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A united opposition is fighting its way back into Lok Sabha, one bypoll at a time

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The opposition is fighting its way back into the Lok Sabha, one bypoll at a time. Opposition parties have emerged victorious in 11 of the 14 Lok Sabha and assembly bypolls for which the results were declared Thursday.

The BJP’s defeat in UP’s Kairana constituency demonstrates that the ruling party’s Hindutva narrative is fallible. The Times of India tells us that “a powerful coalition of Muslims, Jatavs and Jats turned the tables on BJP”, reversing the polarisation that had taken place along communal lines after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. The RLD’s Tabassum Hasan, supported by the SP and the BSP, defeated Mriganka Singh, daughter of late BJP MP Hukum Singh, by over 44,000 votes. As if the coming together of traditional rivals BSP and SP was not enough, Muslims have now been added to the mix, thereby posing a tough challenge to the BJP.

The victory makes Hasan the first Muslim to enter the LS from UP since 2014. The kicker? She is also a woman.

ThePrint’s Kumar Anshuman tells us that Kairana was also the constituency from where the BJP launched its Hindutva strategy in 2014. In March, the party faced embarrassing losses in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, seats held earlier by chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy, Keshav Prasad Maurya.

To understand why every paper you pick up is talking about Kairana, read The Telegraph’s comprehensive analysis, or watch:

The next battle to play out between a united opposition and the BJP is for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s post. Hindustan Times says the Congress has reached out to the Biju Janata Dal, its arch rival in Odisha, “in a desperate bid to defeat the NDA’s candidate” in this upcoming election.

Meanwhile, one of the few bypolls the BJP won Thursday, for Maharashtra’s Palghar, is likely to further strain the choppy relations between the party and its warring ally Shiv Sena, Manasi Phadke reports for ThePrint.

India’s economy accelerated to a GDP growth rate of 7.7% in the three months ending 31 March. Hindustan Times tells us that this is the fastest pace seen in seven quarters, and could signal a turnaround that is favourable for the Narendra Modi government, facing re-election next year. The Indian Express explains that this boost has been facilitated by an uptick in manufacturing and construction sectors, as well as a good rabi harvest.

The trial in the Kathua rape-and-murder case began before the district and sessions judge, Pathankot, Thursday, with a heavy security cover at the four-storey court complex. The Hindu reports that the seven accused were brought in a police bus to the judicial court complex on the old Pathankot-Delhi highway around 10.40 am and presented before judge Tejwinder Singh about 50 minutes later. Watch this space for updates.

Other than lessons on India’s ancient traditions, the new NCERT textbooks also carry “references to decisions and flagship programmes of the NDA-II (sic) government”, The Indian Express reports as part of its analysis of 25 textbooks for Classes VI to X. The majority were devoted to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, followed by Namami Gange Programme, Digital India, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana on skilling, and demonetisation.

Media Watch

The Internet Freedom Foundation, a group of volunteers that advocates a “free and open internet”, has sent a legal notice to the minister of state for information & broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Rathore, regarding the government’s plan for “360-degree social media surveillance “saying that the request for proposal (RFP) and the wider project was “illegal and unconstitutional, being contrary to the right to privacy and freedom of speech and expression.”

News it’s just kinda cool to know

Patanjali has created its own messaging app called Kimbho, which is said to be an ‘Indian alternative’ to Facebook-owned WhatsApp. While a trial version was released earlier, the final launch is set for 21 June. The woman behind the project is Aditi Kamal, “who was team leader at Google Hangouts, and says she wanted to develop a home-grown chatting platform”, Himani Chandna reports for ThePrint

Baba Ramdev
A file image of Baba Ramdev showcasing his brand’s products | Facebook

However, just one day after the app went live, a ‘security expert’ who goes by the Twitter name Elliot Alderson claimed he could access the messages of all Kimbho app users, calling it a “security disaster”The Economic Times tells us. The ‘swadeshi WhatsApp’ has also been criticised for being a blatant copy of, well, the WhatsApp interface, aesthetics and all.

Chandigarh international airport is set to reopen after 20 days of runway expansion. On Wednesday, airport officials released a revised schedule of various airlines, with 37 flights listed. Of these, Hindustan Times tells us that a chopper to Shimla, which will take just 20 minutes, is scheduled for 4 June.

Prime Time

Thug-bandhan not gatbandhan’

India Today TV host Preeti Choudhary pointed out on her show that the opposition won when it decided to come together, but lost when it went alone, as in Palghar. So she asked: Are the results a cause of concern for BJP?

Sanjay Jha of the Congress, Sharmendra Singh of the SP and Clyde Crasto of the NCP agreed that it is time for the opposition to come together. “At ground level, the BJP government is a mammoth failure,” said Jha. But BJP spokesperson Narendra Taneja expressed his disagreement and remarked that it is not a “gatbandhan, but thugbandhan“.

It rained cats and dogs

Moderating the 8 o’clock prime time debate on the bypoll results, anchor Zakka Jacob of CNN News 18 wanted to know whether the opposition’s decision to focus on livelihood issues (like ganna, or sugarcane) this time around, especially in Kairana, was a sign of things to come.

BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya accepted that the party faced a challenged but said it was ready organisationally. Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill recalled Amit Shah’s controversial statement comparing opposition parties to cats and dogs. “Well, today, it rained cats and dogs in the constituencies,” Shergill remarked.

The alarm went off

Rohit Sardana on his show on AajTak said that “the formula discovered in Gorakhpur and Phulpur byelections has now proved to be successful both in Karnataka and Kairana, and this should trouble Modi”. Sudhir Chaudhary, on his 9 o’clock show on Zee News, conceded, “While bypolls don’t decide who will win national elections it certainly reveals the political temperature of the country.”

“There are a lot of bugs in the BJP’s software and Modi has only 11 months to clean them,” Chaudhary added.

Business Class

The deadline came to an end and nobody turned up! Yes, this happened with the government’s bidding process for the sale of a 76 per cent stake in Air India, reports Business Standard. “The government’s decision to hold 24 per cent in the airline was a major reason for the absence of interest,” it says.

Air India
Air India | Commons

The CBI’s case against AirAsia for alleged malpractices has led to Tata Trust feeling the heat as the agency “seized laptops, phones and computer hard drives of all the accused… including that of Tata Trust executive R. Venkatachalam,” reports The Economic Times.

Point of View

The importance of this week’s bypolls was the focus of editorial writers. The Indian Express, in its editorial, says, “Bypoll results are sobering for BJP. For opposition, they underline the importance of joining forces, but larger battles loom.”

The BJP’s loss in Kairana has provoked political commentator Vinod Sharma in his column in Hindustan Times to recall the absence of Muslims among BJP candidates for UP in 2014, saying it “was apartheid through ballot against a social group accounting for 19% of the state’s population of 200 million. It’s hard, therefore, to miss the socio-political import of RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan’s victory…” against the BJP’s Mriganka Singh in Kairana”.

The recovery of India’s GDP to 7.7 per cent in the January-March quarter leads the Business Standard to say in its editorial, “The biggest contribution… came from public administration, which broadly corresponds to government spending.”

The unease in the Congress over former President Pranab Mukherjee’s RSS address has led former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s aide Sudheendra Kulkarni to say in his column in The Indian Express, “Constructive dialogue is a precondition for India’s equitable development, social cohesion and the healthy growth of our democracy. The Congress will emerge stronger from this dialogue because, more than any other party, it best represents India’s inclusive culture and constitutional ideals.”

With inputs from Prateek Gupta,Ratnadeep Choudhary and Sakshi Arora.

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