Arab Times

Karnataka polls see BJP close to victory

Pakistan rainstorms kill 15

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NEW DELHI, May 13, (Agencies): Exit polls in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on Saturday suggest Narendra Modi’s BJP could emerge as the leading party, potentiall­y boosting the prime minister’s chances of winning a second term in general elections early next year.

Both Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has dominated Indian politics since independen­ce, have campaigned hard in Karnataka, a state of 66 million people with diverse constituen­cies.

While three TV channels predicted 80 to 114 seats for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, short of the half-way mark in the 224-member house, polls also forecast 22-43 seats for a regional group, Janata Dal (S), which could emerge as a kingmaker. Modi is seeking to wrest control over one of the few places left in the hands of the opposition Congress party and with the help of other small parties, Modi’s party has captured power in some other states such as Goa.

Another poll by India Today TV, released after voting closed on Saturday, predicted 106-118 seats for the Congress party in

Karnataka, which is the only place in South India where the BJP has ever managed to win control of the state government.

The Hindu nationalis­t BJP and its allies hold power in 22 of India’s 29 states, but after Karnataka, three more state elections are due to take place by the end of the year.

Votes will be counted on Monday and exit polls and other surveys have often been wrong in India. Political parties said it was too quick to call the election result.

State capital Bengaluru is regarded as the home of India’s “Silicon Valley”, while voters in farming and mining areas have very different priorities from urban dwellers.

Both parties have promised farm loan waivers if they came to power, joining the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtr­a and Punjab which have announced loan waivers estimated at $15 billion, which would increase the fiscal burden of those states over the medium term.

Voters elected Modi in 2014 on his promise of reforms that could unlock growth in the economy, but there has been disquiet over his stance toward India’s non-Hindu minorities, and the pain resulting from some of the economic steps taken.

The implementa­tion of a new national Goods and Services Tax (GST) last July, was beset with problems, hurting small businesses and hitting economic growth.

Modi

Pakistan bars US diplomat:

Pakistani authoritie­s have barred a US diplomat involved in a fatal traffic accident from leaving the country, forcing an American military aircraft flown in for his departure to leave without him, local media reported on Saturday.

The move came a day after Pakistan said it would restrict the movements of all American diplomats in the country in response to Washington’s similar restrictio­ns on Pakistani embassy diplomats.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment on the media reports, and a US State Department spokespers­on in Washington would neither confirm nor deny them.

“For the privacy and security of those involved, we cannot disclose the diplomat’s current location,” the State Department spokespers­on said.

Pakistan is a crucial link to supplying American troops fighting the Taleban in neighbouri­ng Afghanista­n. But Washington has long believed it actually shelters the Taleban’s leaders, and President Donald Trump has cut off military aid in an effort to pressure Pakistan.

The latest blow to relations came on Saturday, when Pakistani authoritie­s banned a US military attache from leaving as planned, Pakistan’s The Nation and Express Tribune newspapers reported.

Heavy rainstorms kill 15:

Officials in Pakistan say violent rainstorms in the northwest have caused at least 15 deaths and injured dozens.

Latif Khan, a senior disaster management official, says Sunday that most of the deaths from the severe weather overnight were caused by the collapse of mud and stone walls and houses. He says the heavy rains also caused flash flooding in some places.

Another official, Inayatur Rehman, said the roof of a seminary collapsed in the Bajur tribal region, killing six children and injuring nine.

In the cities of Nowshera and Peshawar, motorists were killed and wounded by falling billboards and downed electrical cables

Khan says rescue and relief operations are ongoing, meaning the toll could rise.

9 dead in Afghan bomb, gun battle:

At least nine people were killed and more than 30 injured when militants detonated bombs and stormed a government building Sunday in a continuing attack in an eastern Afghan city, officials said.

A thick column of smoke rose into the sky after two explosions near Jalalabad’s directorat­e of finance, the Nangarhar provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP, adding that “a number of attackers” had entered the building.

“Security forces are in the area chasing and fighting them,” he said, adding that one attacker “is down” and the clearing operation was continuing.

“Around noon a big boom shook our building,” Qaisar told AFP from a Jalalabad hospital.

“I then saw at least two armed attackers entering the building. My friends ran to hide and I jumped from a window.

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