Updated: April 11, 2021 9:19:02 am
Home Minister Amit Shah has a wry sense of humour. Recently, when a prospective candidate grumbled over being denied a ticket, saying it meant he had become irrelevant in politics, Shah disarmed him citing his own example. He was not given the Lok Sabha ticket for a particular constituency six times, even though he knew the area like the back of his hand and was invariably made the polling agent. Shah was clearly referring to the fact that six times he ignored his own political aspirations so that L K Advani could stand from Gandhinagar. And when Shah finally got the ticket in 2019, he conclusively demonstrated that he was certainly not politically irrelevant.
On May 2, the most eagerly awaited outcome of the Assembly polls will be of West Bengal. A Mamata Banerjee victory would elevate Bengal’s didi to new heights as the one regional leader who could halt the Modi-Shah juggernaut. A defeat would certainly demoralise the secular-liberal forces. Shah has left no stone unturned to change the electoral wind in a region once considered unfriendly to the saffron party and with a 27 per cent Muslim population. Preparations started in May 2017 when Central Cabinet ministers were tasked with overseeing individual Lok Sabha constituencies. Since Lord Ram is not a mainstream deity in Bengal, old devotional songs to Lord Krishna were re-written with Ram’s name inserted. Propaganda material, including leaflets, was distributed to suggest that Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee was responsible for ensuring that Kolkata was not lost to East Pakistan thanks to his pre-Partition position on the division of Bengal. Meanwhile, a recent research paper by a respected Leftist scholar who claims to have visited most parts of the state and observed a strong anti-incumbency mood has made the TMC camp nervous.
A Fine Unbalance
I assumed, like many, that imposing steeper fines for not wearing a mask would be a greater deterrent. But as a victim myself of the manner in which the Delhi government implements the directive, I now have second thoughts. I was fined Rs 2,000 though I was the sole passenger in a car suitably distanced from the masked driver and with an N- 95 mask on my lap. The deputy magistrate brushed aside my argument that I was infecting no one, while unmindful of a number of passersby not properly masked. However, a day later, his logic found favour with the Delhi High Court. It is puzzling why an impressive demonstration of State power, what with six cops and a deputy magistrate in my case, fails to penalise those not following basic precautions in Delhi’s markets and other gatherings. Perhaps it is because the authorities calculate that car drivers and passengers will have enough ready cash to pay the fine or else because of their licence plates they are easily traceable.
Amit Shah waffled in giving a categorical response to speculation that he and NCP leader Sharad Pawar with his ubiquitous lieutenant Praful Patel met in Ahmedabad last month. The Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut first confirmed the meeting and then denied it. BJP Maharashtra chief Chandrakant Patil hinted at the report’s veracity. Tainted policeman Sachin Waze’s recent testimony before the Central government-controlled NIA has strengthened suspicions regarding the get-together. Waze, a Shiv Sena man till his reinstatement in the Mumbai Police, named Sena minister Anil Parab, a confidant of CM Udhav Thackeray, as having given him orders regarding alleged extortion. He also claimed a person close to Deputy CM Ajit Pawar wanted him to collect Rs 100 crore monthly from gutka dealers. However, Waze gave a clean chit to Sharad Pawar, testifying that the leader wanted his reinstatement cancelled.
If the outcome in the Assembly polls proves disappointing for the Congress, the party can profit from reading pollster Pradeep Gupta’s soon-to-be-released book How India Votes, and learn how to repackage Rahul Gandhi. Gupta, who has an impressive record for poll predictions, feels Gandhi’s CV does not meet the criteria for a top leader. Indian voters, he believes, want their leaders to provide a good delivery system and have a proven track record. Gandhi, burdened with the unfortunate nickname ‘Pappu’, does not fit the bill. Dynasty is no longer a draw with the younger demographic. Besides, Gandhi misjudged selecting slogans for the 2019 campaign. Neither of his choices “suit-boot ki sarkar’’ and corruption in the Rafale deal resonated with the voter, according to Gupta. The Congress, with victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2018, was riding high with the slogan ‘ab ki baar, 72,000’, promising that amount as minimum income guarantee. Gandhi diverted the focus to the Rafale deal, taking it away from the promise of Rs 6,000 monthly payment, Gupta writes.
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