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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid