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.

The news this weekend: LPG, Kejriwal, toilets, politicians… and Somali pirates

It’s shaping up as a busy weekend for India’s politicians…

The price of LPG — liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, or cooking gas — has risen 11.42 rupees per cylinder because dealers are getting higher commissions. TV channels attacked the government because this “shocker” comes right after the imposition of a cap on subsidized cylinder sales was imposed.

Bharatiya Janata Party politician Smriti Irani said the party will hold a nation-wide protest on Oct. 12, saying the higher prices are “anti-women”. This is presumably because they do more of the daily cooking than men, whose potential inversely proportional waistline shrinkage could be in their favour.

We all know who the main attraction is on news channels nowadays: social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal. Here are the pots that he’s stirring:

Will necessity help coal trump environment concerns?

Coal accounts for 60 percent of India’s energy use, runs most power stations and factories and enabled state-run company Coal India to have a blockbuster IPO last year raising a record $3.5 billion.

But despite having the world’s fourth largest coal reserves, India remains a major importer and the coal industry is pointing fingers at the environment ministry for part of the failure to properly develop coal fields.

“The main reason for slow progress (in developing coal fields) is the time taken for getting clearance (from the environment ministry),” Coal Secretary Alok Perti said during a coal conference on Tuesday.

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