Tamil Nadu candidates come top… in a very different kind of poll
Udayakumar S P of the Aam Aadmi Party declared in his sworn affidavit that he has been involved in 382 criminal cases. He has faced 19 charges of attempted murder and 16 charges “related to waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India”.
M Pushparayan, also of the AAP, comes a close second, declaring that he has been involved in 280 criminal case. On 19 occasions he has been charged with attempted murder. In addition, he has 13 charges “related to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc”.
As well as finishing top of the criminal cases list, Udayakumar is part of the 2% of Tamil Nadu candidates who hold a doctorate, while Pushparayan has no formal qualifications.
Both candidates are prominent anti-nuclear campaigners. Many of their criminal cases relate to ‘disobedience’ and ‘being members of an unlawful assembly’.
The only other candidate to come close is West Bengal’s Sridip Bhattacharya, who has been involved in 58 criminal case.
There are 147 candidates who have been involved in five or more criminal cases. They come from a range of backgrounds. Here is how that number breaks down.
Data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch, based on sworn affidavits from candidates.
This story was also published on Rediff.com, our media partner
The big match before the final showdown in Mumbai
Tens of thousands of people attended both events — and it was difficult to discern which side won on numbers. Either way, it would have been a good night for taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers, as crowds swarmed in from around the state to support their man.
The Mumbai police said it was actually Rahul Gandhi who gained the edge, bringing what they say were around 50,000 supporters, while the BJP and allies had “just” 40,000 for the BJP and allies.
The crowds at the Congress rally seemed younger and more energetic as they stood on the road waiting to enter the rally. People wore the party colours as they swarmed towards the security gates at the entrance to the main event.
Their concerns were widely shared: Modi was a “fascist” without an economic plan, and relied on big business donations to spread his propaganda. But could the Congress win? “Let us hope so, because Modi’s propaganda machine is strong,” said Deepak, an older Congress supporter from Mumbai.
Sonia Gandhi had pulled out of the first rally at the last minute, citing ill health. But this didn’t seem to dampen spirits too much. People liked Rahul’s more combative speech, as he took on Modi’s “divisive” politics and boasted of how many Maharashtra residents the UPA had pulled out of poverty.
As his speech drew to a close, dozens of his supporters crammed their way into the hitherto tightly controlled press area, pushing themselves to the fence to shake his hand.
Modi’s rally the following day did seem busier, but the crowds outside were more organised as they shuffled their way through the metal detectors into the audience area.
There was less chanting, and fewer people had made the effort to decorate themselves with their party colours than the previous day. But it seemed to be more politically plural — among the BJP members were significant numbers wearing Shiv Sena badges and Republican Party of India-Athavale sashes. Orange and white cut-out masks of Modi were worn by many, of various political backgrounds.
Businessman Deepak Desai said Modi was a man with a “vision”, who stuck to his plans “right or wrong”. “Modi put Gujarat on the world map,” he said. “Things happened in the past with the riots. But to go ahead you have to keep going forward.” He added that there were many Muslims in the BJP as well.
There was at least one Muslim at the rally. But ‘Sameer’ (name changed), a young man from Mumbai, said he was a Congress supporter.
“Modi had bad words for Muslims,” he said in a hushed voice. “I have come here to see him and to tell Muslims what he plans to do.”
A few teenagers were happy to speak about Modi. Why did they support him? “We just go with the flow,” said one of them, before an older man, who seemed to be the head of their delegation, pushed in front of him to explain Modi’s appeal — Gujarat, strength, a bright future.
Modi’s speech seemed to get a better reaction from the crowd than his rival’s. There were bouts of applause and standing ovations, and chanting intermittently erupted across the area.
His speech was far longer, too, lasting nearly an hour compared to Rahul’s 35 minutes. He wanted India to match South Korea’s standing in the world, he said, and accused his opponent of “poverty tourism”.
Several hundred of those gathering were eager to leave by this point, and started to make their way back out of the enclosure. Others weren’t so happy about that, and cajoled them, with some even blocking their paths.
As for who won, the crowds seemed relatively evenly matched, and while Rahul was in good form he didn’t seem to be able to compete with the bruising words of Modi. Also, while the Modi crowd may have had a more conservative feel about them, their enthusiasm was more widespread.
As the masses made their ways home — on what could be considered, if nothing else, several good nights for taxi drivers — clouds of dust rose from the arena and spread into the Bandra streets. It will settle soon, in a few hours, when Mumbai goes to the polls.
Images: Patrick Ward (the main image is a Photoshop manipulation of campaign photographs)
This story also appeared on Rediff.com, our media partner
Crime, wealth, education and gender: our guide to Phase 6
Here is how the candidates measure up, state by state, in terms of gender, education, criminality and wealth.
Data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch, based on sworn affidavits from candidates.
This story also appeared in Rediff.com, our media partner
‘Politicians shouldn’t forget that they are chosen by the people’
The election hung heavy in the air over the wealthy tourist hot-spot of Colaba Causeway in the Mumbai South constituency. Everyone had an opinion, from businessmen to beggars, about who should form the next government in India and what priorities it should have.
It was often others who started the conversation – would I like to buy a map of Mumbai? Or perhaps a scarf – genuine cashmere? But most people were willing – after some haggling – to give their views on what they want from the candidates they plan to vote for on April 24.
Hitesh Chhabria is the owner of Immediate Boutique and is rooting for the Congress. “People are scaring other people into voting for Narendra Modi,” he said. “He is working the media well.”
Chhabria said he could see the difference a Congress government had made to the area, and wanted it to continue. “I’ve seen India 10 years ago, and I’ve seen India now. There’s a lot of difference,” he said. But he did have his reservations. “Politics is politics, people want to fill up their pockets,” he said.
Would he ever think about Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party as an alternative?
“Maybe,” he said. “The AAP is a good thing. But Kejriwal is so small, and they are not letting him jump.”
A South African man who was in the shop chipped in to say he didn’t know much about Indian politics, but there was only one candidate he noticed thanks to wall-to-wall advertising: “The guy with the beard.”
As we spoke, several dozen AAP supporters, wearing their trademark white caps and waving the party’s symbolic brooms in the air, marched down the street, loudly telling people to give their party a chance in the election. Diwan Chandres, who works for an internet service provider, was part of the procession. “People are very supportive here,” he said. “Everyone is against corruption.”
But does a young party have a genuine chance of winning here? “We have a 99 per cent chance of winning,” he said. That much? “Scientists, businessmen, students, taxi drivers, hawkers and doctors – all over India, people want the AAP and don’t want corruption.”
The AAP candidate, former Royal Bank of Scotland banker Meera Sanyal, might seem a strange choice for the aam aadmi [common man]. Her website even includes a quotation from Ayn Rand, a favourite of the right-wing Tea Party in the US. But that didn’t seem to make a difference to many on Colaba Causeway. In fact, the AAP was the most visible party on the road, with dozens of street merchants proudly wearing the official cap of the party.
Further along the road, Preety Virle was behind the counter at the Himalaya Wellness health shop. “All the parties are the same,” she said. “But you have to vote — that’s our right. I would like to try the Bharatiya Janata Party. We’ve had Congress for 10 years, but no change. I want to get inflation down. For working class people like me, our salaries are so low, we find it very difficult to cover our basic needs.”
Another person finding life difficult was Laxmi Jadhu, a beggar. She was carrying her small baby as she asked people to buy her milk powder among the busy market stalls. “I will vote, but I don’t know for whom,” she said. “I just hope the new government will do more for poor people. But I don’t know who will do that.”
Dipa Tambe, from the John Player clothing shop, said he just wanted to see some results from politicians on issues like pollution in the city. “Some of them are cheaters, some are good,” he said. I asked him to name names. “The Congress is good, and AAP have good people,” he said. “But we will only know after the election.”
True to the entrepreneurial spirit of the street, several people I spoke to said they had no opinion at all about the election — but that they might develop one if I bought whatever they were selling.
Two men, who asked not to be named, said their stall had been confiscated by the police that morning — and were angry that, they believed, the only way to get their stock back would be to “pay under the table”. They did not want to be drawn into a discussion about who they would vote for, but said corruption was a big issue for them.
“I will tell you everything if you buy us some beers,” one of them said. I thought that perhaps that wasn’t the best way to get the story, and declined.
It was starting to get late, so I got into a cab and went to Marine Drive to speak to some of the people lining the bay, sitting on the wall taking selfies against the sunset and buying fruit juice from street vendors.
Mohammed Asif Gandhi, a young mechanical engineer, was tapping away at his laptop when I interrupted him. “I’m not very interested in the election,” he said. “We just need the right sort of people, but so far it hasn’t been encouraging.”
He was annoyed the focus on the election seemed to be negative campaigning. “They need to do the job properly, but many politicians don’t focus on the job. They just try to focus on the negative points of others.” Gandhi added his vote would go to a person, not a party — but he preferred to keep exactly who that was to himself.
Also wishing to keep their voting intentions to themselves were Sandhya and Brij Gupta, both government workers. Sandhya said she was disappointed that more people didn’t take the time to vote, but was happy turnout was higher this time round.
“Everyone should do their best,” she said. “But politicians shouldn’t forget that they are chosen by the people.”
Photographs: Patrick Ward
This story was also published in Rediff.com, our media partner
India tourism spots an opportunity in the elections
With India in the throes of a general election, and the world watching with interest, the country’s tourism industry has spotted an opportunity to draw the maximum benefit. Backpackers are being lured by electiontourismindia.com not to see slums but to witness the world’s biggest democratic exercise. After all, few spectacles beat the experience of watching a politician gear up for the big contest or make that charged speech at a huge rally.
The website, brainchild of India Tourism Development Corporation chairman Manish Sharma, has been developed in collaboration with travel agents worldwide and offers packages that include interaction with political parties and attendance at propaganda events. Sharma believes these ‘poll tourism’ packages give foreigners the opportunity to explore India’s vibrant democracy which accommodates different cultures.
Some of the website’s interesting offers are the Democratic Triangle Package, which is a six-day visit to Jaipur, Delhi and Agra, and Political Rajasthan Royals, which begins from Delhi and takes tourists through Pushkar, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Mount Abu before ending at Udaipur. This package is an eight-day tour.
Other packages are Heritage Hub and Golden Triangle which take tourists through other fascinating destinations of Rajasthan and Delhi for eight days. A spokesperson for the website said many foreigners have registered for about $1200 for these packages. The spokesperson said at least 800 tourists had signed up to watch the election process and ITDC is expecting more as the elections enter the last leg.
These packages are being promoted in the US, UK, France, Germany, China, UAE, Singapore and many other countries.
On the flip side, the elections have brought down the number of Indians who are traveling abroad. However, the outlook for this year as a whole remains bright, according to Sunila Patil, founder and co-owner of Veena World, an upcoming travel company.
“There is a mild drop in [foreign travel] as people are choosing to vote before going off on a holiday,” she said. “[But] May is a promising month. Summer vacations of children start in mid-April, so outbound tourism rises after that. So the dip in April will be made up next month.”
Patil added that in the last few months there has been a rise in domestic travel in the northern states of India, though not for political reasons.
Why actor Rakhi Sawant entered the fray (straight from the horse’s mouth)
It’s because the people asked her to – and she just couldn’t disappoint them.
“I have been virtually mobbed by people demanding I should fight the elections,” Bollywood actor Rakhi Sawant was quoted as saying. “So here I am.”
Thirty-six-year-old Sawant, who is contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as a candidate for her newly formed Rashtriya Aam Party, will fight it out from the Mumbai North-West constituency. Her opponents? Congress’s Gurudas Kamat, Shiv Sena’s Gajanan Kirtikar, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Mahesh Manjrekar and Samajwadi Party’s Kamaal R Khan.
The actor said she was offered a ticket by the BJP to contest from Srirampur in West Bengal, but chose to stand from Mumbai. Why? Because she speaks Hindi and Marathi, Sawant said, not Bengali — and also because she lives right here in Mumbai.
Curiously, Sawant has declared she is illiterate — although she attended the Goklibai High School in the Mumbai suburb of Vile Parle, and later the Mithibai College, also in Mumbai.
Sawant’s entry into politics has raised many eyebrows. The ‘item girl’ image from her Bollywood career and a series of controversial — some say bizarre — statements have not helped build her case as a serious politician. Nor has her attempt to promote her party symbol, a green chilli, by wearing an all-green attire.
That said, you have to credit her for making an attempt to stand up for what she believes in. Sawant says she will give her last drop of blood to serve the “dukhi janta“.
At the end of the day, entering politics requires guts. Entering politics as the lone candidate of a party that you formed yourself requires even more guts. So leave Sawant alone, will you?
This story was also published on WoNoBo.com, our media partner.