India Insight

I’m an Indian politician… on TV

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

Are they parliamentarians, or do they just play ones on TV? After pushing through proposals on foreign investment in the retail and the aviation sector late last year, India’s elected representatives apparently have decided to get as little done as possible during the current session.

On television, it’s another matter. Newsroom studios appear to be the preferred forum for debating problems and legislation that normally would be the province of parliament. Those include recent demands by the coalition government’s prime opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party, for the resignations of the prime minister, law minister and the railway minister over accusations that the government interfered with an investigation of improper allocation of coal mine licenses and certain other bribery allegations.

The Lok Sabha, or “people’s house,” has repeatedly adjourned in recent days, likely making it one of the least productive in its history. That’s bad if you want to pass bills, but it does help clear politicians’ schedules for the nightly news discussion programs. And that is not a bad thing, depending on whom you ask.

“The effort is to inform the public,” said BJP spokeswoman Nirmala Sitharaman. “We don’t think even for a minute we’ll accept this charge that we are disrupting parliament … This government wants to have a debating club run without any accountability”.

Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi: The burden of perception

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

Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi might find that fighting each other over who will be India’s next prime minister is easier than fighting the perceptions of more than a billion of their countrymen about who the candidates really are.

Modi’s big battle, even if he doesn’t bring it up much, is against the perception that many people have of his role in encouraging the 2002 religious riots in Gujarat that left thousands dead. Many people meanwhile see Gandhi as a clueless kid, or “pappu”. Sample Rahul Gandhi’s speech to industrialists today in New Delhi.

Narendra Modi follows his roadmap to Delhi

The Narendra Modi charm offensive showed up in full force in India’s capital on Wednesday. Modi, the main opposition party’s likely prime ministerial candidate gave a speech on progress and development at one of Delhi’s premier colleges, the youthful audience greeted the 62-year-old politician with gusto, news outlets called his speech a “roadmap for India,” protesters showed up en masse and Twitter went bananas.

If not a direct declaration of grand political ambition, the nearly one-hour speech at the Shri Ram College of Commerce sounded like a pitch for a national role: here was the chief minister of Gujarat talking about development to more than a thousand students in New Delhi, staying away from the usual and divisive political overtones, repeatedly referring to the youth of the country (future voters), and outlining his vision for India.

“The whole world is looking at India as a big marketplace. Why? Because they (other countries) think they can sell here easily. It is the demand of our time to make India a leader in manufacturing and dump our goods in the world market,” Modi said, according to our report on the Reuters news wire.

It’s all in the family: India’s love for dynasties

Rahul Gandhi is now vice president of the Congress party. Anyone who has been following Indian politics will know that this was inevitable. Despite royal titles having been abolished, Indians can’t seem to give up on the idea of dynastic rule.

Whether it’s politics, business, or even Bollywood, Indians seem to have trust issues with anyone who is not their offspring, preferring to hand over the reins to their sons and daughters, irrespective of whether they might be deserving or not. The desire to make it merely on the basis of family name is reflected in a commonly heard boast at parties or dinner conversation: “Do you know who my father is?”

The Nehru-Gandhi family is of course the most prominent political dynasty in the country with four generations of the family having ruled the country, but they are not the only ones. There are several dynasties across party lines all over the country. Here are some of them:

Rahul Gandhi takes first step in race to be India’s next PM

It’s the news some Congress leaders have waited for with bated breath. On Saturday, spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi announced the party’s decision to make Rahul Gandhi its vice-president.

Pressure had been mounting on the “young emperor” from within the troubled party to take charge. For years, Gandhi had shown no inclination to do so. But with his formal promotion to the party’s number two position next to mother Sonia, the 42-year-old is ready to claim the throne of the world’s largest democracy in the 2014 elections.

Here’s the latest from around the web.

Major changes in Congress with Rahul Gandhi as vice-president

Rahul’s elevation in Congress comes as no surprise: BJP

Congress gives Rahul Gandhi official status to take major decisions: Samajwadi Party

India’s political advertising goofs: sometimes they’re just mistakes

Whenever anything happens in India, anything at all, you will find someone on Twitter muttering with suspicion about how it was a political conspiracy. What for? Votes, power, money, the usual. Nobody seems to be able to accept the idea that people sometimes just goof up, that cluelessness trumps deceit and a desire to irk other people.

It’s not like there is no evidence for this simple, if inelegant explanation. Look at the cabinet reshuffle this past October, when Minister of State Lalchand Kataria’s induction in the defence ministry was put on hold after confusion over names in the final list.

Personally, I love then-Foreign Minister SM Krishna’s goof-up at the United Nations Security Council when he accidentally read the Portuguese foreign minister’s speech.

Business of adjournments in parliament

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

Talk of a trust vote, foreign direct investment in retail, and 102 bills pending overall – this is what the agenda for the winter session of parliament could have been. It was, actually, but sometimes things just get in the way.

Day one of the winter session started in the same way that the last session ended: opposition parties protesting over various contentious topics. Also, on the first day, the speaker rejected a motion to trigger early elections with a no-confidence vote.

Rahul Gandhi and an embarrassment of titles

Rahul Gandhi, a lawmaker and son of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, smiles as he speaks with the media in New Delhi March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma   “Young emperor”, “scion”, “leader-in-waiting” are some of the words used to affectionately describe Congress MP Rahul Gandhi. His official party designation is Congress general secretary, but that could soon change.

Various media reports say Rahul will soon be elevated to the “No. 2 position” in the Congress Party, and a lot of designations are being bandied about to qualify for the post just below the party chief, otherwise known as his mother Sonia Gandhi.

He could receive the title of “secretary general” or “working president” or “vice president”, but these almost feel like they’re trying to confuse the poor guy, not coronate him.

The novice Indian politician’s guide to drubbings, snubbings and shruggings

It was only a matter of time before activist Arvind Kejriwal and his anti-corruption movement got back some of what they gave.

After Kejriwal’s flurry of allegations of wrongdoing by politicians and accusing the entire political class of working together as a “family” in looting the country, the family is striking back.

Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has accused Kejriwal of being a “self-serving ambitious megalomaniac”, and plenty of others have openly questioned his intentions. An RTI activist has accused one of Kejriwal’s aide of playing a dubious role in a Mumbai land deal, while another faces questions over farmland that she bought.

Rahul Gandhi can change Congress’ image with cabinet entry

India is asking the same old question after news reports said Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday before a possible cabinet reshuffle later this month: will Gandhi be one of the cards in his deck?

Gandhi’s entry into the government would be the only opportunity for him to prove that he has what it takes to one day rule India. He’s seen as the prime-minister-in-waiting, and a cabinet post would better equip him to deal with the hurly-burly of Indian politics.

Several cabinet posts are vacant, and some cabinet ministers hold additional portfolios. And even after passing market-moving reform measures, Congress’ task of boosting its public image is incomplete.

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