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Two Indian opposition parties unite to challenge PM Narendra Modi | News





New Delhi, India – A formidable opposition, a coalition of the regional Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), has been announced by the leaders of the two parties to challenge Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the general elections due in a few months.

India‘s politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the lower house of parliament and has produced nine prime ministers.

At a news conference in state capital Lucknow on Saturday, the SP headed by the young satrap, Akhilesh Yadav, and the BSP led by Dalit (lowest Hindu caste) leader Kumari Mayawati announced they are entering into an alliance where they will contest 76 seats as a team. 

“Today’s press conference is one which will give sleepless nights to Modi and the ruling BJP party chief, Amit Shah,” the BSP chief said.

Mayawati, former chief minister of the state and an icon to millions of Dalits, described this as a “new political revolution in the country”.

India’s lower castes, especially the Dalits, face continued social discrimination and even untouchability, despite the practice being outlawed by parliament in 1955.

Both Yadav and Mayawati took digs at Modi repeatedly.

This is a game-changer. It poses a big challenge to the BJP. This would also be a serious setback to the rise of Hindutva.

Ashutosh, senior journalist and founding editor of

“To hide their failures, the ruling BJP has actively spread an atmosphere of fear and terror by fuelling enmity among different communities… We have decided to come together today to fight the injustice perpetrated by the BJP,” Yadav, also a former chief minister of the state, said.

SP and BSP have a large support base of lower castes and are in a position to be able to manipulate the social arithmetic of elections in the state. Some analysts say it is a “killer-alliance”. 

“This is a game-changer. It poses a big challenge to the BJP. This would also be a serious setback to the rise of Hindutva, a radical ideology of self-avowed Hindu nationalists at the national level,” Ashutosh, senior journalist and founding editor of, told Al Jazeera.

“This is an alliance that brings together castes that were long oppressed by the upper castes of Indian society for thousands of years. This consolidation electorally will bring great benefit. In terms of votes, if the backwards and the Dalits come together, they cross more than 50 percent in the state,” he added.

The BJP is currently ruling the UP state with a Hindu nationalist monk Adityanath as the chief minister. 

Human rights campaigners say frequent military-style police operations and extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals are becoming common since the installation of the right-wing Chief Minister, Adityanath.

The ruling BJP has attempted to appeal to its hardcore Hindu nationalist base in the most politically important state ahead of a national election by promising a “grand” statue of the Hindu God Ram and erasing Muslim names of towns, roads and railways stations. 

On Saturday, the BJP dismissed the prospects of the opposition alliance saying there is no contest. 

“This alliance is not likely to be accepted by their social base because there are a lot of political and historical contradictions between the two parties,” BJP MP Rakesh Sinha told Al Jazeera.

“BJP is not threatened by any such alliance because this election is going to be a contest about who is going to lead the nation. Modi as prime minister and as a face remains the tallest and nobody can compete with Modi,” Sinha added.

Prime Minister Modi had said in a recent interview that the ruling BJP is confident of doing well in this year’s general election despite the party’s recent losses in state polls.

Although Hindu nationalist Modi remains popular, the 2019 election is slated to be a tough battle, with some voters feeling let down by his inability to create jobs and battle rural distress.


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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling





So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister





Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa





OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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