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Newly elected lawmakers from India's ruling alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party raise their hands in support of Narendra Modi's election as their leader in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

India’s president on Saturday appointed Narendra Modi as the prime minister soon after newly elected lawmakers from the ruling alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, elected him as their leader following a thunderous victory in national elections.

President Ram Nath Kovind said in a tweet that he also asked Modi to forward the names of those to be appointed as ministers in his government and the date for the swearing-in for his second five-year term as prime minister. Modi and some leaders of his alliance met the president on Saturday.


Media reports said Modi was likely to be sworn in by Kovind on Thursday.

BJP president Amit Shah announced Modi’s name as the leader of the National Democratic Alliance in a meeting of the lawmakers in the Central Hall of Parliament in New Delhi.


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, second right, hugs senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader M.M. Joshi as L.K. Advani, left, watches after Modi’s election as ruling alliance leader, in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

The Election Commission announced that the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, after the official vote count from the six-week-long election was completed on Friday. That is well beyond the simple majority a party in India needs to form a government.

The BJP’s top rival, the Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, won 52 seats, and the All India Trinamool Congress led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee won 22.

Unity movement

Critics say Modi and his party have applied divisive policies and used a Hindu-first strategy. But Modi said after Saturday’s vote that “this election has become a movement of social unity.” “It is generally said that the election divides, creates distances, makes walls. But the 2019 elections have worked to break the walls,” he said in his address.

On Friday, Modi met with his outgoing Cabinet ministers and later presented his resignation to the country’s president. The president asked the officials to continue to serve until the new government assumes office.


The Election Commission announced that the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. VOA

Gandhi, whose great-grandfather, grandmother and father were all prime ministers, personally conceded his seat, long a Congress party bastion, to his BJP rival, India’s textiles minister, marking the end of an era for modern India’s most powerful political dynasty.

Counting of the estimated 600 million ballots cast over six weeks of staggered polling — the world’s largest democratic exercise — began early Thursday.

ALSO READ: Here’s How TikTok Made PM Modi Popular Among Young Voters

Hindu-first politics

The victory was largely seen as a referendum on Modi’s Hindu-first politics that some observers say have bred intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities, as well as his muscular stance on neighboring Pakistan, with whom India nearly went to war earlier this year after suicide attacks killed more than 40 Indian security officials in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Modi effectively used the incident as a major campaign tool after responding to the attack with an airstrike in Pakistan that triggered nationalist sentiments, with the BJP saying Modi is the right person to ensure India’s national security. (VOA)


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The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday warned that countries in the Asia-Pacific region need to strengthen healthcare services

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday warned that countries in the Asia-Pacific region need to strengthen healthcare services and focus on vaccinating their people, as the Omicron variant spreads globally and enters new regions.

In a virtual briefing, Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the western Pacific, said that it is clear that this pandemic is far from over.

"I know that people are worried about Omicron. I understand. My message to you today is that we can adapt the way we manage this virus to better cope w/ future surges and reduce their health, social and economic impact," he said.

"We can adapt, so that #COVID19 has less impact on our lives in 2022, and we can start to regain - and hopefully retain - a sense of normality," he added.

Omicron cases have now been reported in India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, and new cases are being documented with each passing hour.

"People should not only rely on border measures. What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don't have to change our approach," he said during the virtual media briefing.

South Korea on Friday decided to tighten anti-virus measures from next week amid a surging number of Covid-19 cases and an emerging worry about the potentially more transmissible Omicron variant.

In India, after detection of the first two cases of Omicron infection in Bengaluru, the Karnataka Health department is now worried over 10 South African nationals, who have gone untraceable in Bengaluru.

A total of 10 persons suspected to be infected with Omicron Covid variant have been admitted to Delhi's Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital (LNJP).

The new super-mutant Omicron variant of Covid-19 can increase risk of reinfection by three times as compared to other variants of concern such as Beta and Delta, according to a preliminary study by South African researchers.

(IANS/JB)

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Photo by Kerala Literature Festival/Twitter

The sixth edition of the Kerala Literature Festival (KLF 2022) will be held at the beaches of Calicut (Kozhikode) from January 20 to January 23.

The sixth edition of the Kerala Literature Festival (KLF 2022) will be held at the beaches of Calicut (Kozhikode) from January 20 to January 23.

Over 400 speakers including Jeffrey Archer, Ada Yonath, Abhijit Banerjee, Arundhati Roy, Remo Fernandes, Sagarika Ghose, Wendy Doniger, Shashi Tharoor, Manu S. Pillai, Devdutt Pattanaik, Chris Kraus and Sudhir Kakar among others will be part of the festival.

Organised by the DC Kizhakemuri Foundation, the event is supported by the Government of Kerala and Kerala Tourism Board. Well-known poet, critic, and writer Prof. K. Satchidanandan is the festive director of KLF 2022.

Set along the shores of the Arabian Sea, the four-day festival brings artists, actors, celebrities, writers, thinkers, and activists closer to people of different backgrounds and interests. With an aggregate footfall of more than 3 lakhs, KLF is the second largest festival of its kind in Asia, combining the best of literary and popular cultures.

The sessions at KLF aim to map literature through discussions on aspects of science & technology, art, cinema, politics, music, environment, literature, pandemic & its Impacts, business & entrepreneurship, health, art & leisure, travel & tourism, gender, economy, culture genomics, history & politics, and various facets that shape human consciousness.

Speakers include major award-winning writers, film and theatre personalities, performers and artists, designers, media personalities, sports icons, diplomats and celebrities from diverse backgrounds.

KLF 2022 will host 200 plus sessions boasting writers, experts, and performers from across India and more than 12 nations globally.

This year the organisers will introduce curated gastronomical exuberance with food trucks and ethnic cuisines.

(IANS/JB)

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1857: The First War of Indepe

Drawn from the details provided by a Brahmin-turned-amateur-historian, this is a real story that follows two learned men as they traverse India during the 1857 uprising on foot, unearthing history from a new vantage point

As the First War of Independence raged, a Brahmin from Maharashtra, Vishnubhat Godse, on a pilgrimage found himself caught right in the middle of the action. He, along with his uncle Rambhat, went through a series of adventures, including barely escaping hanging.

Upon his return home, Godse wrote it all down in Marathi so that his forthcoming generations could have an idea of how things were during that tumultuous period. "The Walking Brahmin" by Maneesh Madhukar Godbole retells that journey, which is a rare eyewitness account from a common Indian's point-of-view.

Published by Garuda Prakashan decades after the original manuscript, it puts all pieces of the story together with maps and photographs and offers a unique insight into what really happened during the War of 1857.

This tale starts in 1857, as the protagonist duo starts on a 'teertha yatra' from Varsai, a small Maharashtrian village, and walk smack in the middle of the mutinous upheaval of 1857. Having the misfortune of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, they were caught in the crossfire between the loyalist Indian troops and the British.


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