Saturday, September 25, 1999
Another gun belt goes to polls
PATNA, Sept 24 Yet another gun belt in Bihar, 19 Lok Sabha constituencies in central and northern parts of the state, goes to the polls tomorrow against the backdrop of Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav fighting to offset the consolidation of opposition forces represented by the combination of the BJP and the Janata Dal (United).
The former Chief Ministers Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had won seven of the 19 seats last year.
The BJP, the Samata and the Janata Dal had bagged 11 seats among them. The RJDs poll partner, the Congress, had a solitary success in Begusarai.
Pledging to rid the state of the proxy Laloo raj, an apparent reference to Mr Yadavs wife Rabri Devi heading the government, the BJP-JD(U) combine leaders are harping on the poor state of affairs in the state. They are also hoping to cash in on the anti-incumbency factor, besides Mr Atal Behari Vajpayees charisma.
Unfazed, Mr Yadav is going ahead with his own calculations brushing aside allegations of poor governance by his party in the state. He follows his traditional methods of wooing voters through electoral rhetorics warning them of what he terms as a larger conspiracy to rob the poor and the downtrodden of their legitimate rights.
In Bhojpur region, where nine seats go to the polls tomorrow, balloting in two seats Sasaram and Bikramganj was held in the first phase.
A Naxalite hotbed infamous for poll-related violence, this constituency had recorded the largest number of cases relating to booth-capturing.
According to an analysis, only 30 per cent voters are literate here. Eightyseven per cent of them are engaged in agriculture-related activities. It has an equal number of landowning farmers and landless labourers, one of the main reasons for the internecine warfare between the Ranvir Sena of land-holders and the Left-supported militants.
The birthplace of Dr Rajendra Prasad, Siwan, was once a peaceful place but now guns and not ballots decide the fate of candidates.
The BJP had won the seat only in 1989. In the earlier decades, the voters generally favoured the congress. The seat went into the Janata Dal kitty in 1991.
Thereafter, the era of violence began and the controversial Syed Shahabuddin won the seat on the JD ticket in 1996. He was facing several charges under various Sections of the IPC at that time. He retained the seat in 1998 on the RJD ticket.
Mr Shahabuddin is once again in the fray with JD(U) nominee Akhlaque Ahmad as the main opponent. Siwan is a Muslim-dominated constituency with the community constituting 17 per cent of the electorate.
Gopalganj, the hometown of Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, has traditionally been a Congress stronghold. However, the situation underwent a sea-change in 1984 when despite
September 24, 1999
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|a countrywide sympathy wave following the
assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Congress not only
lost this seat but its candidate S.K. Mishra forfeited
The winner, Mr Kali Prasad Pandey, known as robinhood of central and north Bihar, had captured the seat as an independent. Mr Pandey contested the 1996 poll on Congress ticket and was trounced by Mr Lal Babu Yadav (JD). Subsequently, he joined the RJD but was defeated by SAP candidate Abdul Gafoor in 1998. This time, he is in the fray against Mr Laloo Yadavs friend-turned-foe Raghunath Jha (JD-U).
Comprising six assembly segments, this constituency is dominated by Muslims followed by Rajputs, SCs and Ahirs.
Motihari in east Champaran district is where Mahatma Gandhi conducted his first satyagraha movement in 1917 after returning from South Africa.
Little of the Gandhian legacy of non-violence remains. The CPI candidate Mr K.M. Madhukar, won this seat thrice. In 1996 Mr R.M. Singh of the BJP won this seat but RJD candidate Rama Devi wrested it from him in 1998. The two are once again in the fray.
In Arrah, sitting MP H.P. Singh is again in the contest as JD(U) nominee against RJDs Ram Prasad Singh. The voter profile shows Ahirs (18 per cent), SCs (17 per cent), Muslims (8 per cent), Rajputs (8 per cent) and Brahmins (7 per cent).
The Muslim-dominated Bettiah constituency was won by the BJP in 1996. Party candidate Mahendra Prasad Jaiswal won this seat by a margin of over 50,000 votes. He retained the seat in 1998, defeating his closest RJD rival Motiur Rahman. Mr Mahendra Bitha (JD-U) is this time taking on Mr Purnamasi Ram of the RJD. This constituency has Muslims 22 per cent, SCs 15 per cent, Ahirs 10 per cent and/Brahmins and Kurmis (7 per cent).
Chapra is the seat from where Mr Laloo Prasad won for the first time in 1977 on the BLD ticket. However, he lost to Janata Party candidate Satyadeo Singh in 1980. He recaptured it in 1989 on the JD ticket. In 1996, BJP candidate Rajiv Pratap Rudi won from here by a margin of almost 15,000 votes. In 1998, RJD candidate Heera Lal Rai wrested this seat from him. Both are once again in the fray this time.
In 1996, Samata candidate Ram Bahadur Singh won the Maharajganj seat with a huge margin of over 1,50,000 votes. The party improved its margin to more than two lakh votes in 1998, though the candidate was changed.
Sitting MP Prabhunath Singh is once again in the fray against Congress candidate M. P. Singh who was the runner-up last time.
Buxar, situated on the banks of the Ganga, the most fertile area in the state, is famous in history as the site of the battle of Buxar which established British supremacy in India.
This constituency is represented by Mr Lal Muni Choubey (BJP) who has a clean image. This grassroots politician won this seat in 1996 and retained it in 1998. This time, he is once again in the fray against Mr Shivanand Tiwari (RJD) and Mr Tej Narain Singh (CPI).
Five seats of the Wazika Mithila region Hajipur, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Barh are also going to the polls tomorrow.
In Hajipur (SC), JD(U) leader and former Union Minister Paswan, whose name entered The Guinness Book of Records after his victory with a margin of four lakhs in 1977, is again on a comfortable wicket here, encashing on the facilities he extended to the constituency during his stint as Railway minister in the UF regime. Mr Ramai Ram (RJD) and five more are in the fray here.
Vaishali has sitting MP Raghuvans Prasad Singh (RJD) facing Mr Anand Mohan Singhs wife Lovely Anand who has the backing of the BJP-JD(U) combine.
In Muzaffarpur, Capt. Jai Narain Nishad, after quitting the RJD is in the fray as JD(U) nominee taking on Mr Mahendra Sahni of RJD. In Darbhanga, Mr M.A.H. Fatmi, a close associate of Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, is taking on BJPs cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad.
The violence-prone Barh constituency has already witnessed poll related incidents. Former Railway Minister Nitish Kumar is facing RJDs Vijay Krishna.
In the Anga Magdh region
where five seats go to the polls on Saturday, the
election results were favourable for the RJD. It notched
up victories in four of the 11 seats. Balia, Monghyr,
Begusarai, Patna and Nalanda are the constituencies going
to the polls. UNI
Chaudhury in triangular fight
CALCUTTA: The Malda constituency in West Bengal on the Indo-Bangladesh border witnesses a triangular fight in which former Railway Minister and presently West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) chief Mr Ghani Khan Chaudhury is one of the contestants. He has won this seat six-time consecutively since 1982.
Mr Chaudhury often says that he loves Malda more than he loves Bengal, as he loves Bengal more than he loves India. Bengal and Bengali are my first concern. I am first Bengali and then an Indian, he boasts.
This is not a false claim by Mr Chaudhury. When he was West Bengals Power Minister in the Siddhartha Ray government in the seventies, he recruited as many as 11,000 unemployed youth in the state electricity board. Similarly, when he was the Railway Minister, he again recruited a large number of unemployed, irrespective of their caste, creed or political affiliation.
Mr Chaudhury won the 1998 elections by a margin of 49,082 votes defeating the CPI(M) candidate, Mr Jiban Mitra, in 1996, he won by defeating Mr Sailon Sarker of the CPI(M) by a margin of 89,822 votes. In the 1991 elections, he again defeated Mr Sarker, then a minister in the Chief Minister Jyoti Basus Cabinet, by a thin margin of 1820 votes.
Acknowledging his contribution in the development of West Bengal, Ms Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress did not field any candidate against him in the 1998 elections. But this time, the Trinamool Congress is supporting the BJP candidate, Mr Muzaffar Khan, who in the 1998 poll had secured 1,69,260 votes, while the CPI(M) candidate got 3,04,035.
The CPM has fielded Mr Sailen Sarkar, who has fought five times unsuccessfully against Chaudhary. But this time, the situation appears to be different and the CPI (M) candidate seems to be in an advantageous position.
In money matter, the Congress candidate is not very sound, though he can count on hundreds of his supporters.
The BJP candidate, Mr Muzaffar Khan, is a former Congress worker. But as the BJP grew its influence in the state.
Mr Muzaffar Khan switched over to the BJP and became a member of the partys state committee and now is an important leader in the party. But he is still stranger to a large section of people in the district as he is a resident of Calcutta.
On the other hand, both Mr Chaudhury and Mr Sarkar hail from the district. Mr Sarker is a teacher in a school.
Mr Chaudhary during his
long political career has virtually rebuilt India. Even
his staunch critics admit that the present Malda is his
creation. If Mr Chaudhary this time also, it will be
because of the good work done for Malda and its people by
Its Left Front vs TC-BJP combine
CALCUTTA: The electoral battle in West Bengal is likely to be limited between the CPM-led Left Front and the Trinamool Congress-BJP combine despite the presence of Congress candidates in all 42 Lok Sabha seats of the state.
With the emergence of the TC-BJP alliance last year the political polarisation in the Red bastion has sharply changed and the vote share of the Congress, which had gone over 40 per cent in the 1996 elections, had come down to just 15.20 in 1998 with a massive negative swing of 24.93 per cent against it.
There was a marginal negative swing of about 2 per cent against the Left Front, too, last year.
Poll analysts say that the TC-BJP combine had benefited the most from it.
Statistics indicate that contesting the poll for the first time in 1998, the TC had secured 24.43 per cent votes while its electoral ally, the BJP, had gained 4.15 per cent as the partys vote percentage had increased to 10.20 from 6.05 per cent in 1996.
They say that unlike in 1998 when the Trinamool Congress and BJP even fought a friendly contest in one constituency failing to resolve their differences over seat sharing, this time the combine, despite initial hiccups, has a comparatively smooth going.
The TC fielded candidates in 28 constituencies and extended support to expelled CPM leader. N. Bagdi, contesting as an Independent from Bankura, and left the remaining 13 seats to the BJP.
Another factor, they say, which may help the combine is its decision to hold a joint campaign which was largely absent in the last elections.
BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Ms Sushma Swaraj were slated to campaign for Trinamool Congress candidates. Setting aside her initial reservation, TC leader Mamata Banerjee has also agreed to hold a few meetings in constituencies where BJP candidates are in the fray.
Ms Banerjee, who repeatedly pronounced her partys support to Mr Vajpayee as its prime ministerial candidate, is defending him against the charge of communalism brought by the Marxists and the Congress.
Analysts say the Congress fortunes may further decline with the desertion of a number of prominent party leaders who joined the Trinamool camp. At least four Congress MLAs, including senior party leader Subrata Mukherjee and former Union Minister Debi Pal, switched over to the TC recently while some more are sitting on the fence.
Putting up a brave face, Congress leaders, however, refuse to agree that it will affect the partys poll prospects and accuse the Trinamool Congress leadership of engineering defections in its ranks.
Former WBPCC president and chairman of the partys campaign committee Somen Mitra also charged the Trinamool Congress, which branded the Congress as the B team of the Marxists, with helping CPM-led front by dividing the Congress votes.
Analysts say any further erosion in the Congress votebank will directly benefit the TC-BJP alliance. In the 1998 poll the Trinamool Congress had won seven seats while the BJP had opened its account in the state by winning Dum Dum, the traditional stronghold of the CPM, by a decisive margin of 1.37 lakh votes.
The Congress, which was nearly decimated, had managed to retain only Malda, the constituency of former Railway Minister and WBPCC President A. B. A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury.
Worried over the fact, the CPM had directed its attack on the combine with its veteran leader and state Chief Minister Jyoti Basu lambasting the TC leadership for helping the BJP get a foothold in the state.
Apart from raising the issue of communalism, Mr Basu also levelled the charge of corruption against the BJP-led government at the Centre.
Both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP, which have made stability one of their poll planks, accused the Marxists of destabilising the Vajpayee government and urged the electorate to install a stable government at the Centre.
Multi-cornered contests are on the cards in all constituencies in the state.
The Howrah constituency has the maximum number of 18 contestants followed by Calcutta North West. Ten Independent candidates are also in the fray in Howrah.
As many as 12 candidates are in the race in Malda, the constituency of former Railway Minister A.B.A Ghani Khan Chowdhury.
Four constituencies Mathurapur, Arambagh, Panskura and Bolpur have the minimum number of aspirants and will witness four-cornered contests.
Both the Trinamool Congress and the Congress have changed their candidates in Howrah while Mayor of the Howrah Municipal Corporation Swadesh Chakraborty is seeking re-election from Howrah on the CPM ticket. The TC had won the seat in the 1998 elections.
Calcutta North West is another constituency where the Congress and the CPM have fielded new candidates. Former state Chief Minister and Congress heavy-weight S.S Ray has locked horns with Sudip Bandopadhyay, the TC member in the dissolved Lok Sabha from this seat. CPM has nominated party MLA Rajdeo Goala.
Three old rivals, including Khan Chowdhury will battle it out in Malda. Khan Chowdhury, also the state Congress president, is seeking re-election for the seventh consecutive time from this semi-urban constituency bordering Bangladesh.
Chowdhury has as his rivals Sailen Sarkar of the CPM and Muzaffar Khan of the BJP. The Janata Dal (S) and the Muslim League have also fielded nominees for this seat from where six Independents are in the fray.
CPM stalwart Somnath Chatterjee has locked horns with Suniti Chattaraj of TC and Sushil Banerjee of the Congress from Bolpur. Chatterjee had won the seat four times in a row since 1989.
A veteran of many poll battles, CPI leader Gita Mukherjee is seeking re-election for the seventh time from Panskura. In the four-cornered contest, she will face new rivals in Gouri Ghose (TC) and Rajani Kanta Dolui of the Congress.
Anil Basu and Radhika Ranjan Pramanik, both CPM, are once again trying their luck from Arambagh and Mathurapur respectively, which will also witness four-cornered contests. Basu has won the Arambagh seat in every Lok Sabha poll since 1984, while Mathurapur has returned Pramanik four times since 1989.
Cong fate in Muslim hands
SILCHAR: The 35 per cent Muslim voters in the Silchar Lok Sabha constituency in Assam will be a deciding factor for Congress heavyweight Santosh Mohan Dev and his main adversary BJPs Kabindra Purakasyastha in the four-cornered contest to the prestigious seat.
Also in the fray are Mr Devs brother Subhas Mohan Dev, a candidate of the Nationalist Congress Party and Assam Irrigation Minister Abdul Muhib Mazumdar of the United Peoples party of Assam for the October 3 polls.
Mr Santosh Mohan Dev, Steel Minister in the Narasimha Rao government, had won the seat in 1980 and 1996, to be beaten last year by Mr Purakayastha, even though the Congress had won 11 of the 14 parliamentary seats in the state.
He did not contest in 1991 when Mr Purakasyastha, a teacher-turned politician notched up BJPs first- ever victory in the northeast by winning from Silchar.
Neither of the two-time winners of the seat expect the NCP and the UPPA to pose a serious challenge to them.
Mr Subhas, Santoshs brother and his poll manager in 1998, parted ways following family differences. The NCP was quick to grab the opportunity in fielding him as its candidate for the seat.
Mr Majumdar, UPPA belonging to the minority community is also eyeing the Muslim votebank, with the Congress viewing this with some concern, observers say.
The main issues in this relatively insurgency-free constituency is the top priority accorded by voters to the extension of the broad gauge line to Silchar.
The common man, however, has little to say on the prospects of development work in the constituency.
One has to only see the condition of roads and high prices of essential commodities to ascertain what our leaders have got from the government, says journalist Nirupam Banerjee.
Residents again deprived of voting right
SHRINAGAR, (Garhwal), Sept 24 (UNI) A sojourn on the holy hilltop has again deprived them of their voting right.
For the 2000-odd people who stay in the rugged Badrinathpuri during the summer for a livelihood, the Lok Sabha elections have come at a wrong period this time as well.
Far from their homes, they are stripped off the right to franchise despite many of them owning permanent property in the locality of the famous Shiva Temple. They faced a similar electoral fate during the poll for the 12th Lok Sabha.
This is because the area has no polling station. Several fora of local people, who stay here for the six-month summer, have appealed for a temporary arrangement to cast votes, but the matter has not yet been taken up by the authorities.
Every single thing said by us is the truth and stated with full responsibility.
Samata Party general secretary Jaya Jaitly on the fake ballot papers controversy in Bihar.
We will open a film university here.
Muzaffar Ali, Samajwadi Party candidate from Naini Tal, to an electorate that would prefer food.
Terrorist organisations and their foreign patrons are mistaken if they think that India is a soft state that will be deterred by their violent threats and acts.
L.K. Advani warning that India will crush religious terrorism
Weve no choice. We are facing the proverbial problem of choosing between the bad and the worse.
A student in Lucknow
I am not contesting a seat. I am fighting for Indias honour.
I had to sacrifice my government for not supporting a corrupt politician. The Congress shook hands with the same corrupt leader.
A.B. Vajpayee on Jayalalitha
The Congress ruled for 47 years and always provided a stable government. In contrast, all other parties who came to power failed to continue for the full term.
Sonia Gandhi at an election rally in Tura (Meghalaya)
It is not a small thing that women in the BJP are remembered in times of crisis. I think all women in the country should take pride in this.
Sushma Swaraj on her contest against Sonia Gandhi
This would be my last bid to be elected.
Narain Dutt Tiwari, Congress candidate from Naini Tal
GANGTOK (PTI): Women voters outnumber their male counters parts in four of the 32 assembly constituencies in Sikkim going to the polls on October 3. Among the four, three constituencies are located in the tribal-dominated North District in which Dzonou has 2780 women as against 2689 male voters. Lachen-Manashila has 3763 women in comparison with 3613 male voters and in Kabi-Tinada 2800 women outnumber 2756 male voters in the constituency, according to Election Department sources.
(PTI): Election fatigue and a steep hike in the
security deposit for filing of nomination papers appear
to have caused a drastic fall in the number of candidates
who entered the fray for the Lok Sabha elections in
Orissa this time. Compared to the all-time high of 226
candidates who were in the fray for the 11th Lok Sabha in
1996, only 105 aspirants have entered the electoral arena
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