Why bribes usually don't buy votes for politicians

  • 22 May 2018
  • From the section India
A general view showing BJP supporter wearing a mask of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen during the Bhartya Janta Party (BJP) public rally meeting ahead of Karnataka Assembly Election, in Bangalore, India, 08 May 2018. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Elections in India have become intensely competitive

What prompts a voter in India to cast her ballot in favour of a candidate? Typically, her choice would be influenced by the candidate's identity, ideology, caste, performance or ethnicity.

Cash bribes to voters are also widely thought to influence the voting choices of the poorest and most vulnerable voters. Days before the recent polls in the southern state of Karnataka, authorities uncovered cash and "other inducements" worth more than $20m (£14.85m) in what was described as a "record-breaking" haul. One report claimed that workers had been transferring money to bank accounts of voters who had promised to vote for their candidate, and even pledged to pay more later if their candidate won.

Trying to buy votes with cash and other gifts in the run up to elections is rampant in India. One main reason is that politics has become fiercely competitive. There were 464 parties in the fray in 2014, up from 55 in the first election in 1952.

The average margin of victory was 9.7% in 2009, the thinnest since the first election. At 15%, the average margin of victory was fatter in the landslide 2014 polls, but even this was vastly lower than, say, the average margin of victory in the 2012 US Congressional elections (32%) and the 2010 general election in Britain (18%).

Elections have also become volatile. Parties do not control voters as well as they once might have done. Parties and candidates are more uncertain about results than ever before, and try to buy votes by splurging cash on voters.

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Why did an Indian minister just go to North Korea?

  • 17 May 2018
  • From the section India
VK Singh Image copyright AFP
Image caption VK Singh is a junior foreign minister and former Indian army chief

On Thursday, India revealed that it had sent a minister to North Korea for the first time in two decades.

The last time an Indian minister visited North Korea was in September 1998. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, information and broadcasting minister of the then ruling BJP-led alliance, had flown to Pyongyang to attend a film festival.

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Why India's Narendra Modi remains star BJP vote-catcher

  • 15 May 2018
  • From the section India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) public rally meeting ahead of Karnataka Assembly Election, in Bangalore, India, 08 May 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Narendra Modi remains the BJP's biggest vote catcher

Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP continues to expand its political footprint relentlessly. His party has emerged as the single-largest in the southern state of Karnataka, and has staked its claim to run what would be its 21st of India's 29 states.

Two other parties - Congress and the regional Janata Dal (Secular) - provided a last-minute twist by announcing a post-poll alliance which they say gives them a rightful claim to power. Between them they mopped up 114 seats, to the BJP's 104. The governor now has to take a call on who to ask to form a government.

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The Simpsons: Not all Indians think Apu is a racist stereotype

  • 9 May 2018
  • From the section India
The character Apu from The Simpsons Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Apu has been seen on The Simpsons since 1990

Why is a goofy Indian convenience store owner in a satirical TV series suddenly raising the hackles of some Indian-Americans, nearly three decades after he was introduced as a character?

In The Simpsons, Bengal-born Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is an indefatigable immigrant who talks in a mocking sing-song way. He topped his class of "seven million students" in a college in India before moving to the dystopian fictional town of Springfield, peopled by misfits and oddballs and powered by a polluting nuclear plant owned by a heartless cynic.

Read full article The Simpsons: Not all Indians think Apu is a racist stereotype

The tragic lives of India's mistreated captive elephants

  • 24 April 2018
  • From the section India
Rajeshwari is dead
Image caption Rajeshwari died days after an animal lover sought the court's permission to put her down

For more than a month, Rajeshwari, a 42-year-old temple elephant in India, lay desultorily on a patch of sand, her forelimb and femur broken and her body ravaged by sores.

An animal lover went to the court, seeking to put her down. The court said the pachyderm could be "euthanised" after the vets examined her. On Saturday afternoon, she died anyway.

Read full article The tragic lives of India's mistreated captive elephants

Is India running out of cash again?

  • 19 April 2018
  • From the section India
A man shows a “no cash” slip near SBI ATMs in Patna on April 17, 2018. Most of the ATMs have run out of cash in the city Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption ATMs in many parts of India have run out of cash

This week, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, a farmer pawned his wife's jewellery to a moneylender to raise money for his daughter's wedding. He said he had been visiting the bank for two days to pick up his money, but had been turned away because they had run out of cash.

There's a depressing sense of deja vu about similar stories pouring in of long queues of depositors outside depleted cash machines in at least five states - Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

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Why India's rape crisis shows no signs of abating

  • 17 April 2018
  • From the section India
girl holds a placard during a protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, near Jammu, in Kochi, India April 15, 2018. Image copyright Reuters

The police in India are looking for the rapists of a girl who has no face, name, home or number.

She was possibly between nine and 11 years old, and her mutilated corpse was found in a bush recently near a playground in western Gujarat state's bustling Surat city, known the world over for its diamond polishing industry. Her battered body bore 86 injury marks. The autopsy surgeon believes that the injuries "seem to have been caused over a period ranging from one week to a day prior to the recovery of the body".

Read full article Why India's rape crisis shows no signs of abating

Why did India wake up so late to a child rape and murder?

  • 14 April 2018
  • From the section India
Activists holding placards during a protest in Srinagar over the rape and murder of a child. Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption There were protests against the incident in Kashmir in February

A bright looking eight-year old girl belonging to a Muslim nomadic tribe in Indian-administered Kashmir goes missing in the new year.

On 17 January, her battered body is recovered from a forest in Kathua district. Through February, police arrest eight men, including a retired government official, four policemen and a juvenile, in connection with the gang rape and murder of the girl.

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The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation

  • 4 April 2018
  • From the section India
An Indian Muslim vendor grills meat kebabs over burning coals at a roadside stall in preparation for Muslims breaking their fast at sundown in Mumbai on August 19, 2010. Image copyright AFP
Image caption The majority of Indians are meat-eaters

What are the most common myths and stereotypes about what Indians eat?

The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.

Read full article The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation

Why cancer strikes more women than men in India

  • 28 March 2018
  • From the section India
Indian cancer affected woman attends an International Women's Day celebration for patients of the Cancer Patients Aids Association in Mumbai, 08 March 2006. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cancers in women have a higher chance of survival

For oncologists worldwide, India can look like a puzzling outlier when it comes to cancer.

For one, despite reporting more than 1.5 million new cases every year, India's cancer rate remains lower than, say, the economically advanced US. That's about 100 cases per 100,000 people compared with 300 in the US.

Read full article Why cancer strikes more women than men in India