India Insight

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

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.

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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.

The Modi campaign has got a lot of momentum and the perception is that the Congress campaign lacks that momentum.

Modi-entum, not momentum. The BJP is a master of hype. I have seen them now for 20 years closely and they are the world’s greatest experts at hype. And very soon they come down to earth because they begin to take their hype very seriously. When you start believing that hype, then you run into serious trouble. This is what happened to the BJP in the past. India Shining was a good example of that hype.
I think a time will come when Mr Modi will begin to get judged differently. But India right now in 2013, I would say, we are going through what Germany went through in 1932. The classic symptoms, I am beginning to read all my old books about how the Third Reich came into being, how fascism overtook parts of Europe. Because, look at Mr Modi’s — what are the three principles of his ideology? Political autocracy, social divisiveness and economic liberalism. This is sort of Mr Modi reduced to three dimensions, the 3D Mr Modi. This is exactly what created the autobahns and Volkswagens in the 30s but also created the disaster of Germany.

Don’t you think it’s a bit over-the-top to compare Modi to Hitler?

It’s not. It’s certainly not. I didn’t compare him to Hitler, by the way. I never took the word Hitler anywhere. Mr Modi has demonstrated in 12 years that he’s been in power. He runs a one-man show in Gujarat. It’s a one-man political party. He has marginalized not only us, he’s also marginalized his own party. Yes, he is industry friendly. But whether he is crony-friendly or market-friendly, I don’t know. Mr Modi has demonstrated a singular incapacity to abide by rules.

Equity mutual funds record best monthly performance since Jan 2012

India’s diversified equity funds posted their best monthly performance since Jan 2012 as the benchmark Sensex scaled record highs in October, with bets on sectors such as banking and capital goods boosting mutual fund returns.

Such schemes, which form the largest category of equity funds in India by number and assets, rose 9.2 percent on average, mirroring returns on the 30-share BSE Sensex, data from fund tracker Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company, showed.

The Sensex hit an all-time closing high in October — and went on to touch a life high on Nov. 1 ahead of the Diwali weekend — bolstered by foreign inflows of around $3.5 billion after the U.S. Fed decided to delay stimulus tapering.

India’s mission to Mars at a glance

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, the country’s first interplanetary foray, is billed as a pathfinder to test technologies to fly to orbit and communicate from the Red Planet. It follows India’s successful 2008-2009 Chandrayaan-1 moon probe, which discovered water molecules in the lunar soil.

Here are some facts about the project:

    One of the objectives is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission. The mission aims to explore Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and search for methane in the Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments. Payloads on the satellite include instruments for studying the atmosphere, particle environment and surface imaging. These include the Lyman Alpha Photometer, a methane sensor, a composition analyser, a camera and an imaging spectrometer. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will launch the 1,337 kg Mars Orbiter satellite as part of its 25th mission. The satellite is scheduled to reach the Mars orbit in September 2014 and is designed to circle the Red Planet in an elliptical orbit of 366 km X 80,000 km. The total cost of the Mars mission is $73 million.

Source: Reuters, Indian Space Research Organisation. More info here

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shashank on Twitter @shashankchouhan and Tony@tonytharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

Fandry puts a harsh spotlight on India’s caste system

Nagraj Manjule grew up as a Dalit, an untouchable, scorned by a caste system that he says never lets you forget how low you are. The short-film director channeled the shame and the ridicule of his childhood into his first feature film, “Fandry” (“Pig”) which won the Jury Grand Prize at the Mumbai Film Festival last month.

The movie is about a Dalit schoolboy named Jabya (Somnath Awghade) who  lives on the outskirts of a village and struggles against the caste system by daring to dream, and eventually rebelling against the perpetrators of that system.

He harbours a crush on a fair-skinned, Brahmin class-mate, dreams of buying fancy new blue jeans, and uses talcum powder to try to make his dusky face fair. Through scenes with his father, his best friend and the village maverick who becomes friends with Jabya, Manjule tells the audience that little has changed. The powerful climax gives the audience a glimpse into Jabya’s insecurities, his reluctance to accept his identity, before he finally snaps, retaliating against those ridiculing him and his family.

Delhi’s ‘Procession of the Florists’ marches toward obscurity

Every fall, people gather in Delhi’s Mehrauli area for the “Procession of the Florists,” a festival to commemorate the return from exile of a 19th-century prince who crossed India’s British colonial rulers.

The “Phool Walon ki Sair,” as it is called in Hindi and Urdu, features the offering of a “chaadar” or a “sheet” of flowers at a Muslim shrine and floral “pankhas” or fans at a nearby Hindu temple but after nearly 200 years, its popularity is fading.

The annual procession began in the early 19th century when Queen Mumtaz Mahal and her subjects walked to the shrine of Khwaja Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtyar Kaaki to fulfil a vow that she made. During the reign of her husband, Mughal ruler Akbar Shah II, their son Mirza Jahangir taunted the British Resident Archibald Seton. The young prince also took a shot at Seton at the Red Fort, but missed his target and killed his orderly instead.

Movie Review: Krrish 3

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

Rakesh Roshan’s third film in the “Krrish” superhero franchise is the film you have been waiting for. It has world-class special effects, some brilliant acting, and a plot so gripping it will keep you entranced for two-and-a-half hours.

I am kidding, of course. There’s nothing of the sort in “Krrish 3”.

The tacky CGI animation — characters flying through walls and catching planes mid-air — reminds you of the special effects in Ramanand Sagar’s “Ramayan” television series two decades ago. Lead actor Hrithik Roshan twitches his facial muscles in his attempt to play an annoying old man, while flexing his biceps to play a younger avatar. And instead of a credible story, the plot of “Krrish 3” involves, among other things, a pen that captures the sun’s rays and brings the dead to life.

Hrithik Roshan does double duty here, playing ageing scientist Rohit Mehra and his son Krishna aka Krrish, who is married to Priya (Priyanka Chopra). All is going well till Kaal, a diabolical villain clearly inspired by Magneto from Hollywood’s X-Men series, makes an appearance.

Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh slip in Forbes’ most powerful list

India’s top politicians Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have fallen out of the top 20 in Forbes’ annual list of the world’s most powerful people.

Gandhi, leader of India’s Congress party, was No. 21 on the 2013 list, down from 12 last year. Prime Minister Singh took the 28th spot in the list, also losing nine spots since 2012.

Gandhi was ranked third among nine women in the annual list of the world’s 72 most-powerful people — one for every 100 million people on Earth — which Forbes said is based on factors ranging from wealth to global influence.

Bollywood banks on superhero saga “Krrish 3″

Actor Hrithik Roshan returns as Krrish this Friday in the third instalment of the namesake film series, which pits the Indian superhero against a new villain out to destroy the world. “Krrish 3” opens two days before Diwali, India’s festival of lights and traditionally a time of Bollywood blockbuster movie premieres.

The film, made for an estimated 800 million rupees ($13 million), is coming out in 3,600 movie screens across India — a record — and is expected to pull in crowds with Hollywood-style special effects and a healthy dose of Indian “family values”.

“This is a film that appeals to pretty much everyone, and kids especially. They are the ones who will drag the families in,” said Shailesh Kapoor of research firm Ormax Media. “Also, it is the Diwali weekend, and a time when people are looking for entertainment and willing to spend.”

Pricey onions mean more tears for businesses, public

By Anupriya Kumar and Arnika Thakur

Onion prices recently reached 100 rupees per kilogram ($1.62) in some parts of New Delhi. It is hard to emphasize enough how prices like that are hurting businesses and the public. Onions are one of India’s staples, and people consume 15 million tonnes of them a year. Now, many people can’t afford to buy as many as they need – or any at all.

The government’s efforts to ease the price, which has quadrupled in some cities in the past three months, are unlikely to succeed. Heavy rains have reduced crop yields and delayed harvesting. Now, the average price of onions in India is 83 rupees per kilo, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said in an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday.

Here’s how the people are reacting to the “onion crisis”. (We have edited responses for clarity)

Interview: Sheila Dikshit on elections, rise of Modi and Kejriwal

By Aditya Kalra and Shashank Chouhan

The emergence of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a credible contender in the Dec. 4 state election in Delhi has not dampened the Congress party’s confidence, its chief minister Sheila Dikshit said on Tuesday.

Dikshit, 75, who has been chief minister of India’s capital since 1998, spoke to Reuters at her official residence about the upcoming elections, the rise of Kejriwal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi.

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

Opinion polls show that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will eat into your vote share this time. What is your view?
I have nothing to say. All these polls that are being conducted I think are somewhere in the air, they don’t reflect reality because nobody has made up their mind. How do I vote for the Aam Aadmi when I don’t even know what the Aam Aadmi stands for. It has jhadoo (broom) which they say is going to sweep everything away, but what are you going to do? With the Congress, at least you have 15 years of work to show.

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