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Most Nepalese now unhappy with Modi

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Kathmandu: Just a year ago when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed 10 agreements with Nepal and launched a bus service between the two countries, his popularity soared and soared. It is a different story now.

The reason is not hard to comprehend after talking to locals facing the brunt of blockages at the country’s entry points along India’s border that has caused widespread shortages in the landlocked nation.

“It’s a self-managed economic blockade by our long-time friend India,” said Deepak Shah, a shopkeeper in Kathmandu.

Shah said that New Delhi was retaliating against the Nepalese government since it approved a new constitution not to India’s liking.

“The Modi government sees the new constitution as discriminatory to one ethnic Indian community, Madhesis, who are settled along our borders (with India),” he said.

Shah’s sentiments were echoed by 35-year-old housewife Bimla Baidhya.

“The BJP-led Indian government is wooing Madhesis in Bihar where elections are due,” she said. Bihar along with Uttar Pradesh shares a long border with Nepal.

Many Nepalese say they are skipping one or two meals a day owing to a huge shortage of cooking gas in Kathmandu.

Cab driver Pradip Sapkota said China was the new friend of Nepal.

“We will get all our fuel and ration from China now. Even when the earthquake hit this country (in April), China proved to be a more trusted friend than India,” he added.

Picking holes in Modi’s address in Japan, college going Bikash Shrestha said his speeches in Nepal and Japan showed his diplomatic colours.

“When he was in Kathmandu (in August 2014), he said Lord Buddha was born in Nepal. But a month later when he visited Japan he said ‘India is a land of Buddha’. We don’t take it as a slip of tongue,” she said.

Shortly after assuming office in 2014, Modi made a high-fanfare visit to Kathmandu — the first by an Indian prime minister in 17 years.

The Madhesi parties from the Terai region bordering India have been protesting at Nepal’s entry points to build pressure on the government to meet their demands to amend the new constitution.

Nepalese officials say 70 percent of their trade comprises mainly essential goods such as fuel and cooking gas and comes from India.

There is another side to the crisis in Nepal.

People here have formed car pools to overcome the fuel shortage resulting from the blockades along India’s border with Nepal.

Long queues in front of petrol pumps, shortage of essential commodities resulting in price rise, lack of public transportation and cramped buses are common sights across Nepal since the new constitution came into being on September 20.

To overcome the problems, the government has rationed fuel — 10 litres a week for cars and three litres for a motorbike.

For some, the fuel shortage is a positive thing.

“Now there is not too much vehicular congestion on the streets of Kathmandu. A majority of people walk. This improves their health and also checks pollution,” octogenarian Dalip Rana said.

On Sunday, Nepal got some relief as over 100 trucks, stranded on the Indian border for over 10 days with essential and petroleum goods, entered the country.

 

(Vishal Gulati, IANS)

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India Begins Its Election Season With Five States

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh.

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India, elections
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the gathering during the 'Global Mobility Summit' in New Delhi, India, VOA

India began on Monday the first of five state elections to be held in coming weeks, important tests for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he plots a course that he hopes will ensure him victory in a general election due by May.

Voters in the central state of Chhattisgarh went to the polls on Monday to elect representatives for 18 of the state assembly’s 90 seats in a staggered poll complicated by logistical problems and left-wing guerrillas.

The state of about 26 million people has been ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003, and he will be hoping to hold on to power.

India, elections
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Continues To Stay Mum On The #MeToo Movement. Wikimedia Commons

“Some unholy people have handed guns to children who should have pens in their hands,” Modi told a rally in the state on Friday, referring to the rag-tag guerrillas battling government forces from forest hideouts. “They’ve finished the lives of our tribal children.”

Hundreds of election workers had to be flown in to remote polling stations by helicopter because of the danger posed by the rebels.

Modi called for voters to back his BJP and its vision of “development for all.”

The final phase of voting in Chhattisgarh, which is known for its coal, iron ore and bauxite reserves, will be on Nov. 20.

India,India, elections
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents as he accuses Narendra Modi’s government of buying 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault at a highly inflated price, in New Delhi, India. VOA

The BJP was the preference of about 43 percent of voters in Chhattisgarh, 7 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Congress party, according to a survey released last week by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Modi’s other big tests will be in the neighboring central state of Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is slightly ahead of Congress, according to polls, and in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, where Congress is expected to emerge victorious.

A good performance by the BJP in the elections would help it deflect growing criticism over unemployment and a crisis in the countryside over falling farm prices and wages.

India, elections
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Elections will also be held for assemblies in Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh, including Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest and the BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh state.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi Announces Easier Access to Credit

Adityanath has been appealing to the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist base and on Sunday accused the opposition of blocking construction of a temple for Hindu god Ram on a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.

The destruction of a mosque on the site by a Hindu mob in 1992 sparked deadly riots across the country. (VOA)