Amy Kazmin

Amy Kazmin is the FT's New Delhi-based South Asia correspondent. She was previously the FT’s Bangkok correspondent, responsible for covering Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia and Laos. She has also written for the Los Angeles Times, Business Week, The Nation and Asian Affairs.

Campaigning to win the job as India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, the three-term chief minister of Gujarat state, has kept silent about the right-wing social agenda that critics say is at the core of his belief system, while instead keeping a laser-like focus on issues economic growth, and effective government.

Indeed, the entire Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) election campaign essentially rests on the idea of Modi as a forceful, decisive leader, who can break through the political gridlock, and get a sclerotic bureaucracy back into action, to unleash India’s economic potential. Continue reading »

Narendra Modi, widely expected to emerge as prime minister from India’s upcoming parliamentary elections, is known for his reluctance to engage directly with the media, given the questions and controversies surrounding his early personal life and his tenure as Gujarat’s chief minister.

That’s why a new book, Narendra Modi, A Political Biography, by a little-known British writer, Andy Marino, is attracting plenty of attention – and questions about how an author with no known prior connection to India won an entrée to such a normally inaccessible figure. Continue reading »

In India’s current hard-fought Parliamentary elections, every vote counts. So along with the usual process of aggressive campaigning, some parties appear to be resorting to a little old-fashioned political skulduggery to sabotage the prospects of their rivals.

At least, that is that what the upstart Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party (AAP) believes is happening to it, especially in its stronghold New Delhi, where an unexpected wave of support for AAP prevented the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from winning enough seats to form the local government in recent state assembly polls. Continue reading »

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, has turned Indian electoral logic on its head. Instead of selecting a safe constituency from which to vault into a parliamentary seat, he threw down the gauntlet on Tuesday to front-running prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, challenging him in a Hindu heartland.

“I have no fascination to become an MP. Otherwise, I also could have chosen a safe seat, like other politicians,” Kejriwal said. “I am ready to fight Modi in Varanasi. I invite him for an open debate in Varanasi.” Continue reading »

India may be a young country – with half the population under the age of 25 – but it has typically been ruled by a lot of old men. Indian politicians, in fact, have been notorious for their reluctance to retire.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is 81-years-old, and many observers feel it would have been better for his reputation if he had retired several years ago. In 2009, the then 79-year-old George Fernandes, a revered socialist leader who was suffering from both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, insisted on running for Parliament as an independent, even after his party denied him a ticket, citing his failing health. Continue reading »

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of India’s upstart Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party, has had a turbulent relationship with the news media.

Once the darling of the Delhi-based national media, the former tax inspector turned social activists has been subjected to more critical coverage since he took on the job as the capital city’s chief minister in December – then quit 49 days later.

In recent days, he has lashed out at the press, accusing journalists of being ‘paid media’ in support of Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial hopeful of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Indian media organisations have responded by threatening to black out all coverage of Kejriwal. Continue reading »

India’s Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial hopeful for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), announced at the weekend that he would run for Parliament from the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, a pilgrimage town on the banks of the Ganges River, where devout Hindus have traditionally gone to cremate their dead.

Now, the question is whether the sacred town is set to have what Siddharth Vardarajan, a veteran political journalist, describes as what “sports desk subeditors in India love to call ‘a keen contest on the cards.’”

 Continue reading »

Some of India’s most impassioned electoral battles are being fought not between political parties but within them.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), widely expected to emerge as the largest party, has been squabbling within itself over the question of a constituency for its prime ministerial hopeful, Narendra Modi, currently the chief minister of Gujarat state. Continue reading »

It’s easy to criticise India’s democracy for its many shortcomings. But travelling in Madhya Pradesh to gauge the political mood, I was given a clear demonstration of at least one way in which Indian democracy is truly flourishing.

We had arrived at the Swami Vivekananda University, one of the multitudes of private universities that have sprouted up across India to cater to the many students unable to find a place in the government’s over-stretched higher education system. Continue reading »

Rare is the Indian who complains that politics is boring: at least in Madhya Pradesh – the big, landlocked state at the heart of India – there is undisguised excitement about the general election that was announced on Wednesday.

The majority of those we interviewed on the streets after the Election Commission’s announcement said the election (to be held on nine separate voting days between April 7 and May 12) would bring a much-needed change of government in New Delhi. Continue reading »

Bodoland on the map?

For the last two years, India’s Congress-led government been struggling to push important economic reforms through Parliament in the face of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s tactic of determinedly disrupting the proceedings to protest against alleged corruption and other misdeeds.

But with India’s economy faltering, and the rupee hovering near lifetime lows, it was hoped that the current monsoon session of Parliament might finally get down to important legislative business that could help restore investor confidence in India’s government, economy and currency. Fat chance. Continue reading »

Try the yoghurt

The mere mention of frozen yogurt evokes images of weight-conscious US college students, unable to resist the temptation of a sweet, queuing up at frozen yogurt shops for the so-called healthy alternative. Continue reading »

Global hypermarket chains such as Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour have been in no rush to set up shop in India since New Delhi’s September decision to permit up to 51 per cent foreign ownership of retail ventures.

For the most part, global grocers are concerned about the various conditions imposed on such enterprises, as detailed in the Financial Times, with very different rules for “multi-brand” vs “single-brand” retail. But that’s not the only problem. The experience of US-based office supply and stationary stores in India also stands as a cautionary tale for prospective investors. Continue reading »

Don't take my subsidy away

Struggling to bring down its fiscal deficit, India wants to stop allowing commercial ventures like movie theatres, swish office complexes, and hotels from using highly-subsidised diesel fuel to run-back up generators when the power goes out. It is also trying to wean factories, mobile phone towers, and state-run bus companies from highly subsidised fuel.

But New Delhi has discovered that a partial-phase out of subsidies – particularly targeting affluent and resourceful entrepreneurs – is more difficult than it looks. Continue reading »

Subscribers to Bangladeshi mobile operator, Grameenphone, can breathe easy: Dhaka has no plans to suspend the company’s license – or its services. But Grameenphone’s owner, Telenor, still has cause for concern: Bangladesh’s government has not ruled out trying to force the Norwegian company to cede control of the lucrative venture. Continue reading »