Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory in the national elections will see India’s soul “lost to a dark politics”, and this is bad news for the country and the world, British newspaper The Guardian said in an editorial on Thursday. The editorial said Modi had threatened “independent India’s most precious facet: a functioning multi-party democracy”.

The newspaper’s criticism of Modi noted that he is a “divisive figure” but “undoubtedly a charismatic campaigner”, who “deployed with terrible effect false claims and partisan facts”. The Congress and the Nehru–Gandhi family, meanwhile, will have to “seriously rethink” how to defeat him, the editorial said.

The editorial said the Hindu nationalism movement that Modi is part of is changing India for the worse, with its focus on upper-caste Hindus, pro-corporate economic growth, cultural conservatism, “intensified” misogyny, and a “firm grip on the instruments of state power”.

The article made remarks about Indian Muslims being “political orphans”, their declining seat share in Parliament, and how Hindutva views them as second-class citizens. It said Modi had recklessly taken India and Pakistan close to war earlier this year.

But Modi’s victory, despite a “spluttering economy”, should perhaps not be surprising, the editorial said, citing a 2017 survey that showed that India had the greatest support for autocratic rule.

About the Bharatiya Janata Party, the newspaper said the party “pays lip service to reducing the yawning inequalities that disfigure India”, and the role of caste and religious conflict in India’s party system suits the outfit. The Opposition, meanwhile, needs to run a “distinctive campaign on an egalitarian platform”, and replace identity-based fights with “political competition over how to benefit all Indians”, the editorial said. “That will require an Opposition in India far savvier and more in touch with the country’s poor than exists today,” it said.

Pankaj Mishra in The New York Times

In an article for The New York Times, journalist and author Pankaj Mishranoted how Modi’s “raw wisdom” had made India suffer for five years, proving him to be “dangerously incompetent”. He wrote about threats to minorities and lower-caste Hindus, as well as dissenting journalists and women. Mishra said that during Modi’s rule, India had witnessed a “savage assault on not just democratic institutions and rational discourse but also ordinary human decency”.

In the article titled “How Narendra Modi Seduced India With Envy and Hate”, Mishra wrote that voters had chosen overwhelmingly to “prolong this nightmare”. “The sources of Mr. Modi’s impregnable charisma seem more mysterious when you consider that he failed completely to realize his central promises of the 2014 election: jobs and national security,” Mishra said.

The writer also said that corporate-owned media had “fervently built up Modi as India’s saviour”.“Since 2014, Mr. Modi’s near-novelistic ability to create irresistible fictions has been steadily enhanced by India’s troll-dominated social media as well as cravenly sycophantic newspapers and television channels,” said the author of the book Age of Anger. He added that the Opposition was right to suggest that the Election Commission had been “shamelessly partisan”.

Mishra said Modi had exploited the “long dormant rage” against India’s “self-perpetuating post-colonial rulers”, noting how previous governments had left “no possibility of dialogue with a metropolitan ruling class of...Godlike aloofness, which had cruelly stranded us in history while itself moving serenely toward convergence with the prosperous West”.

Meanwhile, satirical website The Onion also had a take on Modi’s huge victory. The Onion put up a photo of Modi accompanied with the headline, “India Continues Surge Towards Status as First-world Nation by Reelecting Racist Right-wing Authoritarian”.

courtesy: scroll.in

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New Delhi/Srinagar, Jul 13: The Centre has significantly strengthened the authority of the lieutenant governor in Jammu and Kashmir, empowering him to make decisions on crucial matters such as police and all-India services officers and granting sanctions for prosecution in various cases.

The opposition slammed the Union government's move and termed it a step towards "disempowering" the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Official sources, however, said the notification does not in any sense alter the balance of powers as enshrined in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

The Union home ministry gave more powers to the lieutenant governor on Friday by amending the transaction rules framed under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. This Act, passed alongside the abrogation of Article 370, bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

The sources said that with the amendments to the transaction rules, the powers of the legislative assembly and the functions of the lieutenant governor have been clearly defined and delineated in the Act, and the same has been reflected in the transaction of business rules.

The Union home ministry notification, through which the amendment to the transaction rules of the Act were brought, has been issued to provide better clarity on the processes to enable the smooth administration of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is a simple amendment to the transaction rules which were issued to avoid any ambiguity, the sources added.

In the past, proposals concerning police, public order, all-India services and the Anti-Corruption Bureau required approval from the finance department of Jammu and Kashmir before reaching the lieutenant governor.

Under the revised rules, such proposals must now be presented directly to the lieutenant governor through the chief secretary of the Union territory.

The lieutenant governor's authority extends further to the appointment of the advocate general and other law officers. These appointments, previously decided upon by the government, will now require the lieutenant governor's approval.

The Centre's decision has met with criticism from some political parties in Jammu and Kashmir who view it as an attempt to undermine the power of an elected government.

The Supreme Court has directed the restoration of statehood in Jammu and Kashmir "at the earliest" and the holding of elections to the assembly by September 30, 2024.

On Saturday, various political parties expressed their disapproval of the Centre's move to grant additional powers to the lieutenant governor in matters concerning police and all-India service officers.

The National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) labelled the decision as a step towards "disempowering" the people of Jammu and Kashmir, while the Congress condemned the move as a "murder of democracy".

The Apni Party called for a unified protest against the decision.

Following the Centre's move, decisions regarding prosecution sanctions and filing appeals will also come under the lieutenant governor's purview. Additionally, matters related to prisons, the directorate of prosecution and the forensic science laboratory will be handled directly by the lieutenant governor.

"No proposal which requires previous concurrence of the Finance Department with regard to 'Police', 'Public Order', 'All India Service' and 'Anti Corruption Bureau' to exercise the discretion of the Lieutenant Governor under the Act shall be concurred or rejected unless it has been placed before the lieutenant governor through the chief secretary," the Union home ministry notification stated.

The lieutenant governor's role in bureaucratic matters has also been amplified. Proposals for postings and transfers of administrative secretaries, along with those concerning IAS and IPS officers, will be routed through his office.

Reacting to this order, NC vice-president Omar Abdullah raised concerns about the implications of having a "powerless and rubber stamp" chief minister, who would need the lieutenant governor's approval even for minor appointments.

Despite acknowledging the timing of the decision in relation to the upcoming elections, Abdullah emphasised the importance of a clear commitment towards restoring full statehood of Jammu and Kashmir.

"This is why a firm commitment to laying out the timeline for restoration of full and undiluted statehood for Jammu and Kashmir is a prerequisite for these polls. The people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve better than a powerless and rubber stamp CM who will have to beg the L-G to get his/her peon appointed," he said.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the increased powers given to the Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant governor suggested a dim outlook for the restoration of a full-fledged statehood in the near future.

In a post on 'X', he said, "The only meaning that can be drawn from this notification is that full-fledged statehood for Jammu and Kashmir does not seem likely in the immediate future."

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti's daughter and media adviser Iltija Mufti highlighted the perceived agenda behind the decision, suggesting that it was aimed at limiting the powers of any future elected government in the region.

"The order seeks to disempower the powers of the next Jammu and Kashmir state government only because the BJP doesn't want to cede control or lose its iron grip over Kashmiris. Statehood is out of the question. An elected government in Jammu and Kashmir will be reduced to a municipality," she said.

Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Vikar Rasool Wani echoed the sentiment of democracy being under threat, describing the move as a "murder of democracy" that would hinder the path to true statehood restoration.

Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari called for unity among political parties in opposing the Centre's decision, warning against the creation of a "powerless assembly" that would diminish the effectiveness of elected representatives in serving the region's interests.

"We appeal to all parties to shun political differences and come together on this issue. If we cannot stand united today, then we will never be. We should ensure that the statehood that we get is not hollow and has all the powers to serve people. We have to be united to serve the interests of the people," Bukhari added.

The sources said the Act was passed by Parliament in August 2019 and the same was upheld by the Supreme Court.

As per section 32 of the Act, the legislative assembly may make laws concerning any of the matters enumerated in the State List except "Police" and "Public Order" or the Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, they said.

As per section 53 of the Act, the lieutenant governor shall exercise his functions in his discretion in a matter which falls outside the purview of powers conferred on legislative assembly, related to all-India services and the Anti-Corruption Bureau and any other matter which he is required by or under any law to act in its discretion.

Senior CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami said the amendments constitute "another brazen assault on the remaining nominal rights", virtually "downsizing" a historic state to the status of a bigger municipality. He said it is high time for all political parties to unitedly oppose the "autocratic order" and demand its revocation.