India Insight

Interview: Nitin Gadkari on the election, BJP’s priorities and Amit Shah

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By Shyamantha Asokan

Nitin Gadkari is a top leader of India’s Hindu nationalist opposition party, which is forecast to emerge as the front-runner in the country’s mammoth general election. A series of opinion polls this year say that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, will win the biggest chunk of the 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs. Results are due on May 16.

Modi and the BJP have been wooing voters with promises to rescue India from its slowest economic growth in a decade, leading to much speculation over the party’s exact plans for economic policy. But critics say the party, and Modi in particular, could be a divisive force along religious lines.

Reuters spoke to Gadkari, a former party president and a member of the BJP’s manifesto committee, at his residence in New Delhi. Here are edited excerpts from the interview. The questions have been paraphrased.

Q: Most pre-election opinion polls have forecast that the BJP will win the biggest chunk of seats in the election but might fall short of a majority. Is your party conducting any research or exit polling to monitor how people are voting during the staggered election, which could then help you strategise?
A: [The sentiment] is against Congress – it is already identified. So our most important planning is how to make all type of forces come together, by which we can unite it, the vote percentage, by which we can get good results. From an organisation point of view and a political point of view, it’s [about] our mass rallies and motivation to the party workers – we are trying our level best to [gather] all this base with us.

Q: The constituencies that have voted so far have, on the whole, seen a much higher turnout than they did in the last national election in 2009. Why?
A: It is because of the people’s unrest against the establishment. It is the anti-incumbency. So the people are going to vote for change.

Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn’t care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don’t sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

Bandhan eyes India’s banking league with RBI licence

Kolkata-based Bandhan Financial was little known in India’s corporate arena. But a new banking licence from the Reserve Bank has given Managing Director Chandra Shekhar Ghosh and his 13,000 employees a reason to cheer.

“This is a different type of win. In the last 13 years they (employees) have been working hard and now they have got the recognition,” said Ghosh. “I hope that this is not a big challenge, the challenge is to develop the skills of the staff, it will take some time.”

The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday granted provisional bank licences to Bandhan and infrastructure lender IDFC, preferring them over bigger corporate applicants and paving the way for new banks in India after a decade.

Facts and figures for India’s 2014 general election

Voting in the 2014 election begins on April 7. More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — will be eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.

Voting will be held in 10 stages, which will be staggered until May 12, and results are due to be announced on May 16. Elections to state assemblies in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim will be held simultaneously.

Around 930,000 polling stations will be set up for the month-long election using electronic voting machines, first introduced in 2004.

Dharavi’s once-booming leather industry losing its edge

A busy street in Asia’s largest slum Dharavi leads to a quiet lane where Anita Leathers operates its colouring unit. As children play near shops that sell everything from mobile phones and garments to raw meat and sweets, the mood at the leather unit is sombre.

The leather business is one of the biggest contributors to the Mumbai slum’s informal economy, estimated to have an annual turnover of more than $500 million. About 15,000 small-scale industries, spread over an area of 500 acres, deal in businesses such as pottery, plastic recycling and garment manufacturing.

But the leather trade has been hit hard by increasing competition, an influx of cheap Chinese goods, rising raw material costs and labour shortages in recent years, leading to a decline in demand and dimming prospects of the once-flourishing business.

Markets this quarter: Sensex gains 5.7 percent, L&T surges 19 percent

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

Indian shares posted record highs in March as strong foreign buying sent blue-chip stocks such as Larsen & Toubro higher and boosted overall investor sentiment ahead of a general election.

Provisional data showed foreign investors bought shares worth more than $3 billion in March, pushing the BSE Sensex to a life high of 22,467.21 points on the last trading day of the quarter. While the index rose 6 percent during the month, it rose 5.7 percent in the Jan-March period.

Markets rallied on hopes that the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, perceived to be more business -friendly, would emerge as a winner in the general election, while hopes of a recovery in the domestic economy also aided sentiment.

Photo gallery: Best of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week

Traditional Indian wear with the latest trends dominated the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) in New Delhi.

The Autumn/Winter 2014 edition showcased designers such as Tarun Tahiliani and Namrata Joshipira, with Rahul Mishra presenting a collection that won the Woolmark Prize in Milan in February.

Here are highlights in pictures from the fashion week that ended on Sunday:

(Additional reporting by Arnika Thakur, editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Sankalp on Twitter @sankalp_sp, Arnika @arnikathakur, Tony @TonyTharakan | Disclaimer: This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission)

No anti-Muslim ideology in party – BJP’s Anurag Thakur

Many people see Anurag Thakur, 39, as the youthful face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition to the Congress party-led government and the party of prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi. He is the son of the former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and was named one of the World Economic Forum’s global young leaders this year.

In an interview with Reuters, Thakur spoke about Modi’s popularity as well as criticisms levelled against him. He also spoke about internal problems at the BJP, the party’s perceptions among Muslims, Congress PM contender Rahul Gandhi and more.

Here are excerpts from an interview:

Q: The BJP has attacked Congress over many issues – price rise and corruption being the biggest. Do you think these problems will be solved if Narendra Modi comes to power?
A: Today, when the country wants someone who has experience, and can deliver, 65 percent people of the country want Modi as the PM. During NDA regime, there was hardly any price rise. There were no charges of corruption against Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his government colleagues.

Accomplished women in India face higher risk of domestic violence: study

Women in India who are more educated than their husbands, earn more or are the sole earners in their families face a higher risk of domestic violence than women who are more dependent on their partners, according to a new study.

Much of India is still deeply patriarchal and there are wide gaps in the status of men and women. And this form of violence could be a way for men to reassert their power or maintain social control over their wives to preserve the “status quo” in the relationship, said the study’s author Abigail Weitzman.

Weitzman, a graduate student at New York University, looked at data from the female-only module of India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS) collected between 2005 and 2006, concentrating on married women.

Markets this week: M&M, GAIL top Sensex losers

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

India’s benchmark indexes ended lower this week after scaling fresh peaks on Tuesday. The Sensex ended the week down 0.26 percent in its second consecutive week of falls. Indian markets were shut on Monday for a public holiday.

While strong buying by foreign investors bolstered blue chips, profit-booking and worries U.S. interest rates would rise sooner than expected kept shares under pressure.

On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs upgraded Indian shares to “overweight” from “marketweight” and raised its target on the Nifty to 7,600, citing lower external vulnerabilities, and chances of gains ahead of general elections.

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