India election 2019: Modi seeks re-election

By Helen Regan, Nikhil Kumar, Manveena Suri, Sugam Pokharel, Swati Gupta and Steve George, CNN

Updated 10:30 p.m. ET, April 30, 2019
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1:30 a.m. ET, April 9, 2019

Modi vows to double farmer incomes as BJP releases election manifesto

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Modi addresses supporters during a campaign rally ahead of the national elections in Cooch Behar, in West Bengal state, on April 7.
Modi addresses supporters during a campaign rally ahead of the national elections in Cooch Behar, in West Bengal state, on April 7. Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has released a manifesto containing 75 election promises -- just three days to go before India heads to the polls.

Speaking at the “Sankalp Patra” -- or Document of Resolution -- launch on Monday, Modi said: "Nationalism is our inspiration. Empowerment of the marginalized is our vision. Good governance is our mantra.

"We spent the last term fulfilling needs of common Indians. Now our goal is to fulfill aspirations of common Indians."

Here are the key pledges:

Doubling farmers' incomes

The BJP pledged to invest almost $360 billion to develop rural areas. In addition, the party said it would double the income of farmers by 2022. A pension will also be provided to small and marginal farmers over the age of 60. 

Nation first

Along with a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism and strengthening the military, the BJP vowed the the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill would be passed and implemented. The bill is aimed at helping Hindus and other minorities move to India from neighboring Muslim-majority countries. The BJP says it offers Indian citizenship to religious minorities fleeing persecution -- however opponents insist it is anti-Muslim.

The BJP also reiterated its commitment to annulling Article 35A, a constitutional provision that enables northern Jammu and Kashmir state to have its own constitution, flag and autonomy over all matters except foreign affairs, defense and communications. Only permanent residents also have the right to own property in the state. The BJP argues this is discriminatory against non-permanent residents.

India as the world’s third-largest economy

The BJP envisages the Indian economy will be worth $5 trillion by 2022 -- and $10 trillion by 2032. Along with boosting investment and trade, the BJP promised to lower tax rates and simplify the Goods and Services Tax process.  

Other pledges included better access to healthcare and education, clean drinking water for all Indians and infrastructure development across a range of sectors.

Congress party responds

India’s main opposition Congress party responded to the launch of the BJP’s manifesto with a series of tweets highlighting what it described as the shortcomings of the Modi government’s promises.

Comparing the cover images of both party’s manifestos, Congress tweeted: “the people of our country are important for us. For Modi, it’s his own face. Our manifesto contains the views of tens of millions of people in the country whereas the BJP manifesto is about one person’s perspective.”

 Rahul Gandhi, president of India’s main opposition Congress Party, dismissed the manifesto as "short sighted and arrogant" in a tweet.

5:35 a.m. ET, April 5, 2019

Release of Narendra Modi biopic postponed

From CNN's Manveena Suri

The release of a biopic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been postponed, filmmakers said.

Sandip Singh, producer of “PM Narendra Modi”, announced on Twitter on Thursday that the movie would not come out on April 5 as planned.

He didn't give a reason for the delay, only saying that he would provide an update "soon."

However, Singh's tweet comes after the movie's producers failed to get a censor’s certificate on time.

Speaking to the Press Trust of India (PTI), Prasoon Joshi, chairperson of India’s Central Board of Film Certification, said the process to issue the movie a certification was still underway.

“Since there are a lot of queries around the certification of the film, I would like to give a clear picture: the film is going through the due process of examination and certification according to the requisite guidelines and is yet to be certified as the process is not complete at this point,” Joshi told PTI.

Last month, the main opposition Congress Party slammed the release of the Bollywood movie, labeling it propaganda and suggesting its forthcoming release contravenes the country’s election laws.

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

In India, any material that serves as a political advertisement is banned during the weeks leading up to an election, unless it is approved by the Election Commission.

The movie, in which the prime minister is played by Indian actor Vivek Oberoi, depicts Modi’s rise to fame, including him selling tea on the railways as a child, his two-year spiritual stint in the Himalayas as a teen and leading the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide victory at the polls in 2014.

5:03 a.m. ET, April 5, 2019

India tries to juice its economy on the eve of elections

From CNN's Rishi Iyengar

The rate cut gives Prime Minister Narendra Modi a boost in his attempt to win a second term in office when polling begins next week.
The rate cut gives Prime Minister Narendra Modi a boost in his attempt to win a second term in office when polling begins next week. SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images

India's central bank cut interest rates for the second time in two months, giving the slowing economy a shot in the arm days before national elections.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) lowered its main rate from 6.25% to 6% on Thursday, citing a slowdown in the economy at home and abroad. 

India's gross domestic product slumped to 6.6% in the quarter ended December, a sharp drop from the 7.1% and 8.2% growth recorded in the previous two quarters. 

The rate cut gives Prime Minister Narendra Modi a boost in his attempt to win a second term in office when polling begins next week.

Read more from CNN's Rishi Iyengar here.

7:00 a.m. ET, April 4, 2019

Gandhi files nomination to contest second seat

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Rahul Gandhi, president of India’s main opposition Congress Party, has filed his nomination to contest the upcoming elections from the district of Wayanad in southern Kerala state.

Throngs of Congress supporters gathered outside the district collectorate office in Kalpetta to greet Gandhi as he arrived there with his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who took on a formal role within the party earlier this year.

In January, she was put in charge of Congress’ election campaign in a critical battleground: the eastern half of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest and politically most significant state, with a population of some 200 million people.

Following the submission of the paperwork, the siblings took part in a road show and were seen waving at supporters.

Last week, the Congress announced Gandhi would contest from the Kerala district in addition to Amethi constituency in northern Uttar Pradesh state, which he has represented for three consecutive terms since 2004, his first election.

Amethi is considered the home constituency of the Gandhi-Nehru political dynasty. In the 2014 elections, Gandhi won the seat by with a margin of over 100,000 votes. He's the son of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. His grandmother, Indira, was India’s first female leader, and his great grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the country’s founding prime minister.

The BJP’s Smriti Irani, India’s Minister for Textiles, is Gandhi’s main opposition there.

Irani was in Amethi earlier Wednesday. Speaking to reporters, she described Gandhi’s decision to contest from a second constituency as a “betrayal”.

“For 15 years, Amethi had to deal with the same MP. This MP ruined Amethi’s governance. The BJP has given me responsibility to serve Amethi and make it stronger. That person who enjoyed power with Amethi’s help for 15 years is now disowning Amethi to run from another constituency. Amethi’s people will not tolerate this disrespect and betrayal,” Irani said.

Modi on Monday attacked Congress for hurting Hindu sentiments, saying that some leaders have taken refuge in places where the “minority is majority” to escape “Hindu anger”, in a veiled reference to Rahul Gandhi’s announcement of running from minority-dominated Wayanad.

5:33 a.m. ET, April 5, 2019

Outcry after authorities close key Kashmir road to civilians

From CNN's Manveena Suri and Mukhtar Ahmad

Authorities in northern Jammu and Kashmir state have issued orders to close a crucial highway to civilian traffic twice a week until May 31.

According to a government notification released Wednesday, the highway from Baramulla to Udhampur in the western region of Indian-controlled Kashmir will be out of bounds to civilian traffic on Sundays and Wednesdays from 4am to 5pm.  

“Keeping in view the large movement of security forces on the national highway during the parliamentary elections and associated possibility of any ‘fidayeen’ (militant) terror attack on security forces’ convoys,” the notice read.

The notice added that Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to the state following the February attack on security forces in Pulwama district, had announced that civilian traffic would be blocked during the convoy days. 

The February 14 attack was the deadliest on security forces in the restive state since the beginning of the insurgency in the late 1980s. It escalated tensions between India and Pakistan, bringing the two nuclear-armed neighbors to the brink of war.

Leaders of Kashmiri parties were quick criticize the move.

7:33 a.m. ET, April 3, 2019

Modi says he is up to the challenge in Arunachal Pradesh

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters during a campaign rally in Siliguri on April 3, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters during a campaign rally in Siliguri on April 3, 2019. DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he is up to the challenge of running the country for another five years.

Speaking at a rally in northeastern Arunachal Pradesh state, he said that the Congress Party, which has dominated Indian politics since independence in 1947, has not solved the country's problems.

“A family ruled the country for 55 years but they still cannot claim that they have completed all of India’s work," Modi said. "For me, it is yet to be five years and even I cannot claim I have done everything but I am someone who likes a challenge. If I take up a task, I ensure it's completed in time.”

Arunachal Pradesh’s state government is currently headed by Modi's BJP. The state goes to the polls on April 11 during phase 1 of voting.

“This election is a choice between promises and intentions. This is a choice between trust and corruption," Modi said.

“On the one hand, you have a government of motives, on the other, just false promises. Like Congress, their manifesto is also the same, they are dishonest.”

6:41 a.m. ET, April 3, 2019

BSP leader says both Congress and BJP are 'corrupt'

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Leader of India’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Mayawati has hit out at both the leading Bharatiya Janata Party and its main rival Congress during a rally in Bhubaneswar, capital of eastern Odisha state.

Mayawati said both parties were "corrupt" and that "their discriminatory mindset is yet to change towards Dalits.”

In Hinduism's caste system, Dalits are traditionally at the bottom rung. Members of higher castes sometimes consider them "impure."

Mayawati is a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and the first female Dalit chief minister in India.

In a series of tweets, Mayawati said the Congress Party's election manifesto was "just for show."

"Due to their inability to deliver, there is a lack of confidence in the public over their promises. There is no difference between the Congress and the BJP in this case," she said.

She called out "political, racial and communal hatred and bigotry in the current BJP government" that has "intimidated the general public, and that is highly condemnable and reprehensible. In such a situation, it is important for the people to defeat such hate speech elements."

The BSP is strong regional player in Uttar Pradesh that campaigns on strengthening rights for lower castes and minorities.

Odisha goes to polls April 11, 18, 23 and 29 during phases 1 to 4.

5:20 a.m. ET, April 3, 2019

Congress leaders defend election pledges

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Senior Congress leaders have defending their party's election manifesto after India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called it "unimplementable and dangerous."

P. Chidambaram, senior Congress leader and former Indian finance minister, said:

"We are confident that the Congress government will implement this manifesto in the next five years.”

Jairam Ramesh, senior Congress leader and former Indian environment minister, said:

"Justice for the poor, justice for farmers, justice for the youth, justice for the ill and disabled and the common man who is scared, in colleges, in universities, journalists, businessmen, for all.
“What we have written in the manifesto are not only promises, we will fulfil them.”
5:16 a.m. ET, April 3, 2019

Finance minister says Congress manifesto 'unimplementable and dangerous'

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Union Finance Minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley called the Congress Party manifesto would "break the country,” at BJP headquarters on April 2, 2019 in New Delhi, India.
Union Finance Minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley called the Congress Party manifesto would "break the country,” at BJP headquarters on April 2, 2019 in New Delhi, India. Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has torn the Congress Party's manifesto apart, saying it will "break the country."

“Some of the ideas are unimplementable and dangerous. They are for an agenda for the Balkanization of India," Jaitley said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Earlier that day, Congress released its key pledges for the election, which were heavy on subsidies for welfare programs for the poor and the scrapping of the country's sedition law.

“The Congress' leadership today is in the grip of jihadists and Maoists," Jaitley said. "They are saying in the Manifesto that Section 124A (sedition) will be removed from Indian Penal Code, committing treason is no longer a crime. A party that makes such announcements is not entitled to a single vote.”