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CHANDIGARH

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N A T I O N

Fissures in Left: Budha not to attend Politburo meet
Budhadeb Bhattacharya New Delhi, May 17
Fissures in the Left deepened today with both the West Bengal and Kerala Chief Ministers reluctant to accept the blame for the party’s complete wipeout in the Lok Sabha elections in their respective states.

Budhadeb Bhattacharya

PM, Sonia invite Mamata to join cabinet
Mamata Banerjee’sKolkata, May 17
A day after Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress gave a poll shocker to the Left parties in West Bengal, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh today invited her to join a ministry in the next government at the Centre.

Mamata Banerjee’s


EARLIER STORIES


THE TRIBUNE
  SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

 

News Analysis
No business with SP, BSP: UP Cong 
Lucknow, May 17
The Uttar Pradesh Congress is keen not to have any truck with either the Samajwadi party or the BSP, as they believe this would erode their hard-earned victory in the state.

Less Pawar for NCP
Sharad PawarCong talks tough with NCP ahead of assembly polls
Mumbai, May 17
From posturing as a possible Prime Ministerial candidate Sharad Pawar has been reduced to struggling to hold his own in Maharashtra. As the Congress moves from strength to strength, Pawar is seeing the political space occupied by his party shrinking rapidly.

Sharad Pawar

Dud debut for Chiru
Telugu matinee idol fails to make a mark.Hyderabad, May 17
Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi’s political show has turned to be a flop. His fledgling Praja Rajyam Party came a cropper in its electoral debut in Andhra Pradesh. Despite the hype surrounding the actor’s political entry and his successful road shows, the PRP failed to make a mark in the simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and Assembly.

Telugu matinee idol fails to make a mark. File photo

Andhra Pradesh
Telangana comes a cropper
Hyderabad, May 17
It may well be the end of the road for Telangana statehood movement in Andhra Pradesh with voters comprehensively rejecting the separate state slogan in the just-concluded elections.

Desperate SP cosying up to Congress
Mulayam, Amar meet PM; eager to join govt
Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and general secretary Amar Singh with other senior leaders after the party’s parliamentary board meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. New Delhi, May 17
The love-hate relationship between the Congress and Samajwadi Party might well be on its demise, with the latter desperate to make up with its estranged partner and the former in no mood to oblige.



Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and general secretary Amar Singh with other senior leaders after the party’s parliamentary board meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. — Tribune photograph

Bihar
Good governance clicked for Nitish 
Patna, May 17
The 15th Lok Sabha elections in Bihar will be remembered in many ways. Contrary to the national trend, the NDA in Bihar literally swept the polls by winning 32 out of the 40 seats under the sole leadership of Nitish Kumar. Undoubtedly, the Bihar Chief Minister has established himself as the tallest politician in the state today.

In desert land, Cong shows who’s the boss
Jaipur, May 17
From a party that somehow managed to cobble up a simple majority post-Assembly elections five months back, to a party sweeping the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has turned the tables on its arch rival BJP in the desert state.

Jubilant Congress candidate from Thiruvanathapuram acknowledges greetings from his supporters.Kerala
For Left, debacle was waiting to happen
Thiruvananthapuram, May 17
The writing on the Red Wall was clear. The electoral drubbing was waiting to happen for Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) which has been plagued by infighting and squabbles. The communist bigwigs were busy indulging in political one-upmanship even as the front kept losing its stocks in the eyes of public.

Jubilant Congress candidate from Thiruvanathapuram acknowledges greetings from his supporters. — AFP

Narendra Modi ‘Modi magic’ fails to sweep Gujarat
Gandhinagar/New Delhi, May 17
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, named by some as the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) next prime ministerial candidate, failed to make a clean sweep in his state with the party adding only one seat to its 2004 tally.


Narendra Modi

Jumbo Defeat
Oppn ganged up against us, says Maya
Lucknow, May 17
Reflecting on her losses, BSP supremo Mayawati yesterday blamed a well-planned conspiracy by the entire opposition to keep her from making claims to the prime minister’s post.

Tamil Nadu
Plum portfolio likely for Azhagiri
Chennai, May 17
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s elder son Azhagiri, who won by a huge margin, besides ensuring the victory of the alliance in the southern districts, is likely to get a key portfolio in the union cabinet, even while the DMK, which has emerged as the second largest ally after the Trinamool Congress in the UPA, is preparing itself to demand more berths in the ministry than last time.

Vijaykanth dashes Jaya’s hopes
Chennai, May 17
Unexpected performance of actor Vijaykanth's DMDK in all the 39 constituencies, it contested has altered all predictions and spoiled the prospects of AIADMK alliance, which has lost crucial votes to the new party, in a closely fought elections, in which the major alliances were separated by 3.8 per cent votes.

M’rashtra
MNS charged up, eyes assembly elections
Mumbai, May 17
Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has emerged as the new joker in the pack threatening to impact the political fortunes of all major players in Maharashtra. After making an impact in 11 of the12 Lok Sabha seats the party contested, the MNS is gearing up for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra in September next.

Producer-director Prakash Mehra passes away
Mumbai, May 17
Legendary Bollywood producer-director Prakash Mehra, who gave Amitabh Bachchan his first success with ‘Zanjeer’, passed away in a hospital here today, after prolonged illness.






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Fissures in Left: Budha not to attend Politburo meet
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 17
Fissures in the Left deepened today with both the West Bengal and Kerala Chief Ministers reluctant to accept the blame for the party’s complete wipeout in the Lok Sabha elections in their respective states. They, in fact, sought to shift the responsibility on to the central leadership by making certain telling moves today.

While West Bengal CM and senior CPM leader Budhadeb Bhattacharya excused himself from the party’s crucial stocktaking Politburo meeting scheduled in the capital tomorrow, his Kerala counterpart VS Achuthananthan trained guns at party rival and state secretary Pinayari Vijayan ahead of the meet.

Vijayan’s role in seeking political support from controversial Islamist hardliner Abdul Madanai and his involvement in the SNC-Lavlin corruption case would now have to be reexamined in the wake of the party’s electoral losses across India.

Achuthananthan had been warning the party of the expenses it might have to incur on account of Vijayan’s alleged misdemeanours.

Budhadeb, for his part, had expressed reservations to CPM general secretary Prakash Karat’s rigid anti-Congress stand; he had advocated a middle path and a debate around the strength of a Third Front.

Biman Bose, another senior CPM leader from West Bengal, today admitted that the Third Front did not quite come up the way it was expected to.

“We have to see how to galvanise this force in the post-poll scenario,” he said, adding that, the Politburo meeting would conduct a detailed analysis of the losses.”

The four Left parties, on the other hand, met in the capital today to review reasons behind the defeat and said they would play a constructive opposition.

Emerging from the meeting attended also by Karat, his wife Brinda Karat and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s general secretary AB Bardhan said each of the four Left parties - the CPM, CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc-would examine the poll reverses at their respective levels before arriving at a final analysis.

When asked if he thought the Left had misjudged the intent behind the UPA’s foreign and economic policies which the voters have overwhelmingly accepted, Bardhan said, “Just because people have voted for the UPA’s policies does not mean wrongs would become right.”

In a way then, the Left still seems convinced of the rightness of its anti-Congress campaign strategy, which some leaders within the front describe as “weak”. But the larger view is quite opposite, as RSP’s TJ Chandrachoodan who attended the Left meet at the CPM headquarters today, said, “Our political line is correct.”

On the irrelevance of the Third Front, which has broken down completely, Chandrachoodan said the grouping might seem temporarily irrelevant but it would be improper to write it off.

News now is that the Third Front meeting scheduled tomorrow will not longer be held, courtesy changed political equations, wherein the JDS is desperately pursuing the Congress for support.

The rest of the Third Front partners, except the BJD, which won, are busy lamenting their losses and rethinking their future courses of action.

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PM, Sonia invite Mamata to join cabinet
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, May 17
A day after Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress gave a poll shocker to the Left parties in West Bengal, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh today invited her to join a ministry in the next government at the Centre.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who left for New Delhi today, too, asked her to come to the national capital for holding talks with the UPA leadership.

Today, Mamata spent the entire day at her Kalighat residence meeting people who called on her to congratulate for the party’s victory. The TMC supremo would be meeting the party’s newly elected MPs tomorrow, and then only was likely to be discussed the issue of their joining the (Union) cabinet.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s sister Pritam Kaur, too, visited Mamata’s house to congratulate her but the TMC chief was not at her house then.

Likely to fly to Delhi on Wednesday, Mamata said her party leaders “were not keen” on joining the cabinet and that they did not “even have any demands”.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would be skipping tomorrow’s politburo meeting in the capital, which has been called to review the party’s poor performances in the Lok Sabha polls.

Already, Buddhadeb’s detractors within the CPM have been accusing him of “mishandling” the Singur and Nandigram issues, “which ultimately led to the party’s debacle”.

The CPM state committee today reviewed their poll performances when several leaders raised the Singur and Nandigram issues vis-à-vis the government’s failure in properly executing several centrally-sponsored development schemes, particularly in the rural areas. Allegations of arrogance and high-handedness by the people against several party leaders and workers, which “harmed” the party’s prospects

We’re not bargaining: TC

The Trinamool Congress, which displayed spectacular performance in West Bengal bagging 19 seats in the Lok Sabha polls, today said it would not bargain for portfolios but wanted a stable government at the Centre.

"We are not really in the game of any kind of bargain. There is no question of any kind of condition also. We want a stable government," TC spokesman Dinesh Trivedi said.

Trivedi said Congress President Sonia Gandhi and TC chief Mamata Banerjee would soon discuss issues relating to government formation.

"They are going to discuss. We have a significant number. In fact, we have the largest number of seats among the allies. So, I am very much sure that the Congress would be very keen to have Mamata on board," he said. Trivedi, a Rajya Sabha member, said Banerjee never aspired for any ministry as she always loves to be with the people. — PTI

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News Analysis
No business with SP, BSP: UP Cong 
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, May 17
The Uttar Pradesh Congress is keen not to have any truck with either the Samajwadi party or the BSP, as they believe this would erode their hard-earned victory in the state.

Expressing her reservation in taking the support of these parties, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna Joshi said the grand victory of 21 seats — one more than the ruling BSP — was a positive verdict for development.

It was clearly against the caste and community based politics of the regional parties responsible for the state slipping in the last two decades, she points out. “I have sounded out the central leadership on this score and would reiterate my stand if my opinion is sought on the matter” said the UPCC president before leaving for New Delhi this evening.

“However, if the central leadership decides otherwise we would whole heartedly accept their decision and work accordingly.” Joshi was articulating a very real danger that the state-level workers share of having to do business with parties that are ideologically at loggerheads and working for the same political turf.

Interestingly, even AICC general secretary and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi refused to rest on his laurels and pointed out that the verdict was the beginning of change in the state. 

“A lot of changes needed to be brought in the state,” he said. Speaking to the media in Sultanpur last evening, he said he would change the way politics was done in the state and deliver a strong and youth party organisation in the next three years. He clearly hinted at Congress returning to power at the next Assembly election due in 2012.

Aligning with any of the regional players in the Centre would obviously prove to be counter-productive and make task of the state unit more difficult and its goal still more distant. Meanwhile, reacting to Mayawati’s accusation of opposition parties ganging up against her, the UP Congress chief advised her to respect the people’s verdict with humility.

“When the 2007 results catapulted her to power she did not complain, now that the people have decided otherwise she is talking of them being mislead by the opposition parties,” said Joshi, pointing out that people always decide judiciously.

“The BSP fielded 18 criminals of whom only 2 or 3 won, rampant corruption undermines governance, she mislead the minorities on the Pilibhit issue, and had indeed campaigned for Modi and now speaks of a conspiracy against her.

She should now come out of her illusionary world,” further said Joshi. Triumphantly claiming that the Congress in UP was no longer a “hazari party”, she said 40 of the total 69 Congress candidates polled more than one lakh votes.

Eight of them got between 1 to 1.5 lakh votes, 15 candidates received between 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh votes and 8 got more than 2 lakh and another 8 more than 3 lakhs.

Thanking the failed seat sharing with the SP for Congress discovering its strength and self-respect, she said that even if we the Congress had won, as many seats under the alliance SP would have certainly claimed the success. 

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Less Pawar for NCP
Cong talks tough with NCP ahead of assembly polls
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 17
From posturing as a possible Prime Ministerial candidate Sharad Pawar has been reduced to struggling to hold his own in Maharashtra. As the Congress moves from strength to strength, Pawar is seeing the political space occupied by his party shrinking rapidly.

Western Maharashtra, the state’s sugar belt that has been Pawar’s stomping ground for more than four decades seems to have turned its back on the Maratha strongman. Of the nine seats the NCP contested here it bagged just three, including two by Pawar himself (Madha) and daughter Surpriya Sule (Baramati). The Satara seat was bagged by a descendent of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj hurriedly inducted into the NCP at the last minute.

The NCP’s tally of eight Lok Sabha seats is one less than the number of slots the party held in the 2004 Lok Sabha. “The NCP’s tally would have been even lower had we not conceded the Mumbai North East seat to it,” says a Congress leader. This seat was grudgingly yielded on poll-eve when talks between the parties were deadlocked on poll-eve.

At Pawar’s insistence, the Congress was also forced to yield the Shirdi seat to Ramdas Athavale, who heads his own faction of the Republican Party of India. Even here the NCP leader’s initiative proved to be a dud as Athavale lost to the Shiv Sena.

According to Congress leaders here, the NCP could have been decimated had the Congress gone it alone. Pawar’s outfit opened its account in Vidarbha by bagging the Bhandara, Ramtek and Wardha seats solely by riding piggyback on the national party, say observers.

In other words, without the alliance the NCP may have bagged just three or four seats in Maharashtra, the Congress leaders feel. But more than the failure at the hustings, the Congress leaders in Maharashtra are sore at what they see as attempts by the NCP to sabotage the prospects of some of their candidates.

The case of Suresh Kalmadi contesting from Pune is cited as an example. Though he won by a narrow margin of 25,000 votes, the Congress leaders attribute his victory to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which bagged more than 70,000 votes here.

Kalmadi has been locked in a bitter battle with Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit, who has a tie-up with the Shiv Sena in the Pune Municipal Corporation to keep the Congress out.

With the NCP on the backfoot, the Congress in Maharashtra headed by former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is pressing for the kill. “We want to contest assembly elections in Maharashtra without aligning with any party,” he said in Delhi today. Till the Lok Sabha polls, the NCP has been demanding 50 per cent of the seats in the Maharashtra assembly.

Deshmukh is citing the example of the Congress succeeding in Uttar Pradesh where it went alone. However, sections even within the Congress see it as a ploy by Deshmukh to drive a hard bargain with the NCP.

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Dud debut for Chiru
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, May 17
Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi’s political show has turned to be a flop. His fledgling Praja Rajyam Party came a cropper in its electoral debut in Andhra Pradesh. Despite the hype surrounding the actor’s political entry and his successful road shows, the PRP failed to make a mark in the simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and Assembly.

While the nine-month-old party drew blank in the Lok Sabha, it managed to win 18 seats in the 294-member Assembly. Such was the humiliation that Chiranjeevi himself was defeated in Palakole in his native West Godavari district in coastal Andhra region by Congress candidate B Usha Rani by over 5,600 votes. He, however, won from the temple town of Tirupati by 10,800 votes.

His brother-in-law and the party’s key strategist Allu Aravind lost in Anakapalle Lok Sabha constituency. Another top PRP leader T Devender Goud lost the elections both from Malkajgiri Lok Sabha and Ibrahimpatnam assembly constituencies.

The 53-year-old matinee idol of Telugu cinema had raised hopes of repeating the NTR magic when he made a big bang entry into politics from Tirupati in August last year. But, he has clearly failed to convert the goodwill into votes.

Lack of proper organisational structure and clarity on several public issues, absence of communication channel between the top leadership and cadre and mistakes in the selection of candidates could be the major factors for the party’s drubbing.

Drawing inspiration from US Presidential campaign of Barrack Obama, the actor went to the polls on the twin planks of change and social justice. He was widely seen as a rallying point for backward classes and “Kapus”, a numerically strong community to which he belongs.

A popular hero with a huge fan following, particularly in the coastal region, Chiranjeevi was the cynosure of all eyes as he was expected to emerge as a “king maker” after the elections. But it was not to be.

“We will introspect to find out where we went wrong and take corrective measures. We will continue to serve the people and improve our party organisation,” Chiranjeevi said.

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Andhra Pradesh
Telangana comes a cropper
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, May 17
It may well be the end of the road for Telangana statehood movement in Andhra Pradesh with voters comprehensively rejecting the separate state slogan in the just-concluded elections.

By handing out a crushing defeat to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the voters have given a quiet burial to the four-decade old statehood movement.

The TRS, which hoped to play a key role in national politics on Telangana plank, came a cropper, managing to win just two Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly seats. It had contested nine Lok Sabha and 45 Assembly seats as part of the four-party opposition alliance comprising TDP, CPI and CPI (M). The backward region accounts for 17 LS and 119 Assembly seats.

Such was the humiliation that the party fared poorly even in the districts which are considered the hotbeds of Telangana movement. In five out of 10 districts in the region --- Ranga Reddy, Hyderabad, Nalgonda, Khammam and Mahbubnagar --- the party fared miserably.

It could get just one Assembly seat each in Medak, Warangal and Nizamabad districts, three in Adilabad and four in Karimnagar.

On the other hand, the ruling Congress, which was projected as anti-Telangana party, bagged 50 Assembly and 12 LS seats in the region. The resounding mandate for Congress meant political demise for Telangana slogan.

Emboldened by the verdict, the Congress is expected to shed its ambivalence on Telangana issue and oppose the bifurcation of the state in no uncertain terms. On its part, the UPA government will, in all likelihood, keep the Telangana issue on the back burner in the absence of any pressure group to lobby for the cause.

Telangana, which had kindled regional passions for decades, looks all but a lost cause now. The blame for the collapse of the statehood dream must lie with the TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao himself. His inconsistent stand on political alignments, unilateral decision-making and dictatorial attitude are being blamed for the party’s predicament.

Despite being part of the Third Front, Rao switched over to the NDA camp even before the election results were declared. The TRS chief made strategic errors at various stages since the inception of his party in 2001.

He had aligned with Congress before the 2004 elections but walked out of the UPA two years later on Telangana issue. This time around, the TRS forged an alliance with TDP and left parties, the traditionally anti-Telangana parties, and swiftly deserted them to join the NDA.

The party’s dreams of playing a king maker role at the Centre and in the state were shattered following its disastrous electoral performance.

Rao managed to scrape through in Mahbubnagar Lok Sabha seat with just around 19,000 votes while his deputy and Telugu actress Vijayashanti won in Medak with a narrow margin of 6,000 votes.

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Desperate SP cosying up to Congress
Mulayam, Amar meet PM; eager to join govt
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 17
The love-hate relationship between the Congress and Samajwadi Party might well be on its demise, with the latter desperate to make up with its estranged partner and the former in no mood to oblige.

With so many suitors at its doorstep now, the Congress can afford to relax, spared as it has been of the trouble of going after SP, which proved more than difficult in the run up to Lok Sabha elections.

But the balance now stands firmly tilted in favour of the Congress, which is why SP’s tone was muted today and its gestures unbelievably subtle. Embodying this changed stance was none other than the party general secretary Amar Singh who, until few days ago, was busy proving to the world how his chief Mulayam Singh had been framed by a Congressman at the alleged instance of UPA chief Sonia Gandhi.

Heard describing the CBI as the Congress Bureau of Investigation a fortnight ago, Amar Singh was today a changed man, saying, “We are ready to support the UPA but the nature and level of that support would depend on the needs of the alliance partner. We are happy at the progress of secular forces and we have congratulated Soniaji, the Prime Minister and Rahul Gandhi.”

Obviously eager to ward off a 2004-like situation when the SP had to sit in the opposition despite bringing home several Lok Sabha seats, party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav along with Amar called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his Race Course residence late today.

But the Congress, as expected, was non committal on having the SP on board, with party sources hinting at the impossibility of such a situation given the track record of SP. Moreover, the Congress would like to consolidate its base in Uttar Pradesh where it fought against the SP and did considerably well.

An unfazed SP, however, reminded the Congress today of its unconditional support to the July 21 trust vote, with Amar Singh saying, “We supported the Congress without asking for anything in return. We did that in national interest. It is now upon the Congress to decide if it needs us.”

Later in the day, Amar described the meeting with the PM as a courtesy call, meant to congratulate him for his remarkable return to power. Sources however said Mulayam and Amar mentioned the possibility of an alliance with the Congress, citing the logic that the two parties have no ideological differences.

But whether the Congress would want to do business with a party that can change colours so fast and one that has a history of controversies behind it remains to be seen. 

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Bihar
Good governance clicked for Nitish 
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, May 17
The 15th Lok Sabha elections in Bihar will be remembered in many ways. Contrary to the national trend, the NDA in Bihar literally swept the polls by winning 32 out of the 40 seats under the sole leadership of Nitish Kumar. Undoubtedly, the Bihar Chief Minister has established himself as the tallest politician in the state today.

This election will also be remembered for the complete rout of RamVilas Paswan and his party - the LJP. The tallest Dalit leader of Bihar could not even save his own seat what to talk about ensuring the victory of 11 other candidates, including his own younger brother, his arty had fielded in the fray.

The LJP was out on zero. The poll outcome has been equally humiliating for the RJD and its Chief, Lalu Prasad Yadav. The party which had won 22 seats in the outgoing Lok Sabha elections has now been reduced to just 4 seats. Lalu himself had to bite the dust in his second constituency - Pataliputra.

He had to face a crushing defeat at the hands of a low-profile Yadav candidate fielded by the JD (U). The Congress that had gone to the polls on its own after being dumped by its trusted allies-RJD and LJP could bag just two seats. The Congress should not have much grudge as the party had won only 3 seats in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls it had contested in alliance with the RJD and the LJP.

Notably, two rebels of JD(U), who had contested the polls as independents following denial of party ticket have also won from Siwan and Banka, while another JD(U) rebel, George Fernandes lost his security deposits from Muzaffarpur from where he was in the fray as an independent candidate.

Another notable trend witnessed this time in Bihar elections was that the voters had ensured to defeat all criminals turned politicians irrespective of their party affiliation. Those who had fielded their wives or mother following their conviction in criminal cases have also lost badly giving indications of the dawn of crime- free politics in Bihar.

The landslide victory of NDA in Bihar in this election is largely being viewed as an endorsement of Nitish Kumar government’s performance during the past 41 months since it took over the reins of this state.

Bihar, then described by the foreign media as the most lawless state of India, witnessed its most peaceful election this time since 1952. Nitish is not only credited with establishing the rule of law in the state by not inducting any tainted MLA in his Cabinet and ensuring speedy trial of major criminal cases, his agenda of development with justice and empowerment of extremely backward castes and the most deprived Dalits by providing reservation for them in panchayat bodies and urban civic bodies and initiating special development schemes for their uplift bore fruit for the NDA in this election.

The EBCs and Mahadalits and also the backward Muslims whose causes he was championing all this while voted whole heartedly for the NDA candidates. The pro minority welfare measures of the Nitish Kumar government have highly impressed the Muslim community in Bihar, who could have never dreamt of it from a government having the BJP as its ally.

But for the secular credentials of Nitish Kumar, the Muslims of Bhagalpur and Begusarai would not have caste their votes for Shahnawaz Hussain of the BJP and Monazir Hussain of the JD(U) making them the only two LokSabha members of the NDA from this community.

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In desert land, Cong shows who’s the boss
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

A Congress supporter from Rajasthan outside Sonia’s Gandhi’s house in New Delhi.
A Congress supporter from Rajasthan outside Sonia’s Gandhi’s house in New Delhi.

Jaipur, May 17
From a party that somehow managed to cobble up a simple majority post-Assembly elections five months back, to a party sweeping the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has turned the tables on its arch rival BJP in the desert state.

The state’s electorate gave thumbs up to the Congress with 20 out of the 25 seats and reducing the BJP to a mere four, as against 21 seats in last elections. The ruling party made a clean sweep in Marwar, Mewar and Shekhawati regions and also put up an impressive show in Hadauti region.

While Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has emerged stronger in the ruling Congress, knives are out in the BJP for his bete noire Vasundhara Raje Scindia, who miserably failed for the second successive time after the party’s drubbing in the Assembly polls.

The only saving grace for Raje is the victory of her son Dushyant Singh from Jhalawar-Baran. However, another senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh was not as lucky, as he lost Barmer Lok Sabha seat by over one lakh votes to the Congress.

When the Congress set itself “Target-25” (winning all 25 LS seats from the state) after the Assembly polls, it seemed an impossible task even for a magician’s son (Gehlot’s father was a magician). Though, he did not achieve the 25 mark, he certainly had even the die-hard Congress supporters surprised by winning 20 seats.

Unfazed by the BJP’s accusations, Gehlot took it upon himself to see that the party puts up a good show in the elections. He participated in each PCC meeting and addressed the party workers in every nook and corner of the state.

He also made it a point to coordinate with state Congress chief CP Joshi and did not let the rumours of rift between them take a toll on the party’s election campaign.

His hard work has paid off and he has emerged as undisputed strongest Congress leader in the state- the one who ensured second biggest win for the party in the state after 1984, when the Congress bagged all the 25 seats.

The victory of his close aides like Mahesh Joshi and Lal Chand Kataria from BJP stronghold of Jaipur Urban and Jaipur Rural, respectively, is being dubbed as his personal feat.

However, rebels played a spoiler for the party on the two seats. While veteran Congress leader Buta Singh relegated the party to a poor third, helping the BJP to win the Jalore seat, firebrand tribal leader Kirori Lal Meena, who is supporting the Congress government in the state, won Dausa Lok Sabha seat as an Independent after being denied support by the party.

Royal impact

All the three royals fielded by the Congress and one by the BJP won their Lok Sabha seats with convincing margins. Elder sister of erstwhile ruler of Jodhpur Gaj Singh, Chandresh Kumari, won Jodhpur seat by over 98,000 votes. Alwar royal scion Bhanwar Jitendra Singh won Alwar LS seat by over 1.5 lakh seats while Kota royal scion Ijayraj Singh won Kota seat by over 80,000 votes. Raje's son Dushyant Singh won Jhalawar seat by over 50,000 votes.

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Kerala
For Left, debacle was waiting to happen 
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Thiruvananthapuram, May 17
The writing on the Red Wall was clear. The electoral drubbing was waiting to happen for Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) which has been plagued by infighting and squabbles. The communist bigwigs were busy indulging in political one-upmanship even as the front kept losing its stocks in the eyes of public.

The frequent skirmishes between the two warring factions of CPM, led by state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, caused major dents to the party’s image.

Ever since the LDF came to power in May 2006, the infighting grew louder and murkier while the performance of the government came under flak on several counts. Adding to the internal problems was the “big brother” attitude of CPM towards its alliance partners.

So comprehensive was the drubbing that the LDF managed to win only four Lok Sabha seats out of a total of 20. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) handed out a crushing blow to the ruling combine by bagging 16 seats.

It was a sort of role reversal compared to the 2004 tally when the UDF was reduced to a single seat while the LDF had won all the remaining 19. This time, the Congress won 13 seats, its ally Muslim League picked up two and the Congress (Mani), one.

An analysis of the results reveals that the UDF’s performance was uniformly spread, having obtained majority in 102 of the 140 assembly segments. This portends ominous signals for the ruling front as the Assembly elections are two years away.

The vote share of UDF touched 47.86 percent, up from 36 percent in 2004, while the LDF’s share fell to 42 percent as against 50 percent in the previous elections.

Apart from infighting, the problems in seat-sharing among LDF partners were also responsible for the poor showing at the hustings. The Left front’s gambit of befriending controversial cleric Abdul Nasser Madani in the hope of garnering Muslim votes appears to have backfired.

Madani, the chief of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was accused in the 1998 Coimbatore serial blasts. Since his acquittal two years ago, he has been a strong supporter of the Vijayan faction of CPM.

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‘Modi magic’ fails to sweep Gujarat

Gandhinagar/New Delhi, May 17
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, named by some as the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) next prime ministerial candidate, failed to make a clean sweep in his state with the party adding only one seat to its 2004 tally.

Out of the 26 seats in the state, the BJP won 15, notwithstanding Modi's supposed popularity and the claims of state party leaders that they would take all the seats.

The Congress won 10 seats and expects to take one more seat of Kheda in central Gujarat where Central minister Dinsha Patel was leading. Counting of the last few hundred votes had to be stopped in the afternoon following a technical snag in an electronic voting machine.

Though senior leader L.K. Advani, who was projected as the party's prime ministerial candidate, has won by more than 1,21,000 votes, his margin has come down by 217,000 votes from last time.

The election outcome in Gujarat is a setback for Modi, who many say enjoys widespread public support not only in the state but also in many parts of the country. Top corporate honchos of the country and the BJP have often called Modi prime ministerial material.

“All that is not working, even in the state. Even places where Modi travelled outside Gujarat (for election campaign), the BJP has not fared any better,” says Ahmedabad-based political scientist Tridip Suhrud. “He was the star campaigner of the party after Advani,” he added.

He blames the BJP's performance on the wrong selection of candidates and Modi's “larger than party” attitude. “I think the Modi phenomenon has peaked,” Suhrud noted.

The BJP had left the candidate selection to Modi, who fielded a number of new faces as well as Congress rebels, while sidelining BJP rebels gunning for him, including former Central ministers Kashiram Rana and Vallabhbhai Kathiriya.

Now the BJP has significantly lost in the Saurashtra region, including Rajkot city from where Modi had won his first assembly election in 2002 and is the fiefdom of his bete noire and BJP veteran Keshubhai Patel. — IANS

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Jumbo Defeat
Oppn ganged up against us, says Maya
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, May 17
Reflecting on her losses, BSP supremo Mayawati yesterday blamed a well-planned conspiracy by the entire opposition to keep her from making claims to the prime minister’s post.

A visibly dejected Mayawati addressed the press at her 5 Kalidas Road residence this evening where she charged the Congress, SP and BJP of joining hands to defeat her. “These parties had a tacit understanding. They secretly shifted their votes to whichever party that was in a position to defeat my candidate”, accused Mayawati.

Explaining her party’s stand at the centre Mayawati virtually ruling out any chance of siding with the NDA. “We would strive hard to keep the communal forces out of power at any cost”, she said.

However, a final course of action would be decided upon after consulting her party MPs and functionaries.

According to her the large losses in the state was due to a major shift of the Muslim votes away from her party to Congress and SP due to the misleading propaganda of these two parties.

“They went around saying that the BSP had thrice formed a government with the BJP support and would do so once again at the centre. This scared the Muslims who voted for us in only where we had Muslim candidates or the candidate had some personal distinction,” said Mayawati.

Claiming an improvement of the voting percent both at the national and state level, Mayawati said that her party as per voting percentage at the national level was a close third coming only after Congress and BJP. She also drew solace in the fact that even in UP it could improve upon its 2004 tally of 19 seats.

Meanwhile, she remained in her official residence the whole day refusing to meet the media. Her fifth floor office in the secretariat annex building wore a deserted look. 

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Tamil Nadu
Plum portfolio likely for Azhagiri
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, May 17
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s elder son Azhagiri, who won by a huge margin, besides ensuring the victory of the alliance in the southern districts, is likely to get a key portfolio in the union cabinet, even while the DMK, which has emerged as the second largest ally after the Trinamool Congress in the UPA, is preparing itself to demand more berths in the ministry than last time.

After Azhagiri’s elevation as the party’s south zone organising secretary, the DMK has defeated the AIADMK alliance, in all the constituencies in southern districts, except one, in the Parliament elections.

The party had ensured the defeat of the party’s arch-rival and MDMK leader Vaiko at Virudhunagar and five Congress candidates had been elected from the area.

Under Azhagiri’s supervision, the DMK had won from Kanyakumari constituency, always considered as a tough seat for the party. Azhagiri was running the party from Madurai, under tough circumstances, when AIADMK founder MGR was the darling of the masses in south Tamil Nadu.

With Azhagiri’s elevation in Delhi, former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran and other senior ministers may be forced worked under his shadow.

Having got a renewed mandate in the LS elections, with the DMK bagging 17 seats and their alliance winning 28 seats (out of 40 in Tamilnadu and Puducherry), the party is likely to insist on major cabinet posts to the party.

The DMK had seven ministers last time and having increased its MP tally by two seats, the party will be hoping to get at least the same number of cabinet portfolios, if not more.

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Vijaykanth dashes Jaya’s hopes
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, May 17
Unexpected performance of actor Vijaykanth's DMDK in all the 39 constituencies, it contested has altered all predictions and spoiled the prospects of AIADMK alliance, which has lost crucial votes to the new party, in a closely fought elections, in which the major alliances were separated by 3.8 per cent votes.

Contrary to the expectations that Vijaykanth's party would not make an impact in Parliament elections, the actor's party secured 10.13 per cent votes, crossing one lakh votes in more than nine constituencies and helping the Congress candidates to win in seven constituencies.

The DMK that contested 15 constituencies and secured 24.6 per cent votes in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, fielded candidates in 21 seats this time and polled 25.28 per cent votes, which shows only a marginal increase.

The Congress that secured 14.4 per cent votes when it contested only 10 seats in last time has garnered 15.04 per cent votes, though it fielded candidates in 15 constituencies. The vote share of the Congress and the DMK remains nearly the same, while all the parties in the AIADMK alliance have lost their votes to the DMDK.

The AIADMK that got 29.77 per cent votes in the previous elections, secured only 25.68 per cent votes this time, which shows a drop of more than four per cent, indicating that DMDK, which launched a tirade against the DMK during the campaign, has split the votes of the major opposition party.

Besides, attacking the state and central governments and sharing the anti-incumbency votes, the actor claimed the legacy of the AIADMK founder, which has made inroads into the AIADMK vote bank.

The PMK that polled 6.71 per cent votes last time got only 5.71 per cent votes this time and Vijaykanth's party put up a good show in the northern districts, which used to be the PMK's strong holds. The PMK was routed in all the six seats in contested in Tamil Nadu and in the lone seat in Puducherry.

The MDMK, another ally of the AIADMK, has secured only 3.67 per cent votes, compared to 5.85 voters it got last time. In Virudhunagar, where the MDMK leader Vaiko lost to a new face fielded by the Congress by a margin of 15,764 votes, the DMDK candidate secured 1,25,229 votes. 

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M’rashtra
MNS charged up, eyes assembly elections
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 17
Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has emerged as the new joker in the pack threatening to impact the political fortunes of all major players in Maharashtra. After making an impact in 11 of the12 Lok Sabha seats the party contested, the MNS is gearing up for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra in September next.

Despite winning no seat in the Lok Sabha poll, activists of the MNS are the most optimistic of all the political parties in Maharashtra.

“Picture abhi bhi baaki hai,” screams an activist in Mumbai North where the MNS candidate Shirish Parkar bagged more than 1,47,000 votes to damage the prospects of BJP candidate Ram Naik.

Across the city, the MNS candidates bagged more than 1.25 lakh votes on an average much to the surprise of even its leader Raj Thackeray.

“Sceptics who said people attending our rallies won’t vote for the MNS have been silenced,” Thackeray said shortly after the results came in on Saturday.

“We are making a major impact among the women and the youth. People who thought they would waste their votes on the MNS will vote for us in the assembly elections,” says MNS General Secretary Nitin Sardesai.

Analysis of polling data indicates that MNS candidates had come first in 21 assembly segments. The party came second in another 47 assembly segments. The MNS contested just 12 Lok Sabha seats or 72 assembly segments in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Pune and Aurangabad. In South Mumbai, the MNS stood second after the Congress.

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Producer-director Prakash Mehra passes away

Mumbai, May 17
Legendary Bollywood producer-director Prakash Mehra, who gave Amitabh Bachchan his first success with ‘Zanjeer’, passed away in a hospital here today, after prolonged illness.

The 69-year-old Mehra, who was hospitalised for last several days, breathed his last at 7.50 am. He died of pneumonia and multiple organ failure, hospital sources said.

Ironically, people came to know about Mehra’s ill-health a fortnight ago, only after Bachchan visited him in the hospital and mentioned about it in his blog.

The Mehra-Bachchan duo, which began with ‘Zanjeer’ in early 70s, gave the industry seven movies of which six were mega-hits. Their last movie together was ‘Jadugar’ in 1989 which was a flop.

The duo hits include ‘Muqaddar Ka Sikander’, ‘Laawaris’, ‘Namak Halal’, ‘Sharabi’ and ‘Hera Pheri’ apart from ‘Zanjeer’.

Mehra started his journey in the industry as a production controller in the late 1950s but he switched to direction with ‘Haseena Maan Jayegi’ in 1968.

However, Mehra's first success came in 1971 with ‘Mela’. The movie brought together the Khan brothers - Feroz Khan and Sanjay Khan - for the first time on silver screen.

In 1996, he introduced veteran actor Raaj Kumar’s son Puru Raajkumar with ‘Bal Brahmachari’. It bombed at the box-office. This was his last film as a director.

In mid-1990s, he produced ‘Dalaal’ with Mithun Chakraborthy, which was a commercial success. Mehra was bestowed with the Lifetime Achievement award from the India Motion Picture Directors Association (IMPDA) in 2006 for his commendable contribution to the industry as a director.

Two years later, in 2008, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award from the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association for his role as a producer.

Mehra was amongst one of the first directors to try their luck in Hollywood. In the late eighties, he worked on a joint venture with Frank Yandolino for the movie ‘The God Connection’. The movie was to star Hollywood actors, including Charles Bronson among others. But, the project never took off.

Mehra’s health declined after his wife slipped into a coma. His conditioned worsened further after his wife’s death.

It was widely reported that Mehra, who gave Bachchan his angry-young man persona through his films, had a fallout with the actor after the failure of their last film ‘Jadugar’. However, Bachchan described the reports as “rubbish”.

“Prakash was a complete director in every sense of the word. He had great story-telling and screenplay sense. His approach was simple yet profound in content...He also had great music sense and did a lot of the lyrics himself...But his themes and content were his forte,” the Big B had written in his blog.

Describing his visit to the hospital, Bachchan said Mehra had difficulty in recognising him. “It is most depressing to see my contemporaries in this way. We made music together,” Bachchan added. — PTI

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