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Bihar Polls: Third phase ends with 53 per cent vote

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Patna: The third phase of Bihar’s staggered assembly polls ended on Wednesday evening, with 53.20 per cent of the 14.5 million electorate voting in 50 constituencies across six districts.

Additional Chief Electoral Officer R Lakshmanan said the exercise passed off peacefully, including in areas where Maoists are active. There were only minor clashes between rival political activists.

According to officials, more than 7.5 million people voted during the day in a battle that has pitted the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the Grand Alliance of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The voters on Wednesday included Nitish Kumar, his ally and RJD leader Lalu Prasad, BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Modi and BJP’s dissident MP Shatrughan Sinha.

After voting in Patna with his family, Lalu Prasad, a former chief minister, hit out at Modi.

“Modi is playing the communal card on reservation. People in the country never expected such words from the prime minister,” he said.

He was referring to Modi’s statement that the Grand Alliance was trying to put in quotas in jobs and educational institutions for Muslims.

Sushil Modi also voted in Patna. And so did Nitish Kumar and Shatrughan Sinha, a Bollywood veteran who has embarrassed the Bharatiya Janata Party by publicly praising Nitish Kumar.

When journalists asked him who he thought will win the Bihar battle, Sinha retorted: “Khamosh” (silence). The MP has been sidelined by the BJP in the election campaign.

Polling began at 7 a.m. in the districts of Patna, Saran, Vaishali, Nalanda, Bhojpur and Buxar. It got over at 4 p.m. in 10 constituencies located in Maoist strongholds. Elsewhere it ended at 5 p.m.

Nalanda is Nitish Kumar’s home turf, and is widely known as ‘Kurmistan’ due to the dominance of his Kurmi caste.

As in the first and second rounds of polling on October 12 and 16, serpentine queues formed at polling stations since early in the morning.

Officials said voters in over a dozen villages boycotted the polls to protest what they said was lack of development in their areas.

Lalu Prasad’s prestige was at stake on Wednesday as his sons Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejaswi Yadav were in the fray. They contested from Mahua and Raghopur respectively in Vaishali district.

The BJP is banking heavily on Dalits and other backward castes, including Yadav voters, besides most upper castes to get the winning votes. Its allies include the Lok Janshakti Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party.

The JD-U has tied up with the RJD and Congress.

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms and the National Election Watch, 215 of the candidates in the third round-faced serious criminal charges, including those of murder.

The staggered elections to pick a 243-member Bihar assembly will end on November 5. The results will be known on November 8. The fourth round of polling will take place on November 1.

(IANS)

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)