The Different Gandhi
"Varun Gandhi is of a tender age. The BJP should not disown him. He is a different Gandhi. While one Gandhi asked Hindus to offer their second cheek to Muslims, Varun says Hindus should retaliate. We are in love with this second Gandhi…Varun has given voice to the long-simmering ire of Hindus against Islamic fundamentalism, there is no need to crucify Varun for what he said in Pilibhit…the young BJP leader has embers of Hindutva in his heart…" reads the Shiv Sena’s endorsement for Varun Gandhi. From the editorial in Shiv Sena newspaper Saamna of March 18.
Walk The Talk
Raj Thackeray in an interview to DNA: "We will contest about 10 to 15 seats including all the six seats in Mumbai. We will go it alone. I don’t need an alliance, I am confident of winning….It’s rubbish to talk of alliance (with BJP). They have locked up all their ideologies in the cold box. They talk of Hindutva but do not utter a word on Ram temple, they talk of snapping ties with Pakistan but start the Samjhauta Express, they talk of terrorism but Parliament was attack when they were in power…I want my MPs in Parliament because whenever the issue of Marathi pride arises, no MP from Maharashtra open his mouth."
It's The Economy, Stupid!
If you thought territorial security, post 26/11, would rank as the primary issue for Mumbaikars, you would be a bit off-key. In a survey conducted earlier this week, Mumbaikars plumbed for job security over territorial security.
In a clear pointer to the top-of-the-mind issue this general election, 35 per cent respondents voted Economy and Jobs as the most important issue, 31 per cent believed Security was the most important, Stability and Infrastructure were rated way behind at 19 and 15 per cent respectively. Results of the survey conducted in six constituencies of Mumbai-Thane by C-Fore were published in Mumbai edition of Hindustan Times. The Mumbai south constituency, however, bucked the trend; in the theatre of the horrific Nov 26-29 terror attack, respondents gave top priority to security than the economy with a 11 percentage point difference between the two.
The next set of aggregates is telling. Six decades and more after Independence, voters still expect their MPs – rather than their MLAs and civic corporators – to address local issues over national concerns. Across the six constituencies, between 61 and 82 per cent respondents said they would want their MPs to give priority to local issues in Parliament. Something amiss there about the roles of various elected representatives.
Young & Accessible
In a rating chart for MPs, it came across loud and clear that respondents preferred their MPs to "be young and accessible". Mumbai has Priya Dutt (43, Congress) who got the top billing on both counts, followed by Milind Deora (33, Congress) and Anand Paranjpe (36, Shiv Sena). Govinda (46, Congress) came last of the six, reflecting his inaccessibility -- some say invisibility -- in the last five years.
Dutt and Deora are likely to re-contest; so is Paranjpe. Congress has a problem in replacing Govinda; unlike the actor, the candidate has to be heavy-weight and committed because BJP’s Ram Naik who won the Mumbai North seat a straight six times has thrown his hat in the ring this time too. Govinda says he’s first an actor. Pity he remembered his calling at the fag end of his tenure as people’s representative.
Heard & Whispered
Nandita Das, the actress-turned-director, finds herself in political crosshairs days before her first film Firaaq is released in theatres. The film weaves together five stories of people caught in communal conflagration; though unstated, the reference point is clearly Gujarat 2002. Firaaq was ready for release in January but did not show on screens. It has won rare acclaim and accolades at film festivals across the world. Now the BJP has picked issue with the release on March 20, saying that the film release was delayed from Jan to March so that it could coincide with election campaign time and "could help the Congress create a communal atmosphere on the eve of election to project the BJP and its government in Gujarat in a bad light". Senior BJP leaders who saw the film at a special screening in Mumbai earlier this week were emphatic that they would complain to the EC. And here’s the rub -- the film is produced by a group company of Percept, the big-ticket media conglomerate whose advertising arm has bagged the Congress contract for the polls.
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