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.

What is the Congress party doing wrong?
We have within ourselves perhaps far superior elements to take on conventional challenges today. But what we are not doing tremendously well is in the perception battle. Somehow, we have not been able to position ourselves as an alternative to most political forces operating today. What the Congress party needs to do now, I think what Rahul Gandhi wants to do, is to create an institutionalized mechanism for the party because this ad-hocism is not bearing fruit.

What does this institutionalized mechanism mean?
The idea is to empower the workers of the Congress party in ways that it doesn’t depend on individual dispensation. It becomes a structure, you are getting fresh ideas, fresh people and they are lured in not because of patronage from individuals but because the party offers that.

How would you be involved?
Every seat is different, every constituency is different. So yes, there will be some campaigning. Mr Modi feels that he can swing the eight states where the BJP has presence but don’t forget there are 14 states where BJP has no presence. So how many seats in parliament Mr Modi can get in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland Mizoram, Kashmir, I don’t know. The strike rate has to be 90 percent where they have presence.

In pursuit of the perfect lehenga in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk

Each evening, after pulling their shutters down, sari salesmen in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk market sit down for three hours to fold their wares: embroidered, embellished saris and lehengas that customers browsed all day.

Lehengas, embroidered and pleated long skirts, are serious business in Chandni Chowk, a busy Mughal-era market whose name means “moonlit square”. Despite numerous boutiques and malls opening across New Delhi, the old wedding market has kept its charm, its customers and its business.

“If I have a design in my mind I can get it tailor-made, custom-make any designer, whatever it is, I can get that replica made. It might not be an original of Sabyasachi or one of the fancy designers, but it’s very close, you can easily pull it off as one of those designer pieces,” said Reena Bhardwaj, a 29-year-old journalist who recently bought a lehenga priced at 50,000 rupees (about $800) to attend a wedding.

India equity funds add Wipro, TCS in 2013; dump HUL, SBI

An increased number of India’s equity diversified funds favoured technology companies such as Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) among Sensex stocks in 2013, raising their bets on a sector that benefited from a depreciating rupee and improving demand from developed economies.

Nearly 160 of 322 such funds had investments in India’s No. 3 IT services provider Wipro in December as compared to 91 funds a year ago, more than doubling the collective stake held in the company, data from Morningstar India showed. India’s top IT services exporter TCS was part of 190 portfolios, up from 155.

A weak rupee and improving business from clients in the United States and Europe propelled technology stocks to new highs in 2013 — TCS registered a rise of 73 percent while Wipro gained 61 percent, outperforming the BSE IT index that touched a life high and ended 59.7 percent higher. In comparison, the BSE Sensex had risen 9 percent.

Old Delhi food steps into the digital age with start-up

With thousands of shops, hundreds of carts, horses, cows, vehicles and an ever-rising number of visitors and shoppers, Delhi’s Chandni Chowk can be a menacing place if you just want to savour a jalebi. But the syrup-drenched, pretzel-like traditional sweet from one of the oldest shopping hubs in India is a mere click away.

A new start-up promises to come to the rescue of many Delhiwallas who want to eat good food from the Mughal-era Walled City, but can’t stand the chaos of what a government portal calls the food capital of India.

“Whenever we want to eat the food on weekdays, it becomes impossible for us,” said 24-year-old Rahul Garg. This and a desire to have their own business led Rahul and his IIT graduate brother Anshul to launch an online food delivery platform that focuses Chandni Chowk’s delicacies.

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.

“I don’t think that India has the misfortune of him (Rahul Gandhi) ever becoming prime minister,” Vishwas said in a telephone interview from Amethi district. “The direction in which the country is headed right now … things will only get worse (if Gandhi becomes PM).”

Movie Review: Dedh Ishqiya

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

What a difference a week makes. Last week, the sight of Vijay Raaz and Arshad Warsi in “Joe B Carvalho” was enough to drive someone up the wall. A week later, they are a sheer delight in film-maker Abhishek Chaubey’s “Dedh Ishqiya”.

A rollicking, irreverent and well-executed film, Chaubey’s sequel to his 2010 debut has more of the sparkling dialogue and wit, but better etched characters, and a story that will keep the viewer engaged till the end.

In “Dedh Ishqiya”, the adventures of Khalu and Babban continue with the two finding themselves in a crumbling mansion, owned by the aging, but beautiful Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit), who follows up on a promise made to her late husband. She organizes a poetry competition, and declares she will marry the one whose poems impress her the most.

Aamir Khan’s recipe for India’s biggest blockbuster

In the weeks before the release of “Dhoom 3“, actor Aamir Khan got a message from his dentist, who was concerned that his patient’s new film wasn’t being promoted enough.

That was exactly what Khan, who plans the marketing of his films as meticulously as he prepares for roles, wanted to hear.

“When people are concerned enough about your film that they ask you why they aren’t promoting it more, you know you’ve achieved what you wanted,” the 48-year-old Bollywood star told Reuters in an interview.

A Minute With: Aamir Khan on movie marketing

Dhoom 3”, the third instalment in India’s only action movie franchise, has become Bollywood’s highest-grossing film, raking in more than 5 billion rupees ($80 million) in global ticket sales.

Lead actor Aamir Khan spoke to India Insight about the film’s marketing strategy, why reality TV shows may not be ideal for publicity and what he would change about his 2005 film “Mangal Pandey – The Rising.” Edited excerpts.

How was the marketing strategy for “Dhoom 3” conceived?
When we sat down for the first time, Victor (director Vijay Krishna Acharya) and the whole team were trying to figure out what we wanted to convey for this film. And like any other film, and this is something that both Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) and I feel very strongly, what actually wants to make you see the film is the trailer. We wanted to let the creative of the film speak for itself. Over the years, certain conventions have been formed and we looked at each convention for its own merit. Do we want to continue what is happening, is it of any use to the film, or not?

from Expert Zone:

U.S.-India dispute: A diplomat and a double-standard laid bare

(The following essay is commentary. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Reuters)

Relations between the United States and India have crashed to their lowest ebb since the last millennium, something many Americans might have missed during the holiday buzz.  A spat over the treatment of a diplomat and her maid threatens the foundations of a key international partnership, and the implications extend far beyond foreign policy. This case could endanger American diplomats, businesspeople and tourists travelling abroad.

The fight began with the December arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India’s Deputy Consul in New York.  Khobragade, a young mother accused of under-paying her maid and making a false statement on a visa form, says she was hand-cuffed, strip-searched, and thrown in a holding facility with violent criminals.  India regards her arrest as a violation of diplomatic immunity.  The United States argues that such immunity does not extend to consular officials.

from Expert Zone:

The return of the ugly American

(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author's own)

Nearly a month after American authorities arrested India’s deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, outside her children’s school and charged her with paying her Indian domestic worker a salary below the minimum wage, bilateral relations remain tense. India’s government has reacted with fury to the mistreatment of an official enjoying diplomatic immunity, and public indignation has been widespread and nearly unanimous. So, has an era of steadily improving ties between the two countries come to an end?

Judging from Indian leaders’ statements, it would certainly seem so. India’s mild-mannered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared that Khobragade’s treatment was “deplorable.” National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon called her arrest “despicable” and “barbaric,” and Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid refused to take a conciliatory phone call from US Secretary of State John Kerry.

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