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Modi celebrates victory in India vote, but falls short of landslide

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political alliance won India’s weeks-long general election on Tuesday, but the opposition said voters had sent a clear message after his Hindu nationalist party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in a decade.

Commentators and exit polls had projected an overwhelming victory for Modi,whose campaign wooed the Hindu majority to the worry of the country’s 200- million-plus Muslim community, deepening concerns over minority rights.

The alliance led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an overall parliamentary majority, results on the election commission website showed late Tuesday.

But the BJP itself was projected to secure only 240 seats of its own, well down on the 303 it won at the last polls five years ago, meaning it would need to rely on its alliance partners to pass legislation.

India had given the party and its allies a mandate “for a third consecutive time”, Modi told a crowd of cheering supporters in the capital New Delhi.

“Our third term will be one of big decisions and the country will write a new chapter of development. This is Modi’s guarantee.”

But in a remarkable turnaround largely driven by deals to field single candidates against the BJP’s electoral juggernaut, the main opposition Congress party was expected to take 99 seats, almost doubling its 2019 tally of 52.

“The country has said to Narendra Modi ‘We don’t want you’,” key leader Rahul Gandhi told reporters. “I was confident that the people of this country would give the right response.”

With more than 99 percent of votes counted, the BJP’s vote share at 36.6 percent was marginally lower than at the last general election.

Modi was re-elected to his constituency representing the Hindu holy city of Varanasi by a margin of 152,300 votes — compared to nearly half a million votes five years ago.

Among the independent lawmakers elected were two serving time in jail — firebrand Sikh separatist preacher Amritpal Singh, and Sheikh Abdul Rashid from Indian-administered Kashmir, who was arrested on charges of “terror funding” and money laundering in 2019.

– ‘Moral defeat’ –

Celebrations had already begun at the headquarters of Modi’s BJP before the full announcement of results.

But the mood at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi was also one of jubilation.

“BJP has failed to win a big majority on its own,” Congress lawmaker Rajeev Shukla told reporters. “It’s a moral defeat for them.”

Stocks slumped on speculation the reduced majority would hamper the BJP’s ability to push through reforms.

Shares in the main listed unit of Adani Enterprises — owned by key Modi ally Gautam Adani — nosedived 25 percent, before rebounding slightly.

Modi’s opponents fought against a well-oiled and well-funded BJP campaign machine, and what they say are politically motivated criminal cases aimed at hobbling challengers.

US think tank Freedom House said this year that the BJP had “increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents”.

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of the capital Delhi and a key leader in an alliance formed to compete against Modi, returned to jail on Sunday.

Kejriwal, 55, was detained in March over a long-running corruption probe, but was later released and allowed to campaign as long as he returned to custody once voting ended.

“When power becomes dictatorship, then jail becomes a responsibility,” Kejriwal said before surrendering himself, vowing to continue “fighting” from behind bars.

– ‘Strength of Indian democracy’ –

Many of India’s Muslim minority are increasingly uneasy about their futures and their community’s place in the constitutionally secular country.

Modi himself made several strident comments about Muslims on the campaign trail, referring to them as “infiltrators”.

The polls were staggering in their size and logistical complexity, with 642 million voters casting their ballots — everywhere from megacities New Delhi and Mumbai to sparsely populated forest areas and the high-altitude
Himalayas.

“People should know about the strength of Indian democracy,” chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar said Monday, calling the counting process “robust”.

Based on the commission’s figure of an electorate of 968 million, turnout came to 66.3 percent, down roughly one percentage point from 67.4 percent in the last polls in 2019.

Analysts have partly blamed the lower turnout on a searing heatwave across northern India, with temperatures over 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

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Tesla shareholders voting yes for Musk’s $56 bln pay package, CEO says on X

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Tesla shareholders are voting to approve a $56 billion pay package for Elon Musk and to move the electric vehicle maker’s legal home to Texas, Musk said on social media platform X on Wednesday, adding that passage was by wide margins.

Shareholders of the electric-car maker are voting on a proposal to ratify CEO Musk’s 2018 incentive package, valued at up to $56 billion at the time and the largest in US corporate history, after a Delaware judge voided the plan approved by its board “beholden” to Musk.

The result will be announced at a meeting on Thursday.

A person familiar with the preliminary tally confirmed Musk’s post, and said that a combination of big institutional investors and retail investor got the ‘yes’ result over the line.

Shareholders, however, are allowed to change their vote up to the start of the annual meeting.

Tesla shareholders also cast ballots on other proposals including the move of Tesla’s legal headquarters from Delaware to Texas, as well as the re-election of two board members: Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk and James Murdoch.

Musk referred to the resolutions on his pay package and the move in his tweet, thanking shareholders for their support.

Some investors viewed the vote on Musk’s pay as a test of confidence in his leadership. While he is undoubtedly Tesla’s driving force, and is credited with much of its success, the company has recently seen slowing sales and profits.

The board said the world’s richest person deserves the package, because he hit all the ambitious targets on market value, revenue and profitability.

The pay package is also needed to keep Musk devoted to Tesla, the board said, even though the Delaware judge said the 2018 pay plan failed to make sure that Musk committed a substantial amount of time to Tesla.

Musk has threatened to build AI and robotics products outside Tesla, if he fails to gain enough voting control, which requires the 2018 pay package to be approved.

Some large shareholders including Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and California’s two largest pension funds have said they will vote against the compensation, saying the pay is excessive.

Tesla has been drumming up support for Musk’s pay package, especially from retail investors, who make up an unusually high percentage of its ownership base but who often do not vote.

Company executives have posted messages on X, saying Musk is critical to Tesla’s success. Tesla has run social media ads, and Musk has promised a personal tour of Tesla’s factory in Texas to some shareholders who cast votes.

COURT BATTLE

The same package was previously rejected by a Delaware judge who invalidated it as an “unfathomable sum” granted by a conflicted board with close personal and financial ties to its top executive.

The board held the shareholder vote as a way to bolster its appeal of the ruling, in which the judge cited the board’s failure to fully inform shareholders before approving the pay package in 2018.

Musk has to wait months or years to get his pay package restored as appeals wind their way up to Delaware’s Supreme Court.

Tesla could also face more litigation from some shareholders. One of them this month filed a lawsuit challenging the upcoming shareholder vote on Musk’s pay package and the change of domicile.

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Fire in Mangaf Workers’ Accommodation Claims 41 Lives

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A devastating fire broke out early Wednesday in a building housing workers in Mangaf, southern Kuwait, resulting in the deaths of at least 41 people, according to Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah.

During his visit to the site, Sheikh Fahad, who also oversees the interior and defense ministries, criticized real estate owners for their violations and greed, attributing these factors to the tragic incident.

“Unfortunately, the greed of real estate owners is what leads to these matters,” Sheikh Fahad stated.

The blaze was reported to authorities at 6:00 a.m. local time (0300 GMT), according to Major General Eid Rashed Hamad.

“The building was used to house a large number of workers. Dozens were rescued, but sadly, many succumbed to smoke inhalation,” a senior police commander informed state television.

He further emphasized the longstanding warnings against overcrowding in worker accommodations, though he did not specify the workers’ occupations or nationalities.

The fire has been contained, and authorities are currently investigating its cause, officials said.

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Baltimore shipping lane fully reopens after bridge collapse

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The Baltimore shipping lane blocked for more than two months after a cargo ship collided with a major bridge in
March, sending it crashing into the water, fully reopened on Monday, authorities said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, along with Navy salvage divers, restored the channel to its original dimensions by removing about 50,000 tons of debris from the Patapsco River, a statement from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command said.

The riverbed was certified as safe for transit on Monday.

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the Federal Channel to port operations,” said Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

On March 26, the Singapore-flagged M/V Dali lost power and plowed into a support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse and killing six road workers who had been filling potholes overnight.

The 106,000-ton ship had been headed for Sri Lanka at the time of the accident.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the incident along with the FBI, has said the ship had two electricity blackouts in the moments before the disaster.

The Dali was refloated last month and towed back into port.

The port of Baltimore is one of America’s busiest ports and a key hub for the auto industry, handling almost 850,000 autos and light trucks last year — more than any other US port, according to state figures.

The full reopening of the shipping channel will allow for two-way traffic, Monday’s statement said.

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