August 1999, during the poll campaign "Mulayam has never told a truth in his life. The SP is a party of goons. It will be a sad day for the country if people like him win."
February 2004, when SP-RLD tied up
"The SP-RLD combine is a win for socialist and secularist forces. We will keep the BJP and Congress at bay. Mulayam is a true mass leader.’’
Jesus, What Games
Christians in Mumbai are a bewildered lot—the sudden ‘Christian vote’ controversy has rattled them. Unlike in Kerala and Goa where Church authorities issue directives or indicate candidate and party preferences for people to follow, Mumbai’s seven lakh Christians have not always received such diktats. This time in most churches, mass and sermons are followed by a simple line: vote for secular candidates. The implicit message is: do not vote for BJP-Shiv Sena. "We cannot support people who have incited attacks on us, who murdered our priests and nuns," says Ralph Fernandez, vice-president, Catholic Secular Forum.
He is reacting to an appeal by George Abraham, Air-India unionist and leader of the Bombay Catholic Sabha, to vote for the Sena-BJP. This flows from his personal rapport with Sena candidate Sanjay Nirupam. Nirupam is battling Congress’ Sunil Dutt for Mumbai Northwest which has a substantial Christian population. Abraham’s positioning in the elections has warmed the hearts of Sena chief Bal Thackeray and others in the Sangh pantheon. But Fernandez has called upon Abraham to resign from the Bombay Catholic Sabha and contest afresh after the general election "to know his true support base".
Nirupam, trying to undo the BJP’s anti-minority philosophy, moved heaven and earth to give the devout access to an ancient church in Andheri. Also, he extended his hand of friendship to sportsmen like former billiards champion, Michael Ferreira, who subsequently spoke for him.
By and large, Christians are miffed by Abraham and resent the controversy. The irony here is that Abraham is a municipal corporator elected on a Congress ticket. Is Abraham paying his quid pro quo to Nirupam who vociferously protested Air-India’s privatisation in Parliament and saved the jobs of his union members?
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has hit the campaign trail with one motto—to put the NDA out of the reckoning. The West Bengal chief minister says this election will reveal the way this country thinks. "It will decide whether India will be ruled by the rss agenda or the NDA’s own announced programmes. The bjp is not yet strong enough to win on its own. But I wonder whether people understand this challenge to the country’s secular future."
Buddha has another challenge as well—from within. Many of his Left Front partners have been issuing anti-Congress statements. So does the LF fight the Congress in West Bengal and support it elsewhere? "You must appreciate that in a vast, complex country like India, there can be no one simple formula to fight the polls. Ultimately we fight elections to win and ideally we would like to see a combination of Left forces and secular and regional parties forming a victorious alliance."
In coalition politics his tactic would be to support the conglomeration of parties led by the Congress. "We have to support these forces in areas where we are not strong. There is no confusion here," he says. So, will the LF and Congress flags flutter together? "It will never happen here (West Bengal). But outside...we have to see," he says.
Deve Gowda, Janata Dal(S)
Formation of national agricultural insurance corporation for farmers; rural credit to be streamlined; armed forces to be modernised and a CIA-type intelligence agency to be set up; ‘Seed Certification Act’ to be implemented; to subsidise power and decentralise administration; promote self-employment and local industries.
Omar Abdullah, NC
Outcome of the talks between the Centre and Hurriyat acceptable; restoration of autonomy guaranteed to Jammu and Kashmir in the 1952 agreement; return of displaced Hindus to the state; opening of Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road; unilateral announcement of ceasefire all over Jammu and Kashmir.
No Man’s Land
In an election dominated by opinion polls and EVMs, there is Sabalpur, a village near Patna, where nobody would vote. Yet again, none of its 4,000-odd Dalits find their names in the voter’s list. Sabalpur has no mukhia, no sarpanch, no police station, block or any other administrative unit. Nobody in the village holds a ration card, despite several petitions to the Election Commission, the President and the prime minister. Ashok, a resident of the village, says that he along with others had been persuading the district authorities since 1970 to get them enrolled in the voters’ list.
But Sabalpur has not given up hope. The nearby Musahari, another Dalit-dominated village, drew blood for the first time as the villagers exercised their franchise on April 20 for the first time since Independence. Sabalpur is praying its turn would come at least within the next five years.
Kingmaker As King
Many in Kerala feel Oommen Chandy’s time has come. The convenor of the ruling Congress-led UDF, he is Kerala’s own ‘Loh Purush’. The clamour from his partymen for Chandy to don the CM’s mantle has been on the rise. But he seems to be in no hurry. "A.K. Antony is the leader. He will complete the term. Our differences are minor and not ego-based," he says.
In the light of the Antony-Karunakaran tussle, the party high command came close to picking Chandy as the compromise candidate. If the results of the Lok Sabha go the Left Front way, it may still become a reality. But Chandy isn’t "overawed by the LDF since the masses are essentially anti-Marxist and shun their politics of violence". On the critical issue of desertion by Nair and Ezhava outfits (NSS, SNDP) Chandy says, "They are our old friends. Misunderstandings may crop up but they’ve a short life."
Actor Dharmendra has called for five years of dictatorship and ‘danda raj’ to rid India of its ills. "Too much democracy has given license to anti-nationals."
Nyimthungo Lotha, an independent from Nagaland, has declared assets worth Rs 9,005 crore. He claims he owns 20 sq km of land.