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from India Insight:

Aam Aadmi’s party isn’t over yet, Bhagwant Mann says

The one-and-a-half-year-old Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) poor performance in this year's parliamentary elections in India was a big letdown for the anti-corruption party's members and its leader Arvind Kejriwal. One of the party's newly elected parliamentarians, Punjabi actor-comedian Bhagwant Mann, is doing his best to keep spirits high. Following are excerpts from two phone conversations with India Insight about the future of the AAP.

 (This interview was conducted in Hindi and translated into English)

Q. Why didn’t the “Modi wave” work in Punjab?

A. There was nothing like a Modi wave in Punjab. Punjab is already affected a lot by drugs and unemployment. So Punjab’s problems are not about [BJP slogan] "Ache din aane waley hain" ("Good days are coming") or "Har Har Modi" (Hindu religious chant, modified for Modi). Punjab wanted a third alternative, it wanted to get out of the two-party mill – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress.

Q. What is your reaction to the party’s performance in Punjab and the rest of the country?

A. In Punjab there were one-two seats where our defeat margin was less than 15,000, otherwise we were hoping for six to seven seats. But we got a vote bank. Example - Mr Phoolka was defeated from Ludhiana but won in its five assembly constituencies (that fall under the parliament seat). The party has got an oxygen cylinder in Punjab.

from India Insight:

No anti-Muslim ideology in party – BJP’s Anurag Thakur

Many people see Anurag Thakur, 39, as the youthful face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition to the Congress party-led government and the party of prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi. He is the son of the former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and was named one of the World Economic Forum’s global young leaders this year.

In an interview with Reuters, Thakur spoke about Modi’s popularity as well as criticisms levelled against him. He also spoke about internal problems at the BJP, the party’s perceptions among Muslims, Congress PM contender Rahul Gandhi and more.

from India Insight:

Not funny – jokes Indian politicians crack

(Any opinions expressed here are not those of Thomson Reuters)

Politicians facing outrage over their comments often say that they didn’t mean what they said to come out that way. Lately in India, they say they were joking.

One of the latest was Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, whose self-confessed attempt at a joke earned him the ire of the Election Commission of India just before the beginning of this year’s elections that could boot the Congress out of power. Addressing a community of labourers in Maharashtra last week, the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party urged listeners to vote twice for his party - and told them how to do it.

from India Insight:

Ashutosh gears up for Chandni Chowk race; talks about ‘biased’ media

(Any opinions expressed here are not those of Thomson Reuters)

Aam Aadmi Party's Ashutosh might have been a TV news host, but now he talks like an experienced politician. “I am enjoying” being on the other side of the microphone, the former managing editor of Hindi news channel IBN7 told India Insight during an interview in which he discussed his decision to stand for Parliament.

It probably won't be easy. He is taking on Kapil Sibal, a Congress party veteran and influential government minister. Sibal, a two-time member of the Lok Sabha from central Delhi’s Chandni Chowk constituency, has a knack for landing in controversies. From trying to police social media to trashing a popular upsurge against corrupt politicians in 2011, he often has become a target of public wrath.

from India Insight:

Interview: Modi a bloated figure, country will disintegrate if he’s in power – Veerappa Moily

By Frank Jack Daniel and Nidhi Verma

(This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

Veerappa Moily, oil and environment minister in India’s Congress-led government, told Reuters on Thursday that Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, is a “bloated figure” and the country would disintegrate if he is voted to power.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity:

from India Insight:

Interview: AAP’s Yogendra Yadav defends Delhi protests, blames media

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

Senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member Yogendra Yadav on Wednesday defended his party’s protest against the police on the streets of New Delhi and blamed the media for "unsympathetic" coverage.

Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the AAP, or "common man’s party", ended his planned 10-day "dharna" after two days on Tuesday.

from India Insight:

Interview: Congress session will lead to changes – Sachin Pilot

After years in the shadows as a reluctant heir-apparent, Rahul Gandhi is set for his own tryst with destiny, to lead the ruling Congress party in elections due by May that it has only a slim chance of winning.

Reuters spoke to Sachin Pilot, the country’s corporate affairs minister, on the Congress party's strategy for the 2014 election, Rahul Gandhi’s style of working and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

from India Insight:

India won’t have misfortune of having Rahul Gandhi as PM: AAP’s Kumar Vishwas

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Aditya Kalra

The Aam Aadmi Party's Kumar Vishwas, who plans to challenge the Congress party from the Gandhi family's bastion in Uttar Pradesh, said it would be unfortunate if Rahul Gandhi became India's prime minister.

Vishwas's remarks came as Gandhi suggested in a rare interview published on Tuesday in the Dainik Bhaskar that he was ready to be prime minister if the Congress returns to power in the 2014 general election due by May.

from India Insight:

Interview: BJP’s Harsh Vardhan slams AAP-Congress alliance in Delhi

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

India's Congress party and the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) entered an "unholy alliance" to share power in Delhi following state elections in the national capital, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said in an interview on Dec. 31.

Harsh Vardhan, who lost the race for chief minister of the capital region to AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal, said he thinks that the Congress party and the AAP had “some sort of understanding” before the elections. He offered no proof. Spokesmen for the AAP and the Congress party denied these charges.

from Expert Zone:

India Markets Weekahead: Driven by hope in an election-led rally

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The New Year was ushered in with a steep and sudden correction in the broader indexes, with the Nifty closing 1.63 percent lower at 6,211. However, the mid-cap and small-cap indexes outperformed.

Though the holiday mood was evident, it was a politically charged week. The newly installed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi won a confidence motion with the support of the Congress. They subsequently announced power subsidies after granting water sops last week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a rare press conference, the third in 10 years, announcing his intent of handing over the baton to a new prime minister.

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