India Insight

Interview: Modi’s bubble will burst before 2014 elections – Kapil Sibal

By John Chalmers and Devidutta Tripathy

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Telecommunications and Law Minister Kapil Sibal, a senior Congress party leader, spoke to Reuters in an interview at his office in New Delhi. Here are edited excerpts:

What do you think of the impressive rise of Narendra Modi?
I don’t know about both the qualitative expression ‘impressive’ and the word ‘rise’. Because normally, the law of nature is that he who rises falls. And the quicker he rises, the quicker he falls. So, I don’t know how the laws of nature are going to work as far as Narendra Modi is concerned. I do believe that a lot of this, a lot of this, is hype and it’s based on a private army being employed by Narendra Modi to disturb the cyberspace in his favour. And we’ll see if he moves forward at all or not. Because at some time or the other, as you know all bubbles burst, that’s again the law of nature. This bubble too will burst.

Do you think it would burst before the elections?
Oh, I’m sure it will. Because bubbles can’t last this long.

Nevertheless, as the finance minister told us last week, he does seem to have a lot of traction with urban youth?
I don’t know what the finance minister said. Because I am not aware, so I cannot comment on it. All I can say is that again the traction is based mainly on misinformation. With a number of statements that this gentleman has made, which are far removed from the truth, is a record in itself. I have asked media people, I have asked the people of this country, I have asked thoughtful people, if they could tell me what the Gujarat model is and I have not yet got an answer and I’ve been asking this question for the last six months. And I wish you could answer that for me. Because I don’t know what the Gujarat model is. See, you can’t sell a product which you don’t have, right? He doesn’t have that product. Because when I look at Gujarat, the growth in Gujarat earlier to him was much higher. When I look at Gujarat, the social indexes in Gujarat are perhaps worse than many other parts of the country. He tom-toms about you know every home having electricity and the first state in India to give electricity to every home, this itself is a false claim. The first state in India to do that was Punjab. And he is No. 14 in the all-India list on energy supply. So, every claim, his statement that 20 percent of GDP of China is invested in education, I mean, I don’t anything can be far removed from truth. But the cyberspace is such that if you employ an army, and you contract an army, and you have enough money, and you sort of bombard cyberspace with misinformation, innocent people tend to buy it. But at some stage or the other, the truth always emerges.

About six months ago, the Congress party said they didn’t need to worry about Narendra Modi and wouldn’t need to make any comments about him. But now, we are hearing a lot of quite aggressive comments or quite critical comments …
Since you asked the question, I am duty bound to comment. If you wouldn’t ask the question, I wouldn’t have commented.

Interview: Chidambaram on Modi, Rahul Gandhi and becoming PM

By John Chalmers, Frank Jack Daniel and Manoj Kumar

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P. Chidambaram, now in his third stint as finance minister, spoke to Reuters about Narendra Modi and the 2014 elections in an interview on Monday ahead of a trip to the United States. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

If Congress returns to power in the elections next year and Rahul Gandhi is the prime minister, do you see yourself as finance minister?
That’s a question you should put to the prime minister. I am glad you acknowledge Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi but that is a question you should put to him.

What about Narendra Modi and the momentum he appears to be gaining?
I don’t know if he is gaining any momentum. I concede that he has united the rank and file of the BJP. The rank and file of the BJP was divided, the leaders are still divided, the rank and file was equally divided. But he has been able to unite the rank and file. Perhaps he has gained some traction among urban youths but I think it would be a gross exaggeration to say that people are not worried about his positions, his policies, his past, his track record. It will be a gross exaggeration to say that he is sweeping the countryside. It’s a gross exaggeration to say that he will win in every state. All this is largely media created.

Interview: Chidambaram on the state of India’s economy

By John Chalmers, Frank Jack Daniel and Manoj Kumar

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

The Indian government will have to rein in spending and cut subsidies to meet its fiscal deficit target, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said on Monday, underlining that an austerity drive will not be blown off course by an election due next year.

The urbane Harvard-educated lawyer, now in his third stint as finance minister, spoke to Reuters in an interview ahead of a trip to the United States. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Do you think that the government has done enough to pull the economy out of the crisis that we saw it in several weeks ago?
One can never say we’ve done enough. We’ve done a lot of things, but we have to do many more things, and I think we will do them in the next few weeks and months, both by the government and by the central bank.

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