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|November 28, 1998||
BJP, Congress wrestle over prospects in MP
Archana Masih in Bhopal
“Arre bhai, jaldi calculate karo, Thakreji phir se phone karne wale hai,” yelled the BJP official. With reports of the Bharatiya Janata Party trailing in Madhya Pradesh – so far debunking the Exit Poll calculation – the huge BJP office in Bhopal’s Arera Colony is a flurry of activity.
Sprawled on a large mattress, with three constantly ringing telephones, a small television and endless cups of coffees, senior party officials are feverishly accumulating information over the phone. After making the statehood of Chhattisgarh an important election issue, reports from the region are worrying. Considered the BJP’s trump card, the region is yet to show the desired results. With the Congress ahead in 118 seats – it surely is an anxious time for the always upbeat BJP functionaries.
“Sarkar to hum hi banaenge,” says an energetic Prabhat Jha -- the party's spokesman -- in between two telephone receivers stuck to his ears. Amongst numerous calls – some from the party high command, others from workers in various districts and journalists, the men at the BJP post keep their cheer and plod along with scribbles and phone calls.
The mood in the Congress HQ at Jawahar Bhavan is controlled. Quiet. The party office is manned by fewer people, who seem to bear a quiet confidence amongst them.
“We will form the government. And don’t worry, we’ll have press briefings at regular intervals through the day tomorrow,” smiles the otherwise sombre party spokesperson Narendra Tewari. Some party workers had already started taking out victory processions for Congress victors Arif Aqueel and P C Sharma in Bhopal.
On the day of the election results in MP, the state election commission maintains a rather delayed pace, transferring the action to the party offices which are more on the ball. “Don’t write the leads on the board outside, they invariably end up confusing the people,” an election commission official had said earlier in the day. Journalists at the office largely spend their time chewing paan masala, sipping tea and flicking television channels while they wait for the chief election officer’s two-hourly status report.
Doordarshan makes way for Star Movies. Listlessly, the scribes watch the sci-fi classic, Planet of the Apes. Since Prannoy Roy's election analysis on Star News isn’t available, the journalists settle for Pakistan TV. We learn that the roads are bad in Karachi.
“The vote in MP is going to be a verdict against the ruling party. Digvijay Singh was at the pitch for five years, but he was stumped out,” Vikram Verma, leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, had told Rediff On The NeT, at his home the night before counting began.
Verma is of the view that the people of MP would vote this time for an honest government, and had dismissed the price rise issue. Basing his claim on the premise that the price rise was a result of crop failure, he said the BJP could be blamed only if the increase in price was due to a mismanagement of an industrial product. Of the young breed of politicians and a prospective BJP CM if the party were to form a government, he was confident of obtaining a clear majority. MP, he says, has never seen a hung assembly since 1962.
In the run-up to the election, while the Congress maintained a rather cautious stance, the BJP has been more buoyant about its victory. With the results of the 320 seats at stake coming in at a slower pace, the picture in India's largest state remains hazy. Most candidates are away in their constituencies and are expected back in the state capital late tonight or on Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, Bhopal city wears an everyday look – barring the Congress processions in celebration of the seats they won in the city.
Leaders of both parties say they are running neck-to-neck. The morning will make the picture clearer, they say. It has been a long day and the night is still young.
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