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#PollVault: Using Anti-Corruption, National Security to Fight for Voters' Attention

A repository of the day's major election-related developments.

Every morning till the elections, The Wire‘s reporters and editors bring you Poll Vault – a summary of the most important political developments, all in one place. To get it straight in your mailbox, sign up here.

New Delhi: As the Lok Sabha elections get closer, major players continue to trade charges and counter-charges to corner votes. If the Congress is trying to keep the narrative around issues like unemployment and the ruling regime’s corruption, the BJP is trying to stick to terrorism, hyper-nationalism and India’s ability to respond to the ‘Pakistani threat’.

From Yeddyurappa’s diary to Rahul’s income

In what seemed like a response to Congress’s March 23 press conference on a dairy allegedly kept by BJP’s Karnataka chief and former state chief minister B.S. Yedyurappa, the BJP called a press meet on March 24 to state that it would keep “a telescopic view” on Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s election affidavit.

Without providing any evidence, party spokesperson and Lok Sabha candidate from Puri Sambit Patra alleged that Gandhi’s income had shown “a huge jump” between 2004 and 2014. Stating that his income had risen from Rs 55 lakh in 2004 to nine crore in 2014, as per his election affidavits, Patra asked, “How can an MP, who is not a professional, witness such a jump in his income?”

The Congress’s demand for a probe by the newly appointed Lokpal on Yedyurappa allegedly paying Rs 1,800 crore to the BJP top brass was based on a report published in the latest issue of the Caravan.

On being asked about it by reporters in Guwahati on March 24, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said, “The allegation first came out in 2011. The Congress was in power. Why didn’t it probe it then?”

Playing the Pakistan card

Trying to utilise the assembled media to send out his party’s political message set around hyper-nationalism and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, Madhav said, “They (Congress) are fighting a clueless fight because they don’t know which direction they want to give the nation. The nation is clueless whether they are fighting for India or for Pakistan.” Claiming that the Congress’s statements were being retweeted more in Pakistan, the BJP leader said, “If they went and contested the elections there (in Pakistan) they might even have won.”

If you take into account speeches of BJP top leaders like Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath and Nirmala Sitharaman delivered during the day as part of its Vijay Sankalp Sabha, Madhav’s comment was only an extension of the party’s strategy.

“First, they attacked us in Uri. Pakistan thought there is still mauni baba Manmohan Singh in charge in India. The Pakistanis underestimated Modiji. He conducted an airstrike on Pakistani soil to demolish the terrorists’ camps. Today, only because of Modiji, the prestige of the nation has gone up,” Shah said in Agra.

Starting from March 24, the party has said it will conduct 500 such sabhas across the country. If you go by the tone of speeches by party leaders on March 24, it is clear that the BJP wants to use the Balakot airstrike as an election plank.

Congress releases ninth list

Though the Congress is trying to divert attention from the BJP’s pet plank to issues like corruption, it has named senior party man P. Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram as its candidate from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu. Karti is facing trial in corruption cases, including the INX Media money laundering case. Speaking to reporters soon after the Congress’s ninth list was out, Karti thanked DMK chief M.K. Stalin for leaving the seat to the Congress.

Among those named in the Congress’s latest list of candidates are four from Maharashtra (Hidayat Patel from Akola, Kishore Uttamrao Gajbhiye from Ramtek, Suresh Dhanorkar from Chandrapur and Subhash Wankhede from Hingoli); three from Bihar (former NCP leader Tariq Anwar from Katihar; Pappu Singh from Purnia and Mohamamd Javed from Kishanganj); H.K. Hariprasad from Bangalore South (Karnataka); and Haji Farooq from Baramula (Jammu and Kashmir).

Updates from Tripura

Though unlike the BJP, the Congress is going solo in the Northeast, on March 24 it did enter into an understanding with the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) as per which INPT will withdraw its candidates in both the Lok Sabha seats of the state.

This understanding with its old ally in the state will certainly give an edge to the Congress candidates. While Rajkumari Pragya Debbarman, sister of the party’s state chief Pradyot Debbarman, is contesting from Tripura East, Subal Bhowmik, the BJP state vice president who recently moved to the Congress, is the party’s candidate for Tripura West.

“Without any preconditions, we are supporting the Congress candidates in the elections. The Congress and the state party leaders have agreed to provide more power and autonomy to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (if elected),” INPT president Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl reportedly said.

Hranghawl, who withdrew his candidature from the Tripura West seat, said the decision was taken to stop tribal votes from being divided.

Another tribal party, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, an ally of the ruling BJP in the state, is contesting the polls separately after the BJP refused to give the tribal-dominated Tripura East seat to it.

Sexism in politics continues

Meanwhile in Haryana, BJP MLA Surendra Singh added one more sexist jibe to his list of comments by comparing Haryanvi actor-dancer Sapna Choudhury to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, saying she was a professional dancer in Italy and her son Rahul was following his father’s footsteps by bringing Choudhury in to the party.

Claiming that Indian politics would never accept dancers to lead the country as against “charitravan” and “imandar” leaders like Modi, Singh reportedly suggested Rahul marry Choudhury, and added, “The best part is, both the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law will be from the same profession.” Recently, Singh also targeted BSP leader Mayawati for criticising Modi for calling himself a ‘chaiwallah’ and a ‘chowkidar’ while living in luxury.

Choudhury, meanwhile, has denied rumours circulating in the media that she is joining the Congress party.

Akhilesh contesting from Azamgarh

Hours after Amit Shah made fun of Akhilesh in Agra for not being confident of contesting the Lok Sabha polls, the SP chief announced his candidate from Azamgarh, the traditional seat of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Senior Yadav will contest the polls from the party stronghold Mainpuri. The other prominent candidates of the party announced on March 24 are Azam Khan from Rampur, Akhilesh’s wife Dimple Yadav from Kannauj, Ram Gopal Yadav’s son Dharmendra Yadav from Badaun and Akshay Yadav from Firozabad.

So far SP, which is contesting the polls in a pre-poll tie-up with the BSP and Rashtriya Lok Dal, has announced 19 candidates in the state. It also issued a list of 40 star campaigners for the party, which includes names like Jaya Bachchan.

Kanhaiya Kumar to be joint Left candidate

In Begusarai, addressing a press meet after getting nominated as the joint candidate of the Left, Kanhaiya Kumar, the former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union, said he would support the mahagatbandhan put together by the parties like the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) and Congress in the state even though he was kept out of it while selecting consensus candidates two days ago.

RJD picked Tanvir Hasan from Begusarai, keeping aside the Left parties’ request to nominate Kanhaiya in the seat as a joint candidate. According to news reports, the RJD felt Hasan, if not given a party ticket, would be picked by the Nitish Kumar-led alliance.

Begusarai is considered a Left stronghold.