Are Modi and BJP suffering from “last mile” jitters? Are they feeling weighed down by somewhat unrealistic expectations put on them by supporters and pollsters? These are some of the questions which were raised by political pundits and leaders of opposition parties today as a high voltage battle raged on between BJP and Election Commission. The party cried hoarse about EC’s alleged bias and the constitutional authority minced no words in rejecting the allegations. Meanwhile Congress today tried to turn the tables on Modi’s caste credentials by claiming that he is originally from an upper caste!!
A day after being denied permission to hold rally in one of the venues of Varanasi by Election Commission, BJP decided to aggressively hype up the issue. Many believe it was a conscious ploy to enthuse the cadres after overkill of Modi rallies. Top BJP leaders in New Delhi and Varanasi held dharna to protest against the decision of Election Commission. Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley staged satyagraha in Lanka Gate of Benaras Hindu University for a brief interval. AAP leaders like Ashutosh later alleged that Jaitley hardly sat for dharna as he couldn’t tolerate the sweltering heat of Varanasi.
Narendra Modi, the ever wily politician used this issue to the hilt. He tweeted in the morning saying, “My profound apologies to Ganga Maa for not being able to perform aarti today. Wish these people know that a mother’s love is above politics”.
Later in the day Modi held couple of rallies in Rohaniya and Varanasi and also took part in a 3 hours show of strength roadshow across the city. Modi too like his party colleagues attacked EC though he stopped short of calling it biased. He said that EC hasn’t worked in a fair way and common people are not happy with it. BJP had earlier cancelled Modi’s Ganga aarti and meeting with prominent people of Varanasi citing too little time for preparation.
The opposition parties though were ready to brand BJP’s protest as a cry for help. Chidambaram said that BJP is showing signs of desperation. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal remarked that BJP has finally realised that Modi is losing from Varanasi and hence are looking for excuses. He asked why the saffron brigade is continuing their protest when all the necessary permissions have been provided by the local authorities. Kejriwal alleged that Modi is even playing politics with river Ganga as anyone can do aarti and no prior permission is needed. Later in the evening Kejriwal and his wife performed aarti in Ganges. The former Chief Minister of Delhi said that BJP is resorting to tricks like dharna only to garner media attention!! Mayawati meanwhile alleged about a “fixed” match between SP and BJP.
The saffron party protested against EC in Delhi by complaining to them!! A delegation of senior BJP leaders led by Venkaih Naidu met EC officials in New Delhi and lodged a complaint against the Returning Officer who barred Modi from holding a rally in Beniabagh. Later former BJP President Naidu tried to expose double standards of Election Commission by highlighting their muted response to the alleged poll code violation by Rahul Gandhi. BJP has alleged showing pictures that Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday was present in a booth near the EVM enclosure even after polling has started. Naidu in a sarcastic manner said that, “King can do no wrong”.
Stung by criticism from BJP, Election Commission was forced to response. It has completely rejected the charges levelled by BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The full bench of the Commission called the attack of the saffron party “deplorable”. They even warned that these kinds of frontal attacks can ultimately dent the independence and neutrality of a constitutional body.
EC managed to hold their ground in front of BJP’s caustic attack .Chief Election Commissioner V.S Sampath defended the decision to not grant permission in one of the venues due to security concern. He said that life of ordinary people and leaders were at stake there. EC though conceded that Rahul was near an EVM and said that they are looking to take necessary action.
In other news, the two cases filed against Priyanka Gandhi for her ‘neech rajniti’ barb at Narendra Modi were taken up today and posted for hearing on May 19. Charges like promoting enmity between different groups; intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace has been levelled against Priyanka.
After being taken aback by Narendra Modi’s spin to Priyanka Gandhi’s barbs of “neechi rajniti”, Congress has hit back strongly. Now it has questioned the entire basis of Modi’s argument claiming that he is a “fake OBC”. The party produced documents issued by the Gujarat government in 2002 and alleged that Modi had used his powers to get his sub-caste, the Modh Ghanchis, included in the list of OBCs. The Congress spokesperson also remarked off the cuff that license of the canteen where Modi sold tea was revoked for selling “charas” (a certain kind of drug), though he said that he doesn’t have any proof regarding it at this point of time.
Gujarat government has retorted swiftly claiming that the decision to grant OBC status to Modh Ghanchis was taken way back on 1994, when Congress was ruling the state and it was enforced by a notification from the Central Government in 2000. Modi’s office said that in 2002, that notification was merely reinforced. But Congress expectedly is unwilling to listen to these explanations and have said that the sub caste to which Modi belongs actually consists of very rich businessmen!! Clearly the toll of this long campaign is affecting both the parties and discussions have veered far away from the core issues of development.
Another person who is flying off the handle in the election heat is Mamata Banerjee. After calling Modi a donkey on Wednesday, today she referred to Gujarat C.M as dangababu (person who does riots). She alleged that Modi has bought 90% of the media and also said that BJP is illegally procuring money through “Modi for PM” fund.
EC has rejected DMK’s plea of live video coverage of counting from the halls. But it has assured that the entire counting procedure will be videotaped. It has also rejected the plea of installing video camera in every counting table citing lack of space!!
Patna High Court has rejected a PIL against Lalu Prasad Yadav. A disgruntled RJD leader had appealed to the court saying that Lalu can’t continue as the chief of the party after being convicted in the fodder scam. The court has summarily dismissed this PIL.
Finally to the news of the outgoing P.M, reports suggest that there is currently a storm before the lull. 7 Race Course Road is in an overdrive with Manmohan Singh, his family and staffs literally busy packing. All the gifts especially books are being catalogued with P.M personally choosing the books he will like to carry to his new house at 3 Motilal Neheru Marg. In a fresh embarrassment to the genial Sikh, his former media advisor Sanjay Baru has revealed that PM’s daughter wanted him to quit the post after facing public snub from Rahul Gandhi over the issue of ordinance. Looks like “The Accidental P.M” will slowly fade into sunset leaving behind many controversies and a fractured legacy.
These were all the news from today. We will be back with more updates tomorrow…