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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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

Rohtak
Actor, wrestler & a scholar in fray
Rohtak, May 1
Known as the political capital of Haryana, Rohtak has earned a name for itself over the years due to various factors, including the virtual return of political supremacy to this region, which had otherwise been in news for indifference by various governments.

Hisar
Issues take back seat
Hisar, May 1
Three veterans, one greenhorn and five mainstream political parties. Sounds interesting. Yet, all the arithmetic is adding up to just one choice for the voters of the Hisar Lok Sabha constituency: Which of the biggies do they want to help survive politically. In the absence of real issues, the focus is mainly on the main rivals’ personas.

Karnal
Factionalism puts nominees in fix
Karnal, May 1
Faced with opposition from within, stakes are high for the Congress and INLD-BJP combine in the Karnal Lok Sabha seat where two maverick Brahmins are begging for votes.




A CPI graffiti shows US President Obama and West Bengal Chief Minister B Bhatacharya in Kolkata.
A CPI graffiti shows US President Obama and West Bengal Chief Minister B Bhatacharya in Kolkata. 
— PTI

A billboard in Hisar urges voters to opt for the right candidates.
HEAD OVER HEART: A billboard in Hisar urges voters to opt for the right candidates. — PTI

Smaller size, altered equations: It’s a new-look Faridabad
Faridabad, May 1
Delimitation has not only shrunk the elephantine geographical expanse of this parliamentary constituency bordering the national capital but also altered the caste equations, especially after the secession of three Meo-Muslim dominated Assembly segments, Taoru, Nuh and Ferozepur Jhirka.

EC objects to use of children in
poll work

New Delhi, May 1
The Election Commission today strongly objected to the use of children in poll-related work and warned concerned officials of disciplinary action.Taking cognisance of photographs in a newspaper of children carrying electronic voting machines at Bhagalpur in Bihar, the EC in a letter to Chief Secretaries and CEO of all states said "it is highly objectionable".

Catch ’em young: Two teenagers help each other tie a bandana of the Samajwadi Party in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh.
Catch ’em young: Two teenagers help each other tie a bandana of the Samajwadi Party in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh. Tribune photo: 
Mukesh Aggarwal

SP affinity may not work much for Kalyan
Agra, May 1
It has been more than 16 years since the 400-year-old Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was knocked down. Kalyan Singh was then the Chief Minister. A poster boy of the backward community, Singh’s political journey has been quite dramatic with several twists. In what is seemingly a contentious U-turn of political opportunism, Kalyan parted ways with the BJP in January 2009 and is now friends with Mulayam Singh Yadav, a self-professed champion of the Muslims.

Jaipur Rural
Triangular contest in changed scenario
Jaipur, May 1
The delimitation of constituencies has brought to the fore a three-cornered contest in this parliamentary constituency of Jaipur Rural where the two main political parties, the Congress and the BJP, are facing competition from an Independent candidate.

Lucky escape for Varun
LUCKNOW: A dais that BJP leader Varun Gandhi was standing on collapsed Friday in his Pilibhit constituency in UP, but he did not suffer any injuries, the police said.





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Rohtak
Actor, wrestler & a scholar in fray
Bijendra Ahlawat
Tribune News Service

Rohtak, May 1
Known as the political capital of Haryana, Rohtak has earned a name for itself over the years due to various factors, including the virtual return of political supremacy to this region, which had otherwise been in news for indifference by various governments.

The supremacy described as “Chaudhar” (headship) is believed to play a vital role in the coming elections. With the Congress going again with Deepender Singh Hooda, son of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and outgoing MP from this seat, the stage has been set for another interesting show.

Though Congressmen believes it to be a mere cakewalk, rival parties, including the INLD, HJC and the BSP, are not ready to believe the claim and have been trying to put a brave front.

A victory in Rohtak has always been a prestige issue for most of the political parties and their leaders as it had been a hub of the Jat electorate, which had been playing a vital role in politics since the state came into being.

The constituency turned into a bastion for the Hooda family after the arrival of Bhupinder Singh Hooda into the political scenario in mid 90s. Earlier, the vote bank was with the Devi Lal clan.

The delimitation, which has shifted the Bahadurgarh Assembly seat into Rohtak and creation of two new Assembly segments of Garhi-Sampla and Kosli instead of Hassangarh and Salhawas seats, respectively, seems to have resulted in safe passage for the ruling party candidate due to the stronghold of the Chief Minister in the region.

The change has led to solidification of Jat votes. Meham, Kiloi, Rohtak, Beri, Kalanaur and Badli Assembly segments are other constituents of the Rohtak seat.

A comparison of the profiles of the candidates presents a unique contrast of personalities. While Deepender did his MBA from the US, whose political innings began in 2005, his main rival INLD’s Nafe Singh Rathi is a college dropout and a wrestler, who had set off his political career as a polling agent.

HJC nominee Krishan Murti Hooda, former banker and a sportsperson, had became MLA from Kiloi in 1991 on the Congress ticket which is now being represented by the Chief Minister himself. BSP candidate Rajkumar Sharma is as table tennis player and had played a lead role in a Haryanvi film.

Deepender, riding on development plank, has extensively toured the constituency and has been trying to strike a personal chord with the people.

Though the INLD and the BJP have joined hands, the sense of unity and attachment among workers of these parties had always been an issue of debate. The alliance had been trying to seek favour on shortage of power, water and jobs besides the law and order issue. The HJC candidate has pinned hopes on non-Jat votes and the anti-incumbency factor while the BSP has been hopeful of registering a win with the help of social engineering formula of Mayawati.

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Hisar
Issues take back seat
Raman Mohan
Tribune News Service

Hisar, May 1
Three veterans, one greenhorn and five mainstream political parties. Sounds interesting. Yet, all the arithmetic is adding up to just one choice for the voters of the Hisar Lok Sabha constituency: Which of the biggies do they want to help survive politically. In the absence of real issues, the focus is mainly on the main rivals’ personas. No wonder, the election from this prestigious Lok Sabha segment has been reduced to a referendum on the main candidates’ political future.

The star-studded contest features former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal (HJC), former finance minister Sampat Singh (INLD-BJP combine) and sitting Congress MP Jai Parkash. In his late 70s, Bhajan Lal is understandably overwhelmed by nostalgia and puts it to good use, especially in his public interactions. He narrates the story of his 12 years as CM, mainly concentrating on what he did for his people. “After I was out of power, you have seen nothing but neglect. Bring me back, and I promise you the good old days back,” says the patriarch. He also rubbishes his opponents’ propaganda about his health. “I am a lion and even if a lion grows old, he is still a lion that cam always devour goats and sheep.” he claims. Bhajan Lal’s strength is his personal relations with the voters. And his poll managers ensure that he meets as many of them as possible during his campaigning.

Sampat Singh of the Indian National Lok Dal has been a hard working politician throughout his career. He has been campaigning vigorously as usual. He talks about the need to elevate Advani to the office of the Prime Minister, the SYL Canal, black money stashed in Swiss banks and other issues but only up to an extent. Considering that he faces two other biggies, he has to resort to opponent bashing. So does his party supremo Om Parkash Chautala, who publicly stated that Bhajan Lal at this point should be resting in Mukam ( a holy town of Bishnoi community in Rajasthan) rather than contesting elections. Jai Parkash of the Congress is charting a somewhat similar course. His remarks against his opponents are nothing short of vitriolic.

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Karnal
Factionalism puts nominees in fix
Bhanu P Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Karnal, May 1
Faced with opposition from within, stakes are high for the Congress and INLD-BJP combine in the Karnal Lok Sabha seat where two maverick Brahmins are begging for votes.

Arch-rivals, sitting Congress MP Arvind Sharma and former Union Minister ID Swami (INLD-BJP), are locked in a grim electoral battle in the constituency where BSP candidate Varinder Maratha and greenhorn Ramesh Chhabra of the HJC are all set to register their strong presence.

Sharma had defeated Swami by a huge margin of 1,47,762 votes in the 2004 elections and is striving hard to retain the seat while Swami, banking on the INLD support, is making a determined bid to avenge his defeat.

There is no Congress or BJP rebel in the field but both the candidates are wary of undercutting as the desired support is not forthcoming for Sharma form the local Congress leaders and RSS cadres are in no mood to bail out Swami.

Both the main contenders managed to get the ticket in spite of stiff opposition from their detractors, who are yet to come to terms with the changed situation.

Sharma, who gave anxious moments to the party during the trust vote and opened a front against the Chief Minister, BS Hooda, accusing him of “discriminating” against Karnal and Panipat in the matter of jobs and development, has been forced to eat his words and ask votes in the name of development in the state.

In spite of clear directions from the Chief Minister to ensure victory of Sharma, the local Congress leaders, who batted for Hooda when he was under attack from Sharma, are sulking and feeling “uncomfortable”.

Sharma, who is well entrenched in his constituency in the urban areas, is concentrating on the rural segments. However, with the INLD and BJP forging an alliance, the going is not that smooth for Sharma.

Swami, who is banking heavily on the INLD support, is asking the workers to “forgive” him on the one hand and attacking Sharma on the other for claiming credit for developmental works initiated or executed during his tenure. The INLD candidate had created a flutter by defeating former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal in 1999.

The presence of BSP candidate Varinder Maratha is causing anxiety to the Congress as the BSP and the Ekta Shakti Party of Maratha, which has been merged with the BSP, had together polled 1,50,822 (19 per cent) votes in 2004.

With Valmikis annoyed with the Congress for denying ticket to their community and the powerful Rod community of Maratha, accounting for about 82,000 votes, standing behind him, the chances of Maratha emerging as a strong contender are within the realm of reality.

The HJC candidate, Ramesh Chhabra, a Punjabi by caste, is banking on Punjabi and Sikh vote banks and, being the only candidate from Panipat, is concentrating on his district. There are about 2.50 lakh Sikh, Arora and Punjabi voters in this constituency.

Karnal is a multi-caste constituency with 1, 42,630 Jat, 1,30,982 Arora, 1,01,508 Brahmin, 99,551 Harijan, 82,000 Rod, 74,785 Valmiki, 64,718 Sikh, 63,578 Ghiver, 52,850 Rajput, 41,366 Gujjar, 30,738 Saini and 26,790 Muslim votes.

The Sikhs, Punjabis and Aroras were divided, Rods were supporting Maratha, Saini votes were drifting away from the INLD due to denial of ticket to two-time MP, Kailasho Devi, who had since joined Congress and Jat votes were being wooed by both the Congress and the INLD-BJP. The Dhanoli and Karnal jail incidents have also cast their shadow and Sikhs in the area were up in arms against the Congress.

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Smaller size, altered equations: It’s a
new-look Faridabad

Ravi S Singh
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, May 1
Delimitation has not only shrunk the elephantine geographical expanse of this parliamentary constituency bordering the national capital but also altered the caste equations, especially after the secession of three Meo-Muslim dominated Assembly segments, Taoru, Nuh and Ferozepur Jhirka.

Though about a score of candidates are in the fray, broadly speaking, the main fight is among the sitting Congress MP Avatar Singh Bhadana, Ramchander Bainda of the BJP, Chander Bhatia of the Haryana Janhit Congress and Chetan Sharma of the BSP. Yashpal Naggar, a Congress rebel, who is now contesting as an Independent, is another important candidate.

Post delimitation, the number of voters has reduced from 18 lakh to 11 lakh. Infighting within party could hurt Congress’ candidate Bhadana. Notably, three party MLAs, including the Haryana Local Bodies Minister, AC Chaudhary, the chairman of Haryana Administrative Reforms Commission, Karan Dalal, seem to be not supporting Bhadana. They even did not turn up when he filed his nomination papers. It is learnt that even after the Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda intervention, there hasn’t been much headway.

After much coaxing, Karan Dalal, appears to have softened his stand and was seen holding a roadshow for Bhadana. AC Chaudhary, however, has put the Congress on a sticky wicket by tendering his resignation from the Haryana cabinet. He claimed that the Punjabis were neglected during distributing of the party ticket in Haryana. The Congress worries do not end here. The Meo-Muslim voters, who always supported the party, have been shifted to the Gurgaon parliamentary constituency after the delimitation.

The BJP has once again fielded Ramchander Bainda, who has, in the past, won thrice from the constituency. Bainda enjoys good support from party leaders and cadre. However, the BJP vote bank in the urban pockets is confused, especially after the saffron party formed an alliance with the INLD. The BJP nominee was also banking heavily on Jat voters (around two lakh), who are in a dominant position following delimitation. But the biggest challenge before the BJP is to challenge the towering image of the CM Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the rural areas, especially among the peasantry and the farming community.

The BSP has put up the former Indian cricketer Chetan Sharma to target the young voters. The BSP was the first political party to have announced its nominee for the seat. So, Chetan has a kind of head start over others and has been campaigning vigorously in his constituency.

The HJC has put up Chander Bhatia, a former firebrand MLA from the district, who joined the party after quitting the BJP. The HJC president Kuldip Bishnoi has toured the contituency a number of times to garner votes for his candidate. Bhatia banks on the popularity of Bhajan Lal.

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EC objects to use of children in poll work

New Delhi, May 1
The Election Commission today strongly objected to the use of children in poll-related work and warned concerned officials of disciplinary action.Taking cognisance of photographs in a newspaper of children carrying electronic voting machines at Bhagalpur in Bihar, the EC in a letter to Chief Secretaries and CEO of all states said "it is highly objectionable".

Violation of child rights for any work connected with the election process "is in no way acceptable", it said.

In order to ensure that no such "insensitivity" was shown by the election related officials, the panel warned that the District Election Officers and Returning Officers would be personally held responsible for any such violation and would face severe disciplinary action. — PTI

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SP affinity may not work much for Kalyan
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Agra, May 1
It has been more than 16 years since the 400-year-old Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was knocked down. Kalyan Singh was then the Chief Minister. A poster boy of the backward community, Singh’s political journey has been quite dramatic with several twists. In what is seemingly a contentious U-turn of political opportunism, Kalyan parted ways with the BJP in January 2009 and is now friends with Mulayam Singh Yadav, a self-professed champion of the Muslims.

He’s now contesting elections as an Independent from Etah (located just 70 km north of Agra) and indirectly blames his former party for the controversial demolition. “No Chief Minister would want such a thing to happen,” he adds, disassociating himself from the row. He has also alleged that the BJP was lying about building the Ram temple at the same spot.

After the Babri Masjid was demolished, Kalyan Singh quit his job as CM. But he again became the CM in 1997 when the BJP and BSP had an alliance. He quit the BJP for the first time in 1999 citing “humiliation” and floated his Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP). At that time, he had his first tryst with Mulayam when his son Rajvir Singh and protégé Kusum Rai were inducted as UP cabinet ministers.

In 2004, Kalyan went back to the BJP. Kalyan Singh, who belongs to the backward Lodh community, is now talking about “uplifting” the area that grows potatoes among other vegetables. However, it won’t be a cakewalk for him. The Muslims would never vote for him. The SP, his newfound friend is itself in a fix and is facing a backlash due to its affinity with him. Over half a dozen Muslims leaders have expressed anguish after Mulayam and Kalyan joined hands. The veteran leader has an influence in a few of the neighbouring seats like Mathura, Hathras and Bulandshahr, where members of his community are in good numbers. Rather one of the reason he left the BJP in January this year was that his son Rajvir Singh had been denied the party ticket from an Assembly constituency in Bulandshahr.

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Jaipur Rural
Triangular contest in changed scenario
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, May 1
The delimitation of constituencies has brought to the fore a three-cornered contest in this parliamentary constituency of Jaipur Rural where the two main political parties, the Congress and the BJP, are facing competition from an Independent candidate.

Stretching from Bansur and Kotputli, bordering Haryana, till Amer, bordering Jaipur city, this new constituency has been carved out after adding parts of Jaipur, Alwar and Dausa.

As a result --- and as has been the case with a large number of constituencies around the country --- the political equation for all candidates has changed dramatically from the past.

With no history to back any party in this constituency, it’s casteism which has come to the fore here.

The BJP has selected its MLA Rao Rajendra Singh while the Congress has given its nod to Lalchand Kataria, who lost in the assembly poll.

However, they both would be facing some competition from Independent candidate Sukhbir Singh Jaunpuria, who had been looking forward to a ticket from the Congress. But having been overlooked, he decided to come into the field all by himself and is confident of a win.

There are a total of 21 candidates in fray with a total of eight state assembly constituencies being part of it. Of the eight, the BJP has control over five assembly constituencies with the Congress controlling two and the eighth one being with the LJP.

With control over majority of the Jaipur Rural constituency, the BJP feels that it has a fair chance of pulling through this region. However, the Congress candidate and Independent Jaunpuria are in no mood to give up.

They have been campaigning with their supporters and hope to really give the final push to their voters over the next few days before the state goes to the polls on May 7.As of now, however, none of the candidates has really been able to establish any solid contact with the voters, both in the rural sector of the constituency as well as the cities.

All candidates are at present working hard in the rural belt of the region and have still to hit the cities. While they have been getting support from voters wherever they have been going but the going is tough for all the three main candidates especially with the rising temperatures.

With the new constituency being carved out, indications available point to a major role of casteism in the eventual voting pattern. Another reason for this is the absence of any major issues in the region.

All the candidates are working hard not only to woo their own caste voters but also from the ones which they feel would be sympathetic to them. The constituency has a majority of voters in Jat, Brahmin and backward tribes with Yadav, Gujjar, Meena, Rajput, Maali and Vaish also forming a sizeable number.

As a result, Kataria is banking heavily on votes from Jats, backward tribes and Muslims while the BJP’s Singh is hoping to pull in votes from the Brahmins, Vaish, Yadavs and Rajputs.

Independent Sukhbir Singh, who also carries an outsider tag as he hails from Sohna in Haryana, is depending on votes from Gujjars and the backward tribes.

Incidentally, having been prepared to get a ticket from the Congress, Sukhbir had all his polling machinery in place, which he is now using very efficiently to his benefit in the initial run-up to the polling.

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Lucky escape for Varun

LUCKNOW: A dais that BJP leader Varun Gandhi was standing on collapsed Friday in his Pilibhit constituency in UP, but he did not suffer any injuries, the police said.

"The four-feet high dais collapsed just before Varun was about to start his public address in the Bithaura area of Pilibhit," ASP DK Chaudhary said. The stage prepared by party workers could not bear the load of around 15 people who had climbed on it. — IANS

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Poll Buzz
Plea to protect kids

Coimbatore: A group of voluntary organisations has prepared a set of demands to draw the attention of candidates contesting the Lok Sabha elections to issues of children such as the need to take stringent action against infanticide and child marriage. Voicing concern over the increasing incidents of infanticide and dumping of new born babies in garbage bin and drainages, the organisations said in their "manifesto" that the political parties should take steps for active implementation of acts to protect the children. — PTI

‘Wrong’ influence

Kolkata: A Lok Sabha candidate of West Bengal’s ruling Left Front could be in trouble for allegedly trying to influence her mother inside the polling booth on Thursday. A television grab showed Prashanta Majumdar, Left Front partner Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) nominee from the Balurghat seat in South Dinajpur district, guiding her mother to press the electronic voting machine (EVM) button on a particular symbol. The opposition Trinamool Congress lodged a complaint with the Election Commission, alleging Majumdar has tried to influence her mother and violated the principle of secret voting. — IANS

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Voter’s guide

If a person, who is a member of the SCs or the STs contests an election from a general seat, how much security deposit is he required to make to contest elections to the Lok Sabha/ Vidhan Sabha?

A sum of Rs 5,000 for the Lok Sabha and Rs 2,500 for the Vidhan Sabha.

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Pollspeak

How can people be forced to vote? Poor people who are struggling to earn a livelihood far from their native places will be hit hard if voting is made compulsory.

— Sharad Yadav, convener of the BJP-led NDA

We send money from Delhi. But there is an elephant sitting in Lucknow, which doesn't eat grass. It's a special elephant, it doesn't eat grass, and it eats your money.

— Rahul Gandhi commenting on UP Chief Minister Mayawati for "mishandling" Central-allotted funds, and making fun of the BSP's election symbol

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Pollscape
Chennai chakra

The May 13 Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu could leave many voters in 13 constituencies confused as they will have to choose between candidates with identical names. Voters may get confused even in the constituencies of union ministers P Chidamabaram and T R Baalu. In Sivaganga Chidamabaram is pitted against AIADMK's Raja Kannappan but has to contest with S Chidambaram who said he filed his nomination papers at the instance of AIADMK. In Sriperumbudur, Union Minister TR Baalu is pitted against PMK’s AK Murthy but will have to face another contestant DR Balu. At Tiruvanamalai, PMK heavyweight J Guru is facing two other contestants with similar names. DMK rival D Venugopal faces the same problem. In Coimbatore, CPM’s PR Natarajan also has a rival with similar name. — PTI

Digital power

As voting for the general election reaches final phases after hectic campaigning with political parties heavily relying also on digital technology, the effectiveness of this new penchant is yet to be proven, experts say.“We can’t be certain about how effective this form of campaigning has been because the political parties don’t just rely on this medium. They still hold rallies and face to face campaigning, besides the digital form of campaigning,” said Rajeeva Karandikar, a psephologist. Dr Ajay Pal Singh, psychiatrist, Max Health Care said, “In any human interaction, there are many factors like body language, eye movements that govern the final effect on the listener. So, it becomes much easier to motivate someone when you are face to face with him. The digital medium is impersonal in nature and to convince the audience is not very easy.” — PTI

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