Gandhi vs. Gandhi as electoral politics heat up

Aaradhana Jhunjhunwala
23 March 2009

Varun Gandhi's inflammatory, anti-minority speech in Uttar Pradesh last week opened up the debate for a need to bring the words and deeds of all politicians under greater public scrutiny. The Election Commission of India recommended the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to remove Gandhi - the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister - as its party's candidate from Pilibhit in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The young Gandhi, who joined the BJP in 2004, was taped making anti-Muslim remarks at a political rally. Priyanka Gandhi, the daughter of Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, chastised her cousin for speaking against the "traditions and principles of the family." 

The Election Commission (EC) cannot legally remove him from contesting the elections unless his act is proven guilty of flouting campaign moral codes in the courts. Meanwhile, the BJP has rejected the EC's suggestions and remains defiant in fielding Gandhi as its candidate.

While critical of the young BJP politician's brand of vitriol, Rajdeep Sardesai, an anchor on the popular news channel CNN-IBN, insisted that the tendency to flout moral codes of conduct set by the EC were routine in Indian politics. The right-wing BJP has not been the only practitioner of hate-based rhetoric. In 1984, the Congress did not hesitate to campaign using anti-Sikh slogans in the aftermath of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination at the hands of her own Sikh guards. Sardesai and Pratik Kanjilal, in the Hindustan Times, recommend the judiciary, media and public at large remain vigilant and critical of remarks by political leaders that hurt the sentiments of any population group in the country.

"People's" car launched

The world's cheapest car was launched commercially today in India, by Tata Motors. Promising to provide a four-seater car within Rs. 1 lakh (approximately US$ 2,000-2,500), Tata Motors chairman, Ratan Tata  hoped the "Nano" will usher in a new era of car-making and that users of two-wheelers in populous countries like India will switch to his company's new offering. While the Nano was unveiled in January 2008 it is only going to be seen on Indian roads this summer.

While Indians are welcoming the car as a means to revolutionize transportation in the country, observers in the west remain wary of the Nano's safety and environmental standards. The no-frills car, they claim, will need some serious reworking to capture markets outside of India and the developing world.

26/11 militant admits he hails from Pakistan

The lone terrorist caught by Mumbai's police after the 26 November attacks has admitted to being a citizen of Pakistan. On the first day of his trial by a special court, Mohammad Amir Ajmal Kasab admitted that he had received the charge sheet filed against him for taking part in implementing the Mumbai attacks with his associates.

On admitting that he hailed from Faridkot in Pakistan, he demanded a defense lawyer from the Indian government. The trials are being held under very tight security and its result may play a vital role in shaping India's relations with its neighbour Pakistan. [Video below]
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