India election 2019: Modi seeks re-election
Modi announced on Wednesday that India had successfully conducted an anti-satellite missile test that put the country in a league of global "space powers."
Though the prime minister said Wednesday's test was for India's defense and security, it is likely to be seen as provocative by Pakistan and China and raise concerns about the militarization of space.
"It is an anti-China measure," said Bharat Karnad, security expert with Indian think tank the Centre of Policy Research. "This means that it provided the country with the capability to shoot any Chinese satellite. This is the flip side of the constellation of satellites. This is the destructive side of satellites."
There have been repeated warnings against China's growing space military capabilities.
"Given the relevance of satellites and the issue of China in the region, India needed to demonstrate that it has the ability too. Warfare is predicated increasingly on satellites and the use of satellites," said Uday Bhaskar, director of Indian think tank Society of Policy Studies.
China also has a close military relationship with Pakistan and is the country's biggest arms supplier -- with 40% of Beijing's military exports going to Islamabad, according to data from a December discussion of Pakistan at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"He wants to be seen as a person who has great resolve when it comes to national security. It is very routine that a military success is packaged as a political benefit," said Bhaskar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a massive rally Thursday in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, where he exulted the achievements of his government and derided attempts being made by opposition parties to unseat him.
Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party is vying for votes in Uttar Pradesh -- seen as a key state to win the election.
The enormous state lies in India's north and has a population of 200 million people; if it were a country, it would be the fifth largest on the planet.
As India's most populous state, it has the largest parliamentary representation and holds huge political sway.
But Modi is facing tough competition in Uttar Pradesh from a coalition alliance formed by two regional parties -- the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party -- and India’s main opposition party, Congress.
Modi touts development
The rally in Meerut is Modi's first since dates for the general elections were announced -- officially kicking off election season in the world’s largest democracy.
Speaking to thousands of people on Thursday, Modi touted accomplishments that he said his government has achieved during his tenure, including action to address terrorism, and providing electricity and cleaner fuel to the poor.
“There is no corner in the country that has been untouched by development from us. Our first time voters when they go to the booth and before they press the button to vote for BJP, they will take a vision of development with them,” said Modi.
The state is one of India's most poverty-stricken states and home to 8% of the world's poor.
But Modi has been repeatedly criticized for not doing enough to create jobs across the country.
“In the coming days, I will put forward the work done by the government. Our vision is of a new India and of the kind of India that is proud,” he said.
Attacks on opposition
Criticizing the previous governments for allegedly lining their own pockets and not doing enough to eliminate poverty, Modi dismissed the recent minimum income plan announced by Congress.
Last week, the Congress Party announced that it would provide an annual income of $1,045 per annum to 50 million families if they were voted into power.
The Congress did not reveal details for the plan and the BJP has claimed that it provides better economic help to the poor through subsidies and welfare programs.
Strong on defense
The BJP has repeatedly used its record on national security to beef-up Modi’s profile as a leader who is strong on defense. Modi has spoken about the increase in India’s muscle power and international strength, particularly in the wake of the Kashmir crisis that saw India and longtime rival Pakistan edge to the brink of war.
On Wednesday, Modi announced that India had conducted an anti-satellite missile test that put the country in a league of global "space powers," and boosted India's defense capabilities.
“I will put everything on the line for the country. No political or international pressure can scare your prime minister,” said Modi.
Modi is expected to address two more rallies today in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
Cash, drugs and liquor worth $78 million have been seized by Indian police in the last two weeks.
Law enforcement officials have been on high alert for possible bribes since the Election Commission announced the schedule for the upcoming polls.
In India, bribes in the form of cash, gold or alcohol are common. Police said they confiscated $23.5 million worth of gold and $19 million worth of drugs.
According to the Election Commission, a total of $43.4 million of cash was seized during the entire 10 weeks of the 2014 elections. In the last 15 days, officials have already seized cash worth $20.7 million from 25 states across India.
Analysts say political parties and candidates have been known to spend more than three times the amount that is declared officially as expenditure during elections.
Goods worth millions of dollars are routinely seized during state elections every year as they are smuggled across state lines.
Earlier this month, the Election Commission introduced dedicated mobile apps where people can register any complaints or suspicions of bribery during the next two months.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.”