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Daily Take: Vajpayee also gets into the mood

May 08, 2004 01:27 IST
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Atal Bihari Vajpayee has done it again.

Addressing an election rally in Bulandshahr, western Uttar Pradesh, he mentioned Ashok Tandon as the outgoing Lok Sabha member from Khurja.

The actual member's name is Ashok Pradhan. Ashok Tandon is an officer on special duty in the prime minister's office.

But before you jump to any conclusion, be warned: he did it on purpose.

"Now the newspapers will make an issue of this," he joked.

Vajpayee was reacting to the attacks on him by Congress politicians, calling him old, tired and forgetful, and questioning his physical fitness to rule the country again.

"I don't forget," he told the crowd. "But sometimes it takes me a little time.

"People say I am forgetful and not capable. I am not incapable. I have shown how to run a government and I will show it again."

That's one charge laid to rest. Now to name his successor.

Meanwhile, Vajpayee's party colleague Narendra Modi continues to take potshots at Sonia Gandhi.

Addressing a rally in the capital, the Gujarat chief minister harped on his pet theme that no landlord will even rent a house to the Congress president.

"Even before renting out a house, one asks the background of the tenant," Modi claimed. "I ask Congressmen, does anyone know about the life of Sonia Gandhi before she married Rajiv?"

Obviously, it's been a long, long time since Modi last rented a house, at least in the bigger cities of India. But you can't deny him his killer punch.

"When I meet my good friend Laloo Prasad Yadav," he said, "I will ask him why he gave the Congress only four seats [in Bihar]. He could have given it five. At least five people are needed for a funeral procession."

Still wonder why Modi is such a sought-after campaigner for the BJP?

The BJP is riding on Vajpayee's charisma — has been doing so since the 1998 election — throughout the country, but in his own constituency of Lucknow, the prime minister has failed to excite voters enough to come out in large numbers.

According to the Election Commission's revised figures for the Uttar Pradesh capital, just 35.42 per cent voters turned out to exercise their franchise on May 5.

This makes it the lowest turnout among all the 62 constituencies in the state that have voted so far. Eighteen constituencies in west Uttar Pradesh will go to the polls on May 10.

Within the constituency, the lowest turnout of 32.93 per cent was recorded in the Lucknow West assembly segment represented by Vajpayee's election campaign manager Lalji Tandon, he of the sari stampede notoriety.

This, of course, does not mean Vajpayee's election is in danger. But it may well mean a reduced margin of victory. For an opposition that had no hope of upsetting him in any case, that will be enough to scream from the rooftops.

Union minister P C Thomas faces a strange problem in his constituency Muvattupuzha in Kerala.

Thomas belongs to the little known Indian Federal Democratic Party, a breakaway faction of the Kerala Congress, Mani faction, formed simply so that he could become a minister in the Vajpayee government.

So for all practical purposes, he is an independent candidate. And, much to his discomfiture, there are two other independent candidates, both named P C Thomas, contesting the election in the same constituency.

To get around this problem, the electoral officer decided to include the house names of all three Thomases on the electronic voting machines. (In parts of Kerala the house name is a part of the person's name. It is usually the first initial in the name.)

But the decision did not go down well with the minister. He felt that it would only cause more confusion for the voters.

You wonder how? Because he is known simply as P C Thomas. Not too many of his constituents know his full name.

When the electoral officer refused to heed his argument, Thomas filed a writ petition in the Kerala high court, pleading that he is better known than the other two and so his house name need not be given.

But the court also refused to entertain his petition because the electoral process is not just underway but in the final stage.

So the poor minister now has 24 hours to ensure that as many of his constituents as possible are familiarized with his house name as well as his symbol.

Earlier Editions:
Daily Take: Against the popular will
Daily Take: Rajni has spoken
Daily Take: India flexes electoral muscles
Daily Take: Congress makes Dharam garam
Daily Take: Making a virtue of necessity
Daily Take: Exit poll woes
Daily Take: BJP readies back-up plans
Daily Take: It's all one big friendly party
Daily Take: Congress turns tables on BJP
Daily Take: This is no 'child's play'
Daily Take: PM's age is Congress concern
Daily Take: Careful! Another balancing act to follow

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