BJP’s graft is Cong trump card in HP
Digvijay joins Renu in seeking votes for Jogi
STATE OF PARTIES: CONGRESS
Stars shine in desert state
Dhaba poll wisdom:
se laabh hoga
STATE OF PARTIES: BJP
If EC can’t help, who can: Karuna
Parties prefer old guard in Karnataka
Kataria banks on feel good factor
Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Ratan Lal Kataria is trying for a second term in Parliament. Mr Kataria had won from the Ambala (reserved) Lok Sabha seat in the last Parliamentary elections.
This time, Mr Kataria is banking upon the feel good factor generated through the “good work” carried out by the BJP-led NDA government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to ensure a win at the hustings.
Mr Kataria said, “The electorate in Ambala is aware that I have carried out a number of development works all over the constituency. In all wards falling in the city areas and in most of the villages, I have carried out development works through the MP funds.”
“During my tenure, I have stressed upon education, health and water availability.
Interestingly, a village near Sadhaura highlights my efforts. The village, called Paniwala, did not have potable water for the past five decades, but I got a submersible tubewell installed there.”
Mr Kataria said the people would vote for him as they know that he had worked for their welfare. “They will give me an opportunity to serve them for a second term. Incidentally, the people want to see Mr Vajpayee serve another term as Prime Minister. Voters will cast their vote in favour of the BJP,” he said.
For the second term, Mr Kataria promises to stress on industrial growth, farm sector and issues pertaining to the reserved classes. “I will try to generate employment, take care of the interests of the farmers and work for below-poverty-line people,” he said. “I will try to get a major project for Ambala, preferably a scientific unit.
The Saha growth centre is estimated to generate employment for 25,000 people,” he said.
Having been president of Haryana unit of the BJP for more than three years, Mr Kataria said his work had strengthened the party. “During my tenure, I opposed the anti-people policy being followed by Mr Om Prakash Chautala. I had to face lathis in Faridabad,” he stated.
The BJP has won the seat five times. While Mr Suraj Bhan won from Ambala four times in 1967, 1977, 1980 and 1996, Mr Kataria won this seat in 1999.
Balwant rests on INLD govt laurels
Indian National Lok Dal candidate Balwant Singh is contesting the Lok Sabha election for the second time. While his two earlier attempts were unsuccessful, Mr Balwant Singh is confident that he will be third time lucky.
Mr Balwant Singh, who is MLA from the Sadhaura Assembly segment which is part of the Ambala Lok Sabha seat, is confident that the development work carried out by the Chautala government will ensure a victory.
“A lot of development work has been carried out in all villages and towns.
The welfare measures for the people from different walks of life have brought a positive change in the quality of the life of people. No area has been left untouched,” he said.
Mr Balwant Singh said the Haryana Government had provided excellent road connectivity to villages. “The road network is the best. Also, potable water is available to villagers. The various projects undertaken by the INLD government have ensured that there is no scarcity of water,” he said.
He stated that the power situation had improved in the state since the INLD came to power in Haryana. “By this year-end, there will be no shortage of power in the state. People of the Ambala constituency as well as other constituencies are aware that we have ensured that not only basic amenities are provided, but their problems are also sorted out immediately,” he stated.
“The electorate in the Ambala constituency has witnessed that we have spent crores of rupees on different development projects.
We have touched the lives of the people,” he said. “People will vote for development carried out by us,” he added.
Industry is Selja’s priority
MS Selja is well aware of the rough and tumble of politics. A former minister in the Union Government, two-term Member of Parliament and Congress spokesperson, Ms Selja brings with her a wide variety of experience.
However, Ms Selja is considered a high-profile candidate, albeit for an different reason. She is considered close to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Ms Selja has her work cut out. She is not only reaching out to the electorate with the promise of bringing a positive change, she is determined to prove her detractors wrong who brand her as an outsider.
Ms Selja, who hails from Sirsa, said the party high command decided that she should contest the election from the Ambala constituency. She said the decision was taken on the basis of the representations received from the local Congress leaders.
“Being an outsider is not an issue. I am Haryana’s daughter. But, it is not easy to forget my 40-year-old association with Sirsa,” she said. “I am getting the support of the people. I have always served the people to the best of my ability. I am determined to solve the local problems faced by the people,” she said.
Ms Selja said she would accord priority to the industry, farming sector and problems being faced by the common man. “The farmers of Ambala are facing a number of problems. There is an urgent need for giving a boost to the industry,” Ms Selja said. “The lack of employment avenues in Ambala is a matter of concern and I will try to generate employment for the people,” she promised.
“I will also focus on people living below the poverty line. I will try to ensure that they have the basic amenities. The issues concerning the backward sections of society will also be taken up by me,” she said.
Incidentally, Ms Selja did not contest the last Lok Sabha election. “I was asked to work at Bellary so I did not contest,” she said.
Ms Selja stressed that there were no differences among Congresspersons in the state. “Our party believes in democracy and it is not a family party.
Now that the election process has started, all Congress persons are working towards ensuring the victory of the party candidate,” she added.
BJP’s graft is Cong trump card in HP
Shimla, April 16
The issue of corruption, which the Congress successfully exploited to oust the Dhumal Government, continues to be its trump card. The party was able to put the BJP on the defensive by using corruption as a lethal weapon. This time the issue is being presented before the electorate in the national perspective by mentioning tehelka, UTI scam, nepotism in allotment of petrol pumps and various other alleged scandals involving the NDA Government at the Centre. It is making much of its crusade against corruption and highlighting the findings of the vigilance inquiries into various scams, particularly the irregularities in recruitments in the State Subordinate Services Selection Board and Himachal Pradesh University, to paint the Dhumal Government as the most corrupt in the history of the state.
The BJP is trying to counter the onslaught by highlighting the alleged corruption during the one-year Congress rule. It is terming the much-publicised drive against corruption as nothing more than a vilification campaign to tarnish the image of opposition leaders. The Congress Government, it is telling the people, was indulging in political vendetta in the garb of crusade against corruption. It is also harping on the issue of development and the feel-good factor, which failed to click during the Assembly elections. It is now banking more on the Vajpayee factor and trying to convince the people that development had come to a halt since the ouster of the BJP Government. The Congress Government did not have funds even to pay salaries of the employees and whatever little was happening on the development front was all because of the central schemes. It makes a special mention of the Prime Minister’s rural road programme, Sarvshiksha abhiyan, Annapuran yozna and the Swajaldhara schemes to prove its point. The Vajpayee Government had been magnanimous in giving assistance even after the change of the government in the state. It had given special assistance of Rs 553 crore to the Virbhadra Singh Government to maintain the plan size as the state did not have its own resources.
The blame game for the perennial financial crisis plaguing the state is continuing. The issue had figured prominently not only in the 2003 Assembly poll but also during the 1998 elections. The Congress is accusing the Dhumal Government of plunging the state into a debt-trap by raising indiscriminate loans and leaving a debt burden of over Rs 15,000 crore. The BJP, however, maintains that it was Mr Virbhadra Singh who spoiled the state’s case before the Ninth Finance Commission by concealing the Budget deficit.
Digvijay joins Renu in seeking votes for Jogi
Mahasamund, April 16
Canvassing by AICC leaders in Mahasamund has boosted the morale of Congress workers. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, seen to have some differences with Mr Jogi, today sought votes for him in Mahasamund.
Dr Renu Jogi was received at the Raipur airport yesterday by hundreds of supporters of Mr Jogi. Coming to her residence in Raipur after visiting the driver and the Congress leader injured in the accident along with Mr Jogi, she first completed the formalities regarding her resignation from the medical college here.
She started her visit to Mahasamund with prayers at Rajimlochan temple in Rajim, a stronghold of BJP candidate V.C. Shukla. Ms Jogi is likely to visit various villages of the constituency during the next three days.
She appeared keen about acceptance of her resignation before beginning her meetings with the voters of Mahasamund. “It is not campaigning. I am here to sort out problems, if any. The election is to be ultimately fought by the party workers,” she said.
Answering questions, she said her husband was keen to come to Mahasamund on the last day of campaigning. “Doctors at Mumbai hospital will determine on April 17 if he is in a condition to travel. He may move around in the constituency in a vehicle,” she said.
She said she was optimistic about the chances of Congress victory in Mahasamund. “I am an optimist. Mr Jogi has fought five elections from here in the past six years and was elected four times. I believe it all depends on the people. Mr Jogi is confident of winning from here as he has done a lot for the area's development.”
Supporters of Mr Jogi from all over Chhattisgarh are pouring in at his residence in Raipur. Audio cassettes of his election speech before accident have been distributed all over Mahasamund. Videos of Mr Jogi putting up a fight for his recovery in the hospital and his message to the people of the constituency are being prepared for screening on the last two days.
Congress workers are mainly focusing on Mahasamund’s nearly 70 per cent rural electorate among whom Mr Jogi is seen to have a lot of support.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, senior Congress leaders Arjun Singh and Suresh Pachouri and state PCC chief Motilal Vora are among those who will address meetings in Mahasamund over the next three days. Bollywood stars, including Asrani and Sharad Kapoor, are also expected to campaign for Mr Jogi.
Addressing meetings at Mahasamund town and Baghbera, Mr Digvijay Singh described Mr Jogi as a “talented young leader who ably governed the new state.”
Mr Singh took a dig at Mr V.C. Shukla, claiming that even BJP workers seemed hesitant to trust him because of his changing political affinities. The former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister sought to puncture the goodwill for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by talking about the rise in the prices of kerosene, diesel, edible oil and urea in the past five years of NDA rule.
Chandigarh, April 16
The performance of the Congress is under a scanner. It will impact the election results. If Capt Amarinder Singh finds himself “helpless” or was dubbed “rollback” Chief Minister, blame must be apportioned to his own party colleagues and the high command. It is the infighting that makes the Chief Minister spend more time in New Delhi, fire-fighting fires lit by his own people, rather than implementing bold reforms he had so successfully initiated.
The mutual suspicion has not allowed the Chief Minister to form a small group of mature politicians and honest bureaucrats to guide him or take full control and command over men and matters. His coterie had only one agenda — self-aggrandisation or instigating the ‘boss’ to let loose Vigilance on opponents, politicians or bureaucrats. The result is “systems failure and anarchy.”
It is widely perceived that the SAD-BJP government did no good to the state, institutionalised corruption, frittered away opportunities to consolidate Punjab’s assets, failed to galvanise social and economic sectors or build up financial economy and made feeble attempts to diversify agriculture or industrialise through IT and biotechnology.
It is now widely believed that the Congress was making sure it left behind nothing good. Its facade of anti-corruption drive is skewed and exposed. Its own acts of omission and commission are numerous and ad hoc decision-making and persistent infighting has made it an object of public ridicule. If there is resentment against the government among the people, the bureaucracy believes in the “lie low, go slow” policy.
The Congress in Punjab has undergone a metamorphosis since the assassination of Beant Singh in August, 1995. He had come to power in 1992. The poll percentage was just 23.28. Within a short span, he had brought back peace, making “peace with prosperity” a Congress slogan. Even that gain for Punjab was gradually frittered away by the Congress due to leaders’ internal bickerings and the party lost power in the Assembly elections in 1997.
The electoral performance of the Congress in the Parliament or Assembly elections in Punjab has had many ups and downs, since the reorganisation of the state in 1966. The Congress had lost a considerable support base by 1985. Out of the six Assembly elections held after 1966, it got a majority only twice, in 1972 and 1980.
By 1985, Operation Bluestar had changed the ground situation and altered the political scene. Then the Congress had won only 32 seats, against 63 in 1980, whereas the Akalis had bagged 73 seats, against 37 in 1980.
There is, however, an interesting difference in the internal squabbles of the Congress and in the Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD). In SAD, Akalis keep splitting and joining like amoeba or even form separate outfits, whereas, in the Congress, though, the leaders are labeled as ‘rebels’ or ‘dissidents’ they remain within the party, as trouble-shooters for their opponents, spending more time at the AICC in New Delhi, rather than serving the state.
The Congress in Punjab has lost the will to work as a cohesive unit. State leaders have opened their own “help-or-hot-lines” to individual AICC members. They indulge in backbiting. The Congress ministers have treated the NDA government at the Centre as “alien” and “untouchable”, rarely they sought any benefits for the state. They spent exchequer money only to please AICC bosses, all this time.
Stars shine in desert state
Jaipur, April 16
‘’I have received tremendous love from you all,’’ Dharmendra says, breaking into another speech about mother earth, his farming background, national duty and mutual affection.
Usually he also extols the people of Rajasthan and speaks of his commitment towards serving them. His speech, peppered with Urdu couplets, is a bonus for villagers who, having harvested their best crop in five years, join in the entertainment.
No wonder the screen icon, the BJP candidate from Bikaner, has been the prime crowd-puller on Rajasthan’s election stage so far.
There was a near stampede and police had to use batons to clear the crowd when he arrived along with his actor son, Sunny Deol, at the Bikaner collectorate yesterday to file his nomination. — UNI
Dhaba poll wisdom:
cricket se laabh hoga
Bhognipur, April 16
It was well past noon when the unusual name of a roadside eatery made us stop just outside Etawah. Punjabi Mama Dhaba? We had seen quite a few Sher-e-Punjab and just plain Punjabi Dhabas, and stopped at some, during our tour of UP.
We entered the huge tin shed, with not even a single fan to dry our sweat; we looked around for a burly Sardarji to greet us. One of the many hired hands told us that “mama” had died last year. He had quite a few properties in Etawah. The dhaba had been given to the youngest of his four sons.
Babu Yadav, who evidently was in charge of the dhaba in the absence of the junior Sardar, was more comfortable discussing politics of the state than that of the eatery. Yes, he had heard about Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh being blamed for misleading Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav. “Arey yeh virodhiyon ka sharyantra hai. No one can fool Netaji”. He spoke with an authority of someone who was close to the Chief Minister. Of course, Mr Mulayam Singh’s ancestral village home and the one he had set up in Etawah would make any millionaire look like a pauper. Everyone in the region knew about his humble background. But today, his political clout and personal wealth are discussed with undisguised pride in the land of Yaduvanshis.
In the entire belt, it is the family’s writ that runs. The sarkari guest houses have been re-done on a scale that would make star hotels look ordinary. Even if you do not have an allotment but have been recommended by his family, you will be treated as a state guest.
An innocent question received a revealing answer from Babu Yadav. Are you sure the Samajwadi Party will sweep the poll in UP? “Sarkar kis ki hai is Pradesh mein?”. A counter-question from him was equally revealing. “Netaji kay kya chances hain election kay baad?” We shared with him the speculation that he could emerge as a compromise candidate for the Prime Minister’s post if the secular parties are able to win enough seats for replacing the NDA.
The eyes of Babu Yadav and the other hired hands lit up in anticipation.
As we moved on, we spotted a New Punjabi Mama Dhaba a short distance away from where we had run into the “original” mama dhaba. Move over Sher-e-Punjab, you have competition.
We stopped for tea at a dhaba in Bhognipur, near Kanpur. It turned out to be a truckers’ halting point. They come from virtually all parts of the country. We asked two truckers, one looked like the ustad and the other his chela, whether traveling all over the country gave them an insight into election trends.
“Humein maal dhoney say fursat kahan jo hum vote shote kay chakkar mein parein”, was the chela’s candid answer. Twenty days a month the truckers are on the road before they get to see their families.
So most of them do not get to vote in elections because of the nature of their work? “Arey hum logon ko vote say kya matlab”, was the ustad’s answer. This made the chela deliver a short speech on the importance of every vote.
The meeting had just begun to warm up. It was the ustad’s turn to spring a surprise. “Dekho ji, main BJP ka worker hoon. But I do not allow anyone to cast bogus votes, even if he is our voter. Dharmendra is sure to win from Bikaner. Who Jat hai aur usko sarey Jat milengay. Even otherwise, he is a good man”. Was it the ustad who said he did not worry too much if he could not vote because of work? The ustad then twirled his moustache and rolled his eyes in a meaningful manner. “Aap ko ek patey ki baat batata hoon. Cricket ka hum ko chunvai mein laabh hoga”. How can a game of cricket, even if it is played between India and Pakistan, help the BJP? “Aap dekhe jaao.”
India has created history by winning both the one-day and the Test series by beating Pakistan in Pakistan. Will it translate into votes for the BJP? Will the ustad’s prediction come true? We shall know on May 13.
Shimla, April 16
Seeds of factionalism were sown in 1997 when the rival camps headed by Mr P.K. Dhumal, a former Chief Minister, and Mr Shanta Kumar, a former Union Minister, clashed during the election of the state party chief at Jawalamukhi. Though the party managed to form a government with the support of the Himachal Vikas Congress, infighting continued.
The Shanta faction was at the receiving end as the high command gave a free hand to Mr Dhumal to run the government and manage the party affairs. The Shanta loyalists, including four ministers and three legislators, revolted against Mr Dhumal twice to seek a fair deal. The high command intervened and bought peace with dissidents by conceding their demand to shift Mr Narinder Modi, in charge of the party affairs in Himachal Pradesh. The move to create new districts and delimitation brought fresh trouble for the party. The factional divide was widened as the Shanta camp saw both moves as a conspiracy to undermine its support base. With the Assembly elections round the corner the moves were dropped but by that time much damage had already been done to the party. It was routed in the Assembly poll.
The defeat made the high command wiser and it decided to conduct the entire organisational poll through consensus. The idea was to avoid replay of the Jawalamukhi episode which had brought the party on the verge of a vertical split. The strategy worked as barring Kangra and Kulu, where the district Presidents were chosen by election, the new teams of office-bearers were decided by consensus. The high command had its way and Mr Suresh Bhardwaj was eventually elected the state BJP chief by consensus. The Lok Sabha poll has come rather early for the party as the new team has just taken over.
Taking advantage of the Kargil conflict, the BJP-HVC combine had made a clean sweep of all four seats in the 1999 Lok Sabha poll. The combine polled 59 per cent votes and led in 64 of the 68 Assembly segments. However, the HVC subsequently parted ways with the BJP as a result of which it could win only 16 seats in the 2003 Assembly elections.
With the HVC merging into the Congress, the BJP may not be able to repeat its 1999 performance. It is trying to strengthen its position by bringing estranged leaders back into the party fold. Many expelled leaders have been reinducted though the cases of some important leaders like Mr Narinder Thakur, Mr Mohinder Sofat and Mr Kamal Padha are still pending due to differences between rival factions over their re-entry.
The Congress dominated the political scene for about three decades and the BJP emerge as a political force to challenge it only after 1977 when the Janata Party swept the poll. It won three seats in 1989 and two in 1991. The party repeated its 1989 performance in 1998 when it again won three seats. The BJP has never won the Shimla seat and even in 1999 it was its coalition partner, which won the seat.
If EC can’t help, who can: Karuna
Chennai, April 16
After a meeting of the leaders of the Democratic Progressive Alliance here, he said, “What can be done, if the EC itself throws up its hands?”
Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami had on Wednesday asked political parties to raise the level of campaigning.
Karunanidhi refused to answer repeated questions on superstar Rajnikanth’s directive to his fans to work for the defeat of PMK nominees and on incidents at Madurai, where some Rajnikanth’s fans were attacked allegedly by PMK men, when they staged a black flag demonstration against party leader Dr S. Ramadoss.
He refused to comment on the latest opinion polls, which predicted a victory for DPA. — PTI
Parties prefer old guard in Karnataka
Bangalore, April 16
The Congress heads the list with 139 members of the previous House, including Chief Minister S.M. Krishna and 35 of his ministerial colleagues, getting renominated. Its number had been bolstered as it accommodated most of the Janata Dal (United) members, who joined the party just before the announcement of the elections.
The BJP has given the ticket to 30 members of the dissolved Assembly, the JD (Secular) 10, the JD (U) three and Independents two. The fledgling Ursu Samyukta Party had one nominee in V. Pappanna, who won the previous elections on the BJP symbol.
The tally does not include BJP’s Subash Kallur, whose election last time had been set aside by the Supreme Court. He was renominated by the party to contest from Humnabad in Bidar district.
While the Congress is contesting all 224 seats in the two-phase elections, with 120 constituencies going to the polls in the first phase and the remaining in the second, the JD (S) had given four seats to the CPM and was contesting from the remaining 220. The BJP is in alliance with the AIADMK (two) and the JD (U) (26).
The Congress, with only 135 members at the time of dissolution of the House, increased its tally, thanks to members from other parties joining it following unprecedented party hopping witnessed in the state in the run-up to the elections which saw the disintegration of the JD (U).