India media: 'Warmth' between Gandhi cousins

Rahul Gandhi is leading the ruling Congress Party's election campaign Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rahul Gandhi is leading the ruling Congress Party's election campaign

Media in India are highlighting the rare display of "warmth" between "estranged" cousins Rahul and Varun Gandhi, grandsons of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

The leaders belong to "opposite sides of the political spectrum" as Rahul Gandhi is the vice-president of the Congress party while Varun is a member of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In a public meeting in Sultanpur in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, Varun praised Rahul's work with self-help groups in the Amethi parliamentary constituency.

Rahul Gandhi, who is an MP from Amethi, said he appreciated his cousin's praise.

But Varun Gandhi soon backtracked, tweeting that his comments "should not be seen as an endorsement of any political party or candidate".

Newspapers headlines are capturing the warm exchange of words, though short-lived, between the two leaders.

"Varun, Rahul warm up, back off," reads the front-page headline in the Hindustan Times.

The Times of India writes: "Varun lauds Rahul work, then retracts."

The Hindu mocks the situation through a cartoon published on its editorial page.

In the cartoon, a Rahul look-alike says: "If it's a hate speech against the rivals, the Election Commission doesn't like it." A Varun look-alike responds, saying: "If one credits the rival for good work, the party doesn't like it."

On a serious note, papers say that Varun Gandhi's remarks have left the BJP "red-faced".

"Varun Gandhi made a U-turn after praising his estranged cousin... But the statement has already embarrassed the BJP and brought a smile on Rahul's face," says the Deccan Herald.

"It was a rare show of bonhomie among the feuding branches of a clan that couldn't last more than a few hours… Party politics, however, played a crucial role in Varun's hurried retraction on Wednesday," says The Times of India.

Meanwhile, the BJP has "avoided a public snub" of Varun Gandhi but clarified that his remarks cannot be taken as the party's official line, the Deccan Herald adds.

Varun's remarks have come at a time when the BJP's Smriti Irani, who is contesting against Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, has strongly criticised the lack of development work in the area.

Sonia Gandhi's nomination

Staying with politics, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday filed her nomination papers to contest the parliamentary elections from the party's traditional bastion of Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.

The Tribune says Mrs Gandhi, a three-time MP from Rae Bareli, was given a "rapturous welcome" on her arrival and was showered with rose petals.

However, her daughter Priyanka Gandhi was "conspicuous" by her absence when Mrs Gandhi filed her nomination, says The Times of India.

In international news, Pakistan's new envoy to India Abdul Basit says Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants to "change the bilateral narrative of conflict" with Delhi, reports the First Post website.

Presenting his credentials to President Pranab Mukherjee, Mr Basit said Pakistan hoped the next Indian government would "move quickly" and "engage fruitfully" with the country, the website added.

Meanwhile, a new study says at least 36% of children in the Indian capital are malnourished, reports the India Today website.

The NGO Child Relief and You (CRY) surveyed 3,650 children (1,863 boys, 1,787 girls) in the urban slums of Delhi in December 2013.

"The fast pace of urbanisation poses a significant challenge to children living in urban slums. Especially newborns and infants whose health entirely depends on the availability of the mother to breastfeed, the ability of the caretaker and household to provide nutritious meals, the quality of the public healthcare system and overall community support," the website quotes CRY's Jaya Singh as saying.

And finally, billboards of foreign leaders have been put up in the southern state of Kerala urging people to vote for E Ahamed of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) party, reports The Times of India.

Billboards of current and former leaders from the Middle East and South Asia can be seen in Malappuram from where the former junior foreign minister is contesting the election, it says.

A local IUML official says the party is using photos of Gulf leaders to showcase Mr Ahamed's contribution in foreign issues.

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