Tamil Nadu Gamble
Will national parties get space this 2019 election in Tamil Nadu is a million dollar question after ballot boxes were sealed in the southern State? Rivals AIADMK and DMK are contesting the first parliamentary election after losing two of their biggest icons, J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi respectively. While both have had their turns of ruling State alternatively, the AIADMK made history by retaining power, winning the Assembly poll twice in a row since 2011 and sweeping the parliamentary polls in 2014, bagging 37 of the 39 seats. With polling cancelled in Vellore, the two regional satraps vie for 38 seats after ferocious campaigning, with BJP and Congress in tow. As of now, the going appears tougher for AIADMK given the succession battles.
Jayalalitha’s protégé TTV Dhinakaran’s wresting Amma’s RK Nagar Assembly seat in 2017 and making an entry with his party, AMMK along with 18 rebel MLAs, is a formidable challenge for Chief Minister Palanisamy. This obviously explains his ready alliance with BJP, PMK, DMDK and three others this time, limiting itself to 20 seats. The DMK, under Stalin in turn, has stuck to its earlier alliance adjustment, is also contesting 20 seats with rest being shared with Congress, KMDK, Left parties and IUML. But this is his first major test on holding the reins. Then there is film star Kamal Haasan’s party Makkal Needi Maiam, fielding candidates for all Lok Sabha seats and 18 Assembly by-election and whether it will make any dent in this power play. All in all, the results will be keenly watched as not only will these spell out national parties worth in this formidable State or have a bearing on government formation at the Centre, but more importantly which of the two rivals will take over the mantle, left behind by the icons.
MP’s Dharm Yudh
The BJP’s candidate for Bhopal has dimmed the spotlight on others in the ensuing third phase of elections. By putting up Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, the key accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, against Congress veteran Digvijay Singh, the saffron party has sent out a strong message—Hindutva and political ideology is end all, making those who believe in the rule of law squirm. To many, the BJP’s justification of her candidature i.e. to punish the Congress for “Hindu terror’ bogey, doesn’t hold water. For there can be no denying that Sadhvi, who is out on bail, is accused of terrorism and is facing trial under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, in a Mumbai court. There is nagging controversy that the NIA changed its stance and under pressure was asked to go soft on Sadhvi. Recall six persons were killed and over 100 injured in a blast near a mosque in Malegaon. While the satta bazaar would bet on her winning the seat, a BJP stronghold, the question that begs a detailed answer is on what basis is the ruling party so confident there is nothing called terror by hardline Hindu groups? Will the controversial Sadhvi provide answers during her campaign in, what she calls “Dharm Yudh.”
UP’s Offensive Campaigning
Uttar Pradesh offers a stark case of how the ongoing poll campaigning is heavily laced with hate speech. Following a nudge from the Supreme Court, the Election Commission could no longer remain a mute spectator. On Monday last, it finally acted against errant politicians for their provocative speeches, albeit for two to three days only. It barred Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and SP leader Azam Khan from campaigning for 72 hours from Tuesday and BSP chief Mayawati and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi for 48 hours. While Khan was reprimanded for his “indecent and repugnant’ remark against BJP’s Rampur candidate Jaya Prada, the other three were punished for their objectionable remarks on religious lines obviously to reach out to Muslim vote bank. Mayawati had appealed to Muslims not to vote for Congress, Maneka warned Muslims she won’t be inclined to help if they don’t vote for her and Yogi invoked “if Ali is with the BSP-SP-RLD alliance, then Bajrangbali is with the BJP”. Clear violation of the model code of conduct alright, but the nagging question is why four cases only and that too after the EC was asked to respond to a petition in the apex court? Perhaps, Nirvachan Sadan’s silence reflects if it did crack the whip as it should, poll campaigning would come to a grinding halt!
The fury and wrath of elections seem to have stormed the weather. North and northwestern parts of the country were struck by thunderstorms, dust storms, rainfall and lightening leaving over 50 people dead. While Rajasthan was the worst-affected with 25 killed, 15 died in Madhya Pradesh, 10 in Gujarat and three in Maharashtra. The promptness of State governments and the Centre announcing compensation shouldn’t surprise given that in election season, people’s interest weighs a lot. The PMO has offered Rs 2 lakh each as compensation to the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 to the injured, Rajasthan government Rs 4 lakh each and Gujarat Rs 2 lakh each. While MP hasn’t been as prompt, its Chief Minister Kamal Nath didn’t waste any time in taking a dig at PM Modi for expressing anguish over loss of lives in Gujarat only. In a tweet he reminded Modi that he ‘was the PM of the country and not of Gujarat… Though your party has no government here people live here also.” What is of greater concern is that the unseasonal rains and storm has damaged crops hitting the farmers! The governments have assured survey to compensate them on time. How soon, is anybody’s guess?
Goa Sends Warning
Beware, don’t ask an embarrassing question in a public rally during election campaign, is a warning coming from Goa. Why? Because a man was arrested by the police apparently for his ‘unruly’ behaviour! What was it? Well, he had the gall to question none other than a State minister, Vishwajit Rane, why he had not fulfilled his promise of providing a job, at a public meeting in North Goa on Thursday last. Certainly not a crime, by any standards. But once the meeting got over, he was arrested at night under preventive sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), after the police received a call from the Minister’s aide. However, he was released on a bond, which doesn’t lessen the absurdity of the incident and crass misuse of power. The Opposition Congress rightly condemned the action, but the Minister had no regret for harassing the common man. The incident should make the public angry. People’s representatives must not forget they are answerable and that is what democracy is all about. — INFA