Washington, Nov 7: Democrats have taken back control of the House of Representatives but not won a majority in the Senate as the historic “blue wave” they hoped for failed to materialise at the midterm elections.
The achievement means that the Republicans no longer hold both wings of the US Congress, handing Donald Trump’s political opponents a stronger foothold in Washington from which to oppose his presidency.
The Democrats now have the numbers to veto Trump’s proposed laws in the House and launch a string of damaging investigations into his administration through the committees they will control.
However in the Senate it was a different story, with Republicans unseating a string of Democratic senators up for re-election in states Trump won in 2016. It indicates many of the president’s supporters are still with him two years into office.
Projections suggested the Republicans could even increase their majority in the Senate, allowing them to push ahead with controversial judicial and cabinet appointments with less fear of rebellions. Trump, quick to put his spin on a night of mixed results, tweeted: “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!” Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “Anybody that was anticipating a blue wave tonight is not going to get it.”
In some of the most closely watched races, Democrats lost out. Beto O’Rourke, who had become a pinup for American liberals by running a surprisingly competitive race in Texas, ultimately fell short, with Ted Cruz winning re-election as the state’s senator.
Andrew Gillum, the left-leaning Democrat who was hoping to become Florida’s first ever black governor, was also defeated, narrowly losing to Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis. A number of historic landmarks were reached, with the first Muslim congresswomen, first openly gay male governor and the youngest ever congresswoman (aged 29) all being elected.
The story of the night was that of two different battles playing out – one for control of the House and another for the Senate. In the House races, all eyes were on America’s suburbs. Democrats quickly made gains but failed to pick off seats which would have indicated they were on course for a landslide.
One Republican senator close to Trump, Lindsey Graham, admitted the party would have to address its “suburban women problem” as the Democrats gained seats. Their control of the House will be a huge headache for Trump. His legislative agenda will grind to a hold, with the chances of securing new funding for his US-Mexico border or another tax cut significantly diminished.
The White House is also braced for Democrat-controlled House committees to launch many probes that could damage the president on everything from his tax returns to ties to Russia, using their power to order witnesses to testify. Nancy Pelosi, the woman expected to become the new Democrat Speaker of the House, said in a celebratory speech that Wednesday would be a “new day in America”, adding: “We’ve all had enough of division.”
However in the Senate, it was a different story. Here just a third of senators were up for re-election and the map heavily favoured Republicans, with many Democrats running in states Trump won in 2016. In the end, Republicans appeared on course to exceed expectations. Democrat incumbents were ousted in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, while Republicans held seats in Tennessee and Texas.
With some states still to call, it was certain Republicans would hold the Senate majority and likely they would increase it by a few seats – a win which the president is sure to seize upon. Trump was credited with energising his voters, countering the enthusiasm displayed by the Democrats.
It meant any hopes of a historic landslide from Trump’s opponents soon faded as results filtered in. Graham said Trump should be “proud” of firing up his base, adding: “President Trump is well on his way to getting re-elected.”
Art 35-A row: SC to take ‘in-chamber’ decision on listing of plea
New Delhi, Jan 22: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would take an “in-chamber” decision on listing of a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Advocate Bimal Roy Jad mentioned the matter before the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna.
He sought urgent hearing of the petition, filed by ‘We The Citizens’, saying the court had earlier ordered listing of the matter in the second week of January.
In August, the apex court adjourned hearing on a batch of petitions challenging Article 35 A till January this year, after taking note of submissions of the Centre and the state government that there was a law and order problem in the state.
Article 35-A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state.
The apex court had on August 31 deferred till January the hearing on the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35 A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of Jammu and Kashmir, after the Centre and the state said that polls to local bodies polls there would go on till December.
Earlier, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said that certain aspects of Article 35A needed to be debated upon and said, “It can’t be denied that there is an aspect of gender discrimination in it (Article 35A).”
On August 6, the apex court had said that a three-judge bench would decide whether the pleas challenging Article 35A should be referred to a five-judge constitution bench for examining the larger issue of alleged violation of the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution.
Several petitions including by political parties like the National Conference and the CPI-M, have also moved the Supreme Court in support of Article 35-A that empowers the state assembly to define “permanent residents” for bestowing special rights and privileges to them.
‘JK women marrying non-natives don’t lose residency rights’
Srinagar, Jan 22: Women hailing from Jammu and Kashmir who choose to marry men from outside the state do not lose their residency and inheritance rights under Article 35-A of the Constitution, a top legal expert said on Tuesday.
“This issue was settled by a full bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court in the case titled State and others vs Dr Susheela Sawhney and others in October 2002 by striking down the proviso of the state subject (permanent residency) law according to which women marrying outsiders would lose their permanent resident status,” former advocate general of Jammu and Kashmir government Ishaq Qadri said.
The bench, in the landmark judgment on 7 October 2002, held by a majority view that the daughter of a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir will not lose her status as a permanent resident upon her marriage to a person from outside the state.
Qadri’s remarks come after the Supreme Court said earlier on Tuesday it would take an “in-chamber” decision on listing of a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the then PDP-Congress coalition government challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court but later withdrew its petition.
“Then law minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh brought Jammu and Kashmir Permanent Resident Status (Disqualification) Bill 2004 in the state legislative assembly and it was passed by the lower house in March 2004,” the former advocate general said.
“Since it was a Constitutional amendment bill, it needed two-thirds majority to be passed. The National Conference, which was in the opposition, supported it, ensuring the passage of the bill in the assembly,” Qadri said.
Had the bill passed the scrutiny of the legislative council — the upper house of the state legislature — and got the governor’s assent, the women marrying men outside the state would have lost their status as permanent residents, he added.
However, there was an outcry against the bill, mainly in the Jammu region.
It was taken up for discussion in the legislative council but the then chairman Abdul Rashid Dar adjourned the House sine die without taking a vote on it, Qadri said.
“As A result, the bill lapsed and it was never reintroduced,” he said, adding that the high court ruling on the permanent residency rights of women marrying outside the state stands as on date.
Article 35-A was incorporated in the Constitution in 1954 by an order of President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the then Cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the previous hearing of the petition filed by NGO ‘We The Citizens’, a lawyer had given an illustration and said if a native woman of the state married an outsider, she loses several rights, including property rights, in the state, but if a man marries a Pakistani woman, he and his spouse get all rights.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is representing the Jammu and Kashmir government in the apex court, had agreed to the contention that Article 35-A and certain aspects needed to be debated upon.
He said, “It can’t be denied that there is an aspect of gender discrimination in it (Article 35A).”
Avalanche hits Ramban, 12-year-old girl among 2 killed
Heavy snowfall closes Sgr-Jmu highway; weather to improve from today
Srinagar, Jan 22: Two persons were killed and many others went missing after an avalanche hit them while they were heading home at Kawana Trigam village in Ramban district on Tuesday.
Official sources said that snow avalanche, which occurred at around 3 pm near Kawana at Trigam, swept away four persons.
Bodies of two persons were recovered and they have been identified as Rafiq (25) son of Ghulam Qadir and Sumerna (12) daughter of Mukhtar Ahmed.
The missing persons have been identified as Fatha Begum (30), son of Surkh Ahmed and Taja Begum (32) wife of Margob. All residents of Trigam, 50kms from Ramban, were moving towards their home when the avalanche struck them.
Deputy Commissioner Ramban has sanctioned ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh in favour of each of the Next of kin of the deceased.
Meanwhile, the local meteorological department predicted improvement in the weather conditions from Wednesday.
Deputy Director MeT, Mukhtar Ahmad said there will be improvement in the weather conditions from Wednesday.
Ahmad further added that there is no further prediction of rain or snowfall across the Valley till January 29 but on Jan 25, the weather would remain cloudy throughout the day as per the present forecast.
The intermittent rainfall continued to lash plains since Sunday evening while as the higher reaches and other districts of the Valley experienced fresh snowfall.
The snowfall at various places especially Srinagar-Jammu highway led to the continuous closure of the only road connecting Valley with rest of the States.
The highway was closed for second straight day today in view of the fresh snowfall that triggered slippery conditions of the roads.
Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers are stranded on the highway at Banihal or other districts in Jammu due to the closure of roads who have demanded authorities to open the highway for vehicular movement at an earliest.
However, officials said that men and machinery has already been deployed to clear the road but the fresh snowfall on Tuesday disrupted the road clearance work.
“The road clearance work is on and the road will be thrown open after the roads are cleared,” they added. (With inputs from GNS)
Observe Jan 26 as ‘Black Day’: Joint Hurriyat to people
Srinagar, Jan 22: The Joint Hurriyat Leadership on Tuesday urged people to observe January 26 as a ‘black day’ to register their strong protest against New Delhi for not resolving Kashmir dispute.
In a statement, the Joint Hurriyat comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik said that for past 71 years people of J&K have been demanding the right to self-determination that Indian leadership promised to them.
“However, till this day not only has that commitment not been fulfilled but those that remind them of it are rewarded with bullets and pellets are incarcerated and gagged,” the statement said.
They said that lakhs of armed forces are deployed to suppress the aspirations of people and draconian laws like AFSPA and PSA are invoked to ensure people’s sentiments do not get out of hand.
“Hundreds of people are lodged and languishing in jails in JK and outside whose only crime is their demand for restoration of basic human and political rights the fundamental right to decide their destiny,” the Joint Hurriyat said.