India Insight

India’s political parties pump up the radio volume

Anyone who keeps a radio turned on in India’s National Capital Region knows that election fever has settled on Delhi ahead of the Dec. 4 state polls. The ruling Congress party, main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are betting big on radio campaigning — a medium that reaches millions of people across economic classes and backgrounds.

Overall, about 250 million to 500 million rupees ($4 million to $8 million) have been spent on radio advertising in this year’s assembly election in Delhi – at least 200 percent more than during the 2008 state elections, Sunil Kumar of radio consulting firm Big River Radio estimated.

The AAP, or “common man party,” led by Arvind Kejriwal, has allocated 20 million to 30 million rupees ($320,000 to $480,000) for advertising, with 60 to 70 percent for radio and phone calls, said Dilip K. Pandey, an AAP secretary responsible for their communication strategy.

“The best thing about FM campaign is that it reaches out to everyone … there is an imbalance in society — there are rich people, there are poor people — but it reaches out to everybody,” Pandey said.

Eight private radio channels and seven central government-owned channels cater to a population of over 16 million residents in New Delhi, according to government data.

Pricey onions mean more tears for businesses, public

By Anupriya Kumar and Arnika Thakur

Onion prices recently reached 100 rupees per kilogram ($1.62) in some parts of New Delhi. It is hard to emphasize enough how prices like that are hurting businesses and the public. Onions are one of India’s staples, and people consume 15 million tonnes of them a year. Now, many people can’t afford to buy as many as they need – or any at all.

The government’s efforts to ease the price, which has quadrupled in some cities in the past three months, are unlikely to succeed. Heavy rains have reduced crop yields and delayed harvesting. Now, the average price of onions in India is 83 rupees per kilo, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said in an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday.

Here’s how the people are reacting to the “onion crisis”. (We have edited responses for clarity)

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.

Snapshots from Arvind Kejriwal’s hunger strike in Delhi

“Ankush, should we pay the electricity bill? The secretary of our apartments has advised us against it.” That was my mother’s question to me as I was leaving for Arvind Kejriwal’s fast venue in Delhi’s northeast corner, Dilshad Garden.

While I won’t be among those who refuse to pay electricity bills, Kejriwal’s supporters said hundreds of thousands of city residents had signed a pledge saying they would not pay their bills to the state.

Kejriwal said people should not pay because he says residents of Delhi are paying twice the amount they should be paying and began a hunger strike on March 23 against inflated bills.

PM, Sheila Dikshit caught in the eye of another storm

By Annie Banerji

With greying hair, humbly garbed in a sari and a smile that adorns her grandmother-like appearance, 73-year-old Sheila Dikshit finds herself in the spotlight over the Comptroller & Auditor General’s (CAG) report, right after combating the Shunglu Committee report.

The CAG had hauled up the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for the appointment of Suresh Kalmadi, now in jail, as chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee in 2004 despite “serious objections” from within the government.

The auditor also held the chief minister of New Delhi culpable for her “active involvement” in causing a loss of almost $6.9 million in wasteful expenditure due to “irregularities”, “favouritism” and “bias” in sanction of contracts for projects in the capital’s beautification process last year.

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