India Insight

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.

This is only the second time in six years the media gets to interact with the prime minister on a many-to-one basis.

So what prevents him?

Sonia Gandhi hardly ever gives interviews but then she is not a part of the government.

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.

Will the Congress party’s austerity drive work?

When India’s ruling Congress party asked ministers and bureaucrats to cut down on needless expenses at a time of recession and deepening drought, many in the country had one question on their lips: will the austerity drive work?Rahul Gandhi tried to set an example by travelling by train as an ordinary passenger. His mother, Sonia, abandoned her private army plane and flew economy class on a commercial flight for a party rally in Mumbai.But there is still a great deal of scepticism among people. Some of the doubting was fuelled after the train Rahul was travelling in was pelted with stones. Experts said Rahul’s train trip was a security risk, which could cramp the austerity drive.But it’s not just the security concerns alone. The austerity drive also drew ridicule following a controversy over two senior government ministers staying in luxury hotel suites priced at $1,000 and $1,500 a night until their official residences were ready.Both ministers said they’d paid for their suites themselves, but stung by criticism amid the government’s austerity drive, they moved to more modest temporary homes.However, it was too late to change the mind of ordinary Indians who over years of Nehruvian socialism had begun to associate Congress politicians as leaders in simple hand-spun cotton, or khadi, clothes who drove around in old-fashioned Ambassador cars.Now, the question many are asking is: will the austerity drive last with election campaigns for Maharashtra and Haryana about to begin?True, with the economy in trouble, the government is making an effort with the finance ministry appealing for fewer overseas trips and smaller entourages as well as a ban on conferences in luxury hotels.But it isn’t easy: one minister protested he was “too tall” to fly economy while another said their positions demand they entertain in style.So, will the government’s austerity drive last? The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) doesn’t think so. A BJP spokesman said it was just an “election gimmick” and they would go back to their usual ways once the state elections were over.Will they?

Is Rahul Gandhi prime minister material?

He’s been called the “Quiet Revolutionary“. And India’s prime minister-in-waiting. But does Rahul Gandhi, a virtual novice in the rough and tumble of Indian politics, have what it takes for the country’s top job?

He didn’t exactly set the house on fire during his first five years in parliament. And until this election, Rahul’s only USP was that he belonged to India’s first family, the Nehru-Gandhi family which has given the country three prime ministers.

He’s only 39, and has no experience with complex subjects such as Pakistan or the economy.

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