The 25th anniversary of Operation Bluestar is round the corner and so are the elections. With a ‘panthic’ party at the helm in Punjab, it is unlikely that the ruling Akali Dal would let go of an opportunity like this to play politics. And, if alliance partner BJP is uncomfortable with Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) present inclination to play up ‘martyrs to the Sikh cause’ the former couldn’t be bothered. The operative credo: everything is fair in elections. So, even as radical Sikhs organizations in Punjab are chalking out an elaborate programme to mark the occasion, the SAD has pre-empted them. The Akali Dal’s religious arm, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has released the ‘Nanakshahi calender’ (Sikh solar calendar) which carries a prominent picture of a the Akali Takht (supreme temporal seat of Sikhs) as it was damaged during Bluestar. The calendar also mentions the assassins of Indira Gandhi and Gen AS Vaidya as ‘shaheeds’ (martyrs) besides carrying derogatory remarks about the army.
The unstated aim of releasing the calendar -- which starts from March 14th --
at this time is clearly to woo the radical Sikhs who are currently at
loggerheads with the Akali Dal over a perceived dilution of the latter’s
responsibility towards Sikhism. And what of the BJP? It had earlier successfully
prevailed upon the SGPC to withdraw its own resolution to raise a memorial to
Operation Bluestar in the Golden Temple complex. The BJP had also expressed its
reservations when a portrait of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was installed in the
Sikh museum in the Golden Temple complex.
Fewer Women Voters in Jatland
Haryana has never been a woman friendly state, having one of the lowest female sex ratios in the country. Things, it seems are much worse than previously imagined because the state election commission found that the number of women voters in the state has declined from 56.60 lakh in 2004, to 54.84 lakh this time. The election commission has ordered a door to door survey over this trend, to find out the reasons for the decline, the Times of India reports. One possible reason is the inherent bias against women which is reflected in the parents’ apathy towards getting their daughters and daughters in law enrolled in the voters lists. Whatever the reason, sociologists are worried at the prospect of women having a lesser say in the democratic process in Haryana.
Cricket in Hamirpur
Pit a cricketer against another one and watch the fun. If the Congress in Himachal Pradesh has its way, the Hamirpur electoral battle in the state will be between two cricketers. The foremost contender for the Hamirpur constituency ticket is Madan Lal veteran cricketer, who has emerged as a hopeful after Priety Zinta (owner of King’s IX Punjab IPL cricket team) refused. Congress is desperate to get somebody from the cricketing world for Hamirpur because chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s son Anurag Thakur of the BJP who won the seat by a huge margin less than a year ago, in a bypoll, is a cricketer and presently president of the Himachal Cricket Association. Thakur has managed another feather for his cap by managing to get, for the first time, two IPL matches to Dharamsala this season.
Trouble in the Family
Haryana’s strongman, and former chief minister the late, Bansi Lal’s clan has ensured that their dad would be tossing in his grave this summer, as his heirs engage in a public slugfest over his political legacy. The venue is Bhiwani parliamentary constituency for which his socialite daughter-in-law Kiran Chaudhary, also a minister in the Haryana government, wants her 20-something, daughter Shruti to get the Congress ticket. Bansi Lal’s elder son Ranbir Mahendra (former BCCI president) who is a legislator from Mundhal Khurd is also angling for the same ticket. The two, Kiran Chaudhary and Ranbir, have also been engaged in a bitter property battle in Bhiwani over Bansi Lal’s ancestral house. So far, Kiran has been on top, mainly due to her rapport with 10 Janpath. Even the chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda does not like to tread on her toes. If Shruti does get the ticket, she will be pitted against Ajay Chautala, elder son of another former chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal.
Arms and the Akharas
Come elections and it's time for district officials to get people to deposit their arms with the local police. It turns out that there has been a steep rise in the arms licenses made during the last six months, with the border districts of Ferozepur and Taran Taran topping the list. Out of the 8,727 arms licenses issued in the last six months, Ferozepur accounts for 1145 and Taran Taran 1106. Owning a licensed weapon is the macho thing to do in Punjab, and election time is a good time to pressure the local politician to help them obtain one. But even by Punjab standards, the huge number of licenses issued in the last few months is making the electoral machinery sit up and take notice.
Ditto for Haryana’s famous ‘akharas’ who are have earned much notoriety for supply well endowed wrestlers to politicians of all hues during elections. Mainly concentrated in the jat heartland of Rohtak, these ‘akharas’ have been put on watch by the police. The shady ones are being monitored and well known musclemen with previous electoral exploits to boast about are being tracked.
BPL families and the Congress
The minions of the Haryana government were acting in good faith when they painted the front gate and walls of houses of BPL families in the state, saffron white and green. They had initially marked these houses with a yellow rectangle but when Haryana Janhit Congress formed by Congress rebel Bhajan Lal chose yellow for its party flag, the government machinery in the Congress led state quickly decided to paint the houses with the Congress colours instead. But the HJC went and promptly complained to the Election Commission and the state is having to do much explaining, says the Hindustan Times.
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