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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    Video Energy Lacking at Annual Offshore Oil Conference

    The slump in oil prices that began in 2014 has taken a toll on the industry but all express confidence it will end eventually

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora