India elections: Gandhi, Kejriwal, Modi in war of words

From left to right, Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi are the key candidates for PM Image copyright AP
Image caption From left to right, Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi are the key candidates for PM

India's ruling Congress Party, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are locked in a fierce verbal fight to attract voters in the general elections.

While the BJP appointed controversial leader Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate in September last year, the Congress seems to have played it safe and announced Rahul Gandhi as its election campaign chief in January.

Mr Gandhi may not be his party's candidate for PM, but not many doubt that the Congress is contesting the elections under his leadership.

The entry of the anti-corruption AAP (Common Man's Party), led by Arvind Kejriwal, has made the contest even more interesting.

The party was born out of an anti-corruption movement that swept India three years ago and made a spectacular debut in the Delhi assembly elections last year.

The three leaders have been locked in a verbal match since last year, touring the length and breadth of the country to give speeches and meet people.

So what makes these leaders tick for their respective parties? And what do they tell people in their rallies? BBC Monitoring's Vikas Pandey uses word cloud analysis to find out the answers.

Word Cloud of Narendra Modi's speeches and statements

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Image caption Narendra Modi's words

Mr Modi appears to be more direct about his vision for India and less discreet in verbal attacks on his political rivals.

"Development" and "India" appear more often than any other word in Mr Modi's speeches. The chief minister of the western Gujarat state frequently mentions his government's "pro-development", "pro-youth" and "clean governance" policies.

Mr Modi tells the voter that he will use the "best practices" of his state government at the national level if elected as the country's prime minister.

He is credited with making Gujarat economically prosperous but also faces questions over his controversial past. He is accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in 2002 which left more than 1,000 dead - an allegation he has always denied.

The Hindu nationalist leader avoids mentioning the riots in his speeches and largely focuses on attacking the Congress over corruption. Mr Modi also criticises the Nehru-Gandhi family's prominence in the Congress party and says "one family" alone cannot run the country.

Many observers see this strategy as a detour from his party's well-known pro-Hindutva (Hinduness) ideology. He appears to be pitching his idea of a corruption-free India that includes better economic growth, improvements in national security and better safety for women.

Mr Modi doesn't talk much about his stand on foreign policy issues, but China and Pakistan are often mentioned in his speeches.

He often talks about threats from China and Pakistan in an apparent bid to capitalise on nationalistic sentiments in the country. In his words, "India needs to be ready to face any threat coming from the neighbours."

Word cloud of Rahul Gandhi's speeches and statements

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Image caption Rahul Gandhi's words

Mr Gandhi is representing a party that has governed India in the last decade under the leadership of his mother Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Mr Singh's government has been marred by several high-profile corruption cases and analysts say this has severely affected the popularity of the Congress party.

A word cloud of Mr Gandhi's speeches and statements shows that he has been trying to highlight his own idea of "intra-party democracy" and governance.

He often talks about his party's "pro-poor" policies and praises programmes like the Right to Food Bill that promises cheap food for two-thirds of the population.

He largely refrains from mentioning Mr Modi's name in his speeches, but often repeats the phrase that "one man alone cannot solve India's problems" in an apparent attack on his political rival's poll promises.

The Congress vice-president is often described as a "charismatic leader" and he tries to come across as one by showing that he is in full control of the campaign.

He regularly mentions his own vision for a "new India" that will "empower the poor" and will have zero tolerance for corruption in what many describe as his bid to distance himself from the controversial graft cases.

However, he also mentions the names of his mother Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and gives them credit for what he sees as "successful" 10 years of his party's rule.

Word cloud of Arvind Kejriwal's speeches and statements

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Image caption Arvind Kejriwal's words

Allegations of corruption against politicians, bureaucrats, big business houses and the media dominate AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal's speeches.

He says India needs "independence" from corruption and pledges to punish all corrupt politicians and officials.

The former chief minister of Delhi also talks about a "nexus" between the national parties, industrialists and the media.

In his speeches, Mr Kejriwal taps on issues related to the "common man" such as water scarcity, high electricity and gas prices.

He demands the people of India to support his "revolution" and stop the BJP and the Congress from coming to power in this year's general elections.

Observers say Mr Kejriwal is hoping that his overtures will draw the middle class closer to his party.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.