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In a scathing editorial, the Financial Times has raised concerns about the state of democracy in India, highlighting a widening gap between pro-democratic rhetoric and ground realities. The British daily’s editorial board noted that despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s characterization of India as the “Mother of Democracy,” recent events suggest a troubling erosion of democratic principles.

Growing Concerns:
The editorial underscores a trend of escalating suppression of free expression and opposition voices under the rule of Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), particularly since its resounding victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Citing recent incidents such as the arrest of opposition leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal, by the Enforcement Directorate and allegations of bank account freezing by the Congress party, the Financial Times highlights a pattern of government critics facing harassment through tax or legal authorities.

Opposition Allegations:
Opposition parties have accused the Modi-led government of misusing investigation agencies to target political rivals, labeling the BJP as a “washing machine” where opposition politicians accused of corruption find refuge after joining the ruling party. The Financial Times references an Indian Express report revealing that a significant number of opposition leaders accused of corruption since 2014 have evaded investigation after aligning with the BJP.

Loktantra Bachao Rally and Allegations of Match-Fixing:
The editorial also delves into the recent “Loktantra Bachao” Maharally held in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, where key opposition leaders united to protest against perceived misuse of central agencies by the Modi government. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of “match-fixing” in the run-up to the elections, alleging the BJP’s use of state agencies to suppress opponents.

International Concerns:
Expressing puzzlement over the ruling party’s perceived need to stifle opposition voices amid favorable opinion polls, the Financial Times emphasizes the importance of upholding democratic principles for India’s global reputation as a vibrant democracy. The editorial alludes to concerns raised by the United States following New Delhi’s summoning of the top US diplomat over Washington’s criticism of Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest, calling for robust defense of political freedoms by democratic nations.

Call for Preservation of Political Freedoms:
The Financial Times concludes by urging India to bridge the gap between democratic rhetoric and reality, emphasizing that preserving political freedoms is crucial for the country’s growth, prosperity, and global standing. It calls on democratic nations to stand firm in safeguarding democratic values, essential for India’s role as a leading member of the global community.

The editorial’s critique adds to the ongoing discourse surrounding India’s democratic health and underscores the need for a robust defense of democratic principles in the face of growing concerns about political freedoms and government accountability.

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New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, currently in custody of the Enforcement Directorate, has issued his second order from inside the lock-up, reinforcing the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) commitment to governance despite his incarceration.

The Chief Minister’s latest directive, communicated by Delhi minister Saurabh Bharadwaj, pertains to ensuring access to free medicines and pathological tests at government-run Mohalla clinics. Mr. Bharadwaj emphasized Mr. Kejriwal’s determination to prevent any inconvenience faced by Delhi residents due to his absence.

“Irrespective of his physical location, Mr. Kejriwal’s concern remains the well-being of Delhi’s citizens. He wants to ensure that every underprivileged person visiting government hospitals or Mohalla clinics receives necessary medications and diagnostic tests free of cost,” stated Mr. Bharadwaj during a press briefing.

Highlighting Mr. Kejriwal’s proactive approach to governance, Mr. Bharadwaj emphasized that the Chief Minister is deeply committed to addressing the needs of Delhiites even while in custody. “His dedication is unwavering, and we, as his team, are fully committed to executing his directives with utmost urgency,” he added.

Earlier, on Sunday, Delhi minister Atishi had shared Mr. Kejriwal’s first directive from jail, which focused on ensuring adequate water supply to areas facing shortages and addressing sewer problems.

However, the AAP’s assertion of maintaining governance from jail has drawn criticism from BJP MP Manoj Tiwari, who accused the party of orchestrating a scripted narrative. Mr. Tiwari dismissed the idea of running a government from jail, likening it to the operation of criminal gangs.

The Chief Minister’s week-long custody follows his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a money laundering case related to Delhi’s now-defunct liquor policy. The AAP has vehemently denied all allegations, attributing the arrests to political vendetta orchestrated by the BJP-led Centre.

Despite the legal challenges, the AAP remains steadfast in its commitment to serving the people of Delhi, affirming that Mr. Kejriwal will continue to discharge his duties as Chief Minister from his current confinement.

As the political tussle ensues, the focus remains on the AAP’s resilience in navigating through adversities while striving to fulfill its governance responsibilities.

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Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with an alleged liquor policy scam. This arrest marks a historic moment as Mr. Kejriwal becomes the first sitting chief minister to face arrest in the history of Independent India.

The Enforcement Directorate, which was investigating the money laundering aspect of the case, conducted a raid at Mr. Kejriwal’s residence. A team of 12 officials arrived at his residence with a search warrant and proceeded to question him before eventually placing him under arrest. Phones belonging to Mr. Kejriwal and his wife were confiscated, and data from two tablets and a laptop were transferred.

Reacting to the arrest, Delhi minister Atishi condemned it as a conspiracy orchestrated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She asserted that Mr. Kejriwal would continue to serve as the Delhi chief minister despite being in custody, emphasizing that he embodies a political ideology rather than being merely an individual.

Furthermore, Atishi highlighted that Mr. Kejriwal has not been convicted and affirmed that the AAP will pursue legal recourse, having approached the Supreme Court against his arrest. She emphasized the party’s determination to continue the fight against what they perceive as political vendetta.

The arrest comes amidst a backdrop of escalating tensions between the AAP and the BJP, with allegations of misuse of central agencies for political vendetta. Several AAP leaders and ministers have been subjected to scrutiny and raids by investigative agencies in recent years.

The timing of Mr. Kejriwal’s arrest, just weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha elections scheduled to commence on April 19, has raised eyebrows and fueled speculation about the politicization of law enforcement agencies in the run-up to the elections.

Meanwhile, the deployment of security personnel outside Mr. Kejriwal’s residence and the detainment of AAP workers who gathered to protest his arrest further underscored the charged atmosphere surrounding the incident.

This development follows the recent arrest of BRS leader K Kavitha in the same liquor policy case, where Mr. Kejriwal was named as a conspirator for the first time. With the arrest of Mr. Kejriwal, the political landscape in Delhi and the wider national arena is likely to witness heightened tensions and increased scrutiny in the days to come.

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Lok Sabha elections, the high-level committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed former bureaucrat Gyanesh Kumar as one of the new Election Commissioners. The announcement was made by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, during a media briefing on March 14.

The selection of Gyanesh Kumar, along with Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, fills the vacancies created in the Election Commission following the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey in February and the unexpected resignation of Arun Goel shortly before the scheduled Lok Sabha polls in 2024.

Gyanesh Kumar, a seasoned bureaucrat, brings a wealth of experience to his new role. A 1988-batch IAS officer from the Kerala cadre, Kumar, aged 60, boasts an impressive track record in various administrative positions. Notably, he served as secretary in the Ministry of Cooperation, which falls under the purview of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, until his retirement on January 31, 2024. Prior to this, Kumar held the position of secretary in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

During his illustrious career, Kumar has overseen several significant postings, including a crucial stint as Joint Secretary in the Kashmir Division of the Home Ministry under the leadership of Amit Shah. Notably, he played a pivotal role during the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. Additionally, in 2020, Kumar led a dedicated desk in the Home Ministry responsible for matters related to the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya case, including the formation of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.

An alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, where he obtained a BTech in Civil Engineering, Kumar furthered his academic pursuits with a postgraduate degree in Economics from Harvard University, USA. He also holds a certification in Chartered Financial Analyst from the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI).

Born on January 27, 1964, in Uttar Pradesh, Kumar hails from a distinguished family background. His father was a doctor, while his grandfather was a freedom fighter who later served as a principal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.

With his extensive administrative experience and academic credentials, Gyanesh Kumar is poised to play a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth conduct of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, upholding the integrity and transparency of India’s electoral process.

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Krishnanagar, West Bengal: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a powerful address at the ‘Bijoy Sankalpa Sabha’ in Krishnanagar, West Bengal, has outlined an ambitious electoral target for the state’s BJP, calling for a resounding victory in all 42 Lok Sabha seats. Modi, addressing a large gathering, launched a scathing critique of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), alleging widespread corruption and setting the stage for an intense electoral battle.

Accusing the TMC of embodying “Tu, Main aur Corruption” (You, Me, and Corruption), Prime Minister Modi rallied the crowd, expressing confidence in the prospect of an overwhelming victory for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in West Bengal. “Seeing you all gathered here in such huge numbers is giving me the confidence to say ‘NDA sarkar, 400 paar'” (NDA government, beyond 400 seats), he declared.

In his address, Modi denounced the TMC for what he described as a legacy of atrocities, dynasty politics, and betrayal. He highlighted the disappointment among the people of West Bengal with the functioning of the state government, laying the groundwork for a narrative centered on change and good governance.

Referring to the troubling incidents in Sandeshkhali, where women accused TMC leaders of sexual abuse, Prime Minister Modi criticized the state government’s response. He alleged that instead of supporting the distressed women, the government sided with the accused, further emphasizing the need for a change in leadership.

“The mothers and sisters kept pleading for justice, but the TMC government did not listen to them. They took votes in the name of ‘Maa Mati Manush,’ but now the mothers and sisters are weeping in West Bengal. The situation in the state is such that here, the criminals decide when to get arrested,” Modi remarked.

As the political landscape intensifies in West Bengal, Prime Minister Modi’s call for winning all 42 Lok Sabha seats reflects the BJP’s strategic approach to emerge as a dominant force in the state. The stage is set for a fierce electoral battle, with both the BJP and the TMC gearing up for a high-stakes contest in the upcoming elections.

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In the ever-evolving landscape of American politics, the 2024 Republican presidential nominating contest is already making headlines. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, former US President Donald Trump is not just leading the pack; he’s doing so convincingly.

Trump’s Resilient Popularity

Despite facing a multitude of legal challenges, including his involvement in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot and other controversies, Trump remains the top choice for a staggering 61% of self-identified Republicans. This robust support signifies a broad base that sees Trump as the go-to candidate to challenge incumbent President Joe Biden.

The Rivals and Their Standing

In the shadow of Trump’s dominance, other contenders lag significantly behind. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, both respected figures in the party, are currently backed by 11% of Republicans each. Haley’s modest surge from 4% in September indicates some momentum, yet it’s clear she, along with others, is facing an uphill battle against the Trump juggernaut.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is capturing attention with 5% support, showcasing a diverse field but still trailing far behind Trump. Meanwhile, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the undecided camp round out the list at 2% and 8%, respectively.

Iowa’s Crucial Role

As the political spotlight intensifies, all eyes turn to Iowa, set to cast the first ballots on January 15, 2024. Trump’s stronghold in Iowa is notable, backed by evangelicals and first-time likely caucus-goers. The state’s unique caucus system, where voters gather to debate and rank candidates, offers a critical early indicator of support.

Insights into the Numbers

While the poll sheds light on the current preferences, it’s essential to note the fluidity of political landscapes. Trump’s enduring popularity speaks to a segment of the Republican base still rallying behind the former president. However, the coming months leading up to the 2024 elections may introduce shifts and surprises.

As the Republican contenders strive to differentiate themselves and connect with voters, the race unfolds as a dynamic narrative. Trump’s lead is undeniable, but political fortunes are fickle, and the true test lies ahead as candidates navigate the diverse terrain of state caucuses and primaries.

Conclusion: A Preview of the Political Arena

The 2024 Republican race, with Trump at the forefront, is a spectacle worth watching. The numbers tell a story of loyalty, shifting dynamics, and the inherent unpredictability of politics. As the nation awaits the unfolding drama, one thing is certain – the journey to the Republican nomination is poised to be a captivating ride.

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Introduction: The political landscape of India witnessed a significant upheaval as the results of the 2023 assembly elections rolled in. With five states – Mizoram, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana – going to the polls, the outcomes have become the focal point of discussions across the nation. In this blog, we break down the key highlights of the elections, shedding light on the BJP’s victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, as well as the surprising turn of events in Telangana.

BJP’s Victories: The trends from the assembly elections suggest that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is poised for victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. The party leaders attribute this success to the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the strategic acumen of Amit Shah, and the implementation of welfare policies that have resonated with the electorate.

Election Dates and Voting: The electoral process unfolded across different timelines in the five states. Mizoram saw voting on November 7, with the counting of votes being revised by the Election Commission of India. Madhya Pradesh held its elections on November 17, while Rajasthan and Telangana conducted single-phase voting on November 25 and November 30, respectively. Chhattisgarh exercised its democratic right on both November 7 and November 17.

Telangana’s Surprise: One of the most noteworthy upsets emerged in Telangana, where the Congress is leading over Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s party, BRS. This unexpected turn of events has added an element of unpredictability to the overall election results.

Impact on 2024 Lok Sabha Elections: While the BJP celebrates its success, the opposition asserts that the outcomes of these assembly elections will not significantly impact the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2024. The political landscape, however, is known for its twists and turns, making it challenging to predict the future course of events.

Conclusion: As the nation eagerly awaits the official declaration of results later in the day, the 2023 assembly elections have already left an indelible mark on India’s political canvas. The BJP’s triumphant performance and the unexpected twists in Telangana have set the stage for continued political discussions and analyses in the days to come. Stay tuned for more updates as the political saga unfolds.

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India’s diplomatic landscape’s surprising twist, Arindam Bagchi, the express the face of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as its representative, is all ready to carry out a new diplomatic mission. This time, he’s headed to Geneva, where he will tutor the prestigious role of India’s next permanent representative to the United Nations and other global bodies.

This move marks a fascinating chapter in Bagchi’s great career, a change that comes at a time when diplomacy has taken center stage in the global arena.

A Diplomat

Arindam Bagchi, an experienced 1995-batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, has been playing a crucial role in shaping the MEA’s communication strategy. His period as the MEA representative, which began in March 2020 in the middle of the global chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw him expertly navigate discussions on critical issues. From addressing the Sino-Indian border tensions to explaining India’s approach to the pandemic and the nation’s role in the G20, Bagchi’s expertise was noticeable.

But this isn’t his first time venturing into this uncharted territory. His journey has been a fascinating blend of experiences. From serving as an Indian envoy in Croatia, an Eastern European nation, to being the Deputy High Commissioner in neighboring Sri Lanka, Bagchi’s resume is a testament to his versatility.

Before taking up the role of MEA representative, he contributed to India’s diplomatic missions in the Prime Minister’s Office and the United Nations in New York.

Geneva Gathering

Now, Geneva Gathering awaits, and Arindam Bagchi is stepping into a role of immense significance. He’s set to succeed Indra Mani Pandey, who has held this pivotal position since July 2020. After a fruitful three-year stint, Pandey is heading back to New Delhi, having completed his mission in Geneva.

While the specific date for Bagchi’s transition remains a well-kept secret, the MEA has confirmed that the handover will happen “shortly.” This appointment not only underscores the faith placed in Bagchi’s diplomatic finesse but also reiterates India’s commitment to playing an active role on the global stage.

As Bagchi takes on his new responsibilities, his tenure in Geneva is poised to influence India’s interactions with the United Nations and numerous international bodies. With his multifaceted career and a reputation for tackling complex international relations, he’s well-positioned to represent India on the global diplomatic chessboard.

With the MEA spokesperson role yet to be filled, the diplomatic community is buzzing with speculation about the potential candidates. Among those being considered are four senior diplomats, including K Nandini Singla, the high commissioner of Mauritius, and Nagaraj Naidu Kakanur, a joint secretary with expertise in G20 affairs.

Arindam Bagchi’s transition to Geneva signifies India’s continued commitment to shaping global conversations, and his diverse career promises a dynamic and insightful tenure in this new role.

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Singapore has elected Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a renowned economist, as its ninth president, making him the third person of Indian origin to hold this position. Tharman, born to Tamil ancestors from Singapore’s Indian community, which comprises about nine percent of the country’s 2.7 million voters, is one of the most highly qualified individuals in this resource-scarce nation, which has witnessed remarkable development over the past five decades.

“I have had the immense privilege of serving you in various capacities over the years – working on the ground, shaping national policies for a fairer and more inclusive society, and representing Singapore internationally,” said the 66-year-old economist, sports enthusiast, and poet shortly before the Presidential Elections on September 1.

Tharman secured a decisive victory in the first contested presidential election since 2011, receiving over 70 percent of the votes. He defeated Ng Kok Song, a former chief investment officer with the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC), and Tan Kin Lian, the former chief of NTUC Income, a state-owned union-based insurance group.

Incumbent President Halimah Yacob’s six-year term will conclude on September 13, as the elected president serves a six-year term.

Tharman, born on February 25, 1957, in Singapore, is a multi-generational Singaporean of Tamil ancestry dating back to the 19th century. He is the son of Emeritus Professor K. Shanmugaratnam, a distinguished medical scientist often referred to as the “father of pathology in Singapore.” His father founded the Singapore Cancer Registry and led several international organizations related to cancer research and pathology.

Tharman is married to Jane Yumiko Ittogi, a Singaporean lawyer of mixed Chinese-Japanese heritage, actively involved in social enterprise and the non-profit arts sector in Singapore. The couple has one daughter and three sons.

Tharman’s educational journey includes graduating from the London School of Economics (LSE) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. He later received an Honorary Fellowship from LSE in 2011. He pursued a Master of Philosophy degree in Economics at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, before earning a Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, where he received the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, recognizing academic excellence and leadership among MPA students.

As an economist by profession, Tharman dedicated his career to various public service roles, particularly in the areas of economic and social policies. He also chaired several prestigious international councils and panels.

Between 2011 and 2019, Tharman served as Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, followed by his appointment as Senior Minister in the Cabinet from 2019 to 2023. In June 2023, he declared his candidacy for the 2023 presidential election and subsequently resigned from all government positions and the governing People’s Action Party (PAP) as the presidency is a non-partisan role.

While studying in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, Tharman was a student activist with socialist beliefs, but his economic views evolved over his career. In 1992, while serving as the director of the Economics Department of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Tharman was charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for publishing Singapore’s 1992 second-quarter flash GDP growth projections in a local newspaper. He contested the case and was fined SGD1, 500. However, he continued to serve in the public sector and assumed various ministerial positions.

Tharman’s political journey began when he joined the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and entered politics in 2001. He was appointed Minister for Education in 2003 and served in this role until 2008. Tharman also held the positions of Minister for Finance from 2007 to 2015, Minister for Manpower from 2011 to 2012, and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies from 2015 to 2023. Additionally, he chaired the Monetary Authority of Singapore and served as Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) from 2019 to 2023.

Tharman represented the Taman Jurong division of Jurong GRC as a Member of Parliament (MP) from 2001 to 2023 as a member of the PAP, winning re-election four times in subsequent general elections.

He also chaired international councils such as the Group of Thirty, a global council of economic and financial leaders, the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum (WEF), and the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism.

Tharman chaired the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the policy advisory committee of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), from 2011 to 2014, becoming the first Asian chair. From 2019 to 2022, he co-chaired the Advisory Board of the Human Development Report (HDR) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Apart from his political and economic pursuits, Tharman has emphasized the value of sports as a form of education, highlighting the lessons it imparts. He has been engaged in Chinese calligraphy since 2002.

Tharman has also been involved in Non-Governmental Organizations and chaired the Board of Trustees of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), focused on improving educational performance and aspirations in the Indian community in Singapore. He also chaired the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute and the National Jobs Council, aimed at rebuilding skills and jobs for Singaporeans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tharman has received numerous awards and accolades, including international recognitions.

In the past, Singapore had S R Nathan, a politician of Tamil origin, as the president since 2009, and Chengara Veetil Devan Nair, known as Devan Nair, as the third president from 1981 to 1985.

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