May 20, 2016

BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY REBOUNDS IN INDIAN STATE ELECTIONS

[The seats won by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Assam will not significantly change the power equation in the upper house of Parliament, whose members are elected by state legislators. In the upper house, the party is in the minority and often faces setbacks when trying to pass measures to modernize and streamline the economy, as Mr. Modi promised in his rise to power.]


By Nida Najar
Sarbananda Sonwal, front, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate to lead 
Assam state, after his party’s victory on Thursday. Credit Biju Boro/
Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
NEW DELHI — The governing Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies won power in the state of Assam on Thursday, the group’s first triumph in the country’s remote northeast and a morale-raising victory after two dispiriting electoral defeats.

“This win is historic by all standards,” said the party’s leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a Twitter message that congratulated party workers.

In Assam, Mr. Modi’s party defeated the Indian National Congress Party, which was also ousted from power in the southern state of Kerala, data from the Election Commission showed. Congress trailed a coalition of parties in Kerala led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), adding to the party’s political losses after its poor showing in the general elections two years ago.

“Very clearly, the party as a whole has to move beyond this sort of clich├ęd introspection business into some serious action,” said a lawmaker from Kerala, Shashi Tharoor, referring his own Congress party. He suggested in an interview on the NDTV news channel that the party begin by promoting younger leaders throughout the country.

The seats won by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Assam will not significantly change the power equation in the upper house of Parliament, whose members are elected by state legislators. In the upper house, the party is in the minority and often faces setbacks when trying to pass measures to modernize and streamline the economy, as Mr. Modi promised in his rise to power.

But it was a salve for the party and for Mr. Modi after a crushing defeat last fall in state elections in Bihar, which Mr. Modi cast as a referendum on his first 17 months in office. In February of last year, it was trounced by the Aam Aadmi Party in assembly elections in New Delhi.

Parties with powerful female regional leaders triumphed in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and the eastern state of Bengal, despite accusations of corruption.

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the party headed by Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, whose corruption conviction in 2014 was overturned on appeal last year, won in more than half the races on Thursday evening. All India Trinamool Congress, the party of Mamata Banerjee, all but swept West Bengal, winning in more than two-thirds of the races and defeating an alliance of the Congress party and various Communist parties, further cementing her grip on the state.

The Congress party, once the unchallenged power in India, could take some comfort in its performance in the union territory of Puducherry, where its alliance won after a close fight against an incumbent government.

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

[The attack followed a pattern of similar killings in the country in the past two years, accelerating in recent weeks. Many of the attacks are linked to Islamic militants. The assailants have targeted secular bloggers, activists, religious minorities and intellectuals.]

By Julfikar Ali Manik and Nida Najar
DHAKA, Bangladesh — A doctor in western Bangladesh was killed by machete-wielding assailants as he rode to his clinic on Friday morning, the police said, the most recent in a string of such attacks in the country.

Sanaur Rahman, a homeopathic doctor, was on a motorcycle driven by a friend when three men on another motorcycle approached from behind, striking him in the head with a machete and killing him instantly, said Proloy Chisim, the superintendent of the police in Kushtia district, where the attack took place.

Mr. Rahman’s friend, Saifuzzaman, who goes by one name, was critically injured in the attack and sent to Dhaka, the capital, for treatment, Mr. Chisim said. Mr. Saifuzzaman is a professor of Bengali literature at the Islamic University in Kushtia.

The assailants escaped after the killing, and Mr. Saifuzzaman told the police there had been no witnesses.

The attack followed a pattern of similar killings in the country in the past two years, accelerating in recent weeks. Many of the attacks are linked to Islamic militants. The assailants have targeted secular bloggers, activists, religious minorities and intellectuals.

The Islamic State has claimed some of the killings on social media accounts linked to them, while others have been claimed by a faction of Al Qaeda. The Bangladeshi government has consistently denied the presence of foreign militants in the country.
Police officials said that they did not know what had motivated the attack on Mr. Rahman and his friend, and that an investigation had begun.

Another police official in the district, Joynul Abedin, said that Mr. Rahman was a known enthusiast of the 19th-century Bengali poet and folk singer Lalon, whose songs promoted a secularist philosophy. Mr. Rahman often organized gatherings at his clinic, where people would sing Lalon’s songs, Mr. Abedin added, though he said that he could not be sure this was the motivation for the attack.


Julfikar Ali Manik reported from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Nida Najar from New Delhi