The year 2020 will be remembered most for — Covid-19 pandemic. The country was under lockdown for ost part of the year. The strict restrictions affected people from all walks of life but 135 crore Indians encountered it bravely and presented an example for the world. Here are a few key events that took place during the pandemic in India:
In a year that left the world in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bihar pulled off a mammoth electoral exercise which saw the NDA retain power but a reinvigorated opposition snapping at its heels. While the NDA emerged victorious, its composition underwent a change with the entry of smaller players like Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM and Mukesh Sahni’s VIP. More importantly, the BJP emerged as the stronger partner, returning with a tally far greater than that of the JD(U), a development that is expected to alter power equations in the times to come. The JD(U) blamed the slump in its tally on the brinkmanship of LJP leader Chirag Paswan, who pulled out of the NDA and fielded candidates against many of Nitish Kumar’s nominees.
In the opposition camp, Lalu Prasad’s younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav came of age, steering the RJD to an impressive performance in the assembly polls, though the Grand Alliance helmed by his party fell short of getting a majority. Quite expectedly, accusatory fingers were pointed towards the Congress which seemed to have pulled the five-party coalition down, contesting 70 seats but winning only 19. In contrast, the moribund Left performed beyond expectations, with the CPI, CPI(M) and the CPI(ML) together winning 20 out of the 29 seats the three parties contested.
In the 243-strong assembly, the NDA enjoys a slender majority with 125 seats. The Grand Alliance has a tally of 110.
India-US ties were elevated to ‘comprehensive global strategic partnership’ during President Donald Trump’s visit to India in 2020, a year when the two countries solidified their relationship at an unprecedented scale and pace despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the domestic political stalemate due to the presidential elections here. The two countries held the US-India 2+2 framework just days before the presidential elections on November 3, reflecting the maturity in the bilateral ties. India is only the second country to have this kind of 2+2 dialogue, which has become the leading mechanism to discuss issues across the breadth and depth of the relationship.
President Trump’s historic visit to India (in February) captured a period of remarkable growth in the relationship. And this was demonstrated by President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to elevate the relationship to a comprehensive global strategic partnership’.
India and the US signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA), with which the two countries have inked all the all four foundational agreements to bolster defence ties. During the year, the US and India launched an unprecedented cooperation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmaceutical companies from both countries collaborated to expand global supplies of critical medicines and are cooperating on vaccine development.
President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated incumbent Trump in the bitterly-fought election, has spoken about his vision for the US-India partnership as well as on standing with India in facing threats in the region. His running mate Kamala Harris, who is of Indian origin, scripted history when she became the first ever woman vice president-elect of the country. The US-India relationship is expected to touch new heights in 2021 under the presidency of Biden, who is known to be a strong proponent of closer India-US ties since his days as a Democratic senator in the 1970s and played a key role in getting the approval of the Senate for the landmark bilateral civil nuclear deal in 2008.
China’s transgression attempts in Ladakh caused the most serious damage to the bilateral ties with India in over four decades. The two Asian giants reported strain in ties after armies of the two sides clashed in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh. India lost its 20 soldiers in June. The Indian side also cause severe damage to Chinese PLA. Media reported that as many as 40 Chinese soldiers were killed in the clash. This was the first such incident involving fatalities after a gap of 45 years.
As a result, the relations deteriorated to a new low with the two sides opening multiple channels of talks to restore the ties. India and China have held several rounds of talks in the last few months to resolve the standoff. But the two countries have failed to resolve their border dispute. Both countries have steadily established military infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Lakhs of Indian and Chinese troops remain deployed in the region even nine months after the deadly clash.
India has also retaliated by banning Chinese apps and putting Chinese investments under greater scrutiny. Nine months since the border tensions began, lakhs of
Back in July, the Indian Air Force (IAF) added more air superiority with the induction of the Rafale fighter jets from France. The jets landed at the Air Force base at Ambala.
The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. The second batch of four to five Rafale jets arrived in November.
The Rafale jets are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.
Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft. It can operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. It is categorised as a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft due to its radar-evading stealth profile. The fighter jet can reach almost double the speed of sound, with a top speed of 1.8 Mach.
Rafale’s induction took place amid the border standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. Notably, Rafales have strong combat experience in the middle-east, Africa, and Afghanistan.
Experts have said that Rafale’s induction will be a game-changer for India in the regional politics of South Asia.
The defining image of 2020 could very well be the bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya for a Ram Mandir. The ceremony was performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a mask on his face to guard against COVID-19. The ceremony in August was watched live on TV by millions, just months after the Supreme Court settled the decades-old land dispute over the site on which the Babri Masjid stood till 1992.
Ayodhya continued to remain in focus after the groundbreaking. In Lucknow, a special CBI court recorded the final statements of 23 people including BJP stalwarts LK Advani, MM Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti who were accused of a conspiracy to demolish the mosque. It acquitted all of them.
As the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust went about the process of getting work started on the site, another trust unveiled the blueprint of a mosque which will come up in the district’s Dhannipur village, replacing the Babri Masjid.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, are currently staying put at Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in protest against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. They have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture. The government argues that the three farm laws will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has repeatedly assured a number of times that the MSP will continue and the laws are aimed at doubling the income of farmers.
DELHI ASSEMBLY POLLS
Delhi, the capital city of India, went to polls in February to elect 70 members of the Legislative Assembly. Voters turnout was recorded at 62.82%, a decline of 4.65% from the previous assembly election held in 2015. The Aam Aadmi Party, led by Arvind Kejriwal won 62 seats to claim an absolute majority in the elections. In the 2015 polls, the AAP had won 67 seats with Arvind Kejriwal becoming Chief Minister.