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BJP leads in 3 of 4 states in key regional elections

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India’s Hindu nationalist party was headed for a clear win in three out of four states Sunday, according to the election commission’s website. The crucial poll has pitted India’s opposition against the ruling party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of next year’s vital national vote.

Ballot counting showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, was poised to wrest control of the states of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan from the Indian National Congress, India’s main opposition party. The BJP was also likely to be re-elected in Madhya Pradesh in for a record fifth term.

The Congress was comfortably leading in Telangana state which is ruled by the strong Telangana Rashtra Samithi, known for opposing BJP in the state.

Final results are expected later Sunday.

Vote counting in a fifth state, Mizoram, is set for Monday where BJP’s regional ally, Mizo National Front, is in power.

Elections in the five states were held last month where more than 160 million people, or a sixth of India’s electorate were eligible to vote in the polls. Polling in India is generally done in phases owing to the large population.

Modi thanked voters for “their unwavering support” in the states his party was leading.

“The results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan indicate that the people of India are firmly with politics of good governance and development, which the @BJP4India stands for,” Modi wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader, conceded defeat in the three states where his party was trailing behind the BJP. “The battle of ideology will continue,” he wrote on X, formally known as Twitter, and thanked the people of Telangana where his party was winning.

Modi and his party remain popular on a national level after nearly a decade in power and surveys suggest he is expected to win a third consecutive term in 2024. But a new alliance of 28 opposition parties, called INDIA, is expected to challenge Modi’s party nationally. The acronym, which stands for Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, comprises India’s previously fractured opposition parties and is led by the Congress party.

Both the Indian premier and the Congress leader Gandhi flew across the five states to woo voters as they campaigned to support their parties’ candidates. The charged-up voting campaigns witnessed both leaders promising voters subsidies, loan waivers and employment guarantees.

Modi will seek reelection next year at a time when India’s global diplomatic reach is rising. But in recent polls, Congress has dented his party’s image of invincibility by toppling local BJP governments in state elections in southern Karnataka and northern Himachal Pradesh.

The elections come at a time when India is facing multiple challenges; rising unemployment, attacks by Hindu nationalists against the country’s minorities, particularly Muslims, and a shrinking space for dissent and free media.

Source: The Associated Press

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Brawl in Italian Parliament ahead of G7 Summit 

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Lawmakers at the Italian Parliament clashed over a bill on Wednesday (12 June), as Italy began to host world leaders for the annual Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Puglia.

A video of the clash was widely shared on the internet. 

The row began when Five Star Movement (MS5) MP Leonardo Dono tried to tie an Italian flag around the neck of Regional Affairs Minister Roberto Calderoli of the pro-autonomy Northern League. 

MPs from Calderoli’s League party cornered Dono in response, turning the debate into a free-for-all fight involving about 20 men. Donno, injured in the clashes, had to be evacuated in a wheelchair and taken to hospital.

Media reports state the bill sought to grant certain regions further autonomy. Opponents of the bill state it would further deepen the north-south divide in the country and bring more hardship to the impoverished south. 

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Kuwait residential building fire kills 50

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At least 40 Indians are among 50 people killed in a fire at a residential building in the Kuwaiti city of Mangaf.

A fire broke out on Wednesday (12 June) in a building where many foreign workers resided.

Most of the casualties are from the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Around 50 Indians have also been injured.

Three Filipinos have also been killed, media reports quoted Philippines officials as saying. Filipino and Nepali workers are also among the injured.

Local media reports said the building housed 196 workers and there are suggestions that it may have been overcrowded.

Two-thirds of the Kuwaiti population is made up of foreign workers, especially in the construction and domestic sectors, and the country is highly dependent on migrant labour.

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The G7 Summit begins today

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Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries are meeting for a three-day summit, starting today (13 June) to discuss global affairs in the southern region of Puglia (Apulia), Italy.  

Heads of state of the seven members – the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom – as well as the chiefs of the European Council and the European Commission will be present at the event.

Italy, the host of this year’s event, has extended an invitation to more than 10 other countries for sideline discussions. These include UAE’s Mohamed bin Zayed, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Notable absentees are Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who it  is reported, had been invited.

Support for Ukraine is top of the agenda. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to arrive on the summit’s first day for two sessions dedicated to the war-torn country. The G7’s most anticipated outcome is an agreement over a $50bn loan for Ukraine backed by profits accrued on Russian assets frozen in the West. 

The war on Gaza is also expected to dominate talks. 

Pope Francis will also be among the guests – the first time a pontiff has been invited to the summit – for a session dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI). Other specific sessions will be on migration, financial issues and the situation in the Asia Pacific. 

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