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.

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.

Uncompromising Kejriwal won’t support any party if Delhi gets hung assembly

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The Aam Aadmi Party has up-ended the calculations of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the race for control of New Delhi in one of five state assembly elections later this year.

Party leader Arvind Kejriwal is an uncompromising anti-corruption crusader who has tapped into a vein of urban anger after a string of breathtaking graft scandals.

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Reuters spoke to Kejriwal at his New Delhi office about the state assembly election in December and his plans to root out corruption. Here are edited excerpts from the 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.

India’s parliament gets its groove back, at least for now

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

India’s notoriously disruptive parliament has been going through a productive phase in the past two days. Bills are getting passed, politicians are discussing the state of the economy and for a change, members are listening to each other as they deliver well-researched speeches.

For a house with one of the poorest records of accomplishments in Indian history, the last two days were downright atypical.

On Monday, parliament debated a $20 billion plan for nine hours to provide cheap food to two thirds of the population. For a change, the government got the main opposition party on board by incorporating some of the changes that its opponents proposed.

The BJP and the Congress: a muddled economic ideology

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

As debates in India go, the one between Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati – two of India’s leading economists – has been fairly civil. Not the belligerent speeches or noisy protests that characterise public discourse in the country. Instead, this battle of ideas is taking place in the rarefied circle of the nation’s think tanks and financial pages, with economists, writers and policy makers weighing in. But the civility cannot mask the intensity on both sides; moving beyond economic data and models, the debate has become personal. At stake is a very powerful question – what is the best way to improve the lot of India’s citizens?

Conveniently, both sides have articulated their vision for the country in two recent books. The first by Sen and his long time collaborator, Jean Dreze, titled “An Uncertain Glory” questions why India continues to lag on all social indicators despite two decades of free-market reforms. Their data shows that the country’s growth has largely bypassed the poor and that the reforms have benefited a privileged minority. To correct this imbalance, Sen and Dreze make the case for greater public intervention in health and education.

On the other side of the economic spectrum is ”Why Growth Matters“ by Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya, his colleague at Columbia University. Their book is a forceful defence of India’s growth story. Bhagwati and Panagariya assert that reducing the role of the government and allowing private enterprises to flourish is the only way to lift millions of Indians out of poverty. The state can fund welfare programs only if the economy is growing at a fair clip and public revenues are healthy. That such an idea is even up for debate is frustrating to them.

Interview with BJP leader Narendra Modi

By Ross Colvin and Sruthi Gottipati

Narendra Modi is a polarising figure, evoking visceral reactions across the political spectrum. Critics call him a dictator while supporters believe he could make India an Asian superpower. (Read a special report on Modi here)

Reuters spoke to Modi at his official Gandhinagar residence in a rare interview, the first since he was appointed head of the BJP’s election campaign in June.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview. The questions are paraphrased and some of Modi’s replies have been translated from Hindi.

Quote, unquote Narendra Modi

When Narendra Modi speaks, people listen. It’s not just because he’s widely expected to be the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate for prime minister in elections due in 2014. The chief minister of Gujarat seems to know his audience well. They cheer him on and jeer at his opponents; they applaud every two minutes. But sometimes, what he says catches people’s attention.

(The Narendra Modi interview: puppy remark and more)

Here are some of Modi’s statements that made headlines:

“From snake-charmers, we are now a nation of mouse-charmers. Our youngsters are shaping the world with the click of a mouse with their feats in the IT sector,” he told an audience of students at Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce on Feb. 6.

The speech, broadcast on television, was seen by many as Modi’s first pitch to young, educated India as its future leader. He also said:

Kejriwal’s party gears up for Delhi polls with election reforms

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

The Aam Aadmi Party (common man’s party), led by bureaucrat-turned-activist Arvind Kejriwal, is gearing up for state-level polls in Delhi this year with an array of candidates chosen for their honesty.

Kejriwal’s election plank is to cleanse India of corrupt politicians and bring more transparency to government. With graft scandals embarrassing the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Aam Aadmi Party is taking a more grassroots approach to the problem: weed out the bad ones before they become candidates.

Anyone can hope to be a election candidate for the party if they are endorsed by 100 potential voters from the constituency they hope to represent. Political analysts say that’s not too difficult but makes the process more transparent.

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