India Insight

No anti-Muslim ideology in party – BJP’s Anurag Thakur

Many people see Anurag Thakur, 39, as the youthful face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition to the Congress party-led government and the party of prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi. He is the son of the former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and was named one of the World Economic Forum’s global young leaders this year.

In an interview with Reuters, Thakur spoke about Modi’s popularity as well as criticisms levelled against him. He also spoke about internal problems at the BJP, the party’s perceptions among Muslims, Congress PM contender Rahul Gandhi and more.

Here are excerpts from an interview:

Q: The BJP has attacked Congress over many issues – price rise and corruption being the biggest. Do you think these problems will be solved if Narendra Modi comes to power?
A: Today, when the country wants someone who has experience, and can deliver, 65 percent people of the country want Modi as the PM. During NDA regime, there was hardly any price rise. There were no charges of corruption against Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his government colleagues.

Q: But the BJP chief at the time, Bangaru Laxman, faced corruption charges.
A: I think that issue has been taken care of by the judiciary. Now he is no more with us, I don’t want to question about that.

Q: Why do you think young people will vote for Modi and not for Rahul Gandhi, who is often pegged as a youth icon?
A: Youth is upset with the Congress. They know if the country has to survive, there should be a change in government. Rahul Gandhi can’t be a youth icon only if the Congress projects him like that. People have to decide. You have to make your way into the hearts of youth, and Modi stays there. Gandhi has failed to ask any question (in Parliament) in last five years, his attendance is only 40 percent, and he has participated in only two debates.

Not funny – jokes Indian politicians crack

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

Politicians facing outrage over their comments often say that they didn’t mean what they said to come out that way. Lately in India, they say they were joking.

One of the latest was Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, whose self-confessed attempt at a joke earned him the ire of the Election Commission of India just before the beginning of this year’s elections that could boot the Congress out of power. Addressing a community of labourers in Maharashtra last week, the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party urged listeners to vote twice for his party – and told them how to do it.

“This time, Election in Satara is on 17 and as per my information election here is on 24. So cast your vote on ‘clock’ (party symbol) there and cast your vote on ‘clock’ here. Wipe the ink,” he said, referring to the indelible ink to mark the fingers of people who have voted, noting that people should be able to remove it.

Ashutosh gears up for Chandni Chowk race; talks about ‘biased’ media

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

Aam Aadmi Party’s Ashutosh might have been a TV news host, but now he talks like an experienced politician. “I am enjoying” being on the other side of the microphone, the former managing editor of Hindi news channel IBN7 told India Insight during an interview in which he discussed his decision to stand for Parliament.

It probably won’t be easy. He is taking on Kapil Sibal, a Congress party veteran and influential government minister. Sibal, a two-time member of the Lok Sabha from central Delhi’s Chandni Chowk constituency, has a knack for landing in controversies. From trying to police social media to trashing a popular upsurge against corrupt politicians in 2011, he often has become a target of public wrath.

Ashutosh, who goes by a single name, said the media is being manipulated by political parties and corporations to make sure that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wins the prime minister’s race in May. Regarding his own former media company Network18, which accepted a large investment from Reliance Industries in 2012 in a complex deal, he had little to say. Nevertheless, he shared his thoughts on how he sees the media now that he is on the other side of the camera. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Interview: Modi a bloated figure, country will disintegrate if he’s in power – Veerappa Moily

By Frank Jack Daniel and Nidhi Verma

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

Veerappa Moily, oil and environment minister in India’s Congress-led government, told Reuters on Thursday that Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, is a “bloated figure” and the country would disintegrate if he is voted to power.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity:

What’s your take on Narendra Modi and what he could offer to the country?
Mr Modi is a bloated figure and ultimately when it comes down to realities, I don’t think he will be a figure who will be counted for the country, forget about becoming prime minister. He cannot contribute any value to the BJP, he cannot contribute any additional value to the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). And no sooner he was declared as a leader, there was a disintegration of the NDA. Many of the important major partners, they just left the NDA … They’ll win Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh or some. They may be solid. With two or three states solidly backing BJP, I don’t think in this country, they can [form] the government.

Interview: AAP’s Yogendra Yadav defends Delhi protests, blames media

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

Senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member Yogendra Yadav on Wednesday defended his party’s protest against the police on the streets of New Delhi and blamed the media for “unsympathetic” coverage.

Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the AAP, or “common man’s party”, ended his planned 10-day dharna” after two days on Tuesday.

The protests were unusual considering state chief ministers do not use street protests to achieve their ends. Last week, the party accused two police officers of negligence, one of whom was in charge in the tourist area where a Danish woman was reportedly gang-raped.

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.

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).”

Interview: BJP’s Harsh Vardhan slams AAP-Congress alliance in Delhi

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

India’s Congress party and the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) entered an “unholy alliance” to share power in Delhi following state elections in the national capital, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said in an interview on Dec. 31.

Harsh Vardhan, who lost the race for chief minister of the capital region to AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal, said he thinks that the Congress party and the AAP had “some sort of understanding” before the elections. He offered no proof. Spokesmen for the AAP and the Congress party denied these charges.

Kejriwal, 45, was sworn in as the youngest chief minister of Delhi on Dec. 28. The anti-corruption activist and former civil servant surprised India with his strong showing and is likely to create uncertainty over how the 2014 general elections and race for the prime minister’s seat will turn out.

India’s political parties pump up the radio volume

Anyone who keeps a radio turned on in India’s National Capital Region knows that election fever has settled on Delhi ahead of the Dec. 4 state polls. The ruling Congress party, main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are betting big on radio campaigning — a medium that reaches millions of people across economic classes and backgrounds.

Overall, about 250 million to 500 million rupees ($4 million to $8 million) have been spent on radio advertising in this year’s assembly election in Delhi – at least 200 percent more than during the 2008 state elections, Sunil Kumar of radio consulting firm Big River Radio estimated.

The AAP, or “common man party,” led by Arvind Kejriwal, has allocated 20 million to 30 million rupees ($320,000 to $480,000) for advertising, with 60 to 70 percent for radio and phone calls, said Dilip K. Pandey, an AAP secretary responsible for their communication strategy.

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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