India election 2019: latest updates

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7:41 a.m. ET, March 27, 2019

Modi says India conducted successful anti-satellite missile operation

From CNN's Swati Gupta

India on March 27 destroyed a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test that had put the country in the space 'super league', Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
India on March 27 destroyed a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test that had put the country in the space 'super league', Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India has successfully conducted an anti-satellite missile test that put the country in a league of global "space powers."

In a national address Wednesday, Modi said India had achieved a "historic feat" by shooting down its own low orbit satellite with a missile in just three minutes.

Only three other countries: US, Russia and China have the capabilities to use such an anti-satellite missile.

India’s space program has grown substantially over the past decade. In 2014, India put a satellite into orbit around Mars and the Indian Space Research Organization has announced that it will send a manned mission into space in the next three years.

Modi said the operation, called Mission Shakti – which stands for "power" in Hindi – would defend the country’s interests in space. The country's foreign ministry said that India had "no intention of entering into an arms race in outer space."

Though Modi said Wednesday's test was for India's defense and security, it is likely to be seen as provocative by Pakistan and China.

In response, a spokesperson for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said "boasting of such capabilities is reminiscent of Don Quixote’s tilting against windmills," meaning to fight imaginary enemies.

"Space is the common heritage of mankind and every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarization of this arena," the statement said.

Opposition leaders dismissed the announcement as a publicity stunt.

Akhilesh Yadav, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and one of Modi’s severest critics said, Modi's announcement "got himself an hour of free TV" and "divert nation’s attention away from issues on ground."

India’s feat comes after repeated warnings against China’s growing space military capabilities.

A report released last year by the Pentagon detailed that Russia and China are developing capabilities including “laser weapons to disrupt, degrade, or damage satellites and their sensors."

The growth of China's space capabilities and the need to help safeguard US satellites have been cited by the Trump administration as a reason why the US needs a Space Force.

4:40 a.m. ET, March 27, 2019

Narendra Modi biopic slammed as propaganda by opposition ahead of election

From CNN's Helen Regan and Swati Gupta

Vivek Oberoi, during the trailer launch of his movie "PM Narendra Modi" in Mumbai.
Vivek Oberoi, during the trailer launch of his movie "PM Narendra Modi" in Mumbai. Milind Shelte/India Today Group/Getty Images

India's main opposition party has criticized a Bollywood biopic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, labeling it as propaganda and suggesting its forthcoming release contravenes the country's election laws.

In a petition to the Election Commission, the Congress Party demanded that the release of "PM Narendra Modi" be delayed until after the country's elections, which begin on April 11 and will last for about six weeks.

"This is no artistic venture. It is a political venture," said Kapil Sibal, senior Congress Party leader Monday. "The purpose of this film is only political -- to get some extra mileage in the election."

Read more on that here.

6:07 a.m. ET, March 26, 2019

 Raghuram Rajan: "huge hunger for good jobs"

From CNN's Helen Regan

Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan says "good jobs for the people with moderate education, is simply not there."
Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan says "good jobs for the people with moderate education, is simply not there." Rajanish Kakade/AP/Getty Images

Former chief of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, has said one of the biggest issues in the country is the lack of jobs.

Speaking in a televised interview with NDTV, Rajan said, "there does seem to be a paucity of jobs" for all those who are graduating.

"Too many graduates are trying for low level jobs because they are not finding jobs that suit them," he said. "To some extent the lack of job creation mirrors the problems in the West, that is good jobs for the people with moderate education, is simply not there." 

Rajan is currently the Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

"There is a huge hunger for good jobs. Our job statistics have been poor for a long time. We need to improve collection of those statistics. We can't rely on the EPFO (Employees' Provident Fund Organization) or other make-do versions. We need to collect better job data," Rajan said.

More than half of Indians are aged 25 or under, and some 12 million enter the workforce each year. According to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment rate in February this year stood at 7.2%, up from 5% in February, 2017. 

5:25 a.m. ET, March 26, 2019

Rights group says parties should pledge to protect human rights

From CNN's Helen Regan

A young Indian demonstrator holds a placard at a rally in New Delhi on July 18, 2017, in protest over a spate of assaults against Muslims and low-caste Dalits by Hindu vigilantes in India.
A young Indian demonstrator holds a placard at a rally in New Delhi on July 18, 2017, in protest over a spate of assaults against Muslims and low-caste Dalits by Hindu vigilantes in India. SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

Human Rights Watch has called on all parties standing in the forthcoming Indian elections to commit to "strengthening human rights protections."

"Respect for economic, social, and political rights has declined in India in recent years," the international rights organization said in an open letter Tuesday. "We are writing to urge you to adopt human rights as a key part of your pledges and manifestos ahead of parliamentary elections."

The rights group wants candidates to pledge to ensure accountability of the security forces, to protect freedom of expression and assembly, to enforce laws that protect women and children, and to end discrimination against minorities and refugees.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch said, “It is important for voters in India to have the choice to elect leaders who will genuinely uphold human rights protections."

4:20 a.m. ET, March 26, 2019

India's Rahul Gandhi takes on the Modi juggernaut

From CNN's Swati Gupta

Indian Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi is seeking to unseat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in upcoming elections.
Indian Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi is seeking to unseat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in upcoming elections. ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images

He is the heir apparent to India's most powerful political dynasty. But over the next few months, Rahul Gandhi will face an uphill battle in the country's general election campaign.

The 48-year-old was born into the Nehru-Gandhi family, whose legacy is intertwined with an independent and democratic India. He is also president of the India National Congress -- the main opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Gandhi was a reluctant leader but has lately exceeded expectations, with his party winning key state elections late last year. He's been campaigning on anti-Modi rhetoric and his party seeks to show that the economy has suffered in the last five years and that Modi's promises have fallen flat.

Here's what you need to know about political scion and Modi rival Rahul Gandhi.

11:08 p.m. ET, March 25, 2019

Congress promises to "wipe out poverty" with minimum wage

ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images
ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images

India’s main opposition party, Congress, has promised a minimum wage of Rs 72,000 ($1,045) to 50 million families if they are voted back into power.

In a press conference Monday, the party's President Rahul Gandhi announced the latest project would benefit the poorest and “would be the final assault on poverty in India.”

“In the past five years, Indian citizens have had to suffer through many problems, especially our poor people. We will wipe out poverty in India,” Gandhi said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a similar program last month -- assuring millions of poor farmers of an annual income of Rs 6,000 ($87).

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dismissed the Congress plan and said it is not needed given the other government programs already in operation.

“If you are sure about your defeat, you can promise the moon. Who takes it seriously? Already under different schemes, poor families get much more support. Is it in addition to those schemes or will they all be subsumed in it?,” tweeted Ram Madhav, the general secretary of the BJP.

In the run-up to elections, Congress has maintained a focus on the dearth of jobs and the employment crisis in India. However, Modi’s BJP has laid more stress on national security -- a subject Gandhi has little experience and expertise in.

The project will be rolled out in phases and it is fiscally prudent, said Gandhi. “We will liberate 250 million people from poverty. It is unacceptable to the Congress party that in the 21st century there are poor people in this country.”

2:49 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

WhatsApp wants users to "share joy, not rumors" 

From CNN's Helen Regan

WhatsApp ambassadors perform a skit during a roadshow for WhatsApp messaging service and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.'s wireless network in Pune, India, on October 25, 2018.
WhatsApp ambassadors perform a skit during a roadshow for WhatsApp messaging service and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.'s wireless network in Pune, India, on October 25, 2018. Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg/Getty Images

WhatsApp is training users in India on using the app to stop the spread of misinformation, ahead of general elections next month.

The "share joy, not rumors" campaign offers step by step video tutorials on how to exit a group, block a contact and the significance of the forwarded label.

Adverts taken out in newspapers, television and radio were touted as reminders on how to spot, verify and stop sharing of misinformation.

There are concerns that social media could be used to deepen societal and religious divisions in India, particularly through misinformation around the elections, and trigger violence.

WhatsApp, which has more than 200 million users in India, has already found itself at the center of the issue of misinformation. Viral hoax messages on the platform were blamed for more than a dozen lynchings last year, with the victims falsely accused of child abduction.

The tutorials will be offered in several languages including, EnglishGujaratiHindiKannadaMarathiTeluguBengali, and Assamese.

3:15 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Election code of ethics for social media to stop spread of fake news

From CNN's Swati Gupta

India's Election Commission has laid down guidelines for politicians and tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter.
India's Election Commission has laid down guidelines for politicians and tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter. DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images

India’s Election Commission has formulated a voluntary code of ethics that social media platforms have agreed to follow during the next two months.

In a meeting this week, representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media platforms agreed to take expedited action on any reported violations on their platforms.

The Election Commission also ruled that all paid advertising on social media must be pre-certified.

India has been grappling with fake news on Facebook and WhatsApp for months -- an issue that has become a priority ahead of the election.

“The media certification and monitoring committees have already been constituted at all the states and districts to deal with the problem of fake news and other media-related violations and pre-certification of political advertisements on electronic media,” said Sunil Arora, chief election commissioner.

Tech companies also agreed to appoint dedicated personnel to work closely with the Election Commission to ensure violations are “acknowledged and/or processed within three hours” of being reported.

2:14 a.m. ET, March 20, 2019

The legends behind the festival of color

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Indian students smear colored powder during an event to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi in Kolkata in 2018.
Indian students smear colored powder during an event to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi in Kolkata in 2018. DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images

The beginning of spring

Holi is a Hindu festival that marks the start of spring.

Celebrated across India, it's an ancient festival with the first mentions of it dating all the way back to a 4th century poem.

It was even described in detail in a 7th century Sanskrit play called "Ratnavali," written by the Indian emperor Harsha.

Hindu devotees play with color during Holi celebrations at the Banke Bihari temple in 2013 in Vrindavan, India.
Hindu devotees play with color during Holi celebrations at the Banke Bihari temple in 2013 in Vrindavan, India. Daniel Berehulak//Getty Images

Mythological roots

The roots of the festival lie in the Hindu legend of Holika, a female demon, and the sister of the demon, King Hiranyakashayap.

Hiranyakashayap believed he was the ruler of the universe and superior to all the gods. But his son, Prahlad, followed the god Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe. Prahlad's decision to turn his back on his father left Hiranyakashayap with no choice. He hatched a plot with Holika to kill him.

It was a seemingly foolproof plan; Holika would take Prahlad onto her lap and straight into a bonfire. Holika would survive because she had an enchanted shawl that would protect her from the flames.

But the plan failed. Prahlad was saved by Vishnu and it was Holika who died as she was only immune to fire if she was alone. Soon after, Vishnu killed Hiranyakashayap and Prahlad became king.

The moral of the story is that good always triumphs over evil.

Indian college girls throw colored powder to one another during Holi festival celebrations in Bhopal in 2018.
Indian college girls throw colored powder to one another during Holi festival celebrations in Bhopal in 2018. AFP/Getty Images

The love story behind Holi

In modern day Holi celebrations, Holika's cremation is often reenacted by lighting bonfires on the night before Holi, known as Holika Dahan. Some Hindus collect the ashes and smear them on their bodies as an act of purification

Rangwali Holi takes place the next day and is an all-day affair where people throw and smear colored powder on each other.

The tradition of throwing colored powder and water is believed to originate from the mythological love story of Radha and Krishna.

Krishna, the Hindu god depicted with dark blue skin, is believed to have complained to his mother about Radha's fair complexion.

To ease her son's sadness, his mother suggests he Radha's skin color by smearing her with paint. It's believed that this is where the custom of smearing loved ones with color during Holi came from.

Read more on that here.