India Insight

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.

Why start your parliamentary race in Chandni Chowk?

For the simple reason because Chandni Chowk is the real Delhi. I don’t mean that rest of Delhi is not Delhi, but that is the real Delhi. The rest of Delhi expanded later on. Secondly, because you know Kapil Sibal. I was tracking the Anna movement for a very long time and I was associated also, informally. Kapil Sibal was the one man who ridiculed the Anna Hazare movement. When you ridicule Anna Hazare movement, that means a spontaneous mass movement was ridiculed by a cabinet minister who happens to be there, like he represents that constituency where this mass movement was happening. So that is insulting in a way democracy.

But you are also an outsider, don’t you think that will affect your prospects?

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: 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.

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.

Markets this week: Sensex gains 1 percent, Tata Power surges over 10 percent

By Ankush Arora and Aditya Kalra

The BSE Sensex ended with gains of 1 percent in the week ending Dec. 6, as investor sentiment was boosted after exit polls indicated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seen by many as being more business-friendly, will win four of the five state elections conducted recently.

State elections are seen as a semi-final before the national polls next year. Elections are the key theme for the first half of 2014 and the recent rally in the stock market implies that a BJP government is no longer viewed as a low-probability scenario, UBS said this week. The investment bank has set a 2014 target for Nifty at 6,900.

Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) inflows for the year have crossed 1 trillion rupees, regulatory and exchange data showed. They have made net purchases of around $18 billion so far this year, Deutsche Bank figures show.

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.

State Elections in India: Opinion polls and 2008 results

India will hold state elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi, starting November 11. The polls are seen as a warm-up for next year’s national elections.

Three of these five states – Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi — are governed by the Congress party, while the Bharatiya Janata Party rules in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. These state elections will serve as a popularity test for Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 national elections.

(Also read: Schedule of assembly elections in five states)

RAJASTHAN: In 2008, Congress swept the Rajasthan elections with 96 seats, adding 40 seats to its 2003 tally of 56. Ashok Gehlot took charge as chief minister, replacing Vasundhara Raje of the BJP. However, a recent opinion poll by India Today Group-ORG said Raje will make a comeback this year, with her party expected to win 105 seats. A Times Now-CVoter poll predicted BJP will win 118 seats in the 200-member house.

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.

(Click here for main story)

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.

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

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

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.

(Click here for main story)

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.

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