News / Asia

Gandhis Fend Off Modi as India's Election Nears Climax

India’s ruling Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi,  addresses an election campaign rally in Allahabad, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, India, May 5, 2014.
India’s ruling Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi, addresses an election campaign rally in Allahabad, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, India, May 5, 2014.
Reuters
— India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty faced a battle on Wednesday to defend one of its bastions from increasingly confident opposition leader Narendra Modi in the penultimate round of the country's five-week general election.
 
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sensing that its coalition could well be within reach of claiming a parliamentary majority, has ramped up a crusade against Sonia Gandhi and her 43-year-old son Rahul who lead the ruling Congress party.
 
The son of a tea-stall owner has made it his mission to end the grip on politics of the Gandhis, descendants of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who have ruled for most of the time since independence in 1947. On Monday, he poured scorn on the family for failing to modernize India.
 
The Gandhis stand from two family bastions in Uttar Pradesh state, home to one in six of India's 815 million voters. Anger over poverty and a collapse of services could weaken Rahul's grip on the rural seat of Amethi that was voting on Wednesday.
 
P.D. Pandey, a long-time Congress supporter, said he had switched to the BJP, if only to give a wake-up call to Rahul.
 
“There are 10 votes in my family. Six of them will go to Modi, four for Rahul. He will win but we will make him cry before he wins,” said Pandey, who queued in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius [104 Fahrenheit] to vote at a local college.
 
“Then he will understand the pain. We struggle every day for everything, from buying vegetables to sending our children to private schools,” said Pandey, echoing complaints by locals that government schools have shut.
 
India's eighth round of voting sees 64 seats being contested. Fifteen are in Uttar Pradesh, which sends the largest contingent of 80 for the 543 seats up for grabs in staggered voting for the lower house of parliament.
 
A further 25 are at stake in Andhra Pradesh, which helped the Congress-led government to a majority in 2009, but may now swing decisively away amid anger over the handling of a split of the southeastern coastal state into two parts.
 
Himalayan villagers trekked to the polls in Himachal Pradesh, while there was more violence further north in mainly-Muslim Kashmir, where many separatist sympathizers are observing a poll boycott. In one incident, a reserve policeman was injured by a bomb planted at a voting station, police said.
 
Project 272
 
BJP sources say internal polling shows that the party has made big gains so far, while one survey this week for NDTV news suggested that the BJP may double its share of the vote in the areas of Uttar Pradesh that have yet to be contested.

 
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi displays the victory symbol to supporters after casting his vote in Ahmadabad, India, April 30, 2014.India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi displays the victory symbol to supporters after casting his vote in Ahmadabad, India, April 30, 2014.
x
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi displays the victory symbol to supporters after casting his vote in Ahmadabad, India, April 30, 2014.
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi displays the victory symbol to supporters after casting his vote in Ahmadabad, India, April 30, 2014.
Modi made a campaign stop in Amethi on Monday to launch a personal attack on Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. He seeks to crown his bid for power in the holy Ganges city of Varanasi, which votes on the election's final day next Monday. Results are due May 16.
 
While the BJP itself expects to fall short of the 272 seats it needs for a majority, party sources forecast a minimum seat count of 200 seats. In the best case, they forecast 240, which would be enough, with the BJP's allies, for a working majority.
 
Pundits caution however that results are hard to predict in India's first-past-the-post electoral system. And, although a record number of Indians may vote, higher turnout has in the past not always been linked to opposition gains.
 
Modi's advance could be tempered by identity politics, with his Hindu-centric ideology limiting the BJP's voter potential across swaths of India.
 
His handling as chief minister of Gujarat of Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people died has also entrenched suspicion among minority groups, especially Muslims, who make up 13 percent of the population.
 
Modi, 63, has denied wrongdoing and a Supreme Court inquiry found no case to answer.
 
“Modi is playing the politics of anger, this is not the culture of Amethi,” said Mohammad Shafi, an electrician and a Muslim.
 
Shafi said there could have been more development in Amethi, but the threat from Modi was far greater. “He couldn't protect people in Gujarat, how can he protect the rest of the country?”
 
Local Congress agents arrived at the polling station asking for the number of votes that had been cast.
 
“There is some nervousness about the Modi wave that BJP claims, but we will win,” said Sethu Prasad Shukla, a local Congress party official. “The people of Amethi are not going to break their ties with the family.”

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid