India Insight

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.

Q: But the BJP chief at the time, Bangaru Laxman, faced corruption charges.
A: I think that issue has been taken care of by the judiciary. Now he is no more with us, I don’t want to question about that.

Q: Why do you think young people will vote for Modi and not for Rahul Gandhi, who is often pegged as a youth icon?
A: Youth is upset with the Congress. They know if the country has to survive, there should be a change in government. Rahul Gandhi can’t be a youth icon only if the Congress projects him like that. People have to decide. You have to make your way into the hearts of youth, and Modi stays there. Gandhi has failed to ask any question (in Parliament) in last five years, his attendance is only 40 percent, and he has participated in only two debates.

Key dates in India’s election history

Voting for the 2014 general election will begin on April 7, the Election Commission said on Wednesday.

(For facts and figures on the 2014 election, click here)

Here is a timeline of key dates in India’s election history:

1947 – Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the founding fathers of independent India, becomes the country’s first prime minister. His appointment starts a long period of political dominance of the Congress party and the country’s most powerful dynasty, the Gandhi-Nehru family.

1952 – Nehru leads Congress to a clear victory in the country’s first ever general election and retains the prime ministership, which he held until his death in 1964.

Interview: Congress session will lead to changes – Sachin Pilot

After years in the shadows as a reluctant heir-apparent, Rahul Gandhi is set for his own tryst with destiny, to lead the ruling Congress party in elections due by May that it has only a slim chance of winning.

Reuters spoke to Sachin Pilot, the country’s corporate affairs minister, on the Congress party’s strategy for the 2014 election, Rahul Gandhi’s style of working and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

What is the Congress party doing wrong?
We have within ourselves perhaps far superior elements to take on conventional challenges today. But what we are not doing tremendously well is in the perception battle. Somehow, we have not been able to position ourselves as an alternative to most political forces operating today. What the Congress party needs to do now, I think what Rahul Gandhi wants to do, is to create an institutionalized mechanism for the party because this ad-hocism is not bearing fruit.

India won’t have misfortune of having Rahul Gandhi as PM: AAP’s Kumar Vishwas

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Aditya Kalra

The Aam Aadmi Party’s Kumar Vishwas, who plans to challenge the Congress party from the Gandhi family’s bastion in Uttar Pradesh, said it would be unfortunate if Rahul Gandhi became India’s prime minister.

Vishwas’s remarks came as Gandhi suggested in a rare interview published on Tuesday in the Dainik Bhaskar that he was ready to be prime minister if the Congress returns to power in the 2014 general election due by May.

“I don’t think that India has the misfortune of him (Rahul Gandhi) ever becoming prime minister,” Vishwas said in a telephone interview from Amethi district. “The direction in which the country is headed right now … things will only get worse (if Gandhi becomes PM).”

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.

(Click here for main story)

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.

Interview: Sheila Dikshit on elections, rise of Modi and Kejriwal

By Aditya Kalra and Shashank Chouhan

The emergence of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a credible contender in the Dec. 4 state election in Delhi has not dampened the Congress party’s confidence, its chief minister Sheila Dikshit said on Tuesday.

Dikshit, 75, who has been chief minister of India’s capital since 1998, spoke to Reuters at her official residence about the upcoming elections, the rise of Kejriwal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi.

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

Opinion polls show that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will eat into your vote share this time. What is your view?
I have nothing to say. All these polls that are being conducted I think are somewhere in the air, they don’t reflect reality because nobody has made up their mind. How do I vote for the Aam Aadmi when I don’t even know what the Aam Aadmi stands for. It has jhadoo (broom) which they say is going to sweep everything away, but what are you going to do? With the Congress, at least you have 15 years of work to show.

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

By John Chalmers and Devidutta Tripathy

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

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.

Interview: Chidambaram on Modi, Rahul Gandhi and becoming PM

By John Chalmers, Frank Jack Daniel and Manoj Kumar

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

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.

When did Narendra Modi become a “poster boy?”

(This commentary reflects the thoughts of the author. It does not reflect anyone else’s opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

I’ve encountered some interesting descriptions in the press of India’s political leaders. My favorite is “supremo,” which I’ve heard comes from British English. “Honcho” and “strongman” are common too. The one that catches my attention, primarily because I disapprove of it, is “poster boy.”

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was today’s poster boy, according to the Times of India print edition (I also see the article here). I’ve seen many more examples in recent weeks and months. Perhaps that’s understandable. Wherever you live, you will read a lot more about Modi in the next year because many people say that he will be the Bharatiya Janata Party’s selection for prime minister. As the most likely chief rival to the Gandhi family dynasty and its scion Rahul, Modi has captured the nation’s attention in a way that few other politicians have.

Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi: The burden of perception

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

Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi might find that fighting each other over who will be India’s next prime minister is easier than fighting the perceptions of more than a billion of their countrymen about who the candidates really are.

Modi’s big battle, even if he doesn’t bring it up much, is against the perception that many people have of his role in encouraging the 2002 religious riots in Gujarat that left thousands dead. Many people meanwhile see Gandhi as a clueless kid, or “pappu”. Sample Rahul Gandhi’s speech to industrialists today in New Delhi.

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