News / Asia

India's Sonia Gandhi Takes to TV to Appeal for Stop of ‘Divisive’ BJP

India's ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, right addresses the media as Vice President Rahul Gandhi smiles in New Delhi, Dec. 8, 2013.
India's ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, right addresses the media as Vice President Rahul Gandhi smiles in New Delhi, Dec. 8, 2013.
Reuters
Sonia Gandhi, president of India's ruling Congress party, has issued a rare direct appeal to the nation not to return an opposition she said was motivated by “hatred and falsehood” in the country's general election.
 
The three-minute TV address was aired at prime time on Hindi-language channels just as an opinion poll showed for the first time that an alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could win an outright majority.
 
“Their vision, clouded with hatred and falsehood, their ideology, divisive and autocratic, will drive us to... ruination,” the Italian-born widow of 1980s prime minister Rajiv Gandhi said in the clip broadcast on Monday night.
 
Gandhi, 67, has taken center stage in a bid to avert what polls predict will be the worst-ever election defeat for Congress, after a weak campaign led by her son and political heir apparent, Rahul.
 
The BJP dismissed the address as “a farewell speech given in desperation,” driving home an advantage it has reaped from recent accounts by former government insiders that Sonia Gandhi had kept Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a tight leash.
 
“She wants to give power to the people but did not give power to the prime minister,” Prakash Javadekar, the BJP's national spokesman, told Reuters.
 
Heart and soul
 
Sitting in a book-lined study and wearing a dark red Sari, Sonia Gandhi did not mention the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, by name.
 
But her comments clearly targeted his brand of Hindu nationalism that she believes poses a threat to social peace in India's diverse society of 1.2 billion, and at a BJP campaign focused on Modi that critics say smacks of a personality cult.
 
“It is this, the very heart and soul of India, that we are fighting to protect in this election, from those who seek to change it, and to divide us,” said Gandhi. “They want to impose uniformity. They say: 'Just believe in me.’”
 
Modi, 63, is campaigning as a no-nonsense administrator who has fought corruption and nurtured investment during more than a decade as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, but questions persist over an eruption of sectarian bloodshed in Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 1,000 were killed, mostly Muslims. Modi has denied accusations that he failed to halt the riots, and a Supreme Court inquiry found that he had no case to answer.
 
A senior Modi aide has, however, been banned from campaigning by the election authorities for statements directed at minority Muslims in Uttar Pradesh that promoted “hatred and ill-will.” The northern state, India's most populous, is a must-win territory for any party staking a claim on power.
 
India's five-week general election, which kicked off on April 7, has seen a high turnout so far in what some analysts say is evidence of a “Modi wave” that could propel the BJP to power for the first time in a decade.
 
The latest opinion poll, for private news channel NDTV, showed the BJP and its allies winning 275 parliamentary seats, enough for a three-seat majority. That was an increase of 16 seats from the last NDTV poll just over a week ago.
 
The biggest round of voting comes on Thursday, with 122 seats being contested in regions in the north, including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka in the south and Rajasthan in the northwest. Voting ends on May 12, with results due on May 16.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More