Campaigning has now officially ended for General Elections 2014. The operative word is “official”, because in the age of 24/7 television, politicians will always work out a way to canvass for votes till the very end. The last day of campaigning saw Rahul Gandhi take on Narendra Modi by campaigning in Varanasi. Also, the battle between Election Commission and the BJP continued to drag on, with CEC V.S. Sampath giving a string of interviews to defend the commission’s point of view.
After Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, today it was the turn of Rahul Gandhi to do a roadshow in the holy city of Varanasi. The Congress, after much contemplation, has fielded a relatively lightweight local leader Ajay Rai as their candidate from this high-profile constituency. But the party today claimed that there is an undercurrent of support for Rai as he is a son of the soil, unlike his much-hyped opponents. Rahul Gandhi, aided with other top Congress leaders, first did a roadshow covering 12 km in 4 hours, and later addressed a public rally.
Rahul attacked Modi on his governance record in Gujarat and later also raked up the Snoopgate incident. He asked Modi to respect women before promising them security. Rahul accused the Gujarat CM of not understanding India. He said that Modi’s speeches are “full of anger but India works on love and not on anger”.
The rally, which was touted as a ‘payback rally’, attracted massive crowds. Merely two hours after that, UP CM Akhilesh Yadav also did a roadshow for his party’s candidate and expressed hope that the party will emerge victorious. Many believe that the spirited fight by all the opposition parties may lead to a split in the anti-Modi vote, thereby aiding the cause of the Gujarat CM. We will know the truth 6 days from now.
The BJP, though, believes that this roadshow by Rahul Gandhi has only exposed the truth about the Election Commission. The BJP’s point of contention is that Rahul was allowed to conduct the roadshow through Beniabagh, the place where Modi was not permitted to address a rally. According to Arun Jaitley, the fact that Rahul campaigned in Beniabagh shows that security concern was merely a ruse and Modi was barred from campaigning there, for narrow political reasons. He said that it is a “big blot” on democracy that a Prime Ministerial candidate couldn’t campaign freely in his own constituency.
Facing a perception battle, the EC was forced to hit back. None other than the Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath himself came forward and said that Varanasi District Magistrate Pranjal Yadav was correct in cancelling the rally. He said that the EC has reviewed the decision and found it correct. He denied the charges that there was split in the EC regarding this. Sampath rejected the charge that EC is biased, saying that these accusations are not new.
He said that no special favour was done by allowing Rahul Gandhi to campaign in Beniabagh, as security perception is mainly personality-specific. Sampath claimed that the EC will not be intimidated by any threat, and maintained that he has worked in a non-partisan manner throughout his life.
Another decision of the EC, though, has attracted fresh controversy. It has found Rahul Gandhi innocent after investigation in the matter of him being present near an EVM in a booth in Amethi. According to Sampath, it was found that the EVM had malfunctioned and Rahul as a candidate was merely looking at it. Hence, he didn’t breach the Code of Conduct, according to the Commission.
In the case of Rahul Gandhi claiming that 22,000 people will be killed if Modi becomes PM, his party has supported him, as expected. The Congress claims that Rahul’s speech in Solan was “torn out of context” and “wrongfully reported” by the BJP to the EC. The party said that it will clarify the issue when it replies to the notice served by the EC.
The AAP, meanwhile, has declared that it will set up 250 spy cameras across Varanasi to keep tabs on the BJP workers. The AAP is apprehensive that the BJP may try “illegal means” like distributing liquor and cash to swing some votes in favour of their Prime Ministerial candidate. The AAP claims that the saffron unit is jittery after seeing the groundswell of support for Arvind Kejriwal. It has also asked Modi to clarify if he will retain Varanasi if he wins.
There has been huge hue and cry over alleged electoral malpractices by the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. Now, ahead of the biggest round of polling in the state, the EC is going out of its way to install confidence among all the parties. The CEO of West Bengal, Sunil Gupta, has requested for an extra general observer for each of the 17 constituencies, including those in Kolkata. If his request is granted, then each constituency will have 2 general observers to oversee polling operations in this extremely crucial phase.
The BJP, which expects to do very well in Bengal this time around, has again raised its pitch against Mamata Banerjee. Arun Jaitley has reprimanded Didi for crossing the “Lakshman Rekha” every day and accused her of using the “choicest adjectives” against Narendra Modi. In his blog, though, Jaitley conceded that Mamata will perhaps retain most of her seats this time but said warning bells have started ringing for the Assembly elections in 2016.
The person under attack from all sides, Narendra Modi was busy campaigning in Uttar Pradesh today. He said that SABKA (for SP, BSP, and Congress in short) are involved in only one task, that of stopping him. Modi took on the Congress, saying that they have a factory of spewing abuses against him. Modi tried to encourage his workers, saying that only people in AC studios are feeling election fatigue whereas in ground the poll fervour is still running high.
Narendra Modi, after finishing his marathon campaign, returned to Delhi and met former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He later met party president Rajnath Singh. After that, Modi went to the RSS office to interact with Mohan Bhagwat. It is reported that they discussed future strategies, particularly pertaining to post poll combinations. It was RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who reportedly vetoed Modi’s nomination as the Prime Ministerial candidate despite objections from senior leaders like Advani.
It is literally time to bid goodbye at 7 Race Course Road. PM Manmohan Singh has written farewell letters to the leaders of various countries, such as Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Wen Jibao and Angela Merkel. He has thanked these world leaders for extending cooperation and a hand of friendship to India at different points in time in the last 10 years. Some of these leaders like Jibao have already written back. They have expressed their admiration for Manmohan Singh.
Sonia Gandhi will host a formal farewell to Dr. Singh on 14 May, two days before declaration of results. Sources indicate that he will be given a memento. Union Ministers and members of the Congress Working committee will sign the memento. The two top leaders of the Congress have always maintained that they ran the government smoothly, though Sanjay Baru had hinted at several instances when the relationship got frayed.
Even before declaration of results, security is being tightened in several sensitive areas of the country. In riot-hit Muzaffarnagar, any sort of victory procession has been banned by the local authorities as a preventive measure.
These were all the updates from today. We will be back tomorrow with more.