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|November 21, 1998||
Neck and neck in Madhya Pradesh
Vaihayasi P Daniel and Archana Masih in Bhopal
Just 120 hours left to voting day in this diverse state that spans much of the breadth of Hindustan. And still political pundits, self-styled psephologists and local journalists flip-flop on the big question -- Who will win this election?
"It is a neck to neck race. It does not matter what happens in the Lok Sabha election. That does not reflect on the Vidhan Sabha poll. At the last minute, the Congress has the capability to pull it through," says a Bhopal-based journalist for a Hindi daily.
Dr Suresh Mehrotra, editor, The National Mail, believes, "the BJP has a definite edge," and only "miracles" could turn this election around for the ruling Congress party.
Down at the BJP office a kind of advance jubilation has set in. Officials talk only in terms of "once we are in office…"
"The Congress will win," predicts L S Herdenia, vice-president, national integration committee, MP. He believes that voters will reward Chief Minister Digvijay Singh for his populist measures and work in the villages. The scheduled caste or scheduled tribe villager who became a sarpanch thanks to Digvijay Singh, Herdenia says, is unlikely to forget his new status in life when he goes to the voting booth.
The man on the street in Bhopal, the state capital, more often than not, is a Congress supporter. "I will vote for Congress. I have always voted for the Congress," says one Muslim voter. "No, we don't trust the BJP yet. Look at the prices of vegetables. And Mussalmans are still not being selected for government jobs. So what if they are taking Muslim candidates? They will have to, if they want to represent India fairly."
Vegetables prices are looking up in the city though. Rs 20 per kg of onion. Rs 20 per kg of bhindi. Rs 80 per kg of garlic. Rs 40 per kg of tomato. Rs 20 per kg of cabbage. Rs 24 per kg of cauliflower. Rs 20 per kg of turan. Rs 40 per kg of dhania. Rs 12 per kg of potato.
A gigantic papier-mache onion dominates one of the main crossroads of the city. Emblazoned across it: Dilli mein Rs 80/kilo.
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