M A I N   N E W S

NC goes PDP way, gives money for vote pledge
Naveen S. Garewal and Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Mendhar (Poonch), November 12
When it comes to contesting and winning elections, political parties have no qualms. Money, muscle or cashing in on innocence and religious sentiments comes easy. Taking a cue from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that has been taking help from religious leaders in its campaign, some candidates of the Omar Abdullah-led National Conference (NC) is also using both money and religion to secure an edge.

Over the past few days, supporters of Javed Ahmed Rana, NC candidate from Mendhar segment in Poonch district, have scanned voter lists to identify the poorer sections among the electorate. “Once identified, these people are approached and offered money ranging from Rs 500 onward for a vote. Those who accept the money are made to pledge their vote by swearing on the Koran”, a relative of a beneficiary has disclosed.

There are reports from other constituencies of similar practices being followed there. In one specific case, poll managers of Rana approached a youth in Nar Nakka, near Harni, about 17 km from Mendhar, and offered him money. When the youth (a Muslim Rajput) gave the money to his family, they rebuked him, forcing him to give away the money to the poor and further directed him to stay away from voting.

Mendhar is predominantly a Muslim constituency comprising nearly 40 per cent Muslim Gujjars and 60 per cent paharis. Rana himself a Gujjar is confident of getting the votes of his community, but feels a threat from the paharis, as his main rival from the PDP belongs to the latter. Rana comes from the Kalaban area and enjoys the support of his community. His main opponent Rafiq Khan from the PDP hails from Harni and is equally popular with his people.

Mendhar that goes to polls in the first phase on November 17 remains devoid of any development. There are 77,853 voters here, out of which there are 39,023 males.

One of the three Assembly seats in the frontier district of Poonch, Mendhar has remained a highly militant infested area and continues to report militant activity. People here are now looking for development, better amenities and implementation of schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) and the execution of schemes under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

Interestingly, PDP leader Rafiq Khan, too, has reportedly been playing an emotional card with the voters from his community. He has reportedly been urging his community members to not only vote for him but also cough up the salary of one member of each family, that he will spend to ensure his victory and in lieu when elected will safeguard the interests of the paharis.

The Congress has fielded Poonch district president Abdul Majid Khan, who is also from the pahari community, is not likely to make much a difference instead of eating into the votes of the PDP candidate, who happens to be from his own community.


Election mantra — Charm the gods first

New Delhi, November 12
Not unlike Arjuna who gazed down at a reflected image while shooting a fish above, India's politicians are looking towards the heavens while keeping a fixed eye on the target ahead - the ballot box.

And they are using every ruse in the book - charms, stones and, of course, multiple visits to the friendly neighbourhood astrologer - in the hope of charming the gods into letting them win the elections.

With only two days to go before the “mini election” begins, politicians of all hues are flocking to astrologers, family priests, gemologists, tarot card readers and what have you to appease the gods. From the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K Advani to the councillor hoping to turn a legislator in Delhi, everyone is making a beeline for the intermediaries to the gods.

The parties are not taking any major decision either without consulting on the right time and date to make announcements or launch programmes. The BJP, for instance, put its first list of candidates for Rajasthan on the propitious date of November 9 on the recommendation of an astrologer.

“Election times in general are busy for us. And more so now when six states are going for Assembly elections,” said Bangalore-based corporate astrologer Daivagnya Somayaji.

Vastu expert and astrologer Niranjan Babu B declined to divulge names but said: “Many a politician from various political parties have contacted me to know about their fortunes for the coming Assembly polls.” — IANS



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