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NIA says close to solving case, finds ‘clear’ Pakistan link in Pulwama attack

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is close to cracking the Pulwama terror attack case, with evidence pointing to an elaborate operation by four or five Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants, including suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar and a local handler, according to people familiar with the developments.

The owner of the Maruti Eeco vehicle used in the February 14 attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy that killed 40 troopers has also been identified, said the people cited above. The vehicle was registered in Kashmir some eight years ago and was being used by the group with the knowledge of the owner, who has gone missing, they added.

NIA investigators, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Pakistani footprint in the attack is clearly visible. The bomber’s vehicle was loaded with about 25 kilograms of RDX stored in a container. While it is still being investigated on how the JeM unit behind the attack managed to procure the RDX, investigators believe that the explosives knowhow came from across the border.

“We have the full details about the vehicle, which was sighted with the same group at least a couple of times,” said an NIA investigator.

The NIA has found that Dar was “active” with the JeM unit since he went missing last March. The group comprised largely of terrorists from across the border. Adil particularly disliked the CRPF after an alleged attempt by security forces to set Dar’s Kakapora house on fire in end May or June, 2018.

The investigators point to a JeM statement after the June 2, 2018 grenade attacks on the security forces at Fateh Kadal and Badshah Chowk in Srinagar as part of “Operation Badr”. At that time, local news agency GNS quoted a JeM spokesperson as saying that “government forces made a vain and shameful attempt of setting ablaze the house of one of our colleagues Adil Ahmad Dar alias Waqas of Kakapora Gundibagh, Pulwama, during the dead of night”. The spokesman, according to GNS, warned that every army camp in Jammu and Kashmir was a target, and would be burned.

Investigators believe that Dar may have been radicalised by his local Jaish handler after the alleged ransacking of his house, and prepared for the extreme step on instructions from across the border.

Although the NIA declined to reveal the identities of people involved in the attack at this stage, a senior official said that the full details of the case should be known over the next two weeks.

“We have pieces of evidence; the job of joining of dots to unravel the entire conspiracy is on. Someone brought the RDX from across the border, while another person rigged the device. The vehicle was perhaps repainted with someone doing the reconnaissance of the spot and selection of target. We have the full picture of the attack,” the senior official added.

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Sushma Swaraj congratulates PM Narendra Modi on ‘big win’ in Lok Sabha elections

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Senior BJP leader and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Thursday congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and thanked the people on the BJP’s “big victory” in the Lok Sabha polls.

Riding on a massive Modi wave sweeping through most parts of India, the BJP was set to return to power as it led in 295 seats while the Congress trailed far behind with 50, according to trends released Thursday by the Election Commission for all 542 seats that went to polls.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi — Many Congratulations for securing such a big victory for the BJP. I am thankful to the people,” Swaraj tweeted.

With its allies, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance could win 343 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. In the last election, the NDA had 336 seats while BJP accounted for 282.

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Lok Sabha election results: 2019 is more like 1977 and 1980 than 2014 elections

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has firmly established itself as the dominant pole of Indian politics in the 2019 general elections.

If the current trends hold , the 2019 verdict will have a close resemblance to the results of the 1977 and 1980 elections in terms of the dominance of one political party in India. Data scarped from the Election Commission of India (ECI) website shows that at 11:03 am, around 19% of the total votes had been counted in the country. The BJP is leading in 288 parliamentary constituencies (PCs) with a vote share of around 40%, nine percentage points more than what it had in 2014.

No political party in India has had such a high level of vote share after the 1984 elections, which were held in an extremely polarised environment months after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Congress had a vote share of 48.1% and it won 415 PCs in the 1984 elections.

The 2019 results, if the current trends hold, will be closer to what the Janata Party and the Congress achieved in the 1977 and 1980 elections. In 1980, the Congress won 353 PCs with an all-India vote share of 42.7%. In 1977, it was the Janata Party which got 295 PCs with a vote share of 41.3%.

The 2019 verdict, or what it looks like as of now, also has some regional exceptions to the overall trend, like in 1977 and 1980. Even though the Janata Party swept the northern region of the country in 1977, the Congress performed really well in Andhra Pradesh (41 out of 42 PCs) and Karnataka (26 out of 28 PCs). Similarly in 1980, the Congress could win only 4 PCs in West Bengal despite winning the majority of seats in almost all major states.

As of now, the BJP and its partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are either leading or making major advances in all major states except Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which are voting clearly for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK) led alliance and YSR Congress Party respectively.

The Congress, despite adding around four percentage points to its 2019 vote share has not been able to make any significant gains in terms of seats. Also, the party has suffered major reverses in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where it defeated the BJP in the 2018 assembly elections.

After the 2014 elections, when the BJP crossed the half way mark in the Lok Sabha with just 31% vote share, lack of opposition unity was seen as a key factor behind the party’s victory. With the BJP all set to cross the 40% vote share mark, the opposition will have to reinvent its chemistry with the electorate rather than just arithmetic.

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Supreme Court dismisses new petition on verifying all votes with VVPAT, says ‘let country elect its government’

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a new petition that sought matching of all voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips with electronic voting machines (EVMs) during the counting of votes on May 23.

Calling the petition a “nuisance”, the court said, “We won’t entertain such a plea over and over again. Can’t come in the way of people electing their representatives. Let country elect its government.”

A vacation bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra refused to entertain the plea filed by a Chennai-based organisation ‘Tech for All’ saying that a larger bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had already dealt with the matter and passed an order, news agency PTI reported.

The apex court had on May 7 dismissed a review plea filed by 21 Opposition leaders led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu seeking that random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs be increased to 50 per cent.

The top court had on April 8 directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs from one to five polling booths per assembly segment in Lok Sabha polls, saying it would provide greater satisfaction not just to political parties but also to the entire electorate.

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