Election watch

After losses in Delhi and Bihar, BJP decides not to contest elections in Modi’s name

Beginning in Assam next year, the saffron party will declare its chief ministerial candidates well in advance.

After assiduously using Naredra Modi's charisma as its main weapon in each state election over the past two years, the Bharatiya Janata Party is finally abandoning this strategy. The turnaround, engendered by the consecutive defeats in Delhi and Bihar, will be reflected first in Assam, which goes to polls next year, party insiders say.

The new strategy – or the return to the pre-Modi era practice – will continue even after the Assam elections, party officials said. “Although Delhi showed the first signs of fatigue with the Modi-centric strategy, Bihar results confirmed this,” a senior BJP leader said, requesting anonymity. “Now the situation is such that the party would have to suffer if it continues to seek votes in the name of the prime minister.”

Several states, including Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, go to polls in the next year and a half. Of these, the BJP has little or no chances in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and in Punjab it contests as a junior partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Since the remaining three states – Assam, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh – are crucial for the party, the BJP appears in no mood to take the risk of projecting Modi as its electoral face.

The first steps

The first step in this direction was taken over a month ago when the BJP decided to appoint Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Welfare Sarbananda Sonowal as the new president of the party unit in Assam as well as the chairman of the state election committee. Party insiders say Sonowal will be projected as BJP’s chief ministerial candidate well in advance.

Sonowal was the Assam unit chief at the time of the Lok Sabha elections, in which the BJP won seven of the state’s 14 seats. Soon after the general elections, though, he gave up the state post and joined the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.

The sweeping victory in the general elections, which the BJP fought around Modi, started a trend that continued in Maharashtra, Haryana and Bihar. In these states, the saffron party announced no chief ministerial candidate, instead seeking votes in the name of Modi. Now that trend will end.

According to insiders, it is this changed electoral approach that has delayed the identification of new state unit presidents in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due in early 2017.

“In Uttar Pradesh, the moot question before the central leadership is whether the new party chief should be from an upper caste or from OBC [other backward classes],” said a BJP leader. “In Uttarakhand, the effort is being made to identify someone who is acceptable to all factions.”

In both these states, the next party president is likely to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate, insiders said.

New challenge

The shift is being seen in the BJP as further proof that Modi, a leader who revels in electoral jousts, may no longer be the dependable vote-getter he was once portrayed to be.

The first indication of the dwindling confidence in his electoral abilities had come soon after the Bihar results were declared on November 8. In Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha constituency, where campaign for a by-election was in full swing then, the Bihar outcome had an unusual impact – it made local BJP leaders so nervous that they removed several posters and hoardings featuring Modi they had put up before November 8. Though the tactic did not work, and the party lost the seat to Congress anyway, it did indicate nervousness in the ranks on the question of seeking vote in the name of Modi.

Party leaders say the new strategy may create a new challenge for Modi – if it works, it would be difficult for him to regain his erstwhile status of being his party’s most precious political asset.

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The incredible engineering that can save your life in a car crash

Indian roads are among the world’s most dangerous. We take a look at the essential car safety features for our road conditions.

Over 200,000 people die on India’s roads every year. While many of these accidents can be prevented by following road safety rules, car manufacturers are also devising innovative new technology to make vehicles safer than ever before. To understand how crucial this technology is to your safety, it’s important to understand the anatomy of a car accident.

Source: Global report on road safety, 2015 by WHO.
Source: Global report on road safety, 2015 by WHO.

A car crash typically has three stages. The first stage is where the car collides with an object. At the point of collision, the velocity with which the car is travelling gets absorbed within the car, which brings it to a halt. Car manufacturers have incorporated many advanced features in their cars to prevent their occupants from ever encountering this stage.

Sixth sense on wheels

To begin with, some state-of-the-art vehicles have fatigue detection systems that evaluate steering wheel movements along with other signals in the vehicle to indicate possible driver fatigue–one of the biggest causes of accidents. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is the other big innovation that can prevent collisions. ESP typically encompasses two safety systems–ABS (anti-lock braking system), and TCS (traction control system). Both work in tandem to help the driver control the car on tricky surfaces and in near-collision situations. ABS prevents wheels from locking during an emergency stop or on a slippery surface, and TCS prevents the wheels from spinning when accelerating by constantly monitoring the speed of the wheels.

Smarter bodies, safer passengers

In the event of an actual car crash, manufacturers have been redesigning the car body to offer optimal protection to passengers. A key element of newer car designs includes better crumple zones. These are regions which deform and absorb the impact of the crash before it reaches the occupants. Crumple zones are located in the front and rear of vehicles and some car manufacturers have also incorporated side impact bars that increase the stiffness of the doors and provide tougher resistance to crashes.

CRUMPLE ZONES: Invented in the 1950s, crumple zones are softer vehicle sections that surround a safety cell that houses passengers. In a crash, these zones deform and crumple to absorb the shock of the impact. In the visual, the safety cell is depicted in red, while the crumple zones of the car surround the safety cell.
CRUMPLE ZONES: Invented in the 1950s, crumple zones are softer vehicle sections that surround a safety cell that houses passengers. In a crash, these zones deform and crumple to absorb the shock of the impact. In the visual, the safety cell is depicted in red, while the crumple zones of the car surround the safety cell.

Post-collision technology

While engineers try to mitigate the effects of a crash in the first stage itself, there are also safe guards for the second stage, when after a collision the passengers are in danger of hitting the interiors of the car as it rapidly comes to a halt. The most effective of these post-crash safety engineering solutions is the seat belt that can reduce the risk of death by 50%.

In the third stage of an actual crash, the rapid deceleration and shock caused by the colliding vehicle can cause internal organ damage. Manufacturers have created airbags to reduce this risk. Airbags are installed in the front of the car and have crash sensors that activate and inflate it within 40 milliseconds. Many cars also have airbags integrated in the sides of the vehicles to protect from side impacts.

SEATBELTS: Wearing seatbelts first became mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, and is now common across the world. Modern seatbelts absorb impact more efficiently, and are equipped with ‘pre-tensioners’ that pull the belt tight to prevent the passenger from jerking forward in a crash.
SEATBELTS: Wearing seatbelts first became mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, and is now common across the world. Modern seatbelts absorb impact more efficiently, and are equipped with ‘pre-tensioners’ that pull the belt tight to prevent the passenger from jerking forward in a crash.

Safety first

In the West as well as in emerging markets like China, car accident related fatalities are much lower than in India. Following traffic rules and driving while fully alert remain the biggest insurance against mishaps, however it is also worthwhile to fully understand the new technologies that afford additional safety.

So the next time you’re out looking for a car, it may be a wise choice to pick an extra airbag over custom leather seats or a swanky music system. It may just save your life.

Equipped with state-of-the-art passenger protection systems like ESP and fatigue detection systems, along with high-quality airbags and seatbelts, all Volkswagen cars have the safety of passengers at the heart of their design. Watch Volkswagen customer stories and driver experiences that testify its superior German engineering, here.

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This article was produced on behalf of Volkswagen by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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