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BATTLE for VARANASI
Varanasi is the centre of much discussion. Hasan Kamal, in his column (Rashtriya Sahara, March 22), has recounted what he calls the series of (mostly failed) machinations that Narendra Modi has been adopting in his quest for power. Modi started with his claim of being a “Hindu nationalist”, but soon realised that the communal polarisation was not in line with electoral realpolitik. Then he talked of giving priority to shauchalaya (public toilet) over devalaya (temple) in an effort to impress secular-minded Indians too.
This too did not cut ice with the people because of their memories of the 2002 Gujarat riots. But amid some support for “the Gujarat model of development”, “inconvenient questions were asked in social media and by some intellectuals picking holes in Modi’s claims leading to great discomfiture for Modi and his supporters in the media.” According to Hasan Kamal, “ultimately, the party is being compelled to resort to Hindutva that is the basic philosophy of Modi and his party. The BJP realises now that it would have to encash its cheques from the upper-caste Hindu vote. The choice of Varanasi is the first step in this direction.”
A commentary in the multi-edition daily, Inquilab (March 22), sums up the crucial role that Muslims (18 per cent votes) can play in the victory or defeat of Modi in Varanasi: “Is it not possible that in Benaras all influential religious, political and social personalities, considering themselves as Muslims, evolve a consensus for supporting a single representative? In the present circumstances, a request should also be made to Mukhtar Ansari (the BSP candidate who narrowly lost to M.M. Joshi in 2009) to withdraw in the interest of a better future for Muslims.”
Veteran journalist, ex-Congress MP and a columnist for Rahstriya Sahara, M.J. Akbar’s political somersault has caused some ripples and much sarcasm. In his own column on March 24, he has said that the Congress cannot assume the Muslim vote is its vote. He has also taken on Arvind Kejriwal, equating him with Frankenstein. Without naming him, Inquilab editor Shakeel Shamsi writes on the “death of a secular pen” and says that it is “rumoured that the Late Pen would be buried deep and a chair placed on top so that no one finds out about its existence.”
Group Editor of Rashtriya Sahara, Syed Faisal Ali, in his signed column on March 23, writes: “A big question before the voters is to what extent leaders leaving their parties merely for personal gain would look after the voters’ interests… It is important to note those leaders with secular mindsets or belonging to secular parties who have
left their parties and joined the BJP, infamous for its communalism…”
MEANWHILE, IN CRIMEA
Commenting on the crisis in Ukraine, the daily Siasat, in an editorial on March 19, writes: “The rulers of Ukraine were alleged to have imposed many restrictions on the Russian-speaking population. The victims of these restrictions played an important role in the referendum. The US and Europe had expressed their ire at the continued…