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I N D I A     V O T E S

Jammu-Poonch
Poster-present netas of Budhal
Budhal (Rajouri), April 11
Whether its elections or Taliban threat, nothing changes the lives of residents of this township of Jammu division. They have been constantly struggling between the harsh weather, lack of civic amenities and threat from the militants.

North Goa
Likely split in Hindu votes worries BJP
Panjim, Aril 11
Shripad Naik, the Bharatiya Janata Party's two-time MP from North Goa, faces a tough battle in his third outing to retain his seat. Reason: The regional Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party has fielded a strong candidate, Pandurang Raut against Naik. And since, the BJP and MGP share a common vote bank, it is likely to split the Hindu votes in the constituency.

Hazaribagh
Sinha banks on anti-incumbency factor
Hazaribagh (Jharkhand), April 11
Beaten in 2004 after winning twice previously, BJP’s national vice-president Yashwant Sinha is facing a tough task in the Hazaribagh Lok Sabha constituency this time.

One in five are crorepatis in Andhra’s
phase one

Hyderabad, April 11
One in every five candidates contesting the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh is a crorepati.



In Meghalaya, Cong takes on Sangma legacy
Tura (Meghalaya), April 11
A five-hour drive and one is transported from bustling Guwahati in Assam to a sleepy Garo Hill area in Meghalaya. With just five days left for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, the campaigning has reached fever pitch in Guwahati --- rallies and political marches are causing massive traffic jams everyday. However, the scene in Tura parliamentary constituency is starkly different. The predominantly Christian population is busy attending church rituals as the Good Friday is nearing.

Offspring of 2 ex-PMs cross swords in Fatehpur
Lucknow, April 11
The Fatehpur Lok Sabha constituency will see a battle between the offspring of two former Prime Ministers --- the son of V P Singh and the grandson of Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Real test for IUML in Malabar area
Malappuram, April 11
This district of Kerala has been in the news recently, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Rahim, a ‘terrorist’ killed by the security forces in Kashmir in October last year, was found to be a native of Malappuram in Kerala. When Bangalore police claimed to have cracked the case of the serial blast in the city last year, a large number of the accused turned out to be from Malabar, a Muslim dominated district.





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Jammu-Poonch
Poster-present netas of Budhal
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Budhal (Rajouri), April 11
Whether its elections or Taliban threat, nothing changes the lives of residents of this township of Jammu division. They have been constantly struggling between the harsh weather, lack of civic amenities and threat from the militants.

One of the remotest areas of the Jammu parliamentary segment in Rajouri district, residents of this town have only seen their MLAs and MPs in posters that surface during the election time.

The local army brigade too almost moved out last year leaving people to their fate due to the intervention of the media. There is virtually no civil administration in this Niabat (smallest administrative unit in J&K) that is frequently cut-off from districts with the bridgeless Samote Nullah (between Budhal and Kotranka) swelling up with the slightest of rain.

Ironically, the only government officials willing to accept a posting here are the locals. Once deployed here, they remain occupied on family farms or business paying little attention to official work.

The local court of the sub-judge has been locked for almost a year. No judge has been posted here since the last incumbent was posted out. The naib tehsildar, locals say, has not attended the office for months now.

A dominantly Muslim area, comprising Gujjarwals and Bakkarwals (both tribals), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) enjoys a considerable influence. However, with a National Conference (NC)-Congress alliance in the state, the people do not hope for much from the present government.

“Almost everyone here is self-reliant, hoping little from the government. Even for our self-defense, every home has a licensed arm,” said Aslam, a retired police official.

The only attempt made by any politician to come here during the run-up to the parliamentary elections has been the sitting Congress MP Madal Lal Sharma. However, unfortunately the day he arrived, heavy rain made him cancel his rally and he had to return to Jammu by road, leaving the helicopter behind. “I can say with conviction that hardly anyone will be able to recognise the MLA or MP from the region, because they hardly come here, not even to seek votes. Voting here takes place on the basis of a party and not individuals,” said ex-serviceman Bhagwan Singh.

Budhal is over 200 km from Jammu, but the area is so remote and underdeveloped that many people living in the Khawas area have not seen a vehicle in their lives.

People living in remote villages like Keri, Behla, Khawar, Gundu, Kot Charwal, Gulabgarh, Balmatkot, Bako Dass, Malikot, Nandkote and Sarsote do not have any electricity.

A majority of people here depend upon “Pirs” and “Fakirs” for their health needs. “Many women and infants die as people cannot even imagine going to a hospital in a far-flung area,” said Aslam, who hails from Khawas area.

The area has 34 active militants, who on gunpoint take away valuables and food from the locals. However, life goes on as usual.

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North Goa
Likely split in Hindu votes worries BJP
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Panjim, Aril 11
Shripad Naik, the Bharatiya Janata Party's two-time MP from North Goa, faces a tough battle in his third outing to retain his seat. Reason: The regional Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party has fielded a strong candidate, Pandurang Raut against Naik. And since, the BJP and MGP share a common vote bank, it is likely to split the Hindu votes in the constituency.

The MGP is part of the Congress-led Digambar Kamat government in Goa, with both its MLAs in the cabinet. Raut is aggressively campaigning in the Hindu dominated areas of North Goa.

On the other hand, the Congress is making all efforts to accommodate its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party. Last week, senior party leader Jitendra Deshprabhu quit to contest on the NCP ticket as part of a deal worked out by the party bosses. “The NCP did not have many workers here. So we are lending our workers to them. They did not have a candidate. So we gave them a candidate,” said Congress spokesman Vishnu Wagh, while talking to The Tribune.

The North Goa parliamentary seats has 4,86,637 voters, out of which around 75 per cent are Hindus, while the rest comprise the minority

Catholic Christians. Muslims and others account for a minuscule number.

There are seven contestants in the fray this time, though the real battle is between the three main candidates. Shripad Naik, who has an image of being a clean politician, was among the first candidates to be declared by the BJP along with its Prime Ministerial aspirant LK Advani nearly two years ago. Thanks to the early lead, Naik has already completed two rounds of campaigning. “I am getting very good response from the voters who already know my track record for the past ten years,” Naik said. The MP further added that he hoped to surpass his 2004 margin of winning this time.

However Naik's supporters say they are throwing in everything to help him retain the seat. Former Chief Minister and BJP leader Manohar Parrikar is virtually camping in the capital and overseeing Naik’s campaign.

On the other hand, Deshprabhu says the lack of dissidence in the ranks

of the Congress and the NCP is proving to be a big boost for his campaign. Eleven of the 20 MLAs belong to the ruling alliance, while the rest are divided between the BJP and the MGP. “All the ministers

and MLAs on our side are working for me. Also there is a mood for change among the voters,” claims Deshprabhu.

According to analysts, there’s lot at stake for CM Digambar Kamat as Deshprabhu is his choice. If he manages to pull it off, it would cement his standing as a strong leader in the party, they add.

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Hazaribagh
Sinha banks on anti-incumbency factor

Hazaribagh (Jharkhand), April 11
Beaten in 2004 after winning twice previously, BJP’s national vice-president Yashwant Sinha is facing a tough task in the Hazaribagh Lok Sabha constituency this time.

His poll opponents are the CPI's sitting MP B P Mehta, Cong MLA Sourav Narayan Singh and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha’s (Prajatantric) Braj Kishore Jaiswal.

Sinha is depending on the anti-incumbency factor in the politically unstable state to see him through on April 16.

"The people of Jharkhand are fed up with two successive UPA governments, which forced President's rule, and the failure of the Manmohan Singh government and want change," claimed Sinha, who won the seat in 1998 and 1999 before losing to Mehta in 2004.

Rubbishing Sinha's claim, Mehta, who also won the seat in 1991, alleged that the BJP's “communal politics” would fail to fetch votes.

"I have done a lot in my constituency in the past five years from my MP fund. Merely inciting communal feelings will not fool the electorate," Mehta said referring to BJP president Rajnath Singh raising the Ram Temple issue at election meetings in the constituency.

Sinha also faces Congress MLA Sourav Narayan Singh, a member of the Ramgarh estate, who is counting on supporters of his uncle the late Raja of Ramgarh Basant Narayan Singh.The 34-year old Sourav Singh, who represents the assembly from the Hazaribagh assembly constituency, is banking on the Congress' traditional votes from Dalits and minorities, besides those of the upper caste. — PTI

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One in five are crorepatis in Andhra’s phase one
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 11
One in every five candidates contesting the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh is a crorepati.

Leading the pack is the ruling Congress with 18 of their 22 Lok Sabha candidates being crorepatis, followed by actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party 9, the BJP 8, the TDP and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi 7 each and Independents 5.

Of the total of 315 candidates contesting 22 parliamentary constituencies, going to the polls in the first phase on April 16, there are 64 crorepatis, accounting for 20 per cent, with declared assets worth more than a crore.

TDP nominee from Khammam Nama Nageswara Rao heads the list with a net worth close to Rs 174 crore.

Industrialist and Congress MP L Rajagopal, seeking re-election from Vijayawada, is the richest among the contesting candidates in the state with assets worth Rs 299 crore.

The Telugu megastar is the richest CM aspirant with declared assets worth over Rs 88 crore. TDP chief and ex-CM N Chandrababu Naidu, along with his wife N Bhuvaneswari, is worth Rs 68 crore.

What has been declared by candidates may well be the tip of the iceberg. "There is an extremely wide gap between what is declared and what the real value would be," said Ajay Gandhi, member of National Election Watch, a conglomeration of NGOs working in the area of electoral reforms and good governance.

Interestingly, more than half of the candidates have not revealed complete information in their affidavits that a voter needs to know.

At least six candidates, including M Jagannadham, who defected from the TDP to the Congress and is now contesting on the ruling party ticket, have not disclosed their income tax PAN in their affidavits.

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In Meghalaya, Cong takes on Sangma legacy
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Tura (Meghalaya), April 11
A five-hour drive and one is transported from bustling Guwahati in Assam to a sleepy Garo Hill area in Meghalaya. With just five days left for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, the campaigning has reached fever pitch in Guwahati --- rallies and political marches are causing massive traffic jams everyday. However, the scene in Tura parliamentary constituency is starkly different. The predominantly Christian population is busy attending church rituals as the Good Friday is nearing.

Thanks to the dominant presence of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) veteran Purno A Sangma --- who represented Tura in the Lok Sabha for nine consecutive terms before handing over the mantle to his daughter Agatha K Sangma last year, after he was elected to the Meghalaya Assembly --- parliamentary elections have been one-sided contests, making people lose interest in them.

So, his daughter, the NCP candidate and the sitting MP from Tura, Agatha K Sangma (28) has not much work to do. The 28-year-old law graduate is pitted against another lady, Debora C Marak (43) of the Congress, a former deputy CM. “Here my contest is not against Agatha but her father PA Sangma,” said Marak, making amply clear that senior Sangma calls the shots. Marak is confident of creating an upset. “ Tura has remained hugely underdeveloped for the last 35 years due to betrayal by PA Sangma who has just used the people for his interests,” she alleges. “It is time for a change and I will bring a change,” she further claimed.

The NCP has been accusing the Congress for imposition of President’s Rule in Meghalaya to dethrone the NCP-led coalition government. Agatha says her priority is to make the voice of the region heard at the Centre.

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Offspring of 2 ex-PMs cross swords in Fatehpur

Lucknow, April 11
The Fatehpur Lok Sabha constituency will see a battle between the offspring of two former Prime Ministers --- the son of V P Singh and the grandson of Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Ajeya Singh, who is making his electoral debut, is contesting under the banner of the Jan Morcha floated by his late father after a merger with Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) fell through.Vibhakar Shastri, grandson of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, is in the fray as the Congress candidate.

While Ajeya is trying to cash in on public sentiments in the name of his father, Vibhakar Shastri is hoping his grandfather's legacy would see him through. He had lost from the same seat in 1999.

The two will be slugging it out with Rakesh Sachan of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Mahendra Prasad Nishad of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Radhey Shyam Gupta of the BJP.

"I have already started campaigning in the area," Vibhakar Shastri, whose party ticket was finalised only a couple of days ago, told PTI.

After the death of his father, Ajeya Singh merged the Jan Morcha with the LJP and, in return, he was named the party candidate from Fatehpur from where V P Singh was elected to Parliament twice. In fact, after being named as the LJP candidate, Ajeya Singh had even launched his election campaign in the area.

However, Paswan's alliance with Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad virtually dashed the hopes of Ajeya Singh.

Following the alliance, both the RJD and the LJP announced not to field candidates against SP nominees, leaving Ajeya in the lurch.

The SP, too, made it clear that it had already named Sachan as its candidate, who had launched his campaign, and it was impossible for the party to support Ajeya's candidature.

Failing to find the support of these parties, Ajeya has launched an exercise into reviving the Jan Morcha and has been able to engineer a split in the state unit of the RJD.Accusing the SP and the LJP of ditching him, Ajeya then filed his nomination from Fatehpur as the Jan Morcha candidate.

"Initially, the SP promised to support me as the UPA candidate, but the party back tracked at the last moment," he claimed. "Ajeya Singh is the son of the messiah of Mandal (the downtrodden). Though all parties talk about the uplift of the downtrodden and Dalits and advocate reservation, they are not ready to support Ajeya.

A conspiracy is being hatched to stop him from entering politics," Jan Morcha's national general secretary Vinod Singh has alleged. — PTI

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Real test for IUML in Malabar area
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Malappuram, April 11
This district of Kerala has been in the news recently, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Rahim, a ‘terrorist’ killed by the security forces in Kashmir in October last year, was found to be a native of Malappuram in Kerala. When Bangalore police claimed to have cracked the case of the serial blast in the city last year, a large number of the accused turned out to be from Malabar, a Muslim dominated district.

With the state going to the polls in the first phase, Malappuram and the neighbouring Ponnani constituency are set to witness an interesting battle. While the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is representing the moderate elements in the fight, the CPM, which has reached an ‘understanding’ with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), allegedly an extremist outfit, is trying to gain the support of all those Muslims who are not in agreement with the IUML brand of politics.

“This elections will show that the Muslim voters are still with the IUML,” claimed PK Kunhalikutty, IUML state general secretary and the most important leader of the party in Kerala. He said the IUML, which is a traditional partner of the Congress-led UDF in Kerala, played a crucial role in preserving social harmony in the state. Kunhalikutty, industry minister in the erstwhile UDF government in Kerala, said outfits such as the PDP, led by Abdul Nasir Maudany, an accused in the Coimbatore serial blasts, was responsible for pushing the Muslim youths toward the path of terrorism.

Support extended by PDP to the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the state has come both as a shock and surprise to many and has created a huge controversy. The PDP itself has not become a constituent of the LDF. But the LDF-backed Independent nominee from Ponnani constituency Hussein Randathani is said to have been propped up by the PDP. Randathani, an academician owing allegiance to an Orthodox Sunni faction, is pitted against ET Mohammad Basheer, a veteran IUML leader and former education minister of Kerala.

E Ahmed, union minister of state for external affairs, is the IUML candidate from Malappuram, which is the other seat being contested by the party in the state besides Ponnani. Ahmed, who won from Ponnani in the last elections (he was the only winner from the UDF in the state in 2004 as the remaining 19 seats were won by the LDF), decided to contest from the newly formed Malappuram constituency, which has come into being in place of the Manjheri Lok Sabha segment.

In 2004, the CPM candidate had trounced the IUML nominee in Manjheri, which was considered the first warning bell for the IUML in the state. Fielding Mohammad Riyaz, a youth leader, for the Kozhikode seat by denying the ticket to the sitting MP from Janata Dal (S), is also being seen as an attempt by the CPM to make an impression upon the Muslim youths.

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War of words

The Congress is a 125-year-old elderly woman...can she do any good to the youth? The party has become a burden on the country. The sooner it departs, the better; it would save the country

— BJP leader Narendra Modi during campaigning in Bangalore

Kya mein budhi dikhti hoon? Does Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi or I look old to you?

— Priyanka Gandhi reacting to Narendra Modi’s remarks in Amethi

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Poll buzz
Steep climb

NEW DELHI: A former Congress legislator climbed a nearly 30-feet-tall tree at the party’s national headquarters here on Saturday afternoon to draw attention to his demand for a ticket in the Lok Sabha elections. From the top branch, he threw copies of his bio-data to press his case. According to the bio-data, the man is 50-year-old Prem Pal Singh Samrat, a former legislator from Uttar Pradesh’s Jalesar during 1985-1989. He wants to contest the Lok Sabha election from Hathras constituency. — IANS

Political script

CHENNAI: Actor Mansur Ali Khan, who played the role of a villain in actor Vijaykanth’s movie “Captain Prabhakaran”, on Saturday announced his plans to contest as an independent in the Lok Sabha elections. He joined the Lakshiya DMK, which has been launched by film director T Rajendar. — TNS

Narrow escape

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had a narrow escape on Saturday when the helicopter in which he was travelling landed safely after developing a technical problem, an official said. The chopper made an unscheduled landing at Paudeeptaur village, 14 km from Satna district headquarters, which is about 450 km from Bhopal. — IANS

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Voter’s guide

Is there any facility provided to voters for locating their names in the electoral rolls if a political party cannot set up or is not willing to set up a booth in a particular area?

Yes. A voter assistance booth is set up on premises where three or more polling stations are located with proper signage manned by a team of officials who are provided with a list of the rolls in alphabetical order to help the voters locate their serial number in the rolls and the polling station. If the political party concerned informs the authorities of its inability in advance, the district election officer may consider making such arrangements in other areas, too.

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Pollscape
Sporty symbols

The country’s most popular sport, cricket, or rather images associated with the game are still up for grabs as elections symbols. The ‘bat’ and the ‘batsman'--- often the first choice of companies for brand endorsements in the advertising field — are among the free symbols available with the Election Commission for use in the poll arena. The list of free symbols includes mostly man-made items while just four can be classified as naturally occurring — banana, carrot, coconut and maize. Interestingly, the list of poll symbols — both allotted and unallotted —- has just three images that represent a human figure. While batsman is one of them, the others are that of a ‘hand’ allotted to the Congress and ‘a woman farmer carrying paddy on her head’ of Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka and Kerala. — PTI

Scripting success

Fed up with the false assurances of politicians, a village in Uttar Pradesh decided to set up its own party to initiate development work. Within a year, Hathchoya boasts of schools, hand pumps, community centres and civic amenities. The residents of the village, which falls in Muzaffarnagar district, some 350 km from state capital Lucknow, are proud of their very own Vikas Party. “After suffering the apathy of politicians, we set up a non-political outfit — Vikas Party — around a year ago for the all-round development of the village,” its founder member Anil Sharma told IANS. “All local people have aligned themselves with the party and we no longer rely on legislators or MPs for the development of our village as we have already learnt how to progress without their assistance,” added Sharma. — PTI

Shining dreams

A shoeshine man at a railway station in Mumbai is eyeing the Kalyan Lok Sabha seat. Interestingly, 35-year-old Independent candidate Ramsingh Shiras has declared assets of Rs six lakh. He has also approached the Election Commission seeking railway engine as an election symbol. “I want to become an MP at least once in my life,” he says. But why not a more modest beginning? Why does not he first cut his teeth in municipal corporation or Assembly polls? “If you want to do something for the public, only an MP has powers to do that. He also has large funds at his disposal,” Shiras reasons. But Shiras faces a formidable challenge to realise his dream. His rivals are Vasant Dawkhare of Nationalist Congress Party and current Thane MP Anand Paranjape of Shiv Sena. — PTI

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Bioscope

Priyadarshani Raje Scindia, wife of Union Minister of State for Telecommunications and IT Jyotiraditya Scindia, during a rally in Madhya Pradesh.
Priyadarshani Raje Scindia, wife of Union Minister of State for Telecommunications and IT Jyotiraditya Scindia, during a rally in Madhya Pradesh. — PTI
Boys paint their heads with party symbols in Allahabad.
Boys paint their heads with party symbols in Allahabad. — PTI
Independent candidate Rajan Yadav campaigns in Gorakhpur on Saturday.
Independent candidate Rajan Yadav campaigns in Gorakhpur on Saturday. — PTI
BJP candidate Ram Naik sips tea at a stall as he takes a break during campaigning in north Mumbai on Saturday.
BJP candidate Ram Naik sips tea at a stall as he takes a break during campaigning in north Mumbai on Saturday. — PTI

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