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Tejashwi Yadav: Bihar's promising new leader in Indian regional politics – BBC News

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.css-14iz86j-BoldTextfont-weight:bold;As a cricketer, Tejashwi Yadav was a flop.

The political dynast had dropped out of school to pursue a career in cricket. He scored a paltry 37 runs in seven first class games and spent four seasons on the Delhi team’s bench in the prestigious Indian Premier League. Mr Yadav quit the game in 2012 and plunged into politics in his home state of Bihar.

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Mr Yadav had arrived late to the party. The odds were seemingly stacked against him. His adversaries mocked him as a political lightweight.

More importantly, he had to shed the spotty legacy of his father, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is serving a prison term for corruption. A colourful and avowedly secular leader, the 72-year-old strongman’s 15-year-old rule in Bihar had gained notoriety for misrule and corruption. On the stump, Mr Modi evoked memories of the “law of the jungle” in one of India’s poorest states.

But like most political dynasts, Mr Yadav also had a head start. In a state where caste loyalties are unbending, Mr Yadav inherited from his father the allegiance of a third of the voters, largely belonging to his Yadav caste and Muslims. This was a coalition that Lalu Prasad Yadav had painstakingly stitched together: he described his politics as one of “social justice and equality”, ranged against the historical tyranny of upper castes in a feudal state.

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BJP Supporter and activist celebrating BJP Leading win Bihar assembly election at Delhi BJP HQ on November 10, 2020 in New Delhi, India. The NDA maintained an edge over the RJD-led Grand Alliance as counting progressed slowly in Bihar.

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Mr Yadav ran a brisk campaign. He kept his speeches short and crisp, put caste on the backburner and spoke relentlessly about jobs, healthcare and education. He “represents a rebranding of his father’s social justice politics and his success and support are inseparable from this legacy”, Jeffrey Witsoe, a political anthropologist who has studied caste in Bihar, says.

Mr Yadav kept his family – he is the youngest of his parents’ nine children – out of the campaign. Now it was the time for Mr Kumar to face the heat, he said.

Yet, Mr Yadav fell short.

His party won more than half of the seats -75 of 144 – it contested and emerged as the single largest party. But the party’s main ally Congress struggled – winning just 19 of the 70 seats it contested – and dragged down the coalition. Mr Kumar’s rainbow coalition won the tight fight.

“Tejashwi did a good job. He got his party back in the game. He enthused his voters, but failed to expand his base,” says Rahul Verma, a fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank.

Winning more than half of the seats it contested – 74 out of 110 – the BJP emerged as the senior partner in the winning alliance for the first time. This is significant because Bihar is also the only big state in India’s sprawling and politically febrile “Hindi-speaking heartland” that the BJP has not won on its own.

Ruling Bihar on its own is still some distance away. But the BJP has arrived in Bihar, say analysts, on the back of welfarism, religious polarisation, a clear understanding of caste dynamics, a hard-working party organisation, vast resources and support of the large sections of mainstream media.

Tejashwi Yadav rally

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Much of its performance in Bihar can be also attributed to the undiminished popularity of Mr Modi, who has “transformed into a brand”, according to Suhas Palshikar, a leading political scientist. “Like a brand it can be used in any state, any context and against any competition,” he says.

The Bihar elections clearly show Mr Modi continues to be India’s most popular leader. At the same time, Mr Modi’s party itself has a mixed record in state elections – the BJP has lost more elections than it has won in the past six years. It has not won a clear majority in any state since polls in Uttar Pradesh four years ago.

Mr Yadav’s fighting performance, believe analysts, also demonstrates that there is a new template emerging in India’s elections.

“Keep the election local, focus on local issues and field strong local leaders. Don’t go national, and don’t attack Mr Modi. Match your leader with a rival regional leader,” says Mr Verma.

In other words, Mr Modi’s BJP will continue to remain the dominant federal party with an expanding pan-Indian footprint in the near future even as regional parties fight to recover from their past debacles.

But the overwhelming dependence on Mr Modi and the failure to win state elections “will begin to stick to Mr Modi sooner or later – not just in the minds of outsiders, but within the BJP”, says Mr Palshikar. Mr Yadav, who turned 31 on Monday, has time on his side.

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Green Party in turmoil, leader resists calls to step down

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Canada‘s Green Party was increasingly mired in an internal dispute over its position on Israel on Tuesday, and a news report said the bloc would hold a vote next month on whether to oust its leader, Annamie Paul, who was elected just eight months ago.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) reported that the Greens had triggered a process that could remove Paul, the first black person to head a mainstream Canadian party, beginning with a vote next month.

A Green Party spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but said the party’s “federal council” would meet later on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Paul, 48, rejected calls from the Quebec wing of the party for her to resign after a member of parliament left the Greens due to the Israel controversy.

“I believe that I have been given a strong mandate. I believe that I have been given the instructions to work on behalf of Canadians for a green recovery,” Paul said at a news conference in Ottawa.

Paul herself is not a member of parliament. The Greens – who champion the environment and the fight against climate change – had only three legislators in the 338-seat House of Commons and one, Jenica Atwin, abandoned the party last week to join the governing Liberals.

Atwin has said that her exit was in large part due to a dispute over the party’s stance on Israel. Atwin on Twitter has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, while a senior adviser to Paul, Noah Zatzman, has posted on Facebook that some unspecified Green members of parliament are anti-Semitic.

The party’s executive committee voted last week not to renew Zatzman’s contract, local media reported. Paul converted to Judaism some two decades ago after she married a Jewish man.

While the Greens are the smallest faction in parliament, they perform well in British Colombia and hold two seats there. The current turmoil may favor their rivals ahead of a national election that senior Liberals say could be just a few months away.

The Greens would win about 6.7% of the vote nationally if a vote were held now, according to an average of recent polls aggregated by the CBC.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Hope, anger and defiance greet birth of Israel’s new government

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Following are reactions to the new government in Israel, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER

“We’ll be back, soon.”

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”

NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, SPOKESMAN FOR PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS

“This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER VIA TWITTER

“On behalf of the UK, I offer my congratulations to

@naftalibennett and @yairlapid on forming a new government in Israel. As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.”

TOR WENNESLAND, U.N. MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY VIA TWITTER

“I look forward to working with the Government to advance the ultimate goal of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

CHARLES MICHEL, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT VIA TWITTER

“Congratulations to Prime Minister @naftalibennett and to Alternate PM & MFA @yairlapid for the swearing in of the new Israeli government. Looking forward to strengthen the partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability.”

FAWZI BARHOUM, HAMAS SPOKESMAN

“Regardless of the shape of the government in Israel, it will not alter the way we look at the Zionist entity. It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.”

BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER

“With all due respect, Israel is not a widower. Israel’s security was never dependent on one man. And it will never be dependent on one man.”

CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

“So, there’s a new Administration in Israel. And we are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution. I am urging the Biden Administration to do all it can to bring the parties together and help achieve a two-state solution where each side can live side by side in peace.”

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA

“Congratulations on the formation of a new Israeli government, Prime Minister @NaftaliBennett and Alternate Prime Minister @YairLapid. Together, let’s explore ways to further strengthen the relationship between Canada and Israel.”

MANSOUR ABBAS, ARAB MEMBER OF NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT

“We are aware that this step has a lot of risks and hardships that we cannot deny, but the opportunity for us is also big: to change the equation and the balance of power in the Knesset and in the upcoming government.”

DAPHNA KILION, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM

“I think it’s very exciting for Israel to have a new beginning and I’m hopeful that the new government will take them in the right direction.”

EREZ GOLDMAN, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM

“It’s a sad day today, it’s not a legitimate government. It’s pretty sad that almost 86 (out of 120 seats) in the parliament, the Knesset, belong to the right-wing and they sold their soul and ideology and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose – hatred of Netanyahu and to become a prime minister.”

SEBASTIAN KURZ, CHANCELLOR OF AUSTRIA, VIA TWITTER

“Congratulations to PM @naftalibennett and alternate PM @yairlapid for forming a government. I look forward to working with you. Austria is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and will continue to stand by Israel’s side.”

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air”, and praised his determination to work with allies on important global issues ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to security.

Johnson did not draw an explicit parallel between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump after talks with the Democratic president in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on the eve of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies.

But his comments made clear Biden had taken a much more multilateral approach to talks than Trump, whose vision of the world at times shocked, angered and bewildered many of Washington’s European allies.

“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of a meeting that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.

“It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects,” he said. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together.”

The two leaders appeared relaxed as they admired the view across the Atlantic alongside their wives, with Jill Biden wearing a jacket embroidered with the word “LOVE”.

“It’s a beautiful beginning,” she said.

Though Johnson said the talks were “great”, Biden brought grave concerns about a row between Britain and the European Union which he said could threaten peace in the British region of Northern Ireland, which following Britain’s departure from the EU is on the United Kingdom’s frontier with the bloc as it borders EU member state Ireland.

The two leaders did not have a joint briefing after the meeting: Johnson spoke to British media while Biden made a speech about a U.S. plan to donate half a billion vaccines to poorer countries.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, was keen to prevent difficult negotiations between Brussels and London undermining a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Britain that Biden had a “rock-solid belief” in the peace deal and that any steps that imperilled the accord would not be welcomed.

Yael Lempert, the top U.S. diplomat in Britain, issued London with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – for “inflaming” tensions, the Times newspaper reported.

Johnson sought to play down the differences with Washington.

“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU.

Asked if Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland very clear, he said: “No he didn’t.

“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Johnson said. “And that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground.”

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the “Troubles” – three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Britain’s exit from the EU has strained the peace in Northern Ireland. The 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets but a border in the Irish Sea cuts off the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Although Britain formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still trading threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Northern Irish clauses of the deal.

Johnson’s Downing Street office said he and Biden agreed that both Britain and the EU “had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade” between Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal, Padraic Halpin, John Chalmers; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage)

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