India Insight

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.

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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.

Modi-entum, not momentum. The BJP is a master of hype. I have seen them now for 20 years closely and they are the world’s greatest experts at hype. And very soon they come down to earth because they begin to take their hype very seriously. When you start believing that hype, then you run into serious trouble. This is what happened to the BJP in the past. India Shining was a good example of that hype.
I think a time will come when Mr Modi will begin to get judged differently. But India right now in 2013, I would say, we are going through what Germany went through in 1932. The classic symptoms, I am beginning to read all my old books about how the Third Reich came into being, how fascism overtook parts of Europe. Because, look at Mr Modi’s — what are the three principles of his ideology? Political autocracy, social divisiveness and economic liberalism. This is sort of Mr Modi reduced to three dimensions, the 3D Mr Modi. This is exactly what created the autobahns and Volkswagens in the 30s but also created the disaster of Germany.

Don’t you think it’s a bit over-the-top to compare Modi to Hitler?

It’s not. It’s certainly not. I didn’t compare him to Hitler, by the way. I never took the word Hitler anywhere. Mr Modi has demonstrated in 12 years that he’s been in power. He runs a one-man show in Gujarat. It’s a one-man political party. He has marginalized not only us, he’s also marginalized his own party. Yes, he is industry friendly. But whether he is crony-friendly or market-friendly, I don’t know. Mr Modi has demonstrated a singular incapacity to abide by rules.

Meet Prakash Tilokani, the man who clicks India’s rich and famous

When Prakash Tilokani started taking pictures at the age of 16, he had no clue that one day he would be the man behind the lens at India Inc’s weddings.

From selling pictures at 20 rupees (32 cents) each in 1984 to charging at least 300,000 rupees ($4,800) for a day now, it’s been an eventful journey for 47-year-old Tilokani, one of India’s most famous wedding photographers.

Today, with offices in Delhi and Baroda in Gujarat, Tilokani has a team of 40, including his son Rahul, who specialises in video editing. Other than India, the team travels around the globe to shoot the weddings of the rich and influential. Their client list includes families of the billionaire Ambani brothers, Essar’s Ruias, Hero MotoCorp’s Munjals, Videocon’s Dhoots and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.

Gujarati film ‘The Good Road’ is India’s Oscar entry

The Good Road”, a Gujarati-language film, has been chosen as India’s entry to the 2014 Oscars, stealing attention from a critically acclaimed love story that was screened at the Cannes film festival this year.

Gyan Correa’s debut film about two children lost in the Kutch desert won a national award for best Gujarati-language film this year, but was a dark horse among the 22 movies in the running to be India’s official entry to the Oscars in the best foreign film category.

Expectations had been high for Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox”, an Indian-French-German co-production that won the Grand Rail d’Or at Critics’ Week at Cannes in May.

Interview with BJP leader Narendra Modi

By Ross Colvin and Sruthi Gottipati

Narendra Modi is a polarising figure, evoking visceral reactions across the political spectrum. Critics call him a dictator while supporters believe he could make India an Asian superpower. (Read a special report on Modi here)

Reuters spoke to Modi at his official Gandhinagar residence in a rare interview, the first since he was appointed head of the BJP’s election campaign in June.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview. The questions are paraphrased and some of Modi’s replies have been translated from Hindi.

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.

Delhi rape case: Verma committee report dredges up old stereotypes

Like many journalists who follow Indian affairs, I have been digging through the 657 pages of the Verma committee report on rape in India and attitudes toward women in that country. You can read about its main conclusion in our wire story, namely:

India needs to implement existing laws, not introduce tougher punishment such as the death penalty, to prevent rape, a government panel set up to review legislation said on Wednesday, following a brutal gang rape that shook the nation. Panel head, justice J.S. Verma, rejected outright the idea of the death penalty for rape cases, a demand from some protesters and politicians in the days after the 23-year-old physiotherapy student was attacked on a moving bus.

There’s lots more to examine in the report, which was commissioned after the gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi aboard a moving bus. I’ll try to highlight on this blog in coming days. The committee cited plenty of case law in its report, and it came across one opinion that it said “seems to have stereotyped Indian and Western women in a somewhat unorthodox way.” That’s putting it kindly. Here is an excerpt that highlights a decidedly retrograde view toward women — particularly in the West. It’s from a 1983 Supreme Court case,  Bharvada Gohinbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat, in which a civil servant appealed his conviction of the rape of a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl.

‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ meets ‘Indian Idol’ in West Bengal

(Any career-destroying attempts at irony or humour are the responsibility of the author, and not of the chief ministers of Gujarat or West Bengal or any of their associates.)

Everybody’s talking about how Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has fostered fair weather for businesses and investors in his state. Maybe he’s making it too easy. In West Bengal, it looks like investors and business people must work a little harder for their returns. Take a look at that state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. She isn’t just making business people and investors work for their profits; she’s making them sing.

From India Today:

An industrialist climbing the dais at an investors’ summit to sing a popular Rabindra Sangeet. The perhaps unseen scene was made possible on Tuesday courtesy West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee .

Narendra Modi, the BJP and the prime minister’s chair

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

Speculation has been rife lately within India’s centre-right nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over who will be its candidate for prime minister in the 2014 general elections.

There were four possible candidates a few months back, but the choice seems to have narrowed to Narendra Modi, the controversial chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, or Sushma Swaraj, the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament.

Narendra Modi, why shoot yourself in the foot?

I usually don’t spend too much time contemplating the bizarre pronouncements, snide comments and muddy slings of India’s political figures.

I’m talking about:

- The village elders who consider themselves the law, declaring that Indian girls should marry young to avoid getting raped.

- Their comment that Chinese food (i.e. chowmein) inflames the passions and leads to rape. I have, however, not given up my favourite stir-fried noodles.

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?

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