General Elections 2019 – Day 67
BJP and Congress both hold press meets at the same time
BJP president Amit Shah held the last press conference before the final round of voting on 19 May. Expectations skyrocketed when word spread PM Modi was going to join the press conference, which triggered speculations on what might come out during the press interaction.
It was a disappointment. Amit Shah began with thanking the people, party cadres and volunteers who pitched in and gave their best to ensure a great result for the party. He ran through some figures on the scale and reached his organization covered during these elections.
Finally, the PM spoke, and it was merely to thank the people and present a calm face before the final round of voting. All questions regarding the controversial statements by Pragya Thakur were taken up by Amit Shah who said the party disciplinary committee would look into the matter within ten days. He wasn’t apologetic about her candidature from the Bhopal seat and went on to defend her. No mention about similar remarks by other party leaders or the damage it had done before the crucial last vote.
Journalists did direct questions to the PM, but Amit Shah shielded him by responding to the questions. One was left wondering why the PM decided to make a last minute attendance.
In an unusual move, the Congress president Rahul Gandhi also held a simultaneous press meet where he took questions from the press. He spoke about the bias of the EC and challenged the PM once again to take questions on Rafale and other issues.
Responding to the question of who will be PM, Rahul Gandhi responded saying they will wait for the results and decide based on people’s mandate.
Friend to foe, wary Shiv Sena ready to switch roles with BJP if needed
The experience of 2014 is playing on the minds of the leadership of Shiv Sena as it braces for the results on 23 May. Shiv Sena fought that election in alliance with the BJP, but the relations quickly soured between them when a confident BJP, having swept the general elections, decided to dump the Sena by refusing to offer more seats in the assembly elections that followed.
Shiv Sena was left high and dry as it did not have enough time to put together its candidates and campaign on its own. The BJP naturally swept the assembly elections, but the Sena learned a bitter lesson.
The next five years, the Sena has remained part of the NDA but has been constantly sniping at the BJP and its senior leadership in the state and centre. On several occasions, the bitterness between the two parties gave rise to speculations of the Sena dumping the NDA, but as in 2014, it once again decided to go with the BJP, albeit wiser.
Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray is playing the wait-and-watch game to see how the BJP fares. A lower than expected performance will once again bring Sena to take on the Modi-Shah-Fadnavis team and blame them for the poor performance. Sena hasn’t forgotten the 2014 lesson, so at the first opportunity, expect Uddhav to turn from friend to foe.
Why are truckers in Punjab upset with Capt. Amarinder Singh?
There are 90,000 truckers in Punjab, and they operate through a strong union. They are upset with CM Amarinder Singh, and in Sangrur, most have vowed to vote for the comedian-turned-politician Balwant Mann, the AAP candidate and sitting MP from Sangrur.
The reason why the truckers are up in arms is the breaking up of the union control over prices charged and the resulting loss of income for the truckers. For quite some time, the trucker union held the government and customers to ransom charging high rates for transporting foodgrain within and outside the state. It’s been a profitable business thus far, as most truckers are also farmers with land holdings, and trucking brings additional income.
The high transportation cost resulted in higher cost of foodgrain and Capt. Amarinder Singh broke the union grip by allowing outside truckers to begin operating in the state. It resulted in competitive pricing of trucks and profits have come down by a third.
Not all are upset by the government move. Small and marginal farmers have gained as the truck rates have dropped and the Congress is betting on this support going into the 2019 elections.