India Insight

War homes scandal rocks Mumbai ahead of Obama trip

High-rise buildings are seen behind a slum in Mumbai April 28, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta/Files
Corruption charges are swirling over a new apartment block in an upscale Mumbai district where homes meant for war widows have gone cheaply to politicians and military officers, embarrassing India’s ruling Congress party.

The scandal has broken out days before U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in the city.

When first mooted, Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai’s tony Colaba area was supposed to be a six-storey building to house widows and heroes of a military conflict in Kargil bordering Pakistan in 1999.

But in its place has come up a 31-storey luxury apartment building, and most of the owners of its 103 apartments are top politicians, bureaucrats, federal ministers, two retired army chiefs and a former navy chief.

Some Indian media said three of the allottees were linked to the Kargil conflict.

Adviser’s attack on Congress shows party tensions

Appearing to signal dissent in the ranks of India’s ruling Congress party, the Prime Minister’s media adviser told reporters last night that the “status-quoist” party was only concerned with winning elections.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (C), Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi (R) and India's Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel (L) attend the inauguration ceremony of the newly constructed Terminal 3 at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi July 3, 2010 REUTERS/B Mathur“The Congress is by nature a status-quoist, pragmatic party,” Harish Khare, media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was reported by the Hindustan Times as saying on Tuesday.

“It does not believe in any conviction. (Its) only conviction is to win elections,” the Indian Express added.

A rare news conference by the PM

NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/INDIA“The prime minister of India rarely gets to speak, face-to-face, with the people of India,” writes historian Ramachandra Guha.

We might add the next-best-possible substitute ‘the media’ to this plaint.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will indeed have a rare conversation with the media on May 24, while presenting a report card on his government’s first year in office.

Amitabh Bachchan and politics of celebrity

Amitabh Bachchan is caught in a political controversy yet again. The 67-year old-actor finds himself in the middle of a row over his presence at government functions in Mumbai and Pune.

Amitabh BachchanWhile no official reason has been given, Bachchan’s presence at a government function in Mumbai last week has raised hackles in the Congress party, ostensibly because of Bachchan’s bitter relationship with the Gandhi family.

Later the same week, his son Abhishek’s posters were removed from an Earth Day function for which he had earlier been declared ambassador, organised by the Congress-run Delhi state government.

Playing politics over fuel price hike?

INDIA/For the first time in parliamentary history, the entire opposition led by the BJP walked out during the Finance Minister’s budget speech.

The walkout was to protest against the hike in petrol prices.

The opposition is saying the government move adds to the burden of the people.

However, the united front put by the fractious opposition also hints at some pre-planning by the opposition leaders.

Was this reaction justified?

Shouldn’t the parliamentarians have stayed back and argued the point in the House?

Shiv Sena, secularists and politics of regionalism

India’s ruling Congress party and main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have found themselves on a common platform after Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi slammed the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for their tirade against ‘outsiders’ – mainly north Indians – in Maharashtra.

Earlier, BJP president Nitin Gadkari invoked the constitutional right of every Indian to live anywhere, in a snub to erstwhile political ally Shiv Sena, whose agenda is to promote the interest of Marathis, sometimes with violent effect at the cost of non-Marathis, especially those living in Mumbai.

Waving the politics of regionalism is nothing new for the Sena and its breakaway faction MNS, who derive their political base from the ‘sons of the soil’ ideology.

Will Nitin Gadkari make a difference?

INDIA ELECTIONSNitin Gadkari has taken over as BJP President. At 52, he is the youngest BJP chief so far.

In the first of his interviews after taking over, Gadkari said he would like some of the old guard like Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and Govindacharya to return.

Two of these are identified with the temple movement and Govindacharya advocates the ideology of Swadeshi.

What is Indira Gandhi’s legacy?

It is former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s 25th death anniversary on October 31. 

What was her legacy?

She was associated with events like the Emergency, which briefly made Gerald Ford head of the largest democracy in the world, and decades of militancy in Punjab.

Her policy of nationalising banks was mentioned as a reason why the Indian banking sector weathered the global financial crisis.

State polls: Congress win or opposition loss?

The ruling Congress party-led alliance has won state polls in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh and is set to form the government in Haryana.

Elections were held in the three states this month in polls seen as a major test for the Congress coalition after a strong victory in general elections in May.

The state poll results come at a time when a resurgent Congress, fresh from a victory at the centre, has begun to find footing as the single largest party.

Should Nalini be released?

(UPDATE: Media reports say Nalini Sriharan may soon be freed)

Nalini Sriharan is currently serving a life sentence for her role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Part of Nalini’s plea is that she does not expect to live long due to her deteriorating health after spending nearly two decades in prison.

Nalini, her husband and two others were sentenced to death for conspiring to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

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