In the penultimate day of campaigning in the General Elections 2014, all eyes were firmly set on Varanasi, the seat for the most anticipated clash between Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi. After a Modi show on Thursday, Kejriwal stole the limelight today. Meanwhile, Modi’s another sworn enemy Mamata Banerjee suffered a fresh reverse in fortune when Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe in the Sharada Chit fund scam.
Arvind Kejriwal did a massive roadshow in rural Varanasi to ramp up support for his party. Kejriwal facing an uphill battle against the Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP exuded confidence. He predicted that he will easily win against Modi and sniped at his opponent for allotting very little time for Varanasi. To lend support to Kejriwal, prominent AAP leaders like Gul Panag, Shazia Ilmi and Raghu Ram have also reached the holy city. Controversy erupted when news spread that Gul and Raghu have been manhandled within the premise of Benaras Hindu University. There was great deal of furore in the social media. But later actress Gul Panag tweeted that she was safe and sound.
AAP spokesperson said that group of students belonging to ABVP tried to attack the celebrities when they were busy campaigning within the campus. But apparently they managed to escape unhurt taking help of other students of BHU. But a contradictory version came from MTV VJ Raghu. He claimed that they were not canvassing for votes. Raghu alleged that couple of boys who he claimed were outsiders tried to intimidate them by showing lathi(stick).
Tomorrow is the last day of campaigning and Rahul Gandhi will be present in Varanasi to support Congress candidate Ajay Rai. Political pundits will be keenly watching if Rahul can make a similar impact like Modi did campaigning for Smriti Irani in Amethi.
After BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi hinted that he is willing to take support of parties which doesn’t belong to N.D.A, tongues have started wagging. It is widely believed that Modi was alluding to parties like BSP, TMC, AIADMK and BJD for possible post poll alliances. Out of these prospective allies BSP and TMC today categorically denied possibility of supporting a BJP led government.
Mayawati said that “at no cost” will they support N.D.A. Similarly Mamata Banerjee rejected the possibility saying no doors are open for alliance. In her words, “our doors are shut and the keys have been thrown away”. Congress gleefully latched to add its two cents to the public snub Modi received from his prospective allies. Congress leader Ajay Maken said that it is impossible for Modi to become Prime Minister as he will be short of allies and seats. Maken said that everyone is moving away from BJP and expressed confidence that UPA 3 will be formed.
Modi though looked completely unfazed with all these remarks. In one of his rallies today in Uttar Pradesh, he virtually declared victory saying that there is no need to wait for 16th, as people of India have already made up their mind. In his own characteristic way, he said to the audience, “Aache din ane wale hain”. But the party did a fine balancing act today with Amit Shah saying tactically that they don’t believe in any political untouchability.
A day after the very public stand-off between BJP and Election Commission, it seems like the constitutional authority has ceded some ground. Election Commissioner H S Brahma today conceded that the delay in providing approval to Modi’s programmes in Varanasi on Wednesday could have been avoided. He also said that there was apparently a communication gap between the Returning officer and applicant (BJP). He pulled up the R.O saying that the entire matter should have been handled in a professional manner.
Now, EC in a bid to neutralise the situation has ordered State Election Commissioner of Tamil Nadu to act as a special observer in Varanasi. This observer will have overarching powers and can act independently of the District Magistrate and RO, against whom BJP is holding grouses. But EC has refused the accusation of it being biased or divided in this issue.
Brahma said that the rally in Beniabagh was not given any permission after specific inputs from officials hailing from Gujarat police. He said the area is surrounded by high rises and holding the programme late evening was a security hazard. A gathering of a large number of people in a small area was another problem, he added.
In a separate incidence, Election Commission has issued notice against Rahul Gandhi. Apparently Rahul said in a rally at Solan that 22,000 people will be killed in Modi becomes P.M. Rahul has to reply to EC’s notice by 12th May.
Sonia Gandhi in an article has warned India about the rising threat of majoritarianism and authoritarianism. UPA chairperson believes these are possible nemesis to India’s diversity. She quoted words used by Jawaharlal Nehru to strengthen her argument.
Already cornered by the Modi wave, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee today suffered a setback in the Supreme Court. In the Sharada case, SC has decided that CBI will investigate the whole matter. The state government had vociferously objected to the case being handled to CBI as they believed SIT formed by them was doing an efficient job. There have been allegations of top TMC leaders being hand in glove with Sharada kingpin Sudipto Sen. A RajyaSabha MP from TMC; Kunal Ghosh is currently in jail in connection with this case.
Today however TMC welcomed the move. Sharada also had business in Odisha, Assam and Tripura. They had already expressed their desire for a CBI probe. In two days 17 seats of South Bengal are going to polls. It will be interesting to see any possible ramification of this judgement on the final electoral outcome.
Mamata today though looked unperturbed by the SC verdict. She carried on her usual tirade against Modi. She accused Congress of being soft on Modi and said that if she was in Delhi, Gujarat CM would have been languishing in jail. Mamata mocked Modi’s confidence saying, “Before the birth of the child, the date of marriage that is of Modibabu, is fixed and also who would bride and bridegroom.”.
Election Commission has clarified that TV channels are free to conduct exit polls post 12th May. Earlier it had issued an order banning polls in the midst of the elections. The BSE Sensex surged over 700 points to a record high of 23,048 on Friday, while Nifty also hit an all-time high of 6,871, rising over 200 points. Traders said positive indications from Exit Poll about a comfortable BJP victory will further add to the market hype.
Centre today said to the Supreme Court that it does not plan to start any investigation in the Snoopgate scandal. Court was hearing a plea from the architect girl (who was under surveillance) about dismissing all the probes.
President Pranab Mukherjee seems to be a stickler for tradition. A career politician, Pranab in the role of the President has decided to skip voting. He is a voter of South Kolkata LokSabha constituency which will poll on Monday. Pranab initially mulled about casting vote through postal ballot but had a last minute change of heart. Like his predecessors, he wants to keep the post of President above political affiliation.
These were all the news from today. We will be back with news from the last day of campaigning tomorrow.