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New Delhi: On Saturday, all media attention was on Gujarat’s Gandhinagar constituency from where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah filed his first-ever Lok Sabha seat nomination, with allies lined up to provide a guard of honour.
While the BJP made a big splash about Shah’s nomination, electioneering by varied parties gathered pace in other parts of the country – even as the Election Commission continued to be under pressure to implement the model code of conduct in spirit.
Before filing his nomination, Shah garlanded a bust of Sardar Patel and then went on a four-kilometre road show accompanied by Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal, Nitin Gadkari and chief minister Vijay Rupani. It ended with a rally which had the NDA allies on the dais – Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, Shiromani Akali Dal’s Parkash Singh Badal and Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was the only ally not present.
आज गाँधीनगर लोक सभा से भाजपा प्रत्याशी के रूप में अपना नामांकन भरा।
आप सभी के सहयोग व स्नेह के लिए हृदय से आभार।
फिर एक बार-मोदी सरकार हम भाजपा कार्यकर्ताओं के लिए एक नारा नहीं संकल्प है।
— Chowkidar Amit Shah (@AmitShah) March 30, 2019
Another conspicuous absence was of Gandhinagar’s incumbent member of parliament, 91-year-old L.K. Advani. However, Rajnath Singh in his speech described Shah as Advani’s political heir.
Meanwhile, Advani was mentioned by both Shah and Arun Jaitley for being behind the development of Gandhinagar.
There was praise from all the allies, with Badal asserting that Shah will be a minister when the Modi government returns to power.
Thackeray asserted that his party’s differences with the BJP were now in the past. “Some people were rejoicing that the two parties with the same ideology are fighting with each other. We had some ‘manmutav’ (bad feeling) and ‘matbhinnata’ (difference of opinion). But when Amit Shah came to my house and we sat and held talks, all the issues were resolved,” he said.
Shah claimed that India had been waiting for the leadership of Narendra Modi since independence. “Why has a Gujarat chief minister, who had not even contested a panchayat poll before becoming the chief minister, became the favourite of the entire country in just five years? It is because people saw in Narendra Modi a leader that they had been waiting to have for the last 70 years”.
Noting that he used to paste posters in Gandhinagar during polls as an ordinary BJP worker, and has now become its president and candidate for the general election, Shah said, “It is possible only in the BJP”.
According to PTI, Shah’s affidavit shows that his financial assets have grown three times in the last seven years. When he fought for the assembly elections in 2012, Shah’s assets stood at Rs 11.79 crore, increasing to Rs 38.81 crore in 2019. This declaration is also a rise of 13% from the figure of Rs 34.31 crore submitted by Shah while contesting the Rajya Sabha seat from Gujarat in 2017.
The sources of income mentioned are Rajya Sabha salary, rent from properties and agricultural income.
BJP stays on message
While Shah was in Gujarat and Modi was campaigning in the northeast, their messages were largely the same.
Flashing the national security card, Shah asserted in Gandhinagar that only one party and leader could “assure security to the country”.
In the opposite part of the country, Modi told the audience at a rally in Arunachal Pradesh’s Aalo that the Congress speaks the language of terrorists.
He brought up the anti-satellite missile test to claim that the opposition had mocked the scientists. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, as well as other opposition leaders, had congratulated the DRDO and scientists but had questioned the need for the PM to announce the test himself at a time when the MCC was being imposed.
“When scientists achieved success, they mocked them. The achievements which make the entire nation proud, they get rattled. They speak the same language as terrorists…No one is bothered about them in the country, they are being hailed in Pakistan. Their photographs are published in the newspapers there…They [Opposition] have developed so much of love for the neighbouring country that they don’t even cherish India,” he was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying.
He addressed one rally in Arunachal Pradesh and two more in Assam on Saturday, with his speeches revolving around the theme of national security and Congress’s ‘family’. Incidentally, while Modi highlighted the ‘chowkidar’ tag in Arunachal, he spoke of himself as a ‘chaiwala’ in Assam.
Rajasthan Congress hits out at Modi
Stating that the announcement should have been made by DRDO scientists, Gehlot said that Modi kept the entire country “in panic” for 40 minutes, as they dreaded that it was going to be another demonetisation.
“Why was it done now in the middle of an election campaign? Only to boost the sagging fortunes of the BJP,” tweeted Chidambaram.
Potential setback for BSP-SP in Uttar Pradesh
The grand alliance of BSP-SP in Uttar Pradesh received a potential setback on Saturday when a key OBC ally, the Nishad Party announced that they were leaving the grouping. A candidate fielded by Nishad Party had won the by-election in Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat last year.
According to media reports, the party chief, Sanjay Nishad claimed that Samajwadi Party had not made any mention of his group in the campaign literature. After announcing the split, Sanjay met with Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath.
In response, SP announced two candidates from the Nishad community in Gorakhpur and Kanpur.
Rahul Gandhi promises green jobs
Congress president Rahul Gandhi was in south India ahead of the launch of the Karnataka election campaign with Janata Dal (Secular). Karnataka Congress has warned its workers of “disciplinary action” if they work against coalition candidates.
According to a senior Congress leader, Rahul will also hold two rallies in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday, where he will speak on special category status for Andhra Pradesh and the NYAY scheme.
His sole tweet on the day was an ecological one, with a call for repairing water bodies and wasteland. “We will employ lakhs of rural youth in our gram sabhas to improve the environment,” he added.
India needs to
1. Repair & Restore our water bodies.
2. Regenerate & Afforest wasteland & degraded land.
We will employ lakhs of rural youth in our gram sabhas to improve the environment.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 30, 2019
Earlier on Saturday, the Congress’s social media campaign pushed the hashtag “#MainBhiBerozgar” on twitter.
In other news
In other news from Bengaluru, a city civil court has issued an unprecedented ex parte injunction against over 40 media houses and global social media organisations for publishing defamatory statements against BJP candidate Tejaswi Surya.
Surya, who is also the head of the youth-wing of BJP in Karnataka, has been fielded by the party in Bangalore south constituency instead of the wife of the previous MP, Tejaswini Ananth Kumar.
Meanwhile, JD(S) leader and Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy called on the Election Commission take note of the raids by the Income Tax department on Congress and JD(S) workers.
IT officials continued their raid. They raided the rice and sugar mills run by Congress and JDS workers till 4am today and put spy cams on their premises. Disguising themselves as railway officials, they borrowed vehicles and are now staying at CFTRI Mysuru. 1/2
— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) March 30, 2019
In a pre-dawn operation on Thursday, the IT department had conducted raids on 68 locations in Karnataka, including at the residences of state irrigation minister and other close party aides. On Friday, Kumaraswamy, along with state Congress leaders, had held a protest outside the office of the Income Tax department in Bengaluru.
The Election Commission’s door was also knocked by Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Saturday. In a letter addressed to the ECI, he questioned the clean chit given to Narendra Modi over his televised address on ASAT.
The larger issue is that the PM as a candidate in the ensuing elections is using the office of the PM to convey a development achieved by our scientists during the election campaign. This constitutes a gross misuse of the office for furthering electoral objectives. #LetterToEC pic.twitter.com/LoXIZWcVCZ
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) March 30, 2019
Based on a report of a committee of officers, EC had replied to Yechury on Friday that the official media was not used, as the original feed was provided by private news agency ANI.
Stating that the EC’s view was a “narrow interpretation” of his complaint, Yechury asserted that the Election Commission should allow opposition leaders to also make similar speeches on official media. “Since the EC has confined itself exclusively to the issue of ‘misuse of official media’, I would request the EC to direct the official media to treat speeches/statements made by leaders of recognised national parties in a similar manner as they have treated this speech of the Prime Minister,” Yechury said in his letter on Saturday.
The Election Commission sent notices to Ministries of Railways and Civil Aviation over the photograph of the prime minister being carried on railway tickets and airline boarding passes. They had been asked to submit their response by Saturday. This is the second time that the commission has sought an explanation from the Indian railways.
In yet another case of probable violation of MCC, Aligarh district magistrate has reportedly submitted a clip of Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh’s remarks to party workers, urging them to work to ensure the re-election of Modi.
India’s first voter, 102-year-old Shyam Saran Negi has also complained to the Election Commission about a BJP leader adding ‘chowkidar’ to his name in a social media post.