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I N D I A     V O T E S

Tamil Nadu
Caste equation: Can DMK woo Dalits this time?
Chennai, April 4
One of the key factors that will decide the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu is the support of over 20 per cent Dalits, spread across the state, and the DMK is making all-out efforts to break the AIADMK's iron hold on Dalit communities.

Parties unfair to fair sex
New Delhi, April 4
In Indian politics, women continue to be an “extinct species”. At least that’s what the agendas of all major political parties in the country reveal.

BJP springs a surprise in Mumbai
SP not to field candidate
Lucknow, April 4
As a goodwill gesture, the Samajwadi Party (SP) yesterday declared that it would not field any candidate against Congress candidate Priya Dutt, who has been re-nominated from north-central Mumbai seat.




Bioscope

RJD leader Rabri Devi leaves in a helicopter for campaigning in Patna on Saturday. — PTI
Congress candidate and film actress Jaya Sudha listens to a resident as she campaigns in Hyderabad on Saturday. — AFP
PARTY TUNES: A BJP worker proudly displays his party flag in Sector 33 of Chandigarh on Saturday. Tribune photo: Parvesh Chauhan

Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Ahmedabad West Kirit Solanki (C) displays the victory sign at the party headquarters in Ahmedabad on Saturday, prior to filing his poll papers. — AFP

How should cos fund parties? Here’s a formula
New Delhi, April 4
Now that most large political parties have released their poll manifestos, Robinder Sachdev is busy analysing them, not to cast his vote, but to advise corporate houses on which party they should fund, to what extent, and what the chances of various parties are.

Jharkhand parties bank on turncoats
Ranchi, April 4
Most political parties in Jharkhand, led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), are banking on turncoats instead of their loyalists to win the Lok Sabha poll.

History favours outsiders in Sirsa
Sirsa, April 4
Outside candidates have emerged victorious from the Sirsa (reserve) constituency on most of the occasions since 1967, when the first elections were held after Haryana became a separate state.

Get rid of illegal arms, EC tells UP
Lucknow, April 4
The Election Commission has directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to launch a special drive against illegal arms and ammunition. “It has been brought to the notice of the EC that some persons have displayed arms during a procession in support of a candidate at Sultanpur last month. The Commission has taken a serious view in the matter,” EC’s Principal Secretary Shangara Ram said.

Goa: Cong, NCP in war of words
Panaji, April 4
The Congress and its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) may have put up a consensus candidate for the North Goa parliamentary seat, but a war of words has already erupted between their state units over local issues.





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Tamil Nadu
Caste equation: Can DMK woo Dalits this time?
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, April 4
One of the key factors that will decide the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu is the support of over 20 per cent Dalits, spread across the state, and the DMK is making all-out efforts to break the AIADMK's iron hold on Dalit communities.

In the north, the DMK has aligned with Thol Thirumavalavan's Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi(VCK), which has good support among the Adi Dravida community.

Although the VCK has a strong base in Cuddalore and Villupuram districts, the party is still in the process of growing in other districts of the region, where the AIADMK will continue to garner most of the Dalit votes.

The DMK is pinning its hopes in the western region, where Arunthathiyars, who are the most exploited even among the Dalits and perform scavenging work, including cleaning human excreta, live in large numbers.

People of the community are the strongest supporters of the AIADMK among all other Dalit groups and the western region of the state is a stronghold of the AIADMK till now due to this.

In these elections, the DMK's optimism is due to the party's legislation providing 3 per cent exclusive reservation for the community within the 18 per cent reservation for SC communities.

However, most of the Arunthathiyar people seem to be unaware of such a facility and many of them value basic amenities like food and shelter more than education and employment.

Although they may realise the value of jobs and education in future, the DMK government's legislation will take some time to bear fruit for the party.

In the south, Devendrakula Velalars are the dominant Dalit community and Puthiya Thamizhagam of Dr Krishnasamy, who is the only notable leader of the community, has not made any progress so far.

Despite the party having a strong base in at least two constituencies, both the Dravidian parties are afraid to take his support for earning the wrath of the Mukkulathors, a dominant OBC community, which is directly clashing with the Dalits in south Tamil Nadu. Here the DMK is expected to match the strength of the AIADMK in garnering Dalit votes.

The BSP has put up candidates throughout the state and Mayawati has visited the state twice. But her party is unlikely to challenge the growing VCK, which is widening its base due to its open support for the LTTE.

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Parties unfair to fair sex
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 4
In Indian politics, women continue to be an “extinct species”. At least that’s what the agendas of all major political parties in the country reveal.

A fortnight to go for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 16 and women candidates are barely to be found on the contestants’ lists. Even principal parties - the Congress and the BJP - despite their vociferous commitment to 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures, have not dared to field many from the fair sex for forthcoming elections.

That’s one area where the two parties seem to agree notwithstanding their otherwise bitter political differences.

Both parties have fielded 71 women each for polls in six major states in the country. The Congress has given tickets to 71 women out of the total 717 LS seats while the BJP has nominated 71 women out of 639 candidates.

The percentage representation the Congress and the BJP has given to women is 9.9 and 11.11, respectively, a far cry from the promise of 33 per cent reservation in political power the two parties have made to women.

The state of affairs in New Delhi, is the most symbolic of this anti-women mentality. Here, both parties have fielded just one woman each out of seven LS constituencies. Interestingly, both - Congress’ Krishna Tirath and BJP’s Meera Kanwaria - have been nominated from the same LS segment of Northwest. Neither of the two parties has trusted a woman to face a man in any parliamentary constituency in the capital. That explains the fact that women’s presence in the Lok Sabha has never crossed the mark of 9.02 per cent of its total strength

Now picture this - men make up 51.73 per cent of India’s population. In the 2004 LS polls, they comprised 55.8 per cent of all voters. Yet 91 per cent of the Lok Sabha’s elected representatives and 91.4 per cent of the Rajya Sabha’s elected representatives are males. If that is less, nearly 34 ministers of state are men and 30 out of 32 cabinet ministers are also men.

But despite near equal representation of women and men in population and electorate strength, only 9.2 per cent of the Lok Sabha’s elected representatives and 8.6 per cent of the Rajya Sabha’s elected representatives are women. Only six ministers of state are women while 2 out of 32 cabinet ministers are women.

This being the scenario, it seems unlikely that the long-standing dream of women’s groups to ensure 33 per cent reservation for the fair sex in Parliament will be realised any time soon.

“A share for women in the legislatures is imperative for women’s empowerment. It is critical to enhance the capacity of women to fight elections, reduce or remove the preventive barriers and to introduce quotas that can enhance the participation of women in the state and national elections,” says Ranjana Kumari of Women Power Connect (WPC), a group of 700 women organisations and individuals.

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BJP springs a surprise in Mumbai
SP not to field candidate
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, April 4
As a goodwill gesture, the Samajwadi Party (SP) yesterday declared that it would not field any candidate against Congress candidate Priya Dutt, who has been re-nominated from north-central Mumbai seat.

Announcing this, party’s national general secretary Amar Singh, however, did not miss a chance of hitting out at both Congress party and Priya Dutt, sister of newly appointed SP general secretary Sanjay Dutt, who was also present on the occasion.

“Despite what all Priya Dutt had said about her brother when he joined the SP, we have decided not to field any candidate against her as her brother has now joined our party,” he said.

The SP general secretary was also quick to point out that on the contrary the Congress did not waste anytime to announce its decision to field a candidate from Lucknow.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Sajay came at 2 pm. Within 15 minutes, the Congress had announced that as Sanjay was not in the race, they would field a candidate from Lucknow.

Nominates Ram Jethmalani’s son against Cong’s Priya Dutt

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 4

Famous lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani might just have won the BJP’s favour for defending Sadhvi Pragya Thakur in the Malegaon blast case and Gujarat’s disgraced women and child development minister Maya Kodnani in the communal riots case.

Only yesterday the son of veteran advocate Ram Jethmalani bagged BJP’s Lok Sabha nomination for the coveted Mumbai north-central seat, where the Congress nominee is actor Sanjay Dutt’s sister Priya Dutt. The stakes for both the parties are very high in the segment.

But BJP’s reliance on Mahesh Jethmalani to win back a seat his father held about two decades ago is surprising considering Ram Jethmalani’s old differences with the party. The illustrious lawyer also admitted to having been surprised by the nomination of his son from an important seat.

A minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet, Ram Jethmalani had in 2004 parted ways with the party and later challenged Vajpayee from Lucknow. But that now seems history for the BJP, which has even chosen to overlook the fact that Mahesh Jethmalani once defended Sanjay Dutt. And that’s not all. Ram Jethmalani was also once pitted against Sunil Dutt, the actor’s father.

In changed political scenarios, however, Mehash Jethmalani seems to fit well, and has said, “My father's views are his own. I have my own views. Despite what my father said about Vajpayeeji, he is close to the BJP.”

Mahesh is now hoping to win back from Priya Dutt a seat her father had snatched from Ram Jethmalani in 1984.

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How should cos fund parties? Here’s a formula

New Delhi, April 4
Now that most large political parties have released their poll manifestos, Robinder Sachdev is busy analysing them, not to cast his vote, but to advise corporate houses on which party they should fund, to what extent, and what the chances of various parties are.

The 44-year-old communications expert, who runs the city-based think tank The Imagindia Institute, says his team’s mission is to help corporate houses, targets of political parties for election funding.

“We are working on a political funding model, which will help the corporate houses determine how much should be paid to the various political parties,” Sachdev told IANS. India goes to the polls in five phases from April 16 to May 13 to elect its next government.

It’s a busy time for Sachdev and his colleagues as they analyse the positions of different parties on economic issues like privatisation, foreign investment and labour reforms.

If a company matches that with details like the location of its key projects, core business interests and headquarters, it will automatically generate a graded result on how much money should go to which political party, Sachdev said. “If a firm has a certain budget for political donations, we believe that 25 per cent should be allocated for the parties in the state where it has corporate headquarters and another 25 per cent to the states where it has the main growth business,” he said.

The rest should go to those political parties whose manifestos are more reliable and have promises for the corporate sector, Sachdev added.

The money allocated for the state that houses a company’s corporate headquarters could further be divided between the ruling party and the opposition. “We have made case studies for Reliance Industries and Tata Sons, which should logically give 50-50 donations to the Congress and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party),” said Sachdev.

The two companies have key business interests in Gujarat, a BJP-ruled state where Reliance has a refinery and Tata Sons unit Tata Motors will manufacture the small car Nano.

However, both Reliance and Tata are headquartered in Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra - a Congress-ruled state. “So a hedging strategy is called for; they will, or should, contribute equally to both parties.” Sachdev said his concept would be sent to all major corporate houses shortly.

“So far, there was no transparency in the whole process. We are just trying to create awareness that this is also part of the process of cleaning up the electoral system.” Sachdev admits he is “a little behind schedule” in his project but attributed it to political parties delaying the releasing of manifestos. — IANS

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Jharkhand parties bank on turncoats
Nityanand Shukla

Ranchi, April 4
Most political parties in Jharkhand, led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), are banking on turncoats instead of their loyalists to win the Lok Sabha poll.

The RJD --- snubbed by the Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) over seat sharing as reprisal for events in Bihar ---- decided to fight the Lok Sabha elections in alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Of the 14 Lok Sabha seats from Jharkhand, the RJD is contesting six and the LJP five.

In all, nearly 20 candidates fielded by various parties are turncoats. Political analysts say some of them have strong chances of winning the elections.

Of the six RJD candidates, four joined the party because they were not given the ticket by the parties in which they were members earlier.

"We have gone for a winning combination. The LJP-RJD combination will have a good presence in the state. We have chosen candidates based on their background and potential to win. It doesn't matter whether they originally belonged to the party or not," Gautam Sagar Rana, state RJD president, told IANS.

The RJD has two sitting MPs in Chatra and Palamau. While it has denied the ticket to Chatra MP Dhirendra Agrawal, Palamau's Bhuran Ram has been renominated. In Chatra, the party has nominated Nagmani for the poll.

Nagmani, a former minister in the Bihar cabinet and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) legislator, has a history of changing political parties. In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, he won from Chatra on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket. After losing the 2004 poll, he joined the JD-U in Bihar. He has now switched to the RJD in Jharkhand, a state that was carved out of Bihar in 2000.

The RJD has nominated Thomas Hansda for the Rajmahal Lok Sabha seat. Hansda is a Congress legislator and was unhappy as the Rajmahal seat went to the JMM in seat sharing. He quit the Congress and joined the RJD and succeeded in getting nomination.

In Koderma, the RJD has fielded Pranav Verma who was a BJP member till last month. He also fought the Koderma byelection in 2006 on the BJP ticket but was beaten by Independent candidate Babulal Marandi.

Rajesh Tudu, a Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) leader, also switched loyalty to the RJD and was nominated for the Dumka seat.

The JD-U, which was insisting on fighting six Lok Sabha seats, got only two after seat sharing with the BJP.

The two seats conceded to the JD-U are Palamau and Chatra.

The JD-U wanted former Assembly Speaker and Independent legislator Inder Singh Namdhari to return to the party fold. Namdhari had quit the JD-U in 2006.

But when it failed to convince Namdhari, it poached the BJP's Chatra deputy president Arun Yadav.

He has now been nominated for the seat.

State LJP president Hidyatullah has joined the Congress with his supporters, while the JMM has fielded former BJP legislator Vishnu Bhaiya from Koderma.

The JVM-P of former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi has fielded Pradeep Yadav --- who was a BJP legislator --- for the Godda Lok Sabha seat. The party has also poached former BJP legislator Arvind Singh and fielded him from Jamshedpur.

"The JVM-P is a new political party. People who are interested in the development of the state but are feeling suffocated in other political parties are joining us.

We have given the ticket only to those candidates who are dedicated to the party," Marandi told IANS.

Jharkhand goes to the polls on April 16 and 23. — IANS

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History favours outsiders in Sirsa
Sushil Manav
Tribune News Service

Sirsa, April 4
Outside candidates have emerged victorious from the Sirsa (reserve) constituency on most of the occasions since 1967, when the first elections were held after Haryana became a separate state.

Dalbir Singh, father of the Union Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Selja Kumari, was elected from Sirsa in the 1967, 1972, 1980 and 1984 elections while Selja Kumari won this seat in 1991 and 1996.

Dalbir Singh hailed from Prabhuwala village in Hisar district, but he chose Sirsa as his electoral battlefield.

After his death in 1988, the Congress gave ticket to his daughter, but Selja lost the bypolls to Het Ram of the Lok Dal.

Het Ram belonged to Sahuwala village of Sirsa district and he again won this seat in the general elections held in 1999, by defeating Mani Ram Keharwala of the Congress. The Congress had denied ticket to Selja on that occasion.

In between, the four elections won by Dalbir Singh, the 1977 general elections, held after the lifting of the emergency, was won by Chand Ram of the Janata Dal. Chand Ram, too, was an outsider and belonged to Rohtak district.

Dr Sushil Indora of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), who won from Sirsa in 1998 and 1999, too, was an outsider.

Dr Indora hails from Loharu in Bhiwani district but was posted as a medical officer in Bhattu Kalan of Sirsa, when he was first picked by the party to contest elections in 1996.

Atma Singh Gill, the sitting MP from Sirsa, is, however, a local. Gill belongs to Baliala village falling under Ratia (reserve) Assembly segment of the Sirsa constituency, and he became an MLA from Ratia in 1987.

This time, a look into the profile of the candidates fielded by various political parties reveal that Dr Sita Ram of the INLD belongs to Chautala village of the Sirsa constituency.

Ashok Tanwar, Santosh Sarwan and Buta Singh are some of the names doing rounds in the political circles for the Congress ticket and they are all outsiders.

The names of Atma Singh Gill, his son Gurdeep Singh Gill and income tax officer Sunita Duggal have also figured, but they all belong to Sirsa.Rajesh Vaid, the Bahujan Samaj Party’s nominee, belongs to Gharaunda in Karnal district while CPM’s Ram Kumar Bahabalpuria belongs to Bahhabalpur village in Hisar district, both being outsiders.

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Get rid of illegal arms, EC tells UP

Lucknow, April 4
The Election Commission has directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to launch a special drive against illegal arms and ammunition. “It has been brought to the notice of the EC that some persons have displayed arms during a procession in support of a candidate at Sultanpur last month. The Commission has taken a serious view in the matter,” EC’s Principal Secretary Shangara Ram said.

Ram further said that no individual or group of persons would be allowed to display arms during a procession on any meeting in support of a candidate.” Displaying arms in procession in support of a candidate during campaign period was tantamount to threat and intimidation to voters,” he added.

The Principal Secretary informed that a drive would be launch to seize unlicensed arms and ammunition.

“A very thorough search and seizure by the state police of unlicensed arms and places of illegal manufacture of arms and ammunition should be carried out and persons involved should be arrested. It shall be vigorously intensified during the election period,” he added. — ANI

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Goa: Cong, NCP in war of words

Panaji, April 4
The Congress and its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) may have put up a consensus candidate for the North Goa parliamentary seat, but a war of words has already erupted between their state units over local issues.

Congress spokesperson Ramakant Khalap today said the diversion of water from the Mandovi river would top their poll agenda even though Wilfred D'Souza, president of the Goa NCP, had categorically stated that no local issues would feature in their campaign. “The river is extremely crucial to Goa. The illegal diversion of water from the river by Karnataka will top our local poll agenda. There is no question of us excluding this crucial issue during campaigning," Khalap said. — IANS

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Pollscape

Desert ship

It’s called the ship of the desert but the camel makes for an equally good campaign vehicle, as many politicians in Jharkhand are discovering. Seven camels that had travelled all the way from their desert home in Rajasthan were displayed at the Morabadi ground in Ranchi for party candidates to pick and choose from. And they were in great demand. “We have brought camels to rent them out to political parties for election campaign purposes. The camels are very useful,” said Kishore Narayan Singh, the owner of two camels. What attracts the candidates to the camels is simple. They can be draped with banners and move easily from one place to without any fuel costs. For a day, a camel owner charges anywhere between Rs 500 and 1,500 to lend his animal for campaigning.

Dogged determination

It’s not just policemen who find themselves overworked at the time of elections, but man’s best friend too. In Gujarat, most sniffer dogs are working day and night at political rallies. Whenever there is a large rally or high-profile candidates like the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) LK Advani and Chief Minister Narendra Modi — who are on the hit list of terrorists — are addressing the crowds, the dogs are on call. The canines can sniff out bombs as well as suspicious people at the same time. Most of these sniffer dogs - belonging to breeds like the doberman, labrador and alsatian - are also working with police units investigating major crimes..

New job

He founded India’s largest recruitment firm. Having placed over 200,000 people in jobs around the world, K Pandiarajan is now looking for a place in the Lok Sabha for himself. He is the nominee of the DMDK, the party started by Tamil film star Vijayakanth, from the Virudhunagar constituency in Tamil Nadu, around 450 km from Chennai. The 49-year-old founder of Ma Foi Management Consultants Limited, a recruitment firm, thinks he may be the first entrepreneur from the human resource (HR) industry to contest for a Lok Sabha seat. “I thought it is time to use my domain experience to be part of politics, a view endorsed by my wife Latha,” he said. Source: IANS

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Overheard

BSP’s Gujarat list out

Ahmedabad: The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has come out with its first list of 18 candidates from Gujarat for the Lok Sabha elections. “As already announced the BSP would be fielding candidates from all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat. The rest of the names of the candidates would be announced early next week,” BSP’s Gujarat unit in-charge Pyaarelal Jatav said. — IANS

‘Postpone poll’

Bhubaneswar: Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archbishop Rapheal Cheenath has moved the Election Commission and other constitutional heads seeking postponement of the elections in the Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat and three assembly segments in the district on April 16. He described the situation in Kandhamal as ‘tense and abnormal. — PTI

Actor factor

New Delhi: Joining the list of Bollywood celebrities who have got on the election bandwagon, actor Paresh Rawal today said he would campaign for BJP in the Lok Sabha polls in Gujarat. “Yes, I would soon be campaigning for BJP in the cities of Surat, Baroda and Ahmedabad,” the 58-year old actor said. — PTI

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Voter’s guide

Suppose I’m working and living in Delhi, can I be a voter in my native village?

You are ordinarily resident in Delhi. Therefore, you can be enrolled in Delhi only and not in your native village

After the polling, where are the EVMs kept till counting?

The polled EVMs are generally kept in a secure storage centre in the constituency or a nearby place on which the candidates or their representatives can keep watch. Mostly it is the same place where the counting is done

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Pollspeak

Rather than teaching her son (Varun) some manners and telling him how to behave, she is going about defending him, which is condemnable

— BSP supremo Mayawati slamming BJP leader Maneka Gandhi

The JD-U has no relation with (George) Fernandes or anyone who is contesting the elections against the party's decision

— Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar

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