Verbatim
Mulayam Singh Yadav - Mind my words, the Government will cancel the proposal to promote you people (Shiksha Mitra) to permanent teacher’s scale, if you do not vote for the SP in this election. Not only you, but your family members and friends should also vote for the SP. Nothing comes for free now. If the SP Government is working for your benefit, it is your responsibility to ensure the victory of SP in the election.
Deepak Lal - Clearly, Indian democracy is veering towards the Western model; elections have become a verdict on the suitability of different teams from the political class, and voters are increasingly uncommitted to parties but are exercising their democratic right to "throw the rascals out". Against this backdrop, good governance while maintaining liberty is likely to be the future of Indian democracy. This is no bad thing; as long as liberty is preserved, in Alexander Pope's words, "For forms of government let fools contest; whatever is best administered is best" (An Essay on Man).
Arun Jaitley - Rahul Gandhi must accept that people are angry with the Congress. They are not 'ullus' when they vote against the Congress. The prospects of defeat should not make a leader lose his graciousness. Those who vote against the Congress may have good reasons to do so. The angry voter is not a four letter word that Rahul Gandhi has chosen to describe them.
Sandhya Jain - During the 2004 election campaign, Rahul Gandhi told journalists, “My girlfriend’s name is Veronique, not Juanita… she is Spanish and not Venezuelan or Colombian. She is an architect, not a waitress, though I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. She is also my best friend.” Amazingly, not much has been heard of Veronique since then, though for a while she was spotted in India occasionally. Given the Congress vice president’s long relationship with an unmarried South American girl, questions are surely in order. Since 2012, Rahul Gandhi has been seen in the company of Noella, an Afghan princess and jewellery designer, whose mother is also an Italian. She is also the granddaughter of former Afghanistan king, late Mohammad Zahir Shah. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has publicly stated that he had seen the couple together in France over a year ago. The bottom line is that Narendra Modi is a celibate with a celibate wife and a mutual understanding to live separate lives. Rahul Gandhi is a bachelor who goes on holiday in India and aboard with women he does not marry. As the preeminent leader of the Congress and its de facto prime ministerial candidate, he needs to come clean about his relationships.
Meghnad Desai - The question when all is said and done and the results are out on May 16 is: Will India face up to the 67 years of treating Indian Muslims as a special case and Hindus as a set of pigeonholes deserving reservations? The Mandal mentality grew because of economic stagnation during the first 42 years after Independence when socialist economic policy was busy building machine factories but not creating jobs for the millions. Only government jobs were growing and hence, the OBCs aimed to secure those. Once the Congress majority ended in 1989, Mandal became policy. Twenty three years of economic reform have not reversed this anomaly.
Sanjaya Baru - I had very little to do with Ahmed Patel and during the few times we interacted he was always warm and friendly. I only had two substantive conversations with him during my time at the PMO. The first occurred shortly after Narasimha Rao died... Narasimha Raos children wanted the former PM to be cremated in Delhi, like other Congress Prime Ministers... However, Patel wanted me to encourage Narasimha Raos sons, Ranga and Prabhakar, and his daughter Vani to take their fathers body to Hyderabad for cremation. Clearly, it seemed to me, Sonia didn't want a memorial for Rao anywhere in Delhi.
Narendra Modi - You can change names but not habits. When Trinamool destroyed the Left and came to power in Bengal, I thought real change has come about. How was I to know that there has been no 'poriborton'? Like others, Mamata slipped on the murky floor of vote-bank politics. She cheated the people who brought her to power. If you wish to make them fall in line, you require a 'Bada Masterji' in Delhi. That will make the wayward ones, like Mamata, fall in line.
Narendra Modi - The party has bestowed me with certain responsibility. I want to make three promises – I will never be found wanting in hard work, I will not do anything for myself and I will not do anything with bad intent. Good governance and development are at the core of the manifesto. Development should encompass all and good governance should reach the lower strata of the society… The 125 crore people of the country can feel the smell of their aspirations in this bouquet of our manifesto. For us, this manifesto is not an election ritual. This is our direction, our goal and our commitment.
Robert J Samuelson - Free speech is not speech you agree with, uttered by someone you admire. It’s speech that you find stupid, selfish, dangerous, uninformed or threatening, spoken and sponsored by someone you despise, fear or ridicule. Free speech is unpopular, contentious and sometimes ugly. It reflects a tolerance for differences. If everyone agreed on all things, we wouldn’t need it. In American democracy, free speech plays two vital roles. The first is to shape public opinion and to influence elections that, in turn, determine the social climate and steer government. Free speech’s second function is less understood. It buttresses the political system’s legitimacy. It helps losers in the struggle for public opinion and electoral success accept their fates. It helps keep them loyal to the system, even though it has disappointed them. They will accept the outcomes because they believe they’ve had a fair opportunity to express and advance their views. There’s always the next election. Free speech underpins our larger concept of freedom.
Kanchan Gupta - We have the sorry spectacle of Sonia Gandhi meeting the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, known as a land-grabber, a hafta-collector and a racketeer in the claustrophobic confines of Old Delhi beyond whose walls the peddler of Muslim votes neither wields influence nor commands fear. Even around Jama Masjid there are few who would have flattering words for him. The Shahi Imam has obliged Sonia Gandhi by appealing to Muslims that they should avoid “splitting the secular vote”, which is at once laughable and condemnable. Laughable because it is an absurdity to suggest that Muslim votes alone are ‘secular’ and condemnable because faith and politics invariably produce a toxic cocktail.
Anirban Ganguly - In fact so ingrained is this trait of polarising Indian politics in the Congress that some of those who have always played a part in effectuating it have risen to become some of the most prominent family courtiers in course of time. Take the case of Salman Khurshid, who has time and again displayed a certain impotency of mind and a robust potency of tongue. In perhaps the only book he has ever written, Khurshid has observed, with a certain flourish, how the Muslims rejoiced when the Sikhs were being massacred in Delhi in 1984, “…there was terrible satisfaction amongst Muslims, who had not completely forgotten the Partition’s unpleasant aftermath. Hindus and Sikhs were alike paying for their ‘sins.’ They were paying for the blood they had drawn in 1947.” Those who have repeatedly expressed such thoughts, are the ones who have always found staunchest protection from “Sonia-ben” and her immediate family, they were after all speaking the “right” language!
Pratap Bhanu Mehta - There is no question that comparatively speaking, Modi has made far fewer mistakes on the campaign trail than his detractors acknowledge. Modi seems to have been careful about not alienating any of the BJP chief ministers, or even regional leaders. He may sideline a Jaswant Singh or a Sushma Swaraj. But the real BJP leadership that matters is Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh, Vasundhara Raje, Manohar Parrikar and Sushil Kumar Modi. The party with the greatest personality cult may also turn out to be more of a genuine party. The issue may not be Modi’s personality, but how the relationship between these regional leaders in the BJP plays out.
Rakesh Bedi & Amit Singh - Most Muslims in UP vote as a bloc, and almost all vote against BJP. If the candidate is Muslim, the Muslim vote will go to him if he has a fighting chance. Otherwise, if he is in no position to win, the vote will go a 'secular' party (Congress, BSP, SP), which the community thinks can scrape through. Congress, which won 20-odd seats in 2009, benefitted from this strange, self-serving logic. This time, though, Muslims haven't openly announced which way they will vote. And that vote will vary from party to party in constituency to constituency.
Brendan O’Neill, Spectator - Raising awareness has become the aim of just about every political movement and charity of the 21st century. Charities now raise awareness about poverty rather than trying to end it. In 1991 the red Aids ribbon was launched; now there’s a pink ribbon for breast cancer, a blue one for prostate cancer, an orange one for kidney disease — the list is endless. There is colour competitiveness and confusion in the ribbon world: the purple one can denote concern for pancreatic cancer or cystic fibrosis or Alzheimer’s. But then, the colour and cause of a ribbon are not what’s important — a ribbon on a lapel, whatever its hue, is really about showing the world you are generally sensitive, aware, good.
VK Malhotra - Police are not able to conduct search operations in places like Jamia Nagar, which are the centre of terrorists. Earlier, the Congress and the AAP leaders were opposing the arrest of terrorists like Bhatkal for the sake of votes. But after Bhatkal’s interrogation, police got leads about terrorist centres and persons… the country was thus saved from large-scale terrorist violence. When police reached Batla House and Jamia in Okhla area to arrest two youths for interrogation, the leaders of the Congress and the AAP reached there and stopped police from interrogating them and also pressurised police to free them. The leaders of the Congress and the AAP are helping in keeping these areas safe for terrorists. If any such terrorist incident occurs, then the Congress and the AAP leaders will be fully responsible for it…
Ghazala Wahab - It is extremely worrisome that because most of our leadership, political, bureaucratic and industrial is populated by mediocre people. Mediocrity breeds insecurity and that leads to dishonesty. Mediocre people support and promote other mediocre people so that they can all coexist. One doesn't have to search for examples here, they are all around us. In parents who fudge documents so that their kids get an edge over others and in teachers who nudge their students to cheat so that the school's record remains unblemished. So we plagiarise blatantly until we are caught, then we say we were merely inspired!
MJ Akbar - Something unusual is happening below surface shenanigans when the BJP vote is climbing to Congress levels in a state like Tamil Nadu, and has not peaked. Irrespective of who wins how many seats, one fact is crystal clear across the country: the Modi vote is rising, while Congress is suffering from deflation. AAP was promoted as the final spoiler against Modi, but is becoming reminiscent of Dr Frankenstein's machine, which turned upon its maker. If Muslims turn towards AAP, the Congress crumble will become a rout. Congress candidates are already finding out that they cannot take Muslim support for granted. Some of AAP's credibility has been consumed by the rage of Arvind Kejriwal. AAP cannot become Congress overnight; and Kejriwal's mercurial tactics smell of the one thing that voters do not want in 2014, instability.
Tanweer Alam - India is secular not because Muslims want it to be so, but because this country has evolved over millennia in a way that religion and its practice have been left out of the domain of the state. This is reflected in India's Constitution. It is relevant to note that Europe did not become secular to accommodate Jews, Muslims or Buddhists, but to protect people from sectarian strife within Christianity. US secularism has similar origins. India too is secular because of Hindus, not Muslims, Sikhs, Christians or Parsis.
Vikram Sood - More than a decade after the war on terror began and with hundreds of thousands killed the US seems willing to do a deal with the extremists it avowed to annihilate. What went wrong? Maybe the US simply fought the wrong war (an unnecessary and futile war against imaginary enemies in Iraq whereas the enemy was in Pakistan), at the wrong place (in Afghanistan whereas the support bases were in Pakistan) and wrong allies (Pakistan played a duplicitous game throughout, which would have been evident when the first al Qaeda terrorists, Abu Zubeidah and Khalid Mohammed Sheikh, were arrested in Faisalabad and Rawalpindi). It is said of the US that it comes to the right course of action after making all the mistakes. Unfortunately, it is others who end up paying the real price. And that includes Pakistan too. Ukraine looks to be the next candidate.
MJ Akbar - The Delhi CM's office became too small for Kejriwal's ambitions. He continues to nurture the illusion that just as he became an Accidental CM with Congress support, he can become a Miracle PM with Congress help in May. And so he has taken on the job that Rahul Gandhi has so conspicuously been unable to accomplish, to tarnish the reputation of Narendra Modi. Robert Vadra has disappeared from his radar; and a bureaucrat who protected Vadra has become his candidate in Haryana. Kejriwal clearly did not bargain for media scrutiny. There were stories on NGO funding, and allegations against his senior associates, which must have been irritating for a party campaigning on probity. He was surely also frustrated by the depth of Modi's support. Modi offers something in a national election that Kejriwal cannot, a stable government which can nurture an ill economy back into health.
Rajat Sharma, India TV - I have a video that shows Kejriwal telling one of my reporters, 'desh mein Modi ki hawa to hai hi' (there is a Modi wave in the country). I will air it tonight on my channel. If he himself believes there is a Modi wave in the country why wouldn’t TV channels cover it? Now that media is criticizing him for his loss of direction, he has taken to threatening us. Never ever in my 32 years of experience has a political party threatened to put journalists behind bars. Kejriwal is saying I can’t take your criticism, and when I have the power, I will put you in jail. Is  this not authoritarianism?
NK Singh - The growing lack of trust, a pervading milieu of financial malfeasance, a largely dysfunctional Parliament, overzealous courts and constitutionally-mandated institutions treading grey areas in relation to their mandate have smothered any early rekindling of the animal spirit. Retrospective changes in tax laws and an aggressive tax department have prompted foreign investors to even question whether we believe in the rule of law. Entrepreneurs are caught in disputes with regulatory and enforcements institutions with little inclination to pursue fresh investments. India has ceased to be a favoured investment destination. Entitlement-driven welfarism and misalignment of wage rates with productivity have made gainful economic activity increasingly uncompetitive. This is not a milieu in which industries globally seeking relocation would opt for India. Ironically, Indians increasingly seek investment opportunities elsewhere.
Ram Jethmalani - Aristotle had told us long ago, "Man is a political animal." How right he was, in ways he could never have imagined. I am sure almost everyone will agree that today's political man is the most bestial of the herd. Thanks to Arvind Kejriwal and his motley gangs, Indian politics is becoming even more saturated with uncivilised snarling beasts, who desecrate everything we hold dear. It is a supreme tragedy that instead of patriots and intellectuals steering our democratic republic, which has a great Constitution, it is these unruly creatures that run wild through our streets, across television screens and inside hallowed halls of government and legislatures. The question every nationalist citizen is asking is how much worse can it get. The corrupt UPA government, presiding over the Delhi zoo, has prospered beyond imagination. It hopes that its scandals, scams and larcenies will be concealed by the ubiquitous chaos it has created, and that the token expressions of its spurious socialism and even more spurious secularism, will again tranquilise the nation into tolerating them. I do not believe that the voters are such morons.
Tavleen Singh - If Narendra Modi is twice as popular as Rahul Gandhi, as recent polls indicate, it is because of an overwhelming belief across India that the country has been leaderless for a long while. Sonia Gandhi’s decision to play Noor Jehan behind the throne while waiting for her son to grow up was a bad one. This became painfully obvious in Singh’s second term because, when he realised that he was only a regent, he became silent and removed and so obviously subordinate to Rahul that it was embarrassing. The only thing that can be said for certain now is that the Sonia-Manmohan government is on its way out. When it goes, there will be few people who will mourn because they have presided over a wasted decade. The next prime minister has his work cut out for him.
Jaitirth Rao - Think of what has happened in the recent past to the super-super rich. FIRs are being considered by the distraught CBI against a Birla while a wannabe new political outfit actually files an FIR against an Ambani; a Tata has to ask the Supreme Court to suppress publication of private conversations; a Subroto Roy is served with a warrant of arrest by the same Supreme Court. Clearly civilisation as we know it is coming to an end. Anarchic elements are joining with the confused and incompetent Indian state to start taking pot-shots at the super-super-rich. And if the super-super ones can be harassed, who are we, the merely rich to believe that we are exempt or protected? Methinks, there is something distictly rotten in the state of Bharat.
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