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from John Lloyd:

Modi: Democrat or divider

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India’s 815 million voters started the five-week voting cycle earlier this week. It’s already being celebrated as a triumph just for taking place -- “the largest collective democratic act in history,” according to the Economist.

The winner will matter. India now punches far below its demographic weight -- its 1.24 billion people are served by just 600 diplomats, about the same number as the Netherlands. The United States, with 314 million people, has 15,000. But that apparent lack of interest in making a mark on the world seems about to end.

What had seemed a likely victory for the first minister of the northwestern state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, has now hardened into a near certainty -- at least for much of the Indian media. Modi, self-made, ambitious and energetic at 63, has the ability to project India’s latent power. He wants growth, which India greatly needs to raise more of its citizens out of poverty and to provide jobs for its expanding population.

That could be a cause for fear -- first within, and then outside of, India. For Modi is marked by a dark shadow that he cannot -- and perhaps has no wish to -- shake. His political affiliation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and his membership in the right-wing , paramilitary Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) signals he may have less loyalty to the multi-ethnic country that is India and more to the dominant ethnicity: the Hindus.

from India Insight:

Interview: Narendra Modi has marginalized his own party – Jairam Ramesh

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By Frank Jack Daniel, Jo Winterbottom and Mayank Bhardwaj

Jairam Ramesh, the rural development minister in the Congress-led government, told Reuters on Tuesday that Narendra Modi's career reminded him of the rise of the Third Reich, the strongest comments yet by a minister of his rank on the Bharatiya Janata Party leader.

(Click here for main story)

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

Where do you feel public sentiment is at the moment?

If you look at the social media, the sentiment is in one way. If you travel like the way I do to remote parts of the country where social media footprint is very very inconspicuous, the sentiment is some other way. We are going through the noise phase of the election campaign … Sentiments change, by the way; there is no such thing like a permanent sentiment.

from India Insight:

Short skirts, bad stars and chow mein: why India’s women get raped

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If you thought the Delhi gang rape would cause a serious debate on women’s rights in India, you'd be half right. Let's look at the other half: last December's brutal incident seems to have put a spell on India’s politicians, holy men and otherwise educated people.

From suggesting that the rape victim should have called her rapists “brother” to blaming her stars, plenty of reasons cited for the crime lay the blame on the women whom men brutalise, or portray women in ways that reveal our skewed attitude toward women and their place in our society. When given an opportunity to figure out ways to improve the  education and behaviour of men, and thus try to reduce the  number of rapes that occur in India, many people revert to the  more traditional method: limit the rights of women.

from FaithWorld:

Factbox – Swami Ramdev, India’s most popular yoga guru

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(India's yoga guru Swami Ramdev speaks during a yoga camp in the northern Indian town of Haridwar April 8, 2010/Jitendra Prakash)

India's government suffered a fresh blow in containing growing anger over corruption from million of voters as Swami Ramdev, the country's most famous yoga guru, gained the support of a leading civil activist for his "fast-until-death" against graft. Anna Hazare lent his support on Thursday for Ramdev's hunger strike from Saturday to protest against corruption in Asia's third-largest economy and has called on his legions of followers to join him.

from Reuters Editors:

Link economy and journalism

chris_ahearnThe following is a guest column by Chris Ahearn, President, Media at Thomson Reuters.

Last summer, I published a blog post that laid out my feelings about the link economy and its positive contribution to the evolution of the business of journalism. One year later, Reuters.com continues to encourage linking to the rich content we offer and even pulling interesting excerpts for discussion in a different forum.   In exchange for that occasional use of our content, we ask others to respect the hard work our journalists put into their craft and in some cases risk their lives in doing so by offering prominent links and attribution.

from Commentaries:

Google’s real-time challenge

In its latest venture round last week, Twitter was valued at $1 billion. The Wall Street Journal calculated that $2.7 billion would be a fair value. Robert Scoble, an influential tech blogger -- and habitual enthusiast -- reckoned somewhere between $5 billion and $10 billion was justified. That's for a company with no revenues and no known business model.

Has the world gone crazy again? Is Twitter just the latest manifestation of a new bubble of froth and hype?  Perhaps. But the excitement does point to an arena where investors' exuberance is justified: the growth of the real-time web.

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