SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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I N D I A     V O T E S

Marandi scare for BJP in Jharkhand
Kodarma, April 15
A major cause of concern for the BJP in Jharkhand this general election is the emergence of Babulal Marandi phenomenon. Marandi a former BJP CM is contesting third time from Kodarma parliamentary constituency. In 2004, he was the lone BJP survivor in Jharkhand.

Anti-SEZ spirit makes farmers jump into fray
Hyderabad, April 15
The desperate cries of farmers, who lost their lands in the creation of Special Economic Zones, are drowned in the political cacophony that has come to dominate the electioneering in Andhra Pradesh.

Jammu-Poonch
Pain of separation unites voters
Mendhar, April 15
Every other house in Mendhar has a blood relative living across the Line of Control (LoC). With the easing of hostilities and resumption of some communication, the pain of separation has magnified.

Orissa
Berhampur: Symbol of prestige for Cong, BJD
Some 180 km south of Bhubaneshwar stands the Berhampur Lok Sabha segment that has emerged over the years as a symbol of prestige for both the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the opposition Congress. The segment is part of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s home district Ganjam but has been a Congress stronghold all along.



DUTY-BOUND: A poll officer carries an electronic voting machine after collecting it from a distribution centre in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. — Reuters


Bioscope

A magician shows his skills during a voting awareness campaign in Ahmedabad. — PTI
Security personnel take rest as poll officers check electronic voting machines after receipt from a distribution centre in the police lines in Varanasi. — AFP
A Congress supporter displays his loyalty to party candidate Jyotiraditya Scindia during campaigning in Shivpuri. — PTI

A worker prepares symbols of parties in Kolkata. — PTI

Telangana
Statehood sentiment will hardly matter
Hyderabad, April 15
There is a clear transformation in the mood of voters in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. The backward region, holding key to the final outcome of the Assembly elections, had reverberated with the separate state slogan five years ago. However, the statehood sentiment is no longer a decisive issue in the present elections.

South Goa
Promising voters a bullfighting arena
Margao, April 15
Sitting Lok Sabha member from South Goa Fransisco Sardinha has latched on to a unique campaign plank to woo the voters: a giant bullfighting arena in his constituency. Sardinha, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in a byelection in 2007, has already introduced a private member's bill in Parliament to overturn the Supreme Court ban on dhirio, the Goan version of bullfighting.

Polling today, but this block is deserted
Belpada (Orissa), April 15
In the deserted Belpada block of the royal Bolangir Lok Sabha segment, Surja Bunchor’s is among the few families that did not migrate this time in search of work. They have lost so much to the brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka that they have nothing left to trade.

Number of candidates shrinks
Jammu, April 15
The number of candidates contesting from the two parliamentary seats in Jammu province has decreased over the years. The number of candidates for the Jammu-Poonch and the Udhampur-Doda seat has reduced by 20 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.

Women MPs have criminal records
New Delhi, April 15
Guess what? Kerala, Bihar and Chhattisgarh are the states with the highest percentage of women legislators with criminal records while Assam, Jharkhand and Rajasthan are some of the cleanest, says a study.

Graphic: First Phase Polling

Graphic: Touch and Go Seats: Phase I

 





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Marandi scare for BJP in Jharkhand
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

Kodarma, April 15
A major cause of concern for the BJP in Jharkhand this general election is the emergence of Babulal Marandi phenomenon. Marandi a former BJP CM is contesting third time from Kodarma parliamentary constituency. In 2004, he was the lone BJP survivor in Jharkhand. Two years later, he resigned from the party and his seat. He again won as an Independent and soon formed Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM). Now, he is back in Kodarma, with his candidates on all the 13 seats in tow.

Kodarma has almost equal number of Vaish, Bhumihar, Kurmi, Yadav and Muslim voters. BJP has so far drawn its sustenance from the combination of Vaish, Bhumihar and Kurmi votes. But replacing Marandi with Arjun Munda did not go down well with the people here. Says Lakkhu Yadav, a local resident: “All the development started by Marandi here stopped, when they (BJP) removed him.”

BJP has now fielded Lakshman Swarnkar, who lost the last Assembly elections, to challenge Marandi. But the locals seem to be hardly impressed. “It was only yesterday when Narendra Modi came we saw some presence of the BJP here,” says Ramkumar Singh.

“There is a direct fight here between Marandi and Raj Kumar Yadav of CPI-ML,” claims Ravindra Kumar Basant, another resident, while pointing towards scores of motorcycle-borne youths cruising around with red flags.

But BJP’s Marandi concern goes beyond Kodarma. In at least half a dozen constituencies, his candidates are cutting directly into the traditional BJP votes.

For instance, in Hazaribagh JVM’s BK Jaiswal, a wealthy businessman and a former BJP activist, is giving sleepless nights to Yashwant Sinha, who is already facing a tough battle from sitting CPI MP Bhubneshwar Mehta.

In Jamshedpur, where Marandi’s bete noire and another former BJP CM Arjun Munda is contesting, JVM’s Arvind Singh is hopeful of even winning the seat. Bolstering his dreams are problems between the Congress and its ally, the JMM. Singh is also confident of making a dent into the secular vote.

“Good sections of Muslims are supporting Marandi and Maulana Obaidullah Azmi is campaigning for our leader,” claimed a JVM worker Mohammad Irshad Aslam.

In Rajmahal, JVM has set up a former BJP MP Som Marandi and in Goddda another ex-BJP MLA Pradeep Yadav is contesting on the JVM ticket. In Palamu again there is a rift in the NDA camp and JVM’s Prabhat Bhuiyan is hoping to reap the dividends.

JVM sources indicated that Marandi is hoping to win at least 2-3 seats in addition to his own to make his presence felt in the 15th Lok Sabha.

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Anti-SEZ spirit makes farmers jump into fray
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 15
The desperate cries of farmers, who lost their lands in the creation of Special Economic Zones, are drowned in the political cacophony that has come to dominate the electioneering in Andhra Pradesh.

While major parties are busy in the game of one-upmanship, hurling mutual corruption charges, thousands of displaced farmers across the state want their voices to be heard. Some have decided to enter the poll fray to draw the attention of the political class to their plight.

We know we cannot win the elections but we want to register our protest loud and clear. We can tilt the balance of candidates of major political parties so that our voice can be heard at the national level.

— Madhu Kagula, a senior member  of the Polepalli anti-SEZ forum

As many as 15 such evacuees, whose lands were acquired for establishment of pharmaceutical SEZ at Polepally in the backward Telangana region, are contesting the elections as Independents from the Mahaboobnagar Lok Sabha seat.

They are demanding that the acquired lands be returned to the people. The SEZ is coming up near Jadcherla in Mahbubnagar district, about 90 km from Hyderabad.

“We know we cannot win the elections but we want to register our protest loud and clear. We can tilt the balance of candidates of major political parties, so that our voice can be heard at the national level,” Madhu Kagula, a senior member of the Polepalli anti-SEZ forum said.

In the bypoll held for the Jadcherla assembly seat in June last year, 13 evacuees of the Polepalli SEZ entered the fray and polled nearly 13,500 votes, resulting in the defeat of sitting Telangana Rashtra Samithi MLA K Laxma Reddy. The ruling Congress candidate Mallu Ravi won the seat by a slender margin of 2,000 votes.

Nearly 340 families from three villages lost 969 acres of land when the then TDP government acquired it in 2002.

The government had paid compensation at the rate of Rs 18,000 per acre. After the Congress came to power in 2004, the government sold the same land to 29 industrial firms at the rate of Rs 7 lakh to Rs 17 lakh per acre.

“The government acted as a real estate broker by acquiring land at cheaper rate and selling it to firms at a higher rate,” Kagula said.

Another flashpoint is Kakinada SEZ in West Godavari district where farmers in six villages are up in arms against the government for forcibly acquiring their lands. They had even with police on several occasions to prevent acquisition of lands.

Some farmers had also approached the state Human Rights Commission, which had directed the state government not to use coercive methods to acquire the lands.

The Kakinada SEZ is spread over 10,000 acres of land across 12 villages. The SEZ, coming up five km away from the deep water port, will also have Rs 600 crore refinery of Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC). AP has been pursuing an aggressive policy for promotion of SEZs and accounts for highest number of SEZs in the country. Out of 250 SEZs notified in the country, 56 are being established in AP.

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Jammu-Poonch
Pain of separation unites voters
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Mendhar, April 15
Every other house in Mendhar has a blood relative living across the Line of Control (LoC). With the easing of hostilities and resumption of some communication, the pain of separation has magnified. Living barely a few kilometres away, the man- made barriers have restricted people from meeting. Almost in unison, people in this tehsil town have decided to exercise their franchise on April 16 in favour of anyone who will work to unite the separated families.

It is not surprising that politicians from Jammu are making a bee line for this border town, over 200 km away, to express sympathy with those in perpetual pain and making promises to take up the issue in Parliament, if elected. Most border areas face continuous neglect at the hand of the politicians, who concentrate on their vote- bank politics in larger cities.

The area can provide many scripts for a Bollywood blockbuster based on real-life stories of families that got separated, some during the turmoil of Partition in 1947 and many again for the second time out of sheer panic arising out of heavy firing during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. The manner in which the people have come together for the first time, holding politicians to ransom to make their voice heard and demand met, can act as a lesson to other Indian voters.

Representing the only separated Hindu family here, Rajiv Gupta says, “If the families are allowed to meet, it will dispel a lot of myths about India and Indians in the minds of people living across the LoC and thereby help curb militancy.” People here believe that many militants who take to the gun are brainwashed into believing that “they must avenge the atrocities committed on people living on the Indian side by the government”.

His father’s real sister Manzura Begum (Ayodhia in 1947) and her husband Raja Rahim Dat were among the few lucky ones that got a permit to travel across the LoC and meet Manzura’s family. The octogenarian stayed with her nephews for over a month and returned much at peace with herself and better informed about the living conditions here.

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Orissa
Berhampur: Symbol of prestige for Cong, BJD
Aditi Tandon writes from Berhampur (Orissa)

Some 180 km south of Bhubaneshwar stands the Berhampur Lok Sabha segment that has emerged over the years as a symbol of prestige for both the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the opposition Congress. The segment is part of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s home district Ganjam but has been a Congress stronghold all along.

It is, in fact, one of the only two parliamentary constituencies the Congress had clinched in 2004 general elections; the other being Koraput, where veteran Congressman Giridhar Gamang is running for the Lok Sabha for the record 10th time. If he wins, he enters the league of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and outgoing LS Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

Closer north in Berhampur, no such record is at stake; the only thing at stake is prestige. That has perhaps prompted the Congress and the BJD to rope in two famous Oriya film stars - formerly good friends - to campaign against each other. While the BJD candidate from the area is Oriya film star Sidhant Mahapatra, the Congress brought in his former on-screen and life partner - Rachna - to campaign for its candidate and Union Minister for Rural Development Chandrashekhar Sahu. Sidhant and Rachna made a hit Oriya film pair for years, but parted ways later; she now lives and works in West Bengal , and came to Orissa to help Sahu take on Sidhant.

The Congress is naturally desperate to retain the seat which Sahu won last time. Throughout its history (since 1952 elections), the Berhampur segment has returned Congress candidates to the Lok Sabha except thrice - in 1951, when CPI’s Bijay Das won it; 1957 when Independent Uma Charan Patnaik emerged victorious and in 1999 when BJP’s Anadicharan Sahu trounced the Congress.

The last defeat was, for the Congress, the most humiliating, with its stalwart Jayanti Patnaik, wife of former Orissa Chief Minister JB Patnaik, bowing to Sahu by 54, 123 votes. It was a feat the BJP can barely hope to repeat. When Sahu won, he was a joint BJP-BJD candidate; the alliance stands no more.

Small wonder then that the BJD has pinned all hopes on Sidhant’s charisma to win the seat. In public rallies, Mahapatra’s political inexperience showed, advantage Congress, which tried to hard-sell NREGA, Indira Awas Yojana and Bharat Nirman. Who better to pitch for all this than MoS Rural Development himself.

That explains Sahu’s confidence. “I don’t consider Mahapatra a contestant. It is an overstatement to address him so,” Sahu told The Tribune. Asked if he was celebrating the BJP-BJD divorce and the veteran said, “We don’t need any split to come to power in Orissa. We have enough of our own achievements to tell.” As for the people, they are keeping their cards close to the chest.

People here say if at all the BJD man wins, it would be due to CM Naveen Patnaik’s image; the latter is still seen in Orissa as a man of development, statistics notwithstanding.

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Telangana
Statehood sentiment will hardly matter
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 15
There is a clear transformation in the mood of voters in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. The backward region, holding key to the final outcome of the Assembly elections, had reverberated with the separate state slogan five years ago. However, the statehood sentiment is no longer a decisive issue in the present elections.

While a strong undercurrent of Telangana sentiment had resulted in an electoral windfall for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), spearheading the statehood movement, in the 2004 polls, a sense of fatigue seems to have overtaken the voters this time around.

A cross section of voters in Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Medak districts, considered the Telangana strongholds, sounded unenthusiastic about the statehood dream but spoke strongly about more pressing issues of livelihood.

“How many times should we vote for the same cause? It is no longer an issue now. We are more bothered about day-to-day problems,” said Anjaiah, a tea-shop owner in Siricilla town of Karimnagar district, summing up the mood of the man on the street.

The merit of the contesting candidates, caste equations, local issues and political alliances hold the key to the poll outcome this time around, instead of the statehood sentiment. Ironically, the perceptible decline of the statehood aspirations comes in the backdrop of all political parties, barring CPM, supporting the demand for creation of separate state. Apparently sensing the voters’ mood, the TRS has been focusing on populist schemes rather than the emotive Telangana issue in its campaign meetings.

Shedding their rabble-rousing speeches calling for division of the state, the TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao and his party colleagues have been highlighting the benefits of manifesto promises of their alliance partner TDP. .

On political alliances front, it is a role reversal for TRS. They had aligned with Congress in the 2004 elections, which was then in the opposition, and reaped a rich electoral harvest. Now, they are part of a four-party ‘Maha Kootami’ (Grand Alliance) of the opposition headed by the TDP. The opposition grouping is pinning its hope on the region which accounts for 119 seats in the 294-member Assembly and 17 out of a total of 42 Lok Sabha seats. However, lack of coordination among the alliance partners and the presence of rebels are causing worry for the alliance.

Following fissures in the seat-sharing agreement, the TDP and TRS are pitted against each other in at least 15 Assembly and two LS constituencies. “There are some gaps and problems in coordination and we are trying to sort them out,” the TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao’s son K Rama Rao, who is making an electoral debut from Siricilla Assembly seat, said.

The failure of TRS to deliver the promised statehood for the region, internal rumblings within the party and the byelections it imposed last year have not gone down well with the people.

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South Goa
Promising voters a bullfighting arena
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Margao, April 15
Sitting Lok Sabha member from South Goa Fransisco Sardinha has latched on to a unique campaign plank to woo the voters: a giant bullfighting arena in his constituency. Sardinha, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in a byelection in 2007, has already introduced a private member's bill in Parliament to overturn the Supreme Court ban on dhirio, the Goan version of bullfighting.

Dhirio used to be a favourite sport of Catholic Christian farmers in South Goa who account for nearly half of the five lakh voters here.

However, the Supreme Court's ban on the sport in the 1990s on a petition by the Goa Foundation has hurt the interests of cattle breeders who have been lobbying for a repeal of the order ever since.

"I will build the bullfighting arena if the state government allots funds for the same," qualifies Sardinha. He, however, admitted that the ban on the sport would have to be first overturned by the apex court before the state government could plonk down money for his scheme.

Sardinha also seeks to buttress his credentials with his projects under the MPLAD scheme. At interactions with voters, Sardinha tells them that all the money has been spent on computers for government schools in the villages of Goa and ambulances for Primary Health Centres.

The BJP, which is facing the populist manoeuvres of the charismatic Sardinha, has to deal with a low-profile candidate — Narendra Savoikar. The party, which is non-existent in pockets of the Christian heartland of Salcette, is relying entirely on the efforts of its Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, Manohar Parrikar.

The party has roped in Parrikar to address even street-corner meetings in order to ensure a reasonable turnout.

What could, however, result in a sharp polarisation of votes on communal lines is the presence of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In charge of the BJP in Goa, Modi is to address a public meeting in the town of Ponda later this week. The town, which has a large Hindu population, has several large religious institutions of the community and is a stronghold of the BJP.

"If the voters get polarised on communal lines then Sardinha's winning margin will be considerably reduced," says a senior Congress leader from the area.

But what could really upset Sardinha's apple cart is a secret deal between Congress dissidents and the BJP. The party is said to be concerned about Goa's PWD Minister Churchill Alemao who has threatened to resign from the Digambar Kamat's government. Over the weekend, AICC general secretary in charge of Goa B K Hariprasad was in the state to win over Alemao. Though Alemao expressed his support for Sardinha,everyone is keeping their fingers crossed.

A regional party, the United Goans Democratic Party, is also working towards eating into the Congress vote. However, the UGDP's candidate, Matanhy Saldanha, suffered a setback when the party's old symbol — two leaves — were frozen by the Election Commission.

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Polling today, but this block is deserted
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Belpada (Orissa), April 15
In the deserted Belpada block of the royal Bolangir Lok Sabha segment, Surja Bunchor’s is among the few families that did not migrate this time in search of work. They have lost so much to the brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka that they have nothing left to trade.

Surja’s husband Kalia Bunchor (36) was allegedly killed a year ago at a brick kiln site in Hyderabad after the owner caught him with two coconuts plucked from the compound tree. “We pleaded for justice with the middleman who had sent us. A case was also filed, but nothing happened,” laments Surja, while talking to The Tribune. With an added responsibility of a six-year-old daughter and aging father-in-law, Surja now collects wood from the forest and sometimes works at NREGA sites in her Dungripali village.

There are hundreds like her who have lost family members to the exploitative migration business flourishing in the KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) districts, where agriculture (single-crop paddy) is the primary occupation.

However, the irrigation potential being 4 per cent only, there is hardly any income, forcing people to migrate.Every year, about two lakh people (entire families, children included) from the Belpada block alone are huddled like animals in trains bogeys and transported to brick kilns in the neighbouring states, where they work from November to May on the promise of Rs 200 per 1,000 bricks.

“The promise is hardly fulfilled. Local middlemen take huge advance per labourer from owners and pass on only a fraction of that money. The migrants’ families end up working more than six months to pay for the advance or loan taken to travel.

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Number of candidates shrinks
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Jammu, April 15
The number of candidates contesting from the two parliamentary seats in Jammu province has decreased over the years. The number of candidates for the Jammu-Poonch and the Udhampur-Doda seat has reduced by 20 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.

The number, which rose from the first parliamentary elections in 1967 to 1996, saw a dip in 1999 only to rise again in 2004. However, this year again there was a sharp decline in the number of candidates.While 2004 saw 26 candidates for the Jammu-Poonch seat and 20 for Udhampur-Doda, this time the number has come down to 21 and 14, respectively. All kind of factors, including recession, are being quoted as the reason for the declining trend. Some attribute it to the Lok Sabha elections following the Assembly elections.

Interestingly, the role of women in elections to the seats is to cast votes only. The State Election Commission has not put any woman employee on duty in the two seats. There is only one woman candidate in both the seats. Shakeela Bano is contesting as an Independent from the Jammu-Poonch seat.

Traditionally, woman candidates have never figured much in elections. Since 1967, when the first parliamentary elections were held in the state, not a single woman had been elected from the two seats.

The highest number of candidates was witnessed in 1996 when the militancy was at its peak. The Jammu-Poonch seat had 30 candidates in the fray while the Udhampur seat had 40.

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Women MPs have criminal records

New Delhi, April 15
Guess what? Kerala, Bihar and Chhattisgarh are the states with the highest percentage of women legislators with criminal records while Assam, Jharkhand and Rajasthan are some of the cleanest, says a study.

On the whole, about 13 per cent of women legislators in states and 14 per cent of women MPs in the 14th Lok Sabha had criminal records, says a study by PRS Legislative Research based on affidavits filed by candidates with the EC up to 2007. The study by the independent research initiative suggests that women leaders don’t lag behind when it comes to having criminal records or amassing wealth.

A total of 51 women are in the 545-member Lok Sabha while 280 are women among 4,120 legislators across all state assemblies. The survey shows that 83 per cent women legislators have criminal records in Kerala, while the figure is 25 per cent for Bihar and Chhattisgarh. The survey names seven women MPs with criminal charges, and topping the list is BSP chief Mayawati who has been booked for cheating and criminal conspiracy. She is now CM of UP.

There are two from Kerala — the CPMs’ P. Satheedevi and C.S. Sujatha — booked for unlawful assembly and rioting. Also in the list of women MPs "with criminal charges" based on affidavits filed in 2004 is Suryakanta Patil from the NCP, accused of misusing a charitable institution. Two Shiv Sena MPs are there too, Narhire Kalpana Ramesh for wrongful restraint and Bhavana Pundlikrao under the Bombay Police Act.

Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury is in the list for obstructing a public servant in discharging his duties. — IANS

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Voter’s guide

How long does the control unit of the EVM store the result in its memory?

The result is stored permanently in the memory chip of the EVM till its is intentionally cleared for readying the machine for subsequent elections. Removal of the batteries from the machine does not have any effect on its memory

At the time of counting, suppose a display in the EVM is not showing the result. How can the result be verified?

The result can be retrieved most of the time with the use of the auxiliary display unit

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WAR OF WORDS

 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh I would like to tell the people of Mumbai that there are a lot of Independent candidates in the elections. These candidates are in the fray only to dent the votes that would be received by the Congress. They (Independents) are “spoilers”

— Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Meera SanyalPeople are saying that by standing as an Independent you threaten the stability of the government. This seems absurd. There is no stability in the government. And we are not spoilers, people can bank on us

— Meera Sanyal, Independent from South Mumbai

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Poll buzz

Kerala: 217 in fray

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: More than 2.18 crore voters in Kerala are expected to exercise their franchise tomorrow to decide the fate of 217 candidates contesting from 20 Lok Sabha seats in the single-phase elections. The elections are being conducted under a massive security cover, with deployment of nearly 25,000 security personnel, along with the Rapid Action Force and the Central Industrial Security Force personnel and police from neighbouring states, Chief Electoral Officer Nalini Netto said. — PTI

Dreams unlimited

KISHANGANJ (BIHAR): In the electoral scene dominated by “crorepati” candidates, a cart-puller is attracting attention in the Kishanganj Lok Sabha constituency. Without deep pockets and barely able to read and write, Chotelal Mahto is among the 15 in the fray from the Muslim-dominated Kishanganj as an Independent. Mahto (32), a father of three distributes cooking gas cylinders door-to-door in Kishanganj town close to the West Bengal border. — PTI

Flags removed

AGARTALA: Following instructions from the Election Commission of India (ECI), the police removed flags and festoons of various political parties from several places in north Tripura district, police said. As per the instruction of the Election Observer, the administration asked the parties to remove the flags from both sides of few roads. — PTI

Code violation

SHILLONG: Taking cognisance of an advertisement published in an English daily in favour of a UDP candidate even after the campaigning for the two LS seats in the state ended, the Election department slapped show cause notices to the regional party and the editor the daily. — PTI

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Pollscape

In black & white

Politicians seeking votes from Pachpehra village in Uttar Pradesh will have to specify what development they will carry out and promise to quit parliament if they fail to implement at least one of the projects within a year. The nearly 2,000 voters of the village intend seeking the guarantees so that the village gets the basic civic amenities the politicians have been assuring for years. The village comes under the Hamirpur-Mahoba parliamentary constituency that goes to the polls April 30. — IANS

Operation Lotus


Illustration by Sandeep Joshi

In a bid to woo women voters, BJP in Gujarat is distributing ‘mangalsutras’ with its symbol ‘lotus’ as a pendant during campaigning for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls, a move which has drawn sharp criticism from the opposition Congress. According to party insiders, the state BJP is planning to distribute more than 5,000 'mangal sutras' to the women electorate. “We will distribute mangalsutras to women as it is our medium of campaigning,” said BJP media cell member Jagdish Bhavsar, adding the gesture would help the party strike a permanent bond with the women. However, Congress says it’s an “insult to the Indian culture.” — PTI

Stallion steps

In a novel bid to win support of the fishermen community in Orissa’s Bhadrak district for their candidates in the elections, political parties have given a new lease of life to the dying folk dance form “ghoda nacha”. Till recently, the dominant fishermen community held an annual festival, which showcased the unique dance form performed by artistes chosen from among them. But under the invasion of glitzy entertainment programmes mostly aired over the TV, the century-old folk dance was dying a slow death. Here the polls came as a boon for the artistes of the dance with all political leaders of consequence promising to hold a “ghoda nacha melan" (horse dance fair) on a grand scale this year. — PTI

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