Live Updates

India election 2019: Modi seeks re-election

By Helen Regan, Nikhil Kumar, Manveena Suri, Sugam Pokharel, Swati Gupta and Steve George, CNN
Updated 19 hr 5 min ago3:15 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019
19 hr 5 min ago

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

3:42 a.m. ET, March 19, 2019

Goa swears in new chief minister following death of predecessor

From CNN's Swati Gupta

The western coastal state of Goa swore-in former speaker, Pramod Sawant, as its new chief minister in a late-night ceremony Monday, following the death of Manohar Parrikar.

Parrikar, a four-time chief minister of the state and India's former defense minister passed away Sunday after battling cancer for over a year.

Hours after his funeral was concluded Monday evening, the Bhartiya Janata Party announced that Sawant would be taking over as the head of the state government since the party managed to make up a majority of seats in the Goa state assembly.

The BJP currently has about a dozen seats and required support from two regional parties to claim a stake.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his congratulations Tuesday morning.

“Best wishes to Dr. Pramod Sawant and his team as they begin their journey towards fulfilling the dreams of the people of Goa. I am sure they will build on the work done in the last few years and boost Goa’s growth trajectory,” he tweeted.

The Congress Party had been scrambling for the past two days to form a government in Goa since the party had a majority and were just a few seats short of forming a government.

"I have taken an oath today to take up the responsibility of completing three years of the government in complete stability and to work together with our alliances.. to complete all the unfinished work that is there -- these are my responsibilities," said Sawant.

3:11 a.m. ET, March 19, 2019

56-day bike trip in support of Modi

From CNN's Helen Regan

Rajlaxmi Manda after she reportedly drove some 9,000 miles on a mission to gain support for Prime Minister Modi, on March 17, 2019 in New Delhi.

Rajlaxmi Manda has completed a trip across India by motorbike in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reelection bid, according to reports in the Hindustan Times.

The trip took Manda 56 days to complete -- she reportedly drove 14,475 km (nearly 9,000 miles) across eight states, and 155 districts from the southeast city of Chennai to the capital New Delhi.

Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari -- pictured standing behind Manda in the photo -- was there to greet her near the India Gate memorial on Sunday.

1:13 a.m. ET, March 19, 2019

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra wooing voters by boat

From CNN's Swati Gupta

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra gestures to supporters at the start of a boat trip to Varanasi along the Ganges river in Manaiya village near Allahabad on March 18, 2019.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, senior leader with the Congress Party and sister of its leader Raul Gandhi, kicked off a three-day campaign boat ride Monday.

Vadra is expected to travel along the Ganges river in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, stopping along the way to interact with voters.

The campaign began in the city of Prayagraj (formerly known as Allahabad) and will end in Varanasi – the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Vadra began the campaign with a sharp attack on what she called the Modi government’s inability to generate jobs in the country.

“Whatever these issues are – the issues of religion, caste – these are talked about only because there is no development. The government should focus on development,” said Vadra.

Students from Allahabad University joined her along the way.

“Loved sharing my journey with these intelligent, dynamic young women from Allahabad University this morning. I met so many talented students today – they deserve a future in which their hopes and dreams can be realised,” she tweeted.

Vadra has in the past week hit out at Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party, saying it has not fulfilled its campaign promises on improving the economy and employment. During campaign rallies, she has focused on women's issues and the employment crisis in the country.

“I could have just stayed at home. For many years, I have stayed at home. Why have I come out today? I have stepped out today because the country is in trouble,” she said, before boarding the boat Monday.

12:41 a.m. ET, March 16, 2019

Gandhi condemns New Zealand mosque attacks

From CNN's Helen Regan

The leader of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, has offered his condolences to families of the victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings, saying the "despicable act of terrorism" must be "condemned unequivocally."

12:36 a.m. ET, March 16, 2019

For India's 84 million first-time voters, election finally gives them a voice

From CNN's Manveena Suri and Sreoshi Mukherjee

In less than a month, the world's biggest democratic exercise begins in India. And out of a total of 900 million eligible voters, a staggering 84.3 million -- including 15 million aged 18 or 19 -- will be casting ballots for the first time.

So what do they want from their politicians?

Shreeparna Chatterjee, a 22-year-old arts student in New Delhi and first-time voter.

Tolerance, according to Shreeparna Chatterjee, a 22-year-old arts student in New Delhi going to the polls for the first time.

"With this government, I feel it's been very heated religion-based and caste-based politics," Chatterjee told CNN. "It has become very hardcore right wing and a one-colored opinion. If I were to vote for someone, I would like to see acceptance in terms of difference of opinions by the current political party."

Utsav Vasudeva, 22, a Bengaluru law student who is concerned about the role of religion in India.

Utsav Vasudeva, a 22-year-old law student in the southern city of Bengaluru, says the BJP "has done a lot of good work" but he is uneasy about its religious underpinnings.

"Any time that (situation) happens it is chaotic for the system, and I feel one thing Congress stands for is secularism, which the BJP does not," he said.

First-time voter Eshna Kutty, 22, wants India's next leader to give a voice to the nation's many minorities.

Eshna Kutty, 22, is concerned about the next leader's approach to governing a diverse country.

"In a country that has different religions and cultures, Modi as a leader, his party being in power, means that a huge population is ignored and sidelined," she said. "I am Hindu, I come from a privileged background, so for people like me, no matter which party comes to power, we aren't going to face the brunt of it. The most affected are the minorities and the poor... If a certain party comes to power, these people will face huge problems."

John Simte, 23, is optimistic for the future.

John Simte, 22, from Bengaluru, says there is a "deep sense of apathy" among his peers but is nonetheless optimistic.

"It (political apathy) has seeped into their minds because of the kind of politics the parties do. Going forward, it is important to restore confidence in the electoral system we have," Simte said.
"The moment we restore that confidence, there will be a social and political transformation. More people will come out and vote, more people will stand for elections."

Read more on that here.

5:45 a.m. ET, March 14, 2019

Pakistan delegation visits India

From CNN's Helen Regan

A Pakistani delegation is visiting India today to discuss an agreement on a border corridor that will connect two Sikh temples between India and Pakistan.

The project, called the Kartarpur Corridor, is due to open in 2019. The five-kilometer passage would facilitate hassle free cross-border travel for Sikh pilgrims between the two temples.

The meeting in Attari -- near the Wagah border crossing -- comes one month after the Pulwama car bomb attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir that resulted in the deaths of 40 Indian troops.

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

China blocks bid to list JeM chief a "global terrorist"

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Indian Muslims hold a scratched photo of Jaish-e-Mohammad group chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, during a protest in Mumbai on February 15, 2019, the day after an attack on a paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Kashmir.

India’s bid to have Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) chief Masood Azhar declared as a “global terrorist” by the UN Security Council has once again been blocked by China.

Beijing placed a “technical” hold on the UN resolution on Wednesday, the fourth time China has blocked such a resolution against Azhar.

Following the deadly bomb attack in Kashmir's Pulwama in February that was claimed by JeM, France, the United Kingdom and the United States asked the UN Security Council to reconsider the motion.

The attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir on February 14 resulted in the deaths of 40 Indian troops and sparked the recent escalation in tensions between the two nuclear-armed powers.

In a statement, India’s Foreign Ministry said it was “disappointed” by the outcome, according to CNN affiliate CNN News 18.

“This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a proscribed and active terrorist organization, which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019," said the statement.

"We will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice.”

Jaish-e-Mohammed, which translates to the Army of the Prophet Mohammed, has been designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department since 2001. It seeks to unite the Indian controlled area of Kashmir with Pakistan.