India Insight

Social media not a game changer in 2014 elections

By Aditya Kalra and David Lalmalsawma

Political parties in India are relying more on social media ahead of the 2014 election as a way of increasing voter support, even though politicians in general do not expect such efforts to significantly influence election results.

Parties are trying to ride the digital wave by conducting workshops to teach leaders and foot soldiers how to improve engagement on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The country of 1.2 billion people had around 165 million Internet users as of March, the third-largest in the world, according to data from India’s telecommunications regulator. But the number of social media users is likely to grow to about 80 million by mid-2014, a report released in February said.

For the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s main opposition party, social media is helping as an “accelerator” in conveying their messages to the public.

“I don’t call it a game changer, but an accelerator in this election … it’s definitely setting a narrative, it is influencing a lot of people,” Arvind Gupta, head of the BJP’s IT division, said in an interview.

Shashi Tharoor on Congress’ social media plans, digital presence of Gandhis

By Aditya Kalra and David Lalmalsawma

Political parties in India are relying more on social media ahead of the 2014 election as a way of increasing voter support, even though politicians in general do not expect such efforts to influence election results.

India Insight interviewed Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for human resources and one of the earliest adopters of Twitter in Indian politics. Here are edited excerpts of the interview:

Can social media be a game changer in the upcoming general election?
I think it can be a game influencer, but I wouldn’t go beyond that at this stage, because what we are discovering is that you need various ways of reaching out to the electorate, and social media happens to offer an additional way, not a substitute for any of the traditional means of campaigning.

Arvind Gupta, BJP IT cell head, on party’s social media plans

By Aditya Kalra and David Lalmalsawma

Political parties in India are relying more on social media ahead of the 2014 election as a way of increasing voter support, even though politicians in general do not expect such efforts to significantly influence election results.

India Insight interviewed Arvind Gupta, head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT division, in July about social media and the party’s plans for the elections. Here are edited excerpts:

Why the recent social media push?
It’s not sudden for us. We have been engaged in social media for the last three to four years. It’s been a consistent effort. I think only in the early part of this year, people started realizing that this could be one of the accelerators. I don’t call it a game changer, but an accelerator in this election.

Gujarati film ‘The Good Road’ is India’s Oscar entry

The Good Road”, a Gujarati-language film, has been chosen as India’s entry to the 2014 Oscars, stealing attention from a critically acclaimed love story that was screened at the Cannes film festival this year.

Gyan Correa’s debut film about two children lost in the Kutch desert won a national award for best Gujarati-language film this year, but was a dark horse among the 22 movies in the running to be India’s official entry to the Oscars in the best foreign film category.

Expectations had been high for Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox”, an Indian-French-German co-production that won the Grand Rail d’Or at Critics’ Week at Cannes in May.

Crowd-funded film ‘Lucia’ depended on the kindness of strangers

When filmmaker Pawan Kumar wrote an anguished blog post about not having enough money to make a movie, he didn’t expect hundreds of strangers to lend him their savings, no questions asked.

Eighteen months after that post — called “Making Enemies” — went viral, Kumar’s Kannada-language feature film “Lucia” opened in Indian cinemas.

The film, a thriller about an insomniac usher in an old theatre, earned 10.6 million rupees (about $170,000) in ticket sales in its first week in cinemas, outperforming its production budget of around 6 million rupees (about $95,000). The film’s television rights were sold for an additional 10 million rupees.

Movie Review: The Lunchbox

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

Even if Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox” had been a film with a weak script, wayward direction and too long to hold your attention, there would be still be a reason to watch the film — Irrfan Khan.

Here is an actor who will mesmerize and transfix you while playing the most unassuming of characters.

Movie Review: Phata Poster Nikhla Hero

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

Rajkumar Santoshi‘s “Phata Poster Nikhla Hero” unapologetically harks back to Bollywood of the 80s. The characters include the upright mother, the loyal son and the air-headed but charming leading lady. Don’t forget the goofy humour, and the good vs evil fight.

As the protagonist Vishwas Rao (Shahid Kapur) tells a character at the end of the film: I have done everything by now – romanced the heroine, danced with the item girl, fought the villain, and helped the police. Santoshi certainly ticked all the boxes, and if he only knew where to stop, he might have ended up with a better-than-average film.

Shahid Kapur plays a small-town boy who harbours dreams of becoming a Bollywood hero. His mother Savitri (Padmini Kolhapure) has different plans. She wants him to become an honest police officer to atone for the sins of her husband, who was everything a police officer shouldn’t be. She sends him to Mumbai to fulfil her dream, but Vishwas is hell-bent on making a career as a Hindi film hero.

Markets this week: Sensex gains 2.7 percent, Maruti surges 11 percent

By Ankush Arora and Sankalp Phartiyal

The BSE Sensex rose 2.7 percent in the week ending September 20, as foreign inflows and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s surprise decision to continue with its bond-buying programme boosted market sentiment.

The benchmark index, which is now up 9 percent in September and has gained for four consecutive weeks, touched its highest level since November 2010 on Thursday after the Fed’s surprising move. Analysts said the U.S. central bank’s decision could lead to a resurgence of portfolio flows into emerging markets such as India.

On Friday, the Reserve Bank of India stunned markets by raising the repo rate by 25 basis points (bps), but some of the recent rupee support measures were trimmed. The Indian currency gained 2 percent in the last five sessions and ended the week at 62.23/24 per dollar.

Delhi shaped South Asia’s Muslim identity, Pakistani author says

Raza Rumi is based in Lahore, but the public policy specialist and Friday Times editor’s new book is based in another milieu entirely. “Delhi by heart” is a kind of travelogue about a city that is the source of a shared heritage that spans hundreds of years.

By his own admission, it is a “heartfelt account” of how a Pakistani comes to India, an “enemy country”, and discovers that its capital has, in fact, so many things common with Lahore.

“I wanted to write the biography of Darah Shikoh, the great Indian Mughal prince,” Rumi said. “While researching for that, and while visiting Delhi all the time, I felt really it merits a Pakistani version as well because for these five years we have been so much cut off and we have misunderstood each other so much that it is time to sort of build bridges. Hence the book.”

Banking stocks surge in September; analysts cautious

After falling for four consecutive months, India’s banking stocks have surged in September on value buying and recent measures announced by the new Reserve Bank of India chief, but analysts remain cautious.

On his first day in office, RBI chief Raghuram Rajan announced measures to prop up the rupee and liberalise the banking system, including higher overseas borrowing limits for lenders and simpler branch opening processes.

The BSE banking index has gained more than 14 percent this month after losing nearly 30 percent during the April-August period, with stocks such as ICICI jumping 20 percent and YES Bank climbing more than 27 percent. The benchmark Sensex has gained around 6.5 percent in September. However, analysts believe the rally could lose steam.

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