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

Hisar
Three biggies fight for political survival 

Hisar, April 23
Hisar is hot. Literally. For one, heat wave conditions have engulfed this sprawling Lok Sabha constituency.  Secondly, the presence of three biggies in the fray has made this the hottest contest in Haryana.

Sirsa
It’s ‘outsider’ vs ‘insider’

Sirsa, April 23
The Congress and the INLD have changed their nominees for the Sirsa (Reserve) parliamentary seat. While the Congress has dropped its sitting MP Atma Singh Gill and fielded 33-year-old Ashok Tanwar, president of the Indian Youth Congress and a close confidant of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, the INLD has denied ticket to its two-time MP Sushil Indora and nominated 41-year-old Sita Ram, sitting MLA from Dabwali, in its effort to make it an “outsider” versus “insider” fight.

Rajasthan
Daunting task for BJP leaders’ heirs

Barmer/Jhalawar, April 23
Two prominent BJP leaders’ political heirs - Vasundhara Raje’s son Dushyant Singh from Jhalawar and Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh from Barmer - are facing a tough battle in their respective Lok Sabha constituencies.



The UPA has become the Unlimited Prime Minister Alliance
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj talking to reporters in Vidisha (MP) on Thursday

Pollspeak

The only name in our mind for the prime ministerial candidate is Manmohan Singh. In fact, the RJD and LJP combine considers only his name for the PM's post

— LJP chief 
Ram Vilas Paswan


Secular forces should be united to form the government. We have kept open a window for the Left

—RJD leader
Lalu Prasad Yadav

Voters on the way to the polling station in Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh
WOMEN EMPOWERMENT: Voters on the way to the polling station in Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday. — PTI

Gujarat
Patels major determinant of outcome

They once figured on the same side of the freedom movement against British colonial rule before parting ways to become the fathers of their respective nations. The birthplaces of both these leaders fall in the same parliamentary constituency today. While Porbandar's main claim to fame is that of being Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace, Moti Paneli, located near Upleta in adjoining Rajkot district, is where Jinnah was born.

Cooch Behar 
Left in disarray, opponents united

Cooch Behar, April 23
The Left is in difficulty this time in West Bengal. There is dissension, division, despair and demoralisation in its ranks.

State of Parties Punjab
SAD faces challenge in Malwa

Jalandhar, April 23
One of the oldest regional parties, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), has made its presence felt in politics one way or other. Along with the BJP, now it is in power in Punjab. But even without being in power, it has never lost its relevance in politics. The SAD has fielded its candidates in 10 out of 13 Lok Sabha constituencies and the remaining three have been allocated to the BJP.

Jaya’s new campaign style disappoints
Chennai, April 23
AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa’s shift to helicopter as the mode of transport has robbed the charm in the election campaign with the absence of roadshows and the accompanying festive atmosphere on the campaign routes besides distancing the charismatic from the people. Most of Jayalalithaa’s supporters in villages, who hoped to see their leader, sitting in a van and waving the ‘two leaves’ symbol were disappointed, since the AIADMK leader had chosen to land only at major venues to address two or three public meetings in a day. 

Pollscape

Poll Buzz

Voter’s guide

Bioscope
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav talks to mediapersons at his official residence in Patna.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav talks to mediapersons at his official residence in Patna. — PTI
An election officer puts ink on the index finger of a nun before she proceeds to cast her vote in Ranchi on Thursday. — Reuters/ Independent candidate Sham Lal Gandhi seeks the blessings of a voter as he campaigns in Amritsar
An election officer puts ink on the index finger of a nun before she proceeds to cast her vote in Ranchi on Thursday. — Reuters/ Independent candidate Sham Lal Gandhi seeks the blessings of a voter as he campaigns in Amritsar on Thursday. — PTI
Supporters of the SP sport the party symbol on their faces during campaigning in Allahabad.
Supporters of the SP sport the party symbol on their faces during campaigning in Allahabad. — PTI






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Hisar
Three biggies fight for political survival 
Raman Mohan
Tribune News Service

Hisar, April 23
Hisar is hot. Literally. For one, heat wave conditions have engulfed this sprawling Lok Sabha constituency. Secondly, the presence of three biggies in the fray has made this the hottest contest in Haryana.

Jai Parkash of the Congress is trying his luck for the fourth time from this seat. But this is the first time that he is contesting for the second time on the same party ticket. He earlier won it in 1989 as the Janata Dal nominee. In 1996 he won on the Haryana Vikas Party ticket. In 2004 he won as the Congress candidate.

He is opposed by former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal who is the nominee of his son Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress (BL). Bhajan Lal is contesting the seat for the first time although he had entered the Lok Sabha from Karnal in 1998 and Faridabad in 1989.

The third doyen is Sampat Singh, a former Finance Minister of Haryana who is the Indian National Lok Dal’s choice as the National Democratic alliance (NDA) candidate. Sampat Singh is contesting a Lok Sabha seat for the first time.

The recent delimitation exercise has changed the complexion of the constituency beyond recognition. Earlier it comprised Hisar town, Narnaund, Barwala and Gihrai assembly constituencies from Hisar district and Jind, Narwana, Kalayat, Rajaundh and Uchana Kalan from Jind district.

But four of the five assembly segments of Jind district have been taken out of the Hisar Lok Sabha seat leaving just one ---- Uchana Kalan.

In their place Adampur, Nalwa, Uklana, Hansi and Bawani Khera assembly constituencies have been added to the Hisar parliamentary constituency. Even among these Uklana and Nalwa are new assembly constituencies created after the delimitation. The Adampur and Hansi assembly segments were earlier part of the Bhiwani Lok Sabha seat.

These changes are bound to impact the ensuing contest. For one, the exclusion of four assembly segments of Jind district means that a candidate from that district like Jai Parkash will now have to look for support among voters outside his home district, Jind, which makes his task as much difficult.

But the delimitation has proved a windfall for Bhajan Lal. He represents the Adampur assembly segment which is now a part of the Hisar Lok Sabha constituency. Adampur has been his pocket borough for decades and he won it last year also in a byelection caused by his own disqualification from the assembly after he floated the HJC with his younger son. Sampat Singh had opposed him last year in Adampur but had lost.

Sampat Singh, on the other hand, remains unaffected by the delimitation. He has represented the Bhattu Kalan assembly constituency several times since 1980 when he was first elected from there. In between he also won from the Fatehabad assembly seat in a byelection. Bhattu Kalan stands abolished after the delimitation. His own village, Bhattu, is now a part of Fatehabad district. Even when Bhattu Kalan existed as a constituency, it was part of the Sirsa Lok Sabha seat. So is Fatehabad.

That makes him sound like an outsider which he is definitely not for he has been living in Hisar since 1964.

The cultural character of Hisar has also changed. The inclusion of Adampur, Nalwa and Bawani Khera constituencies has given Hisar a typically Bagri character. Residents of Hisar and its surrounding areas are known as Bagris who speak the Bagri dialect and enjoy a lifestyle more akin to neighbouring Rajasthan areas.

Jind, Narwana, Kalayat and Rajaundh assembly segments are part of the Bangar area where the dialect and lifestyle are different from those of the Bagri areas. Jai Parkash is a Bangru as the residents of the Bangar areas are known locally. But both Bhajan Lal and Sampat Singh are Bagris. So, in addition to political battles, the Bagris and the Bangrus will also be engaged in a turf war in this particular election.

Bhajan Lal and Sampat Singh are old and natural adversaries. But Sampat Singh and Jai Parkash have been buddies for years. Both are former protégées of the late Devi Lal. Even though they later were in different parties, they maintained personal relations.

But the trio is now fighting a full-fledged war for their political survival. It will well nigh be impossible for the losers to rise from the ashes of a defeat here as none of them is the legendary Phoenix.

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Sirsa
It’s ‘outsider’ vs ‘insider’
Sushil Manav
Tribune News Service

Sirsa, April 23
The Congress and the INLD have changed their nominees for the Sirsa (Reserve) parliamentary seat. While the Congress has dropped its sitting MP Atma Singh Gill and fielded 33-year-old Ashok Tanwar, president of the Indian Youth Congress and a close confidant of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, the INLD has denied ticket to its two-time MP Sushil Indora and nominated 41-year-old Sita Ram, sitting MLA from Dabwali, in its effort to make it an “outsider” versus “insider” fight.

The INLD has also been raising the issue of Tanwar’s “outsider” tag vigorously during its campaign to which the Congress nominee has been asking about the status of INLD’s secretary general Ajay Singh Chautala, who is contesting from Bhiwani.

HJC candidate Rajender Dhanak, BSP’s Rajesh Vaid and CPM’s Ram Kumar Behbalpuria are also in the fray.

Delimitation has altered the demographic details of the Sirsa (Reserve) parliamentary constituency, which has its boundaries both with Punjab as well as Rajasthan.

Earlier, the Sirsa (Reserve) seat comprised Rori, Dabwali (Reserve), Darba Kalan, Ellenabad (Reserve) and Sirsa assembly seats of Sirsa district and Bhattu Kalan, Ratia (Reserve), Tohana and Fatehabad assembly seats of Fatehabad district. A part of the Bhattu Kalan Assembly seat also fell under the Hisar district. However, after the delimitation, Dabwali and Ellenabad Assembly seats have been made general seats.

Rori (Reserve) and Darba Kalan have been abolished and two new seats, Rania and Kalanwali (Reserve), have been carved out in Sirsa district. The Sirsa assembly seat retains its status but with a little change.

Of the four seats coming under the Fatehabad district, Bhattu Kalan has been abolished and its villages have been divided into Fatehabad Assembly seat and Adampur seat. The Narwana Assembly seat of Jind district has been reserved and included in the Sirsa parliamentary seat.

Interestingly, Rori, Darba Kalan and Narwana assembly seats had the privilege of returning INLD chief Om Parkash Chautala at one occasion or the other.

Now, the Darba Kalan seat has been abolished, Rori seat has become Kalanwali and is reserved and Narwana too was reserved in delimitation. The voters coming under these constituencies will be exercising their right to franchise for the first time after delimitation and it will be interesting to see how they respond to the alteration in their constituency.

Out of the 12 elections held for the Sirsa parliamentary constituency after 1967, the first elections after Haryana was carved out as a separate state, the Congress has won seven times, while the INLD and its earlier incarnations won it five times.

Union Minister Selja and her father Dalbir Singh have together won the Sirsa seat on six out of 12 occasions. While Dalbir Singh won from here in 1967, 1971, 1980 and 1984 parliamentary elections, Selja won this seat in the 1991 and 1996 elections. Chand Ram of the Janata Party won this seat in 1977. Het Ram representing an earlier incarnation of the INLD won in the bypoll held in 1988 and the general election held in 1989 while Sushil Indora won this seat on two consecutive occasions in 1998 and 2000.

The Congress won the Sirsa seat again in the last elections held in 2004 when Atma Singh Gill defeated Indora. Interestingly, Sirsa has returned “outsider” candidates on more occasions. Het Ram (2) and Atma Singh Gill (1) were the only “insiders” elected from Sirsa, while all others, including Selja, her father Dalbir Singh, Indora and Chand Ram came from other districts of Haryana. The results of the May 7 elections will decide whether the electoral race goes in favour of the “outsider” or the “insider”.

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Rajasthan
Daunting task for BJP leaders’ heirs
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Barmer/Jhalawar, April 23
Two prominent BJP leaders’ political heirs - Vasundhara Raje’s son Dushyant Singh from Jhalawar and Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh from Barmer - are facing a tough battle in their respective Lok Sabha constituencies.

A pocket borough of Scindias since 1989, the Jhalawar-Baran seat has become a prestige issue for the BJP and the Congress. However, it won’t be a cakewalk for the BJP this time, a fact substantiated by the number of days Vasundhara is putting in the constituency to ensure her son’s victory. The going has got tough for the BJP in Jhalawar as the party faced defeat at the hands of the Congress on six out of eight Assembly seats last year. Another factor that is going against Dushyant is the alleged neglect that Baran district faced during the previous BJP regime while Jhalawar was showered with a string of development projects. To make things worse, it’s Vasundhara who got the credit for development works, while Dushyant has failed to come out of his mother’s shadow.

Also the fact that the Congress has fielded a local candidate from Jhalawar after long may damage the BJP’s poll prospects. Dushyant’s rival Urmila Jain is wife of Congress minister Pramod Jain ‘Bhaya’.

On the other hand, Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra is also not in a very comfortable position either, as he is facing a challenge from within the party. His candidature from Barmer hasn’t been received well by various leaders in the party. Denied the BJP ticket in Assembly elections, the Jat leader having a sizable support in the constituency is reportedly leading a campaign against Manvendra. 

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Gujarat
Patels major determinant of outcome
Dinesh Kumar writes from Porbandar

They once figured on the same side of the freedom movement against British colonial rule before parting ways to become the fathers of their respective nations. The birthplaces of both these leaders fall in the same parliamentary constituency today. While Porbandar's main claim to fame is that of being Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace, Moti Paneli, located near Upleta in adjoining Rajkot district, is where Jinnah was born.

Ironically, although this constituency is named after Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace, successive MPs (and even the current contestants) have actually hailed from Jinnah’s home district, Rajkot. “Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace has mostly had imported representatives”, says Rajesh Buddhdev, a tax consultant. He adds wryly, “None of them has a local ration card”.

“We don’t have anyone to represent our local interests. Mahatma Gandhi used to be most austerely dressed to identify with the poorest of the poor, but politicians want to keep us deprived of development”, alleges Buddhdev, who is also the President of the Porbandar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. His grouse is against the absence of industries, lack of a well-developed port and the abysmal state of tourism in a city which is defined by its history, its heritage buildings and an attractive sea front with a pristine beach. For all its permanent association with the Apostle of Peace, the irony of Porbandar is that it once regularly made headlines for its notoriety as the “Chicago of Gujarat” because of its mafia. “There is no such problem here any longer. We keep a close watch on crime”, says district police chief Dipankar Trivedi.

Like most parts of Gujarat, Porbandar ,too, is witnessing a fight between the BJP and the Congress. Sitting MP Harbhai Patel is not being fielded a second time in this constituency, which has been a BJP stronghold since 1991. Residents allege that he did not pay sufficient attention to this city. Instead, the BJP has issued the ticket to Mansukhbhai Samjibhai Khachariya, a greenhorn, who lost the only election that he ever contested--- the municipal committee poll in Jetpur, his hometown in Rajkot district.

The Congress has fielded Vitthalbhai Radardiya, a sitting MLA and resident of Jam Kandona in Rajkot district who had lost the last parliamentary election by a narrow margin of about 5,000 votes. The Congress is trying to reclaim this seat which has eluded it for the past 20 years. Political observers here predict a tough contest between the BJP and the Congress which accounts for three assembly seats each in this parliamentary constituency having a total of seven assembly seats. The seventh seat is held by a legislator from the NCP which fought in alliance with the Congress.

Representatives of both parties say the reason for “importing” candidates is because this parliamentary constituency extends across three districts --- Porbandar, Junagadh and Rakjot--- with the latter accounting for the maximum number (three) of assembly seats.

Among those with a huge grievance are the 1.5 lakh residents of this city who are directly or indirectly dependent on the fishing industry. “Our sorrow is as vast as the sea”, says Jiwanbhai Jungi, President of the Porbandar Fishermen Association. “Our problems have increased because of several restrictions imposed on us after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks when the fishing vessel Kuber registered in Porbandar was hijacked by the terrorists,” he says. The setting up of industry along Gujarat’s 1,540 km coast has meant taking fishing vessels further away from the coastline to find fish. “But we get intercepted by the Pakistanis. As many as 313 fishing boats from Porbandar alone are in Pakistani custody and another 70 boats have been impounded by the Indian Customs Department.”

But the major determinants of the poll outcome will be the four lakh Patels who constitute the single largest section of the 13.88 lakh electorate. While the BJP is banking on state Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma, the Congress is hoping that their party’s brand name and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s image will fetch them the winning votes. For both parties, it is a tough contest made worse by the overflowing woes of citizens.

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Cooch Behar 
Left in disarray, opponents united
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

Cooch Behar, April 23
The Left is in difficulty this time in West Bengal. There is dissension, division, despair and demoralisation in its ranks.

Its opponents on the other hand have closed ranks and united. If the anti-Left vote is cast for one main opposition candidate all over North Bengal like in Cooch Behar for the Trinamul Congress candidate Arghar Roy Pradhan, his success against Forward Bloc candidate Nipen Roy,the first time after 1972, would be near certain.

Arghar Roy Pradhan is the son of veteran FB leader Amar Roy Pradhan, who had represented the FB/Left successfully in several successive Lok Sabhas. But in 2004 he was denied the ticket for some inexplicable reason. He quit the FB and contested as a rebel, securing over 50,000 votes.

That year Hiten Barman won the seat for the FB/Left defeating his Congress rival by 2.26 lakh votes. This time the FB has denied the ticket to Hiten Barman also.

Asked why the FB was frequently changing its candidates, Sujit Kumar Sarkar of the North Bengal State Transport Union, said, “You know how political masters in Delhi and Kolkata are. They don’t want anyone to become too big.”

The FB is not alone in replacing its candidates, at least this time.The leading Left Front partner, the CPM, has replaced 12 candidates in the 32 seats it is contesting, including its Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha Rupchand Pal.

Of course, several changes were necessitated by the change of profile of constituencies due to fresh delimitation from reserved to de-reserved and vice versa.

In nextdoor Jalpaiguri the CPM has replaced its sitting woman MP, Minati Sen, by Mahendra Roy. But that is because Jalpaiguri is now a reserved SC constituency.

The crux of the matter is that there is general disarray and fear of the unknown among Left sympathisers, even as they tend to initially dismiss any suggestion of their weakening as repetitive over the past 29 years.

But yes they agree in the last general election the Congress and the Trinamul fought against each other and the Left gained because of the division in the anti-Left vote. This time the rivals are united.

Taking again the instance of Cooch Behar, in 2004 the Congress got 1.16 lakh votes and the Trinamul over one lakh. Another 50,000 went to Amar Roy Pradhan. This time with Trinamul in alliance with the Congress setting up Amar Roy’s son, all this vote is united and a local journalist, Debabrata De Sarkar, conceded, “The fight is close this time.”

Arithmetic apart, there are other factors contributing to the image of a besieged Left in North Bengal. At one end there is the vociferous Gorkhaland movement of the GJM in Darjeeling Hills hoping to send BJP leader Jaswant Singh to Parliament.

Then there is the Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation (KLO), a breakaway faction of the Kamtapuri People’s Party (KPP), demanding a separate state. Not to be left behind there is also Bangshi Badan Barman of the Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party demanding a separate state of Cooch Behar.

It is another thing though that the boundaries of the demanded Gorkhaland, Kamtapuri state and Greater Cooch Behar state considerably overlap each other and were the government to actually concede these states, it may lead to instant boundary war among these militant organisations. Besides as Sujay Dey of Siliguri said, ‘‘If we concede all this, what will be left of North Bengal?”

Never mind that. Today their common enemy is the CPM and their joint endeavour is to defeat the CPM. For this they are supporting Jaswant Singh and the BJP at one place, the Trinamul at another and the Congress at the third.

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State of Parties Punjab
SAD faces challenge in Malwa
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 23
One of the oldest regional parties, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), has made its presence felt in politics one way or other. Along with the BJP, now it is in power in Punjab. But even without being in power, it has never lost its relevance in politics. The SAD has fielded its candidates in 10 out of 13 Lok Sabha constituencies and the remaining three have been allocated to the BJP.

The SAD has nominated Sher Singh Ghubaya from Ferozepur, Paramjit Kaur Gulshan from Faridkot, Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Bathinda and Prem Singh Chandumajra from Patiala as its candidates. Its other candidates are Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala from Khadoor Sahib, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa from Sangrur, GS Galib from Ludhiana, Charanjit Singh Atwal from Fatehgarh Sahib and Hans Raj Hans from Jalandhar.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal is the youngest face of the party in the fray. First time, the SAD has added a bit of star appeal to its politics by nominating Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans.

The SAD’s best performance in the Lok Sabha elections was in 1998 when along with its coalition partner - the BJP - and others it had wiped out the Congress in all 13 constituencies. The SAD-BJP alliance had then won 11 seats and two candidates - Inder Kumar Gujral and Satnam Singh Kainth - supported by it had also won. However, in 1999, the SAD performed poorly. Along with the BJP, it only won three seats whereas 8 seats went to the Congress and one each to the CPI and the SAD (Amritsar). In the last Lok Sabha elections held in 2004, the SAD-BJP combine again performed well and won 11 seats out of 13. The Congress got only 2 seats - Patiala and Jalandhar - in 2004.

Though it has a base across the state especially in rural Punjab, until recently Malwa region was known as its political citadel. However, it is now facing a big challenge in that region from the Congress, its traditional political opponent in the state. Since its emergence on the political scene in the 1920s, the SAD has seen many ideological shifts in its politics. Of late, especially after the Moga conference that was held in the late 1990s, the SAD has been trying to shift to all-inclusive politics from the panthic politics that used to determine its political line for the past several decades. But still it is caught in-between as far as the ideological shift from panthic to all-inclusive politics is concerned.

The entire top SAD leadership is in the process of transfer of power to their wards. The process has started from the SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal. Badal’s son, Sukhbir Badal, has almost stepped in the political shoes of his father.

Sukhbir has already become the Deputy Chief Minister and has established full control on the party as well as in the government. He is a man, who calls the shots in the party and the government at the moment. But despite Sukhbir being so powerful, Parkash Singh Badal continues to be as relevant in the state politics. In other words, the SAD is now senior and junior Badal’s party but there are some sections of society who still trust Parkash Badal only. Like Badal, other senior Akali leaders, have also inducted their wards in state politics.

Overtly, the SAD is facing no crisis from within at the moment. But like other parties, it has also some leaders who have their own sub-factions within the party. Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who passed away a few weeks ago, was one of the leaders who always maintained a different stance on issues in the party. The older leadership of the party has not fully digested the rise of younger Akali leadership.

After blowing hot for several years and launching morchas especially in 1970s and 1980s on issues related to Punjab such as transfer of Chandigarh, more power to states and re-writing of Centre-state relations and river water issues and Anandpur Sahib resolution, the SAD has cooled down in recent years. Of course, it raises these issues on certain occasions also but only just as an exercise for vote politics.

Like many political parties, the SAD’s sole agenda now is how to be in power and to retain it. However, in a game for power in the state as well as in the Centre, it has become dependent on the BJP, a party with whom it has several contradictions on issues related to minorities, federal system and much more. The SAD is contesting 10 Lok Sabha seats and its ally - the BJP - is contesting 3 seats.

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Jaya’s new campaign style disappoints
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, April 23
AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa’s shift to helicopter as the mode of transport has robbed the charm in the election campaign with the absence of roadshows and the accompanying festive atmosphere on the campaign routes besides distancing the charismatic from the people. Most of Jayalalithaa’s supporters in villages, who hoped to see their leader, sitting in a van and waving the ‘two leaves’ symbol were disappointed, since the AIADMK leader had chosen to land only at major venues to address two or three public meetings in a day. Jayalalithaa, who started her campaign on April 18, had covered the entire southern districts, from Kanyakumari to Madurai, addressing public meetings at important places. Though thousands of people gathered at the public meetings, the former Chief Minister could have met at least twice the number of people, if she had chosen her usual campaign mode using a specially designed van. Another disadvantage is the timing of her meetings, held in the afternoon, in the scorching summer heat.

The usual charm and buzz of activities seen in roadshows are totally absent, making the campaign a dull affair. When she goes by the van, she will start in the evening and go on till the stipulated time. The campaign routes will be decked with palm, mango, coconut and plantain trees and thousands of people, especially women, will be waiting on both sides of the road, to have a glimpse of the leader and hear her speak to them.

With festoons and party flags fluttering in the gentle evening breeze, she will stop her convoy, wherever a sizeable crowd is waiting for her. She would name babies, bless newly married couples and accept the traditional welcome, providing a personal touch to the campaign.

Besides, the usual decorations, tube lights and serial lights will make a festive atmosphere for the villagers. Jayalalithaa’s new campaign style has totally changed everything, disappointing her supporters in the villages.

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Pollscape
Poll painters

This is perhaps an election like no other in Chennai city. Clean walls without the garish poll graffiti and the empty skyline bereft of huge hoardings depicting politicians of all shapes made Chennai to retain its traditional look, thanks to the tough Election Commission guidelines but the new rules rendered hundreds of poll painters poor and jobless. Somewhere in the heat and dust of poll campaign, the plight of painters is forgotten, their associations complain. Adding to their owes was the recent state government’s order to remove the hoarding which clogged the skyline of Chennai. With this any scope of painters to earn additional money has disappeared. Not just political candidates, but even small time painters, caterers, artisans and outdoor advertising agencies are being impacted by the curbs imposed by the EC, they say. “Especially during the election time, each painter would have earned at least Rs 25,000 per month,” Tamil Nadu Outdoor Advertising Association Secretary AG Nayakam said.— PTI

Elephantine ride

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s elephant ride in Amritsar has come under criticism from the Congress, with a party leader describing them as the new “Mughal emperors of Punjab”. Badal and Sidhu, the sitting BJP MP from Amritsar, seated themselves on two elephants along with Badal’s brother-in-law and Akali Dal legislator Bikram Singh Majithia, while other leaders came on horses when Sidhu went to file his nomination papers on Wednesday. “The pomp and show displayed by the Akali Dal-BJP in Amritsar can rightly be termed as the arrival of the new Mughal emperors of Punjab. While people of Punjab continue to suffer due to lack of basic facilities, Sukhbir and his new team have embarked upon the path of glory once witnessed during the erstwhile Mughal emperors of India,” said Congress legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira. — IANS

Snow scare

Himachal Pradesh’s highest polling station in Chafk Batori village of Chamba district, which is at an altitude of 16,000 feet, is still marooned by snow. “Chafk Batori village is still cut off from the rest of the country. Election material has been sent there through porters,” Himachal Chief Electoral Officer Anil Khachi said. He said 69 persons are eligible to cast their votes at the Chafk Batori polling booth. Earlier, a booth at Hikkim (15,500 feet) in Lahaul and Spiti district was considered the highest polling station in the state. According to Khachi, the Ka polling booth in Kinnaur district has the lowest number of voters in the state. “The Ka polling station near Yangthang in Kinnaur district has only 19 voters - the lowest in the state. The highest number of voters (1,600) are at a polling booth in the Joginder Nagar Assembly constituency,” he said. — IANS

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Poll Buzz
Lalgarh election

KOLKATA: The Election Commission on Wednesday announced that the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal’s tribal-dominated Lalgarh would take place as scheduled on April 30. The decision was taken following a tripartite meeting between the poll panel, state government officials and the tribal organization, which was opposing the entry of the security forces into the troubled region to supervise the election. 
— IANS

Cong nominee booked

BALRAMPUR (UP): An FIR was lodged on Thursday against Congress candidate from the Shravasti parliamentary constituency Vinay Pandey for allegedly assaulting a district office-bearer of BSP, police sources here said. The case was lodged against Pandey for allegedly beating BSP’s district vice-president Rahul Pathak, who alleged irregularities in poll process, at Deoria Rachhora polling station on Thursday. Pathak had accused the Congress candidate of committing irregularities in the poll process. — PTI

Nomination filed

PUDUCHERRY: The BJP’s Puducherry unit president, M Visweswaran, filed his nomination for the lone Lok Sabha seat here on Thursday. Visweswaran filed his nomination before Returning Officer G Ragesh Chandra. — PTI

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Voter’s guide
What are the unique features of an Indian EVM?

It is a simple machine that can be operated easily by both polling personnel and voters. It is sturdy enough to withstand rough handling and variable climatic conditions. Being a stand-alone machine without any network connectivity, nobody can interfere with its programming and manipulate the result. Keeping the erratic power supply position in many places in mind, the machine has been made to run on batteries. It is a far simpler machine than its counterpart in the USA.

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