Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent

Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

This is where to come for my take on life and times in the world’s largest democracy

Was India's PM Manmohan Singh undermined by own party?

14 April 2014
Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi
Critics say there has never been any doubt that Sonia Gandhi (right) is the real power centre in India and that Mr Singh (left) has never been fully in charge

Was the authority of India's PM Manmohan Singh seriously undermined by his own ruling Congress party? Did this contribute to a drift in governance and harm his image?

The prime minister's former media advisor Sanjaya Baru's pointedly-titled new book The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh suggests that his boss messed up an unprecedented second-term in office by acquiescing to his party's dictates; and that his rule swiftly descended into "a tale of missed opportunities, of weak and unfocussed leadership, and a confused foreign policy".

Mr Baru, a former journalist-turned-policy wonk who was picked up for the job personally by Mr Singh in 2004, writes that the famous Delhi diarchy - Mr Singh running the government and Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi looking after the party - failed spectacularly during the government's second term as the party effectively stymied the soft-spoken and taciturn prime minister. "He was defanged bit by bit," he writes about his boss.

Mr Baru writes that Mr Singh's "authority [was] curbed by the nature of power-sharing" between the Congress party president and the PM. "For Congress MPs, the leader to please was always Sonia [Gandhi]. They did not see loyalty to the PM as a political necessity, nor did Dr Singh seek loyalty in the way in which Sonia and her aides sought it."

Snubbed

As evidence, Mr Baru writes that a prominent bureaucrat in Mr Singh's office, "at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, had regular, almost daily meetings with Sonia at which he was said to brief her on the key policy issues of the day and seek her instructions on important files to be cleared by the PM".

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Why India vote is big gamble for BJP

7 April 2014
Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi is a polarising figure

Has India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) taken its biggest gamble ever by making the general election a referendum on its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi?

To be sure, Mr Modi is loved and loathed in equal measure.

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Why India's election could be close

5 March 2014
Supporters of India"s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)"s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi stand with their bodies painted at a youth convention in Ahmadabad, India.
The BJP, under Narendra Modi, is in the ascendant

No single party has won a majority in India's parliament since 1989 and governments since then have been formed with the support of smaller, regional parties.

Observers say the country's 16th general election - to be held in nine phases in April and May - will be no different.

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Why decision to free Rajiv Gandhi killers is a political masterstroke

19 February 2014
Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi's murder was seen as retaliation for his decision to send Indian peacekeepers to Sri Lanka

Tamil Nadu's decision to free seven people convicted of plotting the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is being described by many as a political masterstroke by the ruling state government.

The mercurial J Jayalalitha, who heads her ruling regional AIADMK party government, lost no time in taking a cue from the Supreme Court's ruling on Tuesday commuting the death sentences of three of the convicts, which cited federal government delays in deciding their mercy pleas.

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Why did Penguin recall a book on Hindus?

12 February 2014
Wendy Doniger
Wendy Doniger said she did not blame her publisher Penguin India for withdrawing her book The Hindus

"Now here's this book. And there will be more. After half a century of studying and engaging with Hinduism, I'm not about to be silenced by a few (bad) eggs," academic Wendy Doniger wrote in her latest book On Hinduism, published last year.

Doniger, who teaches at the University of Chicago and has written nearly half a dozen books on Hinduism, including a translation of the Kama Sutra, was writing about how her 2009 book The Hindus: An Alternative History quickly became a lightning rod for Hindu anger.

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  • Andrew North Andrew North South Asia correspondent

    Around and about the world's largest democracy


  • Damian Grammaticas, China correspondent Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

    The people, power and politics of China


  • Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

    The arguments over Europe, its politics and personalities


About Soutik

Before joining the BBC, Soutik worked with Indian newspapers and magazines and an international newspaper as a correspondent and an editor.

He was a Reuters Fellow at the University of Oxford.

Soutik has covered elections in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, the tsunami in India and Sri Lanka in 2005, and militancy in Kashmir, working mostly on a series of stories on the state of youth and women in the disputed region.

In 2005, he used a laptop link to connect BBC News readers from around the world to a people living in a Pashtun village in Afghanistan. He revisited the village two years later to do a similar project and to see how life had changed.

He loves blues and jazz, and believes Derek Trucks is the best and most innovative slide guitarist alive.

He is a big movie buff, with Michael Haneke, Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen and Satyajit Ray among his favourite directors.

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