Indian Election II : Is there any doubt Hindu nationalist BJP and allies can win landslide predicted by opinion polls?

Posted: May 15th, 2024 | No Comments »

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON, CANADA. WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2024. India’s vast election from April 19 to June 1 (with final results on Tuesday, June 4 — exactly three weeks from yesterday) continues to raise almost as many questions about the democratic global village in 2024 as the US election on Tuesday, November 5.

The day before yesterday, May 13, the fourth of the seven phases of the election on the subcontinent took place. Each phase applies to a different configuration of Indian geography. (See adjacent map : the fourth phase geography is coloured orange, more or less.)

The fundamental reason for this complexity is just the vast number of people (more than 1.43 billion!) in what is now the world’s most populous country. (India surpassed China for this title, on the expert reckoning, in 2022.)

For some sense of the magnitude of the task here, compare the 969 million eligible voters in India’s 2024 election currently underway with the “roughly 244 million Americans” who “will be eligible to vote in 2024.”

(1) Four out of seven phases now complete (and voter turnout is so far down from 2019)

South Indian actress Madhavi Latha, running for the BJP in the Hyderabad seat in Telangana.

One US election in its own right is a remarkable almost spirit-guided exercise of decentralized democracy in America, managed by the 50 states of the Union (and unofficially by the major national mass media of the day). Multiply this by four and you have one Indian election.

With so many people in the world’s largest democracy it no doubt makes sense to hold (in fact) seven geographic phases of the 2024 Indian election. The first phase started the process on April 19. The fourth phase took place just the day before yesterday on May 13. The seventh and final phase will be held on June 1. (And then the results will come on June 4.)

So much for the mechanics. As to “what’s at stake?” (according to Al Jazerra) : “The two main contenders for power are Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), a coalition of 26 parties led by the main opposition party, Rahul Gandhi‘s Indian National Congress.”

According to the Times of India : “As voting … ended on Monday, turnout dipped to 67.3% in the fourth phase, compared to 69.6% in 2019, mirroring the falling trend seen during the previous rounds.”

(2) Modi “has shifted focus from his economic record to accusing the Congress of planning to extend welfare benefits to Muslims”

From Al Jazerra English.

This same falling voter turnout from the last election five years ago also haunts a recent Reuters report : “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a rare, third straight term in a contest which pits his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against an alliance of more than two dozen opposition parties, including main rival Congress … Analysts have raised doubts over whether the BJP and its allies can win the landslide predicted by opinion polls, and said the lower turnout had prompted Modi to change the tack of his campaign after the first phase.”

At the same time, lower turnout can also be linked to events that have nothing at least immediately to do with politics : “The impact of hot weather on turnout was also being monitored as maximums in parts of the country touched 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) or higher in the past week.”

Congress leader Rahul Ghandi … the latest of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Yet in some quarters trends towards lower voter turnout in the first four phases of 2024 compared to 2019 have prompted growing political debate about the BJP’s Hindu nationalism.

Rishika Sadam and Fayaz Bukhari recently reported for Reuters that BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modu “has shifted focus from his economic record to accusing the Congress of planning to extend welfare benefits to Muslims at the expense of disadvantaged tribal groups and Hindu castes … Last month, he said the Congress planned to redistribute the wealth of majority Hindus among Muslims, who he referred to as ‘infiltrators’ who have ‘more children’ … Congress has denied making any such promises and has said Modi is rattled by the turnout, which the BJP denies … About 80% of India’s 1.4 billion people are Hindus but it also has the world’s third largest Muslim population of about 200 million people.”

(3) Since 1951 Hindu religion has fallen modestly in India, and Muslim religion risen

“States and union territories of India by spoken first language.”

As noted in our own first 2024 Indian election report, from a very long distance away in central Canada, “the Hindu religion … does still unite more than three-quarters of the Indian population.” But “Hindi as a language is not the mother tongue or even first language of a majority of the wider Indian community.” (See Map 2.)

Similarly, in some degree Narendra Modi’s 21st century Hindu nationalism is driven by a modest diminution in even the Hindu religion in India since the independent parliamentary democratic Republic of India began in the 1950s — and a parallel modest increase in the Muslim religion.

Attachment to the Hindu religion among the Indian population fell from 84.1% in 1951 to 79.8% in 2011, while Islam rose from 9.8% in 1951 to 14.2% in 2011. (And the third largest religious group, Christianity, was 2.3% in 1951 and 2.3% in 2011.)

(Meanwhile in 2011 Hindi “first language speakers” accounted for only 43.63% of the total population. And only 26.6% reported Hindi as its mother tongue! When second and third language speakers are added the share of Hindi speakers does rise to 57.09%. But second place in this same 1st-2nd-3rd language calculation goes to English at 10.67% .)

(4) CONCLUSION

Women of India with fingers marked showing they have voted in the world’s largest democracy.

As things still look to us, Modi almost certainly will win his third term as prime minister on June 4. His BJP might not be as strong in the Lok Sabha as it has been for the past five years, but he will remain in firm command of the ship of state at the federal level in India.

For this BJP Hindu nationalist hegemony to be finally defeated the old Indian National Congress, that brought a secular and progressive independent Indian democracy into the real world in the middle of the 20th century, must somehow be reformed and re-energized , beyond the Nehru-Gandhi family and all that. Can such an urgent democratic reform in the world’s largest democracy finally happen? At this point we have absolutely no idea. (Stay tuned!)

Two by-elections change absolutely nothing in Ontario politics … maybe?

Posted: May 6th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Stirring Up the Past. 2024. Acrylic. 48” x54”.

ONTARIO NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . MONDAY, MAY 6, 2024. Two Ontario by-elections this past Thursday, May 2, 2024 (“special elections” in US parlance) changed absolutely nothing in Ontario provincial politics.

Yet various observers seem to suggest that these political housekeeping events in Canada’s most populous province may still harbour deeper meanings in the fateful 2024 US election year.

On the surface both by-elections took place in ridings won by the Ford Conservatives in the last 2022 general election, where the incumbent member subsequently resigned in pursuit of further career objectives. (Which they didn’t see happening at Queen’s Park under Doug Ford?)

Ontario Conservative Premier Doug Ford hard at work.

Both ridings remain in Conservative hands after the 2024 by-elections. (Yawn, yawn.) With much the same degree of support the party had in 2022. (And btw many sources still misleadingly call the Ford Conservatives “PC” — for the old Ontario Progressive Conservatives of an earlier era. In my view the real Ontario PCs ended in the mid 1980s, under Bill Davis.)

(1) 2022 general election and 2024 by-elections

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex in Southwestern Ontario was won by then Conservative Labour minister Monte McNaughton in 2022, with some 59% of the riding vote. In this past Thursday’s by-election Steve Pinsonneault took the riding for the Conservatives with 57% of the vote.

Similarly, Milton in the west end of the Greater Toronto Area was won for the Conservatives by Parm Gill with 43% of the vote in 2022. This past Thursday in 2024 Zee Hamid won Milton for the Conservatives with 47% of the vote.

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Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels election interference trial (for want of better words) carries on this coming week — what would Will Rogers say??

Posted: April 28th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Coming Through (Ancestor2). 2024. Acrylic. 24”sq.

SPECIAL FROM CITIZEN X, BUCKHORN, ON. SUNDAY, APRIL 28, 2024. It’s raining up here in the exurban northern wilderness. — April showers that bring May flowers.

If only for a few hours I am trying to escape the troubling choppy waters of US politics on TV, in the new age of Trump on trial. For some reason I’m struck by what I recall as an old Will Rogers joke : “The Duke of Richmond comes from Richmond, England. He doesn’t have enough ancestors to come from Richmond, Virginia.”

Richmond, Virginia today deserves a somewhat better press. Will Rogers was born November 4, 1879 “on his parents’ Dog Iron Ranch in the Cherokee Nation … Indian Territory, near present-day Oologah, Oklahoma.” He “died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.”

Will Rogers … has a message for YOU! From his official website today.

(And as it happens the fateful US presidential election this year is on November 5, 2024 — the day after Will Rogers’s 145th birthday! Alas he died in the Alaskan plane crash 89 years ago when he was only 56.)

Even when I visited Richmond, VA for the first time in the early 1980s it was already becoming more of a hip place than it must have been in the 1920s, when Rogers’s career as a legendary folksy newspaper columnist, book author, radio personality, and movie star blossomed.

Maybe partly for that reason when I tried to google what I recall as an old Will Rogers joke about the Duke of Richmond, I couldn’t seem to turn anything up. But I did stumble across a number of earlier 20th century quotations from Will Rogers. And they somehow seem to fit the present troubling political scene of the USA in the earlier 21st century well enough.

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The Bill Maher who thinks Canada has gone too far left will apparently still be voting for Joe Biden in the USA today

Posted: April 20th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Garden of Earthly Delights. 2024.

RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . SATURDAY, APRIL 20, 2024. Bill Maher’s latest misunderstanding of the Canadian real world (see eg “Canadians react as Bill Maher takes a swipe at Canada” on blogTO) reminded me that Mr Maher once admired Rob Ford’s ability to be both a frequent recreational drug user and Mayor of Toronto.

In this first respect current Ontario Premier Doug Ford is apparently different from his younger brother. (Probably?) And if Bill Maher were to somehow take a sudden liking to Doug Ford, he might have to confront the conservatism he sometimes seems to admire more directly.

(1) Summarizing Bill Maher’s new conservative Blame Canada tirade on April 12, 2024

Mr. Maher himself is apparently self-consciously moving in a somewhat more conservative direction lately.

See eg this hasty summary of the blogTO summary of his April 12, 2024 Blame Canada tirade (as reported by Irish Mae Silvestre) :

In a recent episode of the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, the American comedian criticized Canada and its problems, calling it ‘a cautionary tale’ for his country … In an eight-minute segment, Maher described Canada as ‘what American voters think happens when there’s no one putting a check on extreme wokeness.’”

Ms Silvestre and blogTO carry on, as Mr. Maher more or less directly addresses we the Canadian people : “‘I’m not saying any of this because I enjoy it — I don’t because I’ve always enjoyed you,’ said Maher. ‘But I need to cite you as a cautionary tale to help my country and the moral of that tale is yes, you can move too far left’ … He added, ‘And this is why people vote for Trump. They say in politics, liberals are the gas pedal, and conservatives have the brakes, and I’m generally with the gas pedal, but not if we’re driving off a cliff.’”

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MPs killing bill that would make oath to Charles III optional just marks the start of real debate on future of monarchy in Canadian House of Commons

Posted: April 12th, 2024 | 1 Comment »
Michael Seward, Forecasting the Weather. 2024. Acrylic. 24” x 30”.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON, CANADA. FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2024. For some among us (ourselves included) it is hard to believe that as we approach the second quarter of the 21st century in the modern Canadian confederation “MPs break into ‘God Save the King’” — after the defeat of a private Member’s bill, that would have made the old 1867 colonial constitutional oath to the offshore British monarch optional for federal MPs.

(A poll around the boardroom table here has just revealed that no one present has even heard the old so-called royal anthem being sung anywhere else in Canada over the past several decades, at least.)

Niki Ashton, longtime NDP MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski in Manitoba voted YES.

As a further annoyance to Canadians seriously living in the 21st century, John Paul Tasker’s CBC News report presents what can only be called an aggressively monarchist slant on Vote #685 in the Canadian House of Commons on April 10, 2024. (At a time when, eg, an Abacus Data poll last May, just before Charles III’s coronation, found that “2 in 3 Canadians would vote to eliminate the monarchy in Canada.”)

Mr. Tasker summarizes the hard news here as follows : “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet and most Liberal and Conservative MPs on hand voted down the private member’s bill, while Bloc Québécois and NDP MPs joined some members from the two largest parties — most of them Quebec-based — to vote in favour of legislation that would have diminished Charles’s role in Parliament. The final result was 113-197.”

Almost two-thirds of Liberal and Conservative MPs who voted YES were actually from the rest of Canada

To start with, we have just completed some quick calculations. And “Bloc Québécois and NDP MPs joined some members from the two largest parties — most of them Quebec-based” is a misleading characterization of those who voted on the side of the future angels of this vast and geographically magnificent northern North American country of ours, at best.

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As spring is sprung the ultimate autumn political event in the USA draws nearer … while Trudeau (Singh) Liberal (NDP) democrats still survive up north …

Posted: April 6th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Early Spring in Gord Downie Square. April 1, 2024. Acrylic. 20”sq.

RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . SATURDAY, APRIL 6, 2024. Very early yesterday morning the almost always interesting Polling Canada posted on X : “CPC lead is as wide as it ever has been?

At the same time, one of my colleagues here at the office has suggested (like a few others) that the idle chatter in Canadian federal politics is starting to look up for the Trudeau Liberals (and Singh New Democrats) — a little. And in the latest poll currently consulted by 338Canada (Nanos Research late March 2024) the Conservative lead is somewhat smaller than it has been since the start of the year.

On TV the day before yesterday I was once again myself impressed by federal housing minister Sean Fraser. And this reminded me that whatever you might think of PM Justin Trudeau as an individual, he still has some strong Liberal cabinet ministers.

(And on the rare occasions when I can stand watching the Canadian House of Commons on TV I’m rarely impressed by any of Pierre Poilievre’s Conservative MPs as potential cabinet ministers. And then of course M. Poilievre himself has been described by the convicted US liar Alex Jones, who still owes Sandy Hook families untold millions, as “the real deal! Canada desperately needs a lot more leaders like him and so does the rest of the world.”)

Strong emotional dislike for PM Trudeau … and close November 5 election in USA

Michael Seward, Losing Interest. 2024.

All this having been said, I remain cautious about the Trudeau Liberals’ ultimate election prospects, in or about (I continue to think myself) the fall of 2025. (Which is the date of the next legislated “fixed date” federal election in Canada. And the current Liberal-NDP Supply and Confidence Agreement seems to envision a next election around this time.)

I continue to be impressed by even people I know myself who have developed a strong emotional dislike for Justin Trudeau — as an example of so much that is wrong with even Canada in this strange new era of global turmoil. I also continue to wonder how much this emotional dislike may count in some ultimate “choice not change” contest in 2025, that finally pits Trudeau against Poilievre (in a federal political arena less friendly to Alex Jones).

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Blue Jays are contenders in 2024 .. but it looks like the rise may have stalled .. can they finally take flight before it’s too late?

Posted: March 28th, 2024 | 3 Comments »

SPECIAL FROM ROB SPARROW, HIGH PARK, TORONTO. MARCH 28, 2024. When the Toronto Blue Jays finished their 2022 season, they made a determination that the status quo wasn’t acceptable.

To that end, both a strategic and cultural shift for the Blue Jays in 2023 featured a vastly different style compared to many of the teams that came before.

(1) A Bitter Ending to 2023…

José Berríos.

A one-dimensional offence heavily reliant on right-handed power hitters added left-handed bats in an attempt to balance the order. Outfield defence was prioritized to improve athleticism and limit extra-base hits on the defensive end, albeit at the expense of offensive production.

Overall, that off-season strategy was to upgrade the pitching and defence to complement an everyday lineup designed to beat teams in a variety of ways. This group wasn’t going to sit back and wait for a homer, it intended on applying pressure by hitting balls to the gaps, moving runners over and taking extra bases. These moves were all in service of creating a more well-rounded Blue Jays team that emphasized fundamentals, improved defence with a more serious-minded approach – minus the home run jacket and joyous dugout sunflower seed shower celebrations that fans enjoyed.

Yet by moving away from a part of their fun-loving identity that people were drawn to, the Blue Jays left themselves with precisely one avenue to connect with their fans: Winning. By not meeting expectations in that area (falling to a third place 89-win regular season), the frustrated fan base was left feeling that they had received little in return for what it had lost.

The failure to launch Blue Jay 2023 season was punctuated in the Wild Card round by another controversial managerial pitching decision that took centre stage for the second straight postseason. With Game Two scoreless in the fourth inning and starter Jose Barrios steamrolling through the Minnesota Twins lineup, manager John Schneider strolled to the mound to bring in Yusei Kikuchi (a pitcher that had not relieved all season) who promptly gave up the only two runs in the 2-0 elimination game loss – their postseason “next level” run was over before it really began.

Bo Bichette (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images).

Manager John Schneider’s ill-conceived move of taking starter Jose Berrios out created friction throughout the team; between the front office and manager who both deflected blame while throwing each other under the bus, and between the entire organization (front office/manager) and the players. Some of Toronto’s players discussed the move after the game, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. saying “everybody was surprised.” Veteran Whit Merrifield was more critical in his post-game comments. “I hated it, frankly,” Merrifield said, “It’s not what cost us the game, but it’s the kind of baseball decisions that are taking away from managers and baseball.”

We got beat up two years in a row in the playoffs,” Bo Bichette told reporters, choosing his words carefully but clearly intent on making a point. “I think there is a lot or reflection needed … from players, but from the organization from the top down. Everybody needs to reflect to see what we can do better.” Parsing his words, it was clear who Bichette was referring to with “everybody”. Another lost season of baseball by the CEO Mark Shapiro/GM Ross Atkins tandem that is entering its ninth year with little to show.

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Indian Election I : Democracy in India could prove just as troubling as Democracy in America in 2024

Posted: March 26th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Quantum Mystery, 2024.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON, CANADA. TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2024. We now know that : “General elections will be held in India from 19 April 2024 to 1 June 2024 to elect the 543 members of the 18th Lok Sabha. The elections will be held in seven phases and the results will be announced on 4 June 2024.”

The Wikipedia article goes on : “This will be the largest-ever election in the world … Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be contesting … for a third consecutive term … Approximately 960 million … individuals out of a population of 1.4 billion are eligible to participate.”

India and Canada today : one roadmap to a Canadian republic?

This 2024 election in India has some particular interest for Canada — which shares with India what Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867 calls “a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom.”

(The Lok Sabha or “House of the People,” eg, is the lower popularly elected house of India’s parliament, equivalent to the Canadian House of Commons. And Narendra Modi is the leader of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] — the political party with the largest number of seats in the current 17th Lok Sabha.)

Michael Seward, Nature’s Way, 2024.

In particular again India today offers Canada one instructive model with regard to such key current headlines as “Support for King Charles wanes as Canadians’ republican sentiment grows … Growing numbers of Canadians want an elected head of state, survey reveals.”

India provides a model of “a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom” that does not have the British (or any other) monarch as head of state.

The republican head of state in India (somewhat misleadingly called a President, from Canada’s point of view?) is indirectly elected by the members of federal and state (provincial in Canada’s case) legislatures.

(Ireland offers another model, with a directly or popularly elected ceremonial head of state in a parliamentary democracy. The holder of this office is also called a President, but without the day-to-day governing power of the Prime Minister. The president in such cases has a role more like the monarch’s role in the UK — or in practice the Governor General of (once upon a time) Ireland, India and (still now in 2024) Canada, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand, and so forth.)

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Who is supposed to be running the Government of Canada — the federal government elected by the Canadian people or 10 provincial premiers ??

Posted: March 14th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Up and Running. 2024. Acrylic. 24” x 36”.

RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2024. Last night I heard an eminent CTV host urge that many (mostly Conservative) provincial premiers want the Liberal federal government to change its carbon tax policy.

Doesn’t this mean (the implication seemed to be) that the federal government should do just that?

This reminded me of a current concern of the unusually independent freelance “member of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery” in Ottawa, Dale Smith.

On Mr. Smith’s view, the “legacy media” (and especially CBC TV) have been trying to hold the federal government responsible for glitches or worse in federal-provincial programs. In fact these troubles are the fault of “delinquent premiers who can’t live up to their promises.”

In the federal-provincial child care program, Mr. Smith explains on his website today, eg : “fewer than half of the promised spaces have been created, and they [the CBC in this case but legacy media at large as well] want to make this a federal problem.”

Mr. Smith goes on : “It’s not, however — the federal government did their part, and delivered the promised funding, and what is left is for the provinces to live up to the agreements that they signed, and put their own money into the system. Several provinces are not doing that ….”

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Polling from last half 2023 and first quarter 2024 may not be reliable guide to Canadian election in fourth quarter 2025

Posted: March 12th, 2024 | No Comments »
Michael Seward, Generations. 2024. Acrylic. 42” x 54”.

RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 2024. Individual polls vary on exact numbers. But by almost the middle of March 2024 all polls have been saying for some time that it is very hard to see how the Justin Trudeau Liberals could “win” a fourth Canadian federal election in a row, in any at all near future.

Some recent polls have placed the New Democrats within shouting distance of the Liberals as well. (See eg obscure footnote at end of this piece,)

This has inevitably led to speculation that Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats, thinking they could at least replace the Liberals as official opposition in a fresh election, might abrogate the current Liberal-NDP Supply and Confidence Agreement, and vote to bring the Trudeau Liberal minority government down.

NDP ad on Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre, March 11, 2024 .

On these assumptions there no doubt could be a federal election in Canada in 2024 — along with elections in more than 60 other countries globally — in the fateful year we are living through in many parts of the world.

If there is a federal election before the end of this year, the smart money has to say what polling guru Éric Grenier said yesterday to prospective newsletter subscribers : “As we enter the spring, the polls aren’t getting any better for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, leaving the Conservatives with multiple paths to a majority government when the next election is held.”

On this same logic a Conservative Prime Minister Pierre Poilievre — younger and not remotely as rich but otherwise almost as twisted as Donald Trump? — is more or less inevitable before the end of this year. It still seems to me, however, that all this rests on a certain assumption about the ultimate objectives of Jagmeet Singh and his federal New Democrats.

The 2024 election scenario, that is, assumes the highest and/or most important objective of the federal New Democrats is just to replace the Liberals as official opposition. (There is absolutely nothing in current polling to suggest that the New Democrats could actually win even a minority government in a fresh election — ie replace the Liberals as a federal governing party.)

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