India Insight

Narendra Modi’s new team of ministers

The Indian government on Tuesday announced its list of cabinet ministers along with their portfolios, a day after Narendra Modi was sworn in as the new prime minister.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies won a landslide victory in a mammoth general election, grabbing 336 of the 543 seats and ending the Congress-led government’s decade-long rule.

Besides Modi, 45 other members were inducted into the new council of ministers, a third smaller than the previous government. Modi himself would look after atomic energy, space, personnel and any ministry not allocated to a cabinet colleague.

Modi announced on Sunday that a smaller cabinet was a move to a more centralised system of governing, aimed at breaking bottlenecks widely blamed for dragging down India’s economic growth.

Arun Jaitley, a former commerce and law minister, takes charge of finance, corporate affairs and defence, although he said the defence ministry charge is temporary. Rajnath Singh is India’s new home minister.

Markets this week: Sesa Sterlite, NTPC top Sensex gainers

The benchmark BSE Sensex rose 2.4 percent this week as domestic-oriented stocks surged on hopes the incoming BJP government would keep up its promises to kick start an economy whose growth has dipped to its slowest in a decade.

Shares in companies such as Coal India, that are expected to benefit from an economic revival, and utilities performed well.

Sentiment was also boosted after Reuters reported that the finance ministry was working on a roadmap for cutting welfare spending and reining in deficit.

Markets this week: BHEL, Sesa Sterlite top Sensex gainers

By Ankush Arora and Sankalp Phartiyal

India’s stock market closed the week on a record-breaking note as the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi swept the Lok Sabha election, handing the Congress party its worst ever result.

Surpassing 25,000 for the first time on the day of counting, the benchmark Sensex jumped 4.9 percent this week. The broader Nifty, which also scaled a fresh peak on Friday, rose 5 percent.

In 2014, overseas investors have so far invested 6.5 billion rupees in Indian equities, contributing to a 14 percent gain in the main stock indices.

Markets this week: ICICI, Hindalco top Sensex gainers

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

The BSE Sensex and the Nifty rose more than 2 percent in a week that was largely lacklustre until the main stock indexes hit fresh life highs on Friday, buoyed by optimism that India’s principal opposition party would get a majority in the ongoing election.

Security personnel stand guard as voters line up to cast their votes at a polling station at Badkoot in Kupwara district, north of Srinagar May 7, 2014. REUTERS/Danish IsmailOn Monday, India will vote in the last leg of its staggered five-week long election that began on April 7. Results are due on May 16.

India will release factory output and inflation data on Monday. According to a Reuters poll, factory output in March probably contracted for the fifth time in six months, while food and fuel prices inched higher.

They say every vote counts, but mine wasn’t

(Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

Fifty-four percent of Bangalore‘s eligible voters showed up at the polls on April 17, a disappointing number considering the high turnout in some states. I was not among them, but it was not for lack of trying. Despite doing everything correctly, my application never went through.

I was 18 the last time India held national elections. Since then, we moved around a lot. I was looking forward to voting this year for the first time. A record number of people are registered to vote in this election, and the country is at a crossroads as it considers whether to kick out the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty and its Congress party in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party and prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi, or perhaps a third front of other parties.

Guns and Gowns: Documentary shows two faces of the Indian woman

Cosmetic surgeon Jamuna Pai inspects the face of the Miss India contestant before her in Mumbai, furrows her brow and points to a blemish. The verdict: the young woman needs a botox injection in her chin because the “proportions are off by 0.6 percent.”

About 400 kilometres away in the town of Aurangabad, worlds apart from India’s financial capital, a middle-aged woman in a sari lectures adolescent girls about wanting careers.

“How can you deny 5,000 years of evidence that you are the weaker sex? Stop asking for equality,” she thunders to her audience of rapt teenagers in traditional Indian attire.

Interview: Nitin Gadkari on the election, BJP’s priorities and Amit Shah

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


By Shyamantha Asokan

Nitin Gadkari is a top leader of India’s Hindu nationalist opposition party, which is forecast to emerge as the front-runner in the country’s mammoth general election. A series of opinion polls this year say that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, will win the biggest chunk of the 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs. Results are due on May 16.

Modi and the BJP have been wooing voters with promises to rescue India from its slowest economic growth in a decade, leading to much speculation over the party’s exact plans for economic policy. But critics say the party, and Modi in particular, could be a divisive force along religious lines.

Reuters spoke to Gadkari, a former party president and a member of the BJP’s manifesto committee, at his residence in New Delhi. Here are edited excerpts from the interview. The questions have been paraphrased.

Movie Review: 2 States

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

Abhishek Varman’s “2 States”, based on a Chetan Bhagat novel of the same name, is a good example of a movie subject that would appeal to a new, younger Indian audience.

It features two youngsters who are freethinking, unencumbered by tradition and apparently able to take their own decisions. But they are respectful enough not to implement those decisions without their families’ approval.

This is where the new India stands – parents who give children freedom and education, but exert their authority when it comes to crucial decisions.

A Minute With: Alia Bhatt

Alia Bhatt made her Bollywood debut as a lead actress in the 2012 college romance “Student of the Year”. In February, she won over critics with her performance in the offbeat film “Highway”, playing a woman who starts caring for her kidnapper.

In the romantic comedy “2 States”, which opened in cinemas on Friday, the 21-year-old plays a woman from Tamil Nadu who has to battle cultural stereotypes to marry her Punjabi lover.

Alia, the daughter of Bollywood film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, spoke to Reuters about her role in “2 States”, what the film “Highway” did for her acting career, and why she considers herself “mediocre”. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions

Campaign season in India means it’s also promise season, and political parties aren’t short on pledges for what they would do if they come to power after election results come out in May. From the Tamil Nadu-based MDMK party’s pledge to rename the country “The United States of India” to the Odisha-based BJD‘s promise to “guarantee” development projects, there are plenty of promises floating around to help parties capture, retain or regain power.

There has been plenty of coverage of the manifestos from the biggest national parties, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, so here are some highlights from the others.

Lok Satta Party: This Andhra Pradesh-based party has promised to nationalise the sale of liquor and to limit the number of stores where people can buy it. Families of liquor “victims, meanwhile, would get pensions.

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