider basic rights in the West).  They were led by a group of students one of whom was called Wu’erkaixi from Beijing Normal University.

At the height of the protests there were about 1 million people in Tiananmen Square, most of them students from Beijing. The protests led to demonstrations in 400 cities in China by mid May. There was wide support for the protesters, especially from the city residents.

There was a state visit by the Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev in mid May and journalistic reporting restrictions were loosened during his state visit. As a consequence the world’s media were able to report on the protests and the Chinese state media broadcast footage sympathetic to the protesters.

What was the reponse?

The Communist Party leader, Deng Xiaoping, and other party elders resolved to use force and imposed martial law on 20th May 1989. 300,000 troops were mobilised in Beijing. The People’s Liberation Army’s entry into the city was blocked at the suburbs by protesters initially but they returned later.

The tide had turned on the peaceful protests. The protestors were forcibly suppressed and on the night of 3rd June and the morning of 4th June troops with assault rifles (using expanding bullets to create larger wounds)  and tanks killed unarmed civilians. Deaths have been estimated between 241-3000 as China actively suppress discussion and research no one has been able to verify the death toll.

The aftermath

The government carried out mass arrests and many workers were summarily tried and executed. Students received lighter sentences of 7 years due to being well connected and from wealthier backgrounds. Some students and university staff were permanently stigmatised and never worked again.

Some student leaders including Wu’erkaixi escaped to Taiwan, the USA (Wang Dan), UK and France (Chai Ling) under Operation Yellowbird organised from the British Territory of Hong Kong (at that time).

The Chinese government continues to suppress any public discussion of the protests and books, films etc have been confiscated and destroyed. Children born in the late 1980s in China have no knowledge other than the government one that military force was necessary to quell a political riot. To this day the censorship continues and justice for those that died has never been given.