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Bihar poll diary: Campaigning in the time of call drops

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At least one thing is sure. Call drops don’t just affect the common man. Even ministers are victims of the sudden disconnect or silence at other end of the mobile connection.

During campaigning in Bihar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communication and IT, was to be contacted by the ‘war room’ set up by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state capital, to inform him that he had to address a press conference that afternoon. Anant Kumar, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers, who headed the election war room at the office in Beer Chand Patel Path in Patna, asked one of the party workers to connect the call to Prasad.

But as is evident in many places, except for monosyllabic conversation, nothing could be heard from the other side, despite repeated attempts to connect. Eventually, the worker had to fall back on the tried and tested land line at the minister’s residence in Patna to convey the message.

The frustration in the office is high as the workers are called upon to connect to various leaders throughout the day. Often the call-drop menace strikes at the most inopportune moment.

Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Finance, too appeared extremely harassed soon after a press conference in Patna, when he received calls but could not converse for any length of time. He too eventually sought to reach his caller through the land line.

At least the telecos can’t be blamed for being elitist — equally bad service is doled out to the high and mighty.

Keeping Maharashtra leaders away-

One group of people were conspicuous by their absence from campaigning in Bihar. Worried that the migrant problem in Maharashtra may become a poll issue in Bihar, the BJP appears to have asked it leaders from the Western state to keep away. Except for Nitin Gadkari, none of the union ministers or leaders from Maharashtra were seen hitting the election trail.

Apart from Gadkari, there are four ministers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, including Piyush Goel, Suresh Prabhu, Hansraj Ahir and Prakash Jawdekar. Because of the attack on people from Bihar, the BJP quietly kept the four of them away, not wanting to have rival politicians raise the issue.

In contrast, leaders from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh were deputed in full force.

Sidelining Smriti Irani-

The BJP campaign strategists have categorised the 243 assembly constituencies in Bihar from A to D, depending on their winnability. Union Minister for Human Resource Development Smriti Irani — otherwise deemed to be a star campaigner — has been relegated to nine constituencies designated in ‘D’ category. Despite demands from various local leaders in other constituencies, she has not been able to use her presence or lung power to impress voters in many places. This is similar to what happened in Maharashtra Assembly polls when she was given just six constituencies to address. Perhaps that’s the reason why she is seen reaching out to people during her morning walks or later when she takes a ride on her scooty. Who says glamour wins the day?

Several contenders emerge for CM chair

By not declaring its chief ministerial candidate for the Assembly polls, the BJP has triggered a rush among wannabe aspirants to stake their claim to the chair. While senior state party leaders Sushil Kumar Modi and Nand Kishor Yadav were already seen as candidates, two more names have started doing the rounds in the local media.

One of them is Rajendra Singh who was general secretary (organisation) in Jharkhand before he jumped into the electoral fray from Central Bihar’s Dinara constituency. His claim to fame is that like Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, he is from Sangh background.

Another name doing the rounds is of Prem Kumar. An eight-term MLA from Gaya and a senior BJP leader, Kumar hails from an extremely backward class category.

Informally, it’s a four-legged race. But as the counting days near, more hats are likely to be thrown into the ring.

Birthday gift for Patriarch, but from whom?

November 8, the date of results of the Bihar election, has a significance for the BJP beyond the ordinary. It’s the birthday of Lal Krishna Advani, the sometimes rebel, sometimes sulking patriarch, who attains 88 years on that day. Despite making it to the party’s star campaigners list, Advani has not addressed a single rally so far. In an election, seen to be a direct battle between Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, it would seem churlish on the part of the party not to field a well-known orator.

The buzz doing the rounds in the party circles in Bihar is that the elections will be like a birthday gift for Advani, but there’s considerable uncertainty as to who will give that gift to him — Modi or Nitish. Guffaws are generally heard in gatherings where this is being said.

(Brajendra Nath Singh, IANS)

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India Begins Its Election Season With Five States

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh.

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India began on Monday the first of five state elections to be held in coming weeks, important tests for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he plots a course that he hopes will ensure him victory in a general election due by May.

Voters in the central state of Chhattisgarh went to the polls on Monday to elect representatives for 18 of the state assembly’s 90 seats in a staggered poll complicated by logistical problems and left-wing guerrillas.

The state of about 26 million people has been ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003, and he will be hoping to hold on to power.

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“Some unholy people have handed guns to children who should have pens in their hands,” Modi told a rally in the state on Friday, referring to the rag-tag guerrillas battling government forces from forest hideouts. “They’ve finished the lives of our tribal children.”

Hundreds of election workers had to be flown in to remote polling stations by helicopter because of the danger posed by the rebels.

Modi called for voters to back his BJP and its vision of “development for all.”

The final phase of voting in Chhattisgarh, which is known for its coal, iron ore and bauxite reserves, will be on Nov. 20.

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The BJP was the preference of about 43 percent of voters in Chhattisgarh, 7 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Congress party, according to a survey released last week by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Modi’s other big tests will be in the neighboring central state of Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is slightly ahead of Congress, according to polls, and in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, where Congress is expected to emerge victorious.

A good performance by the BJP in the elections would help it deflect growing criticism over unemployment and a crisis in the countryside over falling farm prices and wages.

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Elections will also be held for assemblies in Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh, including Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest and the BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh state.

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Adityanath has been appealing to the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist base and on Sunday accused the opposition of blocking construction of a temple for Hindu god Ram on a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.

The destruction of a mosque on the site by a Hindu mob in 1992 sparked deadly riots across the country. (VOA)