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Poll Diary 99
THE LONE RANGER
The tie-up with the BJP may have given the campaigns of
several Janata Dal (United) leaders an impetus, but at least one stalwart is sulking.
While George Fernandes, Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar are running joint campaigns with
the BJP, Sharad Yadav avoids all BJP platforms. Last week, at Prime Minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee's rally in Patna, the entire JD(U) state leadership turned up, but Sharad was a
conspicuous absentee. After two successive defeats, Sharad badly needs a victory for
political rehabilitation, but unfortunately for him his main opponent is once again Laloo
Yadav. With the BJP playing tit-for-tat -- no leader has visited Madhepura as yet --
Sharad's is a daunting task. But ask him and prompt comes the reply: "I don't need
the BJP's help." Talk about confidence.
Food for Thought
"What can they do in the next five years when they
have failed you for 45 years?"
"Sonia took us for asses and not politicians of
Dual Devotion Amethi: A foreign journalist covering the mother of all electoral battles in Amethi was surprised to find portraits of both Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Singh adorning a tea-stall in the Jagdishpur assembly segment. "Tum ne to Rajiv Gandhi aur Sanjay Singh dono ki photo laga rakhi hai (You have pictures of both leaders)," he told the shop owner in halting Hindi. "Han bhaiyya, Rajiv ke adhure sapne ko Sanjay bhaiyya pura karenge (Sanjay will complete the tasks left unfinished by Rajiv)," replied the illiterate villager, leaving the Stanford-educated journalist scratching his head.
Ailing Analyst Delhi: Numerous exit polls have already brought bad tidings for the Congress. As if that were not bad enough, last week there was more distressing news when its resident psephologist, the portly Vishwajit Prithvijit Singh, suffered a heart attack. Among Rajiv Gandhi's original computer boys, Singh is the man the party falls back on for a whole lot of things: deciphering opinion polls and exit polls and trends; providing inputs on allocation of manpower and election material; giving quick analysis of caste and religious equations in a particular constituency. With one more round of polling yet to be completed, the absence of the backroom strategist is a most inopportune loss for the party.
-Javed M. Ansari
To win votes for his party H.D. Deve Gowda decided to drive a tractor (JD-S symbol) along a busy road in Bangalore. Only problem: he drove up a one-way street, as per astrological advice to head southwards.
The AIADMK, Kerala Congress (M) and the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti have nothing in common except that they share the same poll symbol -- two leaves. All three are also allies of the Congress.
INVOKING HIS LEGACY
The battle for Amethi has the word "legacy" written all over it. If the Congress is evoking family history, Sanjay Singh, scion of the former royal house of Amethi, is seeking to match it with similar stories. Some of them expectedly are a trifle over the top. At a recent Brahmin sammelan, one venerable gent got up and explained that unlike the "videshi" opponent, Sanjay's family had a 1,200-year-old association with Amethi. So devoted were they to the people's uplift that "one of Sanjay's ancestors won the Victoria Cross for development work". The VC, a decidedly videshi award, is usually given to the valiant soldiers of the British monarch.
BETTING ON ODDS
Pollsters and political pundits are predicting a Congress washout in Orissa but Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang remains unfazed. His confidence stems from his unflinching faith in numerology. The logic goes thus: the number 13 does not augur well for Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His first term lasted a mere 13 days, his second 13 months. And the current elections are to elect the 13th Lok Sabha. "For some people, the number 13 is positively unlucky." Despite his experiences, Vajpayee is unlikely to agree.
In Kerala, politics has always been stranger than fiction. All across the country, leaders of the BJP and Congress have been abusing and fighting one another but in at least three constituencies in the state, the two parties worked out a pact to enable certain candidates from both sides to win, including the father-son duo of K. Karunakaran and K. Muralidharan. There is evidence now that this secret holding of hands is not a new phenomenon. Last week, a biography of the late state BJP president K.G. Marar, released in the state capital, had a chapter on a secret pact between the BJP and the Congress struck during the 1991 assembly elections aimed solely at defeating CPI(M) candidates in key constituencies. The book, an official publication of the state BJP and penned by senior leader K. Kunhikannan, says that Marar and Karunakaran were the architects of the deal which had the approval of their respective party high commands. The chapter "Pazhaaya Pareekshanam" (Failed Experiment), however, accuses the Congress of betrayal. "They did not keep their side of the bargain," says the book. That's not an original charge against India's oldest party.
A MISS TOO MANY
Naina Balsavar may have been a Miss India, but if the EC is to be believed, Mr India would have been a more appropriate title for the former model who is the BSP candidate in Nainital. In the Uttar Pradesh ec's official list of candidates, Naina is listed as a male. She has company though. In Pilibhit -- where women power is most notable -- two of Maneka Gandhi's opponents are similarly listed as males. The state electoral officer admitted the lapses: "We missed showing her as a miss." The chaos over gender has since been cleared.
Guess who was at hand to hear Atal Bihari Vajpayee address a rally in Dhenkanal, Orissa, last week? Former chief minister and local Congress MLA Nandini Satpathy, that's who. Tongues naturally wagged: so is the grand old lady of Orissa politics joining the BJP? Perish the thought. She was merely there to guage the mood in the area where her son Tathagat is an BJD candidate. So far, such maternal instincts have been covert. But with the son facing a tough electoral battle, they are out in the open.
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