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Jyoti Shukla | December 04, 2003 13:35 IST

You can't blame the people of Chhattisgarh if they heave a sigh of relief now that the state has finally gone to the polls.

The state transport corporation had diverted most of its buses and mini-buses for 'compulsory election duty', causing hardships to the ordinary Chhattisgarhi, though private bus operators were given licences to ply their vehicles in place of the government buses.

Buses are the only mode of travel in Chhattisgarh for the ordinary people. The populace had faced a similar problem earlier when the Congress government led by Chief Minister Ajit Jogi temporarily dismantled the RTC in 2002 citing financial loss. At that time too, the common people were forced to use bicycles or walk.

Political parties resorted to all kinds of gimmicks to woo the voter in Chhattisgarh. The Bharatiya Janata Party, for example, hired a magician who moved around Raipur and attracted a crowd by performing magic tricks. At the end of each show, he would tell the crowd to vote for the local BJP candidate. The Congress arranged stage shows where female dancers reprised popular Bollywood dances. The NCP roped in Pandavani singer Teejan Bai to help them lure voters.

When it came to the tribals though, all parties have the same formula -- murga-daaru (chicken and local liquor). The feasts began in the villages, particularly in the Bastar region, during the last phase of the electoral campaign. If there were two feasts by different parties on the same day, the tribals would attend both. One could easily make out if they were arriving from another feast because, most of the time, they would not even bother to take of the publicity caps provided by the parties. Yet, one wonders if these feasts -- which were quite effective in helping political parties win votes earlier -- will help this time around. While the tribals are enthusiasticallyattending every election feast in the town, they are keeping mum about who they are going to vote for.

Dilip Singh Judeo, former union minister of state for environment and forests and the BJP's candidate for chief minister of Chhatisgarh until he was enveloped in the bribery scandals, has become the butt of jokes in Chhattisgarh.

His (in)famous dialogue, captured on tape, in which he says money is as powerful as God, lent much hilarity to the idlers the corner paan shops. He has also become extremely popular with cartoonist and caricaturists. The local cable television channel (in which Chief Minister Ajit Jogi has a stake) began airing an advertisement, 'Coming soon to your town the Judeo tape'. Later, however, this ad was taken off the air.

The Congress is taking full advantage of Judeo's predicament. One of its print advertisements is a take-off on the superstar Amitabh Bachchan's hit film, Zanjeer. It reminds the voter of the advantages of having a Congress-led government and asks Judeo what he has to offer the voter. To which the Judeo caricature replies, 'Mere paas moonch hai (I have my moustache).'

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

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