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BJP readies strategy to counter Congress-UF pincer movement
Though official talks have not begun and the leaders have not returned to Delhi after their tour of various states, the BJP is taking precautions to avoid an Uttar Pradesh-like ganging up of the non-BJP entities to prop up a United Front-Congress government.

Security gears up for violence in the last phase of polling
Special security steps have been taken in Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and adjoining Himachal Pradesh, Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Purulia and Midnapore in West Bengal and Mumbai in Maharashtra to prevent miscreants from disrupting the elections.

CBI to investigate Sonia assassination attempt
The request comes in the wake of conflicting reports about the exact place and date of recovery of the body of one A R Venkatraju, an assistant engineer working with the South Eastern Coal Fields Limited, and his home town.

Women candidates face sticky wicket in Kerala
The 10 women candidates who have entered the electoral fray in Kerala are finding the going tough against their male counterparts.

Muslim support likely to place UDF on top in Kerala
Muslim political forces and cultural organisations, who earlier stood alone or helped the ruling Left Democratic Front, have adopted a pro-Congress, pro-UDF stand.

Leadership problems plague BJP in Gujarat
The BJP will certainly win a majority of the Lok Sabha and assembly seats. But how long will the new government last is the question.

'Thackeray has increasingly become a liability, not an asset'
'He is a peculiar kind of character. If he is your friend, it is a one way thing. He believes he has every right to insult you, whether in public or private. But if you attack him or say anything against him, he goes crazy, he says stupid things, and increasingly, his sayings are proving to be an embarassment for his party.' Sharad Pawar, in his most eloquent interview ever.

'Is election ne Madhavrao ko mahal se sadak par utar diya hai'
Scindia is known to have become far more accessible this time than ever before. The 'Maharaj' took many by surprise by sitting on the floor with local traders during the campaign. Though he has had a scintillating record in every election, the general sentiment in Gwalior is that he faces a real challenge this time.

A life in the day of Baramati
One thing is a given in Baramati -- that Pawar has no opposition. "Arre, as long as Sharad Pawar is alive, no one else has to bother contesting from here," says Shankarrao Reddy, of Jyoti Cycle Works, in the heart of the town.

'Let's stop the talk about mandir and masjid'
The BJP's star-on-the ascendant winds up his campaign...

Amid slush and filth, campaigning goes on in full swing
A dog was attacking something there. "Last week, too, a dog was eating something there. When we went to see, it was small child who had drowned in the filth. I hope it's not another one today."

The gunslinger rides into town
A A Khan, the controversial former police officer from Bombay, takes on the Mahatma's kin in Bombay North West.

'If the BJP comes to power, they will tear the country apart'
Tushar Gandhi, the Mahatma's great-grandson, during the final hours of his campaign in Bollywood land.

Vaghela, Modi fight proxy war in Dhandhuka
Battle between Dilip Parikh and Bharat Pandya becomes a matter of prestige for the two leaders

'Caste factor not always important'
Gujarat finance minister Babulal Shah takes on former chief minister Suresh Mehta in the Rapar assembly seat.

Issues 98: 'India needs a goal to aim for'
Businessman Anand Mahindra asks for a vision for all Indians.

India Speaks! 'My biggest hope is the youth of this country'
Gautam Solanki, 67, retired school teacher, Rajkot, on what he expects from this election and the politicians.


Saffron may conquer Coimbatore as fear spreads
As Coimbatore still grapples with communal tension, canvassing has come to a standstill. But the DMK posters have been torn up at most places, and the BJP may win the Lok Sabha seat easily.

Plot to kill Sonia in MP, alleges Congress
Najma Heptulla says the body of an engineer was recovered under mysterious circumstances two days ago near the meeting venue near Bilaspur. A diary containing detailed maps of Sonia's meeting places and the plan to place a bomb under the dais were recovered from the deceased.

Bad weather puts paid to Sonia's campaign in Bengal
The Congress's star campaigner cancelled all the four public meetings on the last day of electioneering.

J&K Congress reject party order, continue to oppose Omar Farooq
Sitaram Kesri asked the J&K Congress candidate to withdraw and help Farooq Abdullah's son. His advice was rudely rebuffed.

Aska taken up completely with Naveen Patnaik
Both Patnaik Jr and his election symbol, the conch, have totally won over the villagers from this constituency.

There's another Scindia in town!
Yashodhara Raje, who returned to India last year after spending 18 years in the US, has been her mother's campaign manager for the last two elections.

'Jyoti Basu is the biggest fraud, cheat and conman in West Bengal'
Who else would say that, but Mamata Banerjee?

'BJP and the Trinamul will be wiped out'
West Bengal Congress chief Somen Mitra breathes fire.

'Gandhinagar should be proud Advani chose it as his constituency'
Keshubhai Patel, who was ousted from the chief ministership by Shankarsinh Vaghela, discusses the BJP's prospects.

'The party machinery is not properly geared up to transform the Sonia enthusiasm into votes'
"The unfortunately myopic vision of some Congress leaders led to the breaking-off of the alliance with the RJP. The BJP will certainly benefit from this," says Harubhai Mehta, the Congress candidate for the Ahmedabad Lok Sabha seat.

Uphill task for Khalap
Goa gets raw deal as leaders bank on caste votes.

Lotus blooms in Khadia-Raipur
In this Gujarat's constituency, BJP candidate Ashok Bhatt is the monarch of all he surveys.

Amreli set to throw out BJP legislator
Despite being an MLA for two terms, he has done precious little and the constituency is seeking revenge.

Congress struggles in strongholds due to Karunakaran
The former Kerala chief minister refused to concede the Mukundapuram seat to sitting MP P C Chacko, forcing the party leadership to shift him to Idukki. Caught in the crossfire, A C Jose had to settle for Mukundapuram, deserting his Idukki constituency.

'If we win Bombay North-Central, the Sena government should resign'
RPI candidate Ramdas Athavale believes his party will wrest the prestigious seat.

'Sonia will stimulate the Congress cadre, not the voter'
Krishnam Raju, the BJP's candidate for the Kakinada Lok Sabha, on the state's response to the saffron brigade.

It's a straight fight between Sena and Congress in Satara
And with Congressmen of all hues sinking their hues, the Sena's sitting MP could be in serious trouble.

'Our lives are a burden. No water to drink, no water for our fields...'
Both the Congress and the BJP candidate in Kalahandi are assured of their respective vote banks. But the angry, uncommitted voters far outnumber the party faithful.

Goddess of Small Things hasn't had any effect on Aymanem electorate
Communist veteran E M S Namboodiripad and comrades have emerged unscathed from Arundhati Roy's Booker-winning effort.

The Man Who Knew Too Much
'Yeh Hindutva kya cheez hai? For instance, everybody "knows" I'm a fundie who advocates murder in the name of Hinduism. But do you also know that I'm an agnostic who never visits a temple except to admire its architecture? That I think the dogmatic VHP is a bag of nuts?' says Varsha Bhosle.

'Sonia and her family have much to hide'
N Ram expounds his views on dynasty and the reasons for India's backwardness.

India Speaks! 'I am not scared of anything, not even Jayalalitha'
Devyani, 60, from Marakkanam village, on what she expects from this election and the politicians.


Vajpayee, Thackeray flay Sonia at massive rally
The Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena had a point to prove: that the combine could hold a rally bigger than the one held by Sonia Gandhi at the same venue. And they pulled out all stops to do so.

Trick knee, determined rivals and vengeful Pawar add to Kalmadi's uncertainty
Pawar seems hellbent on teaching his former protege a lesson. He stormed into Pune on Tuesday afternoon and promptly hit the stump, addressing rallies at Hadaspar and Swargate, besides a series of impromptu street-corner meetings. His speech is hard-hitting and 'a beggar in a Mercedes Benz' is his leitmotif.

'Sonia is no factor in Indian politics'
'The crowds in her meetings have been manipulated. But there is no machinery in the Congress to follow the climate created by Mrs Sonia. Why should we bother about her? I don't know where she will be after the election.' Leading BJP ideologue S S Bhandari tells the Rediff Chat.

Coalitions a result of weak leadership, says Gujral
Nehru, Gandhi, now they were some leaders, says PM, advising people not to vote for those who don't care for their sentiments

Cong gives Sena a run for its money in Ratnagiri, a near walkover in Rajapur
The people of Konkan usually vote the way their chakarmanis working in Bombay do. Trouble this time is, even the elders aren't certain which way to lean

Congress faces tough battle in Ichalkaranji
It scorned Nivedita Mane, daughter-in-law of a former Congressman. And may now pay the price

'Muslims can be divided into two. Those with the BJP and those who are indifferent'
Gujarat BJP leader Narendra Modi explains why his party will sweep the polls in the western state.

Dull campaigning for Kutch seats
The contest for the six Kutch assembly seats and the lone Lok Sabha constituency is marked by an apparent lack of enthusiasm, despite the presence of some big names.

'I want to expose Advani'
Chaitanya Shambu Maharaj is the Hindu priest whom Shankarsinh Vaghela has chosen to take on the BJP president in Gandhinagar.

In Guna, Congressmen hope the Palace's influence has waned at last
Party members point out that previous Congress candidates did not have the resolve to win against the Rajmata. "They thoughtit was their good fortune to lose against her," says one Congressman.

Ram Pyari versus the Rajmata: A strange contest in Guna
Her head covered under a georgette sari pallu, Ram Pyari Bai says she has no political inclinations.

Vajpayee beats Sonia in crowd turnout, but will Goans vote BJP?
Sonia Gandhi, the 'last hope of the Congress' was greeted by only 4,000 Goans but Vajpayee broke all records this time, attracting around 8,000 people.

Bickering in Bolangir royal clan may hurt BJP's chances
A tour of several villages spread across the constituency indicate that, unlike other constituencies in the western Orissa belt, there is electricity in the air here as polling day approaches.

'Mamata is the best among a dismal lot'
The Muslims of Calcutta are shocked by the Trinamul Congress's recent alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, true -- but educated members of the community still prefer to vote for the party.

Poll officials provided high security in Srinagar
Polling in Kashmir requires extra-ordinary arrangements. And so do polling staff.

Women candidates find poll battle 'daunting' but 'worthwhile'
It is a mammoth exercise requiring 'finance, energy, time and stamina'. But, given a chance, they would go for it again.

Issues '98: 'No party has focused on the issue of judicial reforms'
Former Chief Justice A M Ahmadi on why the Saikia Committee report should be implemented.

India Speaks! 'The Indian woman is facing more and more problems every day'
Falguni Parekh, 26, beautician, Rajkot, on what she expects from this election and the politicians.


For Bhopal residents, politics is a lot of gas
Thirteen years after the world's worst industrial disaster, the small colony opposite the factory wears an everyday look. The slogans on its walls demanding justice for the gas victims ironically muted by the saffron BJP flags fluttering from most houses.

I am not in the race for PMship, says Manmohan
Manmohan Singh said the present election was being contested not to project any face but on issues like stability, economic development and secularism and the need to check the rise of communal forces, and the party regarded the issues more important than faces.

Debutant BJP candidate has a tough fight against Sanat Mehta
Mehta, former Gujarat finance minister's campaign is going on strongly, while BJP leaders admit in private that they can only dent his victory margin in Surendranagar.

'The CPM is doomed because the Trinamul has bloomed'
The rivals in Jadhavpur are Malini Bhattacharya of the CPM and sitting MP Krishna Bose, formerly of the Congress and lately of the Trinamul Congress. Both have overlooked much of the 'dignified' campaigning associated with women candidates, and have gone straight for each other's jugular.

Six-time MP is facing the toughest battle of his life
An impressive electoral record of over two decades in the tribal-dominated Mandvi (ST) Lok Sabha constituency notwithstanding, Congress MP Chhitubhai Gamit of the dissolved Lok Sabha will find it difficult to retain the seat.

'The BJP is not untouchable'
Churchill Alemao, the first-time MP from Goa who defeated Eduardo Faleiro in 1996 and who had a pack of indepenents with him in the 11th Lok Sabha, spells out his course of action.

BJP seeking Muslim support in Rajkot
A prominent Muslim leader recently joined the right-wing party, and BJP leaders are hopeful that the new entrant will bring votes with him.

Sonia has cast a spell on Thackeray's magic: Pawar
To quote the senior Congress leader, Sonia has, with her Shivaji park speech, 'defused the batteries of Bal Thackeray's remote control.'

TCC chief calls for ban on RSS
Action necessary considering all the trouble it has caused, claims K V Thangabalu

Issues '98: Declare population control a national emergency
Dr Prem Aggarwal, chief of the Indian Medical Association, on healthcare and need to treat its various aspects as a right.

India Speaks!: Is not dynastic rule a kind of dictatorship?
Dattatray Desai, 58, taxi driver, Belgaum, Karnataka, on why he prefers the BJP this time.


Independents's action may lead to fresh elections in Maharashtra
The Congress may demand fresh elections in Maharashtra if Shiv Sena-BJP lose Independents's support.

'They tried to bury me alive. How can I tolerate that?'
Former NTR acolyte Mudragada Padmanabham who left the Congress recently after his ticket was yanked away, now speaks for his new party, the BJP.

Not naming Congress choice for PM was an error, says Sathe
The former information and broadcasting minister blasts the BJP and other opposition parties who claim that Sonia Gandhi is a foreigner and, therefore, unfit to be PM.

Wait a minute... Just how literate is the Indian electorate?
Well, not very. Ninety per cent of the women voters in 26 of India's 543 Lok Sabha constituencies are illiterate. And two-thirds of its male electorate unlettered in 48 constituencies... All the statistics you don't want to know about polling in the world's largest democracy.

Witch's spell has little effect on Hoogly voters
Congress candidate Ipsita Roy, who is contesting from Hoogly, is a self-confessed witch.

Father, son and the holy votes
The NC is putting all its influence to ensure that Omar's entry into the twelfth Lok Sabha takes place with a sizeable margin, but trying to thwart just such a possibility the Congress has fielded Aga Syed Mehdi, a local Shia leader.

Left wrestles with idea of backing Congress from outside
A senior CPI leader said if the UF strength in the Lok Sabha gets depleted against the Congress after the election, the Left Front will lay down rules for the next political formation.

Moopanar, circa 1998, comes out swinging
Moopanar appears to have finally arrived as a politician. Thus, where earlier his campaign style was tame, he now shows himself ready to take on challenges hurled at him, to hurl a few gauntlets of his own in turn.

Cakewalk for Indrajit Gupta in Midnapore
Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta is all set to win this prestigious parliamentary seat for the fouth time in a row.

Security tightened as Coimbatore terrorists cross Kerala border
A red alert has been sounded in the northern districts of Kerala following intelligence reports about the possibility of Coimbatore-type blasts taking place in state.

India Speaks! 'Corruption is the bane of this otherwise great country'
Haresh 'Bobby' Kothari, 27, STD-PCO booth owner, on what he expects from this election and the politicians.

Issues '98: 'Committed politicians should join hands to fight corruption'
H D Shourie, director, Common Cause, an organisation for ventilating common problems of the people, on the biggest evil faced by the nation today.


6 killed in poll violence
The second phase of polling is not as violent as last Monday's first phase, but three people die in Bihar. Fiftyfive per cent turnout recorded.

Sonia wows Bombay
In common with the Bofors weaponry that is inextricably linked to her late husband's name, she has perfected what in military slang is termed shoot-and-scoot strategy. She storms into a city, a venue. She shoots from the hip, her salvoes tailored to local prejudice. And she goes, leaving the opposition in her wake, wondering how to counter her.

'Yes, I will vote for the Congress this time'
'"She is like a bahu," declared an elderly Maharashtrian couple after the speech. "She may be from some other country. But she is just like the bahus that come to our families from different castes. Once they marry into our families they become one of us.'

Warangal belies prognosis of Naxal violence on polling day
Despite the shadow of violence and the pall of suicides by farmers, the district does not turn its back on the democratic process.


Massive security for second phase of polling
Police, paramilitary forces in battle gear, shoot-at-sight orders, roving helicopters... The authorities are taking no chances after the violence during the first phase of elections.

To vote or not to vote? Tribals in AP's Naxalite-affected districts debate the risks
Tribals in the Manala village, which has more than 2,600 voters and is located deep in the forests of the Nizamabad Lok Sabha constituency, shudder at the sight of a stranger.

NRI ahead in the Nizamabad fray
"The town elects only those who have the potential to do something -- they should have the right connections," says one voter. By that yardstick, all three candidates are strong in this area.

Bihar's electoral characteristics also found in Bengal
In both states, there is this uncanny similiarity -- of fierce contests between friends turned arch enemies, leading to situations where the third contestant is the real beneficiary.

Laloo's henchmen threaten to repeat Madhepura/Patna in Hajipur
What lends an explosive edge to the developing scenario is that in recent days, bands of Paswan followers are going around the constituency, openly threatening to either retaliate with violence, or commit self-immolation, at the first sign of rigging by the RJD.

The son may set in Secunderabad
Eighteen months is all it takes to turn your greatest asset into your deadliest liability. Ask P V Rajeshwara Rao, he'll tell you.

Brothers's proxy battle in Pandharpur
Besides deciding the fate of six candidates in the fray, it will also settle a battle for supremacy between two brothers -- both of whom, incidentally, are not contesting the election.

Will Nainital be N D Tiwari's last hurrah?
The much-hyped demand for a separate hill state, which caused much heat and dust earlier in the decade, is a non-issue in the current general election.

Former President's son gives BJP a run for its money in Vidisha
Although Ashutosh Sharma is a novice in politics, he is not a stranger to the electorate. His family's political background, along with the profound impact of his father's clean image, may hold him in good stead in a constituency where BJP candidates have won the last four elections.

The goonda from Kunda
Officially, Raja bhaiyya has little to do -- his portfolio is the vaguely titled 'minister for programme implementation.' However, in his stronghold Kunda, he virtually is government, judge and jury all rolled in one.

Gadkari stakes ministerial position on Nagpur result
A strange battle is on in Nagpur. Congress nominee Vilas Muttemwar and BJP's Ramesh Mantri maintain low profiles as a proxy war is waged by Maharashtra BJP minister Nitin Gadkari and sitting BJP-turned-Congress MP Banwarilal Purohit.

Nagercoil all set to elect first BJP MP from Tamil Nadu
Going by the mood of the electorate, this constituency is ripe for a change.

Former rulers battle for public approval
Their royal titles gone, the scions of what was once the princely families of Kurupam and Chinna Merengi are now crossing swords in the Parvathipuram constituency of north coastal Andhra Pradesh.

The honest man and the filmstar'
In the north a simple man like Janardhan could have won, but this is Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, where filmstars are rated next to gods. So Sharat Kumar will win, even while Janardhan talks about visiting every village like Mahatma Gandhi and solving all their problems.

'The Sonia factor is there, but mainly it is the failure of the UF and BJP that is helping us'
When the whole party swears by Sonia, Rajesh Pilot boldly ventures to say that the Congress's life-force is just another factor that has brightened the party's chances.

'No party wants a watertight anti-defection law'
Union Law Minister Ramakant Khalap on his achievements, unfinished tasks, and political future.

'No party including the BJP will get a majority by itself'
'Every partner in the coalition must participate in the government. There should not be back-seat driving or power without responsibility.' Lok Shakti leader Ramakrishna Hegde tells the Rediff Election Chat.

How to rig elections: A Primer
'He is a senior functionary of the youth wing of a political party with national-level ambitions,' says Prem Panicker on the campaign trail. 'And he is, with what for me is a stupefying calm, giving me a basic primer in how to fix an election.'

Madam's Mystique
It was the end of the rally that provided its highlight. As the star Congress campaigner flew off in a swirl of dust, her admirers on the ground fought a desperate war for the few Sonia cut-outs that were scattered across the large ground. A Rediff Election Special.

ISSUES '98:'We need a bold government to take hard decisions'
Dr S P Gupta, chairman of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, on what the next government needs to do.

India Speaks! 'We are the world's largest democracy; it's time we learn to appreciate this fact and use it to further our progress in the world.'
Sunil Bafna, 39, managing director, Seva Auto Pvt Ltd, Dhule on what he expects politicians.


Bihar poll countermanded, EC transfers top officials
Declaring the election process as 'null and void', the Election Commission ordered the state administration to immediately transfer the deputy inspector general, the senior superintendent of police, the district magistrate and several other officers of the Patna district who were in charge of the polling which was held on Monday.

Campaigning ends in 183 seats, EC gears up for second phase
Barring the bomb blasts in Coimbatore which forced postponement of polling there to February 28, electioneering for the second round of voting was peaceful.

Coimbatore blasts part of a bigger conspiracy, says BJP
The intelligence agencies, BJP sources told Rediff On The NeT, had information in November of an impending serial bomb blast once Ramzan was over.

More bombs recovered in Coimbatore
The Coimbatore rural police recovered 75 petrol bombs from a bush near Salamat street in suburban Karumbukkadi during combing operations late on Thursday night.

Kesri sticks to stand, blasts RSS out of the sky
The Congress president described the RSS as a "fascist organisation" and alleged it was involved in every single communal riot the country has witnessed since Independence.

BSP makes little headway in UP
The BJP wins most of the reserved seats in the state.

No post-poll alliance with Congress, UF: BJP
"We are fighting both these parties in the elections and there is no question of forming any alliance with them," says Arun Jaitley.

The Church and the Christian vote
Which way the Christian vote swings will decide the fate of about half a dozen sitting MPs and the final tally of the two coalition fronts in Kerala.

'The BJP is not willing to accept any Muslim. They only want people with Muslim-sounding names'
'Whatever the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal says, Vajpayee will be compelled to dance to their tune.' Arif Baig, the only Muslim ever to win a Lok Sabha seat for the BJP, in a revealing interview.

After Madhepura, Laloo plans Paswan's ruin
The contest in Hajipur is not about Paswan versus Das. Not about upper castes versus the rest. Not about development or the lack thereof. At bedrock, the undercurrent is simple, and clear -- this is an election where the voters are asked to make a simple choice: are you pro-Laloo, or anti-?

Swamy is firing at CPI-M in Madurai from Jaya's shoulder
The last time round he polled almost 150,000 votes riding the crest of an anti-Jaya wave. And this time he is fighting the poll with Jaya as his main canvasser.

Of neglect, caste, and a world famous finance minister
Sivaganga, despite its grand name, looks parched, industries are non-existent, and caste equations play a role.

The battle of the kamals
Kamal Nath is doing everything to win back the constituency while Sunderlal Patwa is fighting hard to retain it.

Sudhakar Naik is out to avenge his 1996 defeat
For the former Maharashtra chief minister, it is a do-or-die battle.

For Arif Baig, Rajesh Khanna's tantrum is all in a day's work
Even Chief Minister Digvijay Singh fails to make yesterday's superstar change his mind.

V Gopalsamy may walk away with Sivakasi
Like Jaya's corruption. Vaiko's LTTE connections do not seem to matter in this election.

Sports Minister D Adithan faces a tough match
He has one advantage that cannot be matched by any of his Nadar rivals. In his vast constituency that stretches over three districts, there must be more than 1,000 villages. In every village Adithan knows at least a couple of people by their first names.

Jena finds the battle tough and tiring
For the first time in 40 years, the Congress has an edge in Kenderapara, Orissa, a legendary Janata Dal stronghold.

Stymied by Naxalite threats, candidates avoid interior Rajnandgaon
Former UP governor Motilal Vora is finding the going tough.

Sushil Shinde has to redeem Solapur for Congress
The onus of redeeming the party's lost pride has fallen on his shoulders.

Jaipal Reddy takes on PCC president in Mahbubnagar
The constituency presents a conflicting picture with the ruling Telugu Desam having won all the seven assembly segments.

Parties find women candidates an unattractive proposition
West Bengal and Bihar are perhaps the only states where the number of women contestants did not see a downslide whereas in Karnataka, it touched a low of ten, down from 70 in the last election.

'There is a very strong Vajpayee-Hinduja connection'
Vishwajit Prithvijit Singh, the Congress party's top spin doctor, tells the Rediff Election Chat.

What ails Indian governance?
"We have combined the executive, legislative and watchdog functions into one body, the Parliament, and that is at the root of our current problems," says Shalab Kumar.

The Untold Story Of The Coimbatore Blasts
The T V R Shenoy column.

Issues '98: 'We must create a sense of national integration'
Zafar Futehally speaks on the concerns of environment and integration for India's future.

I am still keen to know what happiness means'
Bharatiben Pandya, 65, housewife, on what she expects from this election and the politicians.


Everybody knows who got the Bofors money, Gujral blasts Congress for the first time
The prime minister says the inquiry into the Bofors gun deal began in the middle of November to find out who the beneficiaries were, and after that his government was toppled.

Nine youths arrested in Kerala for involvement in Coimbatore blasts
A police team arrested them on the night of February 17 at Kalathode following a tip-off that the youth were hiding in a house there. All the nine hail from Ukkadam area in Coimbatore, and one of them was Abbas alias Sabu, said to be the brother of Mujibur Rehman, alleged supplier of bombs and an accused in the Coimbatore bomb blast case.

Farooq warns of street fights if Article 370 is scrapped
Coming down heavily on the BJP for spreading rumours that all Hindus have left his state, he disclosed his plans to set up village defence committees to protect the Hindus in the villages, and providing them with sophisticated arms for self-defence.

AP's violent first phase points to encore on Sunday as well
Out of the 599 booths in which the Election Commission ordered a repoll, a whopping 238 are in 13 constituencies in Andhra Pradesh alone.

Congress, TDP workers clash in Guntur
The police opened fire in the air to quell a clash between Congress and Telugu Desam Party workers at Dondapadu village in Narsaraopeta constituency in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh on Thursday.

Naxalites threaten to disrupt poll in 3 MP districts
The police in Balaghat, Rajanandgaon and Mandla districts have been alerted after the People's War Group issued the threat.

Security beefed up in Bombay on poll-eve
Intelligence reports have cautioned the state election authorities against the possible intervention of foreign hands to disrupt the election process in Maharashtra.

The Other Mrs Gandhi
Maneka refuses to allow son Varun to take any part in the campaign -- again in marked contrast to Sonia, who never attends an election meeting without at least one of her two children in tow. "I think children are too precious to be exposed to politics," she says.

Nalgonda cries for water, but politicians want its votes
"Give us river water by 2003, or face the consequences," Jala Saadhana Samithi president Dushherla Satyanarayana seethes with rage. "The Srisailam dam will be blown up if our district does not get river water by then."

Hoshangabad has never been kind to newcomers'
VIP constituency Hoshangabad will witness a bitter fight when it goes to the polls on February 22.

The communal divide cleaves Charminar country
"The credentials of the candidates do not matter to the electorate, what matters to them is seeing the candidate of their community get elected," says one voter.

More stars than there are in heaven in AP
Film stars, campaigning for the Telugu Desam Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Andhra Pradesh are providing humour, albeit unwittingly, to the electorate.

Bihar: An Area of Darkness
The investments ushered elsewhere in the country by liberalisation have clearly not made their way to Bihar. "There is no electricity here, how can you have any industry without basic infrastructure?" argues a state government official.

Frugal meals, hard talk and Mulayam's ability
'I am equally at ease while ploughing fields and disposing of files," says the defence minister.

Caste, not anti-Laloo wave, will help Nitish Kumar
Nitish Kumar led the charge against Laloo Yadav; yet in Barh, he will win because it has the right caste combination.

Eight-time winner Shukla seeks more
Both Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi have campaigned in Raipur, which has usually voted for the party that wins, save the last time.

Victor and vanquished meet again in the battle of the Patils
In the fray to retain the seat he has held since 1980 is Congressman and former Lok Sabha speaker Shivraj Patil. For the third time, his main adversary is Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Dr Gopalrao Patil, a Rajya Sabha MP.

Shivaji's descendants to help Sena storm Kolhapur
With the descendent of Maharashtra's most famous leader in the party, the Sena will clearly sweep the poll.

'The RJP government is preventing Kutch's development
Former Gujarat chief minister Suresh Mehta in a candid interview.

'The BJP is running everywhere like a venomous snake after Sonia started campaigning'
Controversial Kerala politician Abdul Nasser Madani, in a provocative interview.

Candidates belonging to other parties need not apply!
Ponnani, in fact, has returned IUML's national president, Ghulam Mohammad Banatwala, with impressive winning margins, in every single general election since 1977 (with the exception of 1991) -- and Elections '98 seems set to continue the trend.

House of the Rising Son
'India is a tolerant, secular and slave country. We shouldn't mind being ruled by foreigners and by those following religions that are seeking to displace the primary religion of the land,' says Varsha Bhosle.

The BJP should sit it out in the Opposition
When the Congress makes a UF-backed bid to assume power, says Saisuresh Sivaswamy, the view from the street is that such a government is a readymade recipe for disaster. And when that happens, not even a Gandhi can keep the nation from turning to the BJP in the following election.

INDIA SPEAKS! 'I want stability, and elections only once in five years'
S Vishwasam, farmer, 50 years, Panickanadarkudieruppu, Tamil Nadu, on what he expects from politicians.


V P Singh is working for a Pax Indica between UF and Congress
The Raja of Manda now wants both the Congress and the UF to come to the negotiating table soon after the poll results are out.

Coimbatore poll shifted to Feb 28, car-bomb defused
The decision had been taken because of the prevailing situation in the textile city, the EC said, adding that reports from various sources were taken into account before the decision was taken.

RSS files criminal complaint against Kesri
The president of the RSS's Delhi unit filed his complaint under the Indian Penal Code, urging the court to take cognisance of the complaint and punish the Congress chief for his February 15 statement.

'If the bomb was planted by somebody other than the BJP, they would definitely have killed Advani'
Tamil Nadu Congress president K V Thangabalu defends his party's charge that it was the RSS which caused the Coimbatore blasts.

BJP softpedals on Coimbatore blasts to wean away DMK, post-poll
High-ranking BJP leaders admit that the feedback after the first phase of polls indicates that the BJP and its allies might fall short of a simple majority. And if the BJP only needs a score of members' support it might seek the support of the United Front constituents, especially the DMK and the TDP.

EC orders repoll in 821 polling booths in Bihar and UP
Of these, 700 polling booths, covering 30 Lok Sabha constituencies, are in Bihar and the remaining 121 are in Uttar Pradesh covering 14 parliamentary constituencies.

Curfew in Andhra town after post-poll clashes
At least three clashes between the Congress and Telugu Desam Party supporters were reported in Narsaraopeta town, Guntur district, since Monday evening.

Sonia to blitz nine states starting Thursday
Her week-long programme is to commence with a public meeting at Chandrapur, in Maharashtra. She will address election rallies at Hingoli, Nanded and Aurangabad in Maharashtra and Karimnagar and Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh, the same day.

'You give them 50 years, all I ask for is 5'
Atal Bihari Vajpayee is in fine fettle in Arjun Singh territory.

The mantri versus the ganglord
The complex relationship between Mulayam Singh Yadav and D P Yadav has its root in friendship.

Kanshi Ram's tirade finds many takers in Nagpur
The BSP, he thunders, has held power twice, in UP, the most politically crucial state in the country -- and this time, the BSP is poised to hold the key to power at the Centre.

Chidambaram working on margins
Victory is assured for the finance minister in his constituency and hometown, Sivaganga. The people are proud that someone from their town is advising the prime minister and has an international reputation.

Siwan reeling under RJD candidate's terror
If proof were needed that the Siwan parliamentary constituency is reeling under the terror of the regional crime overlord and the Rashtriya Janata Dal candidate Mohammed Shahabuddin, just take a tour of the town. It is bereft of any other party's symbols except the green and white lantern banners and flags of Shahabuddin.

The Patriarch in Springtime
At 80, K Karunakaran has lost none of his celebrated energy.

In Berhampur, the fight is between Jayanti Patnaik and Vajpayee
Even Congressmen, while accepting that the Vajpayee factor may result in a tough fight on their hands, hope that the BJP's organisation is not strong enough to convert this popularity into votes.

'The Congress has come to such a pass that it has to depend on this housewife'
A rare interview with Jyoti Basu, who might just be the next prime minister

Politicians hardsell US-Iraq tension to Kerala voters
The American threat to Iraq has emerged a major election issue in the state where thousands of families are dependant on Gulf countries for their living.

Congress goes all out to halt saffron march in Vidarbha
It is a straight contest in all the 11 constituencies between the Congress-RPI combine and the BJP-Sena alliance, with the Janata Dal candidates in Nagpur and Wardha expected to make but a small dent in the votes.

Ghani Khan towers over Malda, despite the CPM's best efforts
Barkatda, who has virtually made the seat his monopoly since 1980, faces CPM nominee Jibon Moitra and the BJP's Muzaffar Khan -- both newcomers in the fray.

BJP attacks Congress bastion of Sangli
But Madan Patil of the Congress seems securely placed against Anna Dange.

Professors roll up sleeves in Mavelikkara
P J Kurien of the Congress has against him Ninan Koshy, a theologian backed by the Left Democratic Front

For AMU students, BJP represents a bleak future for Muslims
The number of companies that came for campus recruitments in 1992, the year the Babri Masjid was demolished, was 20; in 1998, this figure had fallen to just five

'Now is the time to reconsider our decision to globalise'
Professor K N Panicker in Issues '98.

Death and the Dynasty
'The Dynasty cannot keep expecting sympathy caused by untimely deaths or crumbling opposition nor can they keep selling nostalgia,' says Amberish K Diwanji. 'Frankly, what we are seeing at present might well be the last flicker of brightness of the Nehru-Gandhi flame, before it finally dies down.'

INDIA SPEAKS:'If you are unable to keep your promises, why do you make them in the first place?'
'If Indians have lost hope in their leaders, it is because of this stark reality,' says Shakeel Vazir, electrician.

Rock 'n' Poll
Political parties are out on the streets making a song and dance over the election. Mud-slinging, name-calling, they are all part of the poll-time jukebox, the inspiration obviously flowing from tinseltown. Presenting the political Top of the Pops. A Rediff Election Special.


Four boys killed in fresh Coimbatore blast
The police said the boys, who were playing cricket in an open ground, stumbled upon a bomb while retrieving the ball from a bush.

Bihar death toll goes up to 31
Reports are filtering of more deaths in landmine blasts. The government claims that the press reports are exaggerated, while it prepares for repolling.

EC orders detailed probe into Patna, Madhepura, Baghpat polls
The Election Commission said it had received reports of vitiation of the poll process from some constituencies. While most complaints were of a minor nature, others like those of Patna, Madhepura and Baghpat were very serious. Allegations of extensive booth-capturing had come in from these three constituencies.

Curfew in Ajmer, 20 hurt in community clashes
Chief Minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat said the action was necessitated following incidents of stone pelting and arson in the Durgah bazaar. The curfew has been clamped in municipal ward numbers 20, 4, 5 and 32.

Congress alleges massive rigging by Badal family in Faridkot
While claiming that the Election Commission has been informed of all the malpractices, the Congress demanded "justice from the Commission."

Shadow of violence looms over MP poll
State electoral officer A K Vijayvargiya admits that tension has gripped the electoral battle in the state because of close contests and the presence of many stalwarts in the fray.

Low voter turnout worries Tamil politicians, pollsters
All poll calculations went for a six when 14 of Tamil Nadu's 39 Lok Sabha constituencies registered a miserable 48 per cent polling average.

'Hindutva is a fascist agenda'
'Hindutva is nothing but a struggle to make 85 per cent majority Hindus the permanent majority in India. Permanent majority means no dissent, no opposition, no democracy and no competitive system.' Professor Zahoor Mohammad Khan explains why Muslim intellectuals don't trust the BJP.

In Hoshangabad, David may have the last laugh
"All politicians make money after they get elected, but the 5 trucks that Sartajji once owned have been sold," discloses one BJP worker.

'L K Advani, a sharnarthi, is telling us to go to Pakistan'
They didn't go 50 years ago. The Muslim population of Sambhal fear they will have to go now, if the BJP come to power

Mahant hands over baton to disciple, but ex-associate could spoil the BJP's party
In the last three elections, Mahant Avaidyanath won the Gorakhpur seat for the BJP. However, this time he has handed over the responsibility to his successor.

'But I am not the BJP! I am the Pune Vikas Aghadi'
Former Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi is confidence personified.

Congress struggles to wrest Marathwada back from BJP-Sena
In the 1996 Lok Sabha poll, the Congress received a major jolt when its candidates were defeated by the Shiv Sena and BJP in six of the eight constituencies in the region. This time it is out for revenge.

2 Congress candidates in Saurashtra withdraw from electoral race
The move can only benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party, while Congress fortunes in what was considered its citadel is bound to nosedive.

Voters play hide-and-seek in Tenali
And at stake is the political future of the award-winning actress, Sarada.

Where the father fears to tread
Can the son win where the father lost? Can K Muralidharan better Kunnoth Karunakaran?

A triangular contest
Kozhikode is traditionally a Congress bastion. But this time it will see a keen fray between the Janata Dal, Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.

Gomango on verge of parliamentary record
Even his bitterest critics admit that Koraput is the only seat not only in the state but in the country which the Congress can win without difficulty.

Royalty continues to seek legitimacy through the ballot
Shorn of their regal splendour, scions of erstwhile royal families in the country have never fought shy of rubbing their shoulders with the commoners -- at the hustings. This time also, they are in full strength.

In the Kashi of the south, it is worldly matters that matter
Union Minister M Arunachalam's presence in the fray, on the TMC ticket, makes this a prestigious contest, moreover since he has represented this constituency for 20 years.

Communications minister Verma faces 2-pronged attack from BJP, BSP
Despite setting up fantastic telephone exchanges in the Kaiserganj constituency, his victory is by no means guaranteed.

I want my normalcy
'A life free of rioting is the normal course of things, just as the sun coming up in the East every morning. The BJP and Shiv Sena can ask for no credit for either. It's a sign of how low our expectations have been driven that these leaders can sing us this siren song and have it applauded as a profound accomplishment,' says Dilip D'Souza.

The race could well be between dark horses
Janardan Thakur on how the odd men out may well be contenders for the prime ministership.

Issues '98: 'The function of today's caste system has changed'
'Indian society does not show a total U-turn in terms of change. Yes, there is a new evolutionary hierarchy that is emerging in society, which in one way is good. But it doesn't represent a radical shift from the traditional to the modern.' Professor D Sundaram examines the changing face of India.


Violence mars polling, 17 killed
Violence broke out in many parts of the country where elections were being held. Crude bombs were hurled, clashes broke out, and ballot boxes were snatched an estimated 55 per cent of 250 million voters cast their ballot, among whom was President K R Narayanan, the first President in Indian history to vote in an election.

Official toll at 49, army's bomb disposal experts called in
Even as the nearly 200 people injured in the blasts are undergoing treatment in various hospitals, Coimbatore District Collector G Santhanam and city Police Commissioner Nanjil Kumaran told reporters that no untoward incident had been reported since Sunday night and the situation was well under control.

Rajnikanth blasts attempt to unseat DMK-TMC combine
Superstar Rajnikanth made a veiled attack last night on the All-India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Bharatiya Janata Party front for the serial blasts in Coimbatore. He said the blasts were part of an attempt to scuttle the chances of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Tamil Maanila Congress combine in the general election.

Was Tamil Nadu government at fault?
Though such a conclusion flows naturally from reports on hand, it is not clear whether it was a failure on the part of the political leadership, or the top echelons of the bureaucracy which may not have briefed Chief Minister M Karunanidhi properly.

Former DGPs blame government policy for spread of bomb culture
When politicians tried to restrict the freedom of the police, K Mohandas had warned MGR, the then chief minister, that it would soon lead to a bomb culture in the state, a warning that has proved prophetic.

Kesri suspects RSS hand in Coimbatore blasts
Asked what made him to suspect a RSS hand in the blasts, Kesri replied, ''We all know what happened on January 30, 1948 (the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi).''

Surjeet blames foreign powers for Coimbatore blasts
The CPI-M general secretary said the evil designs of 'imperialist' forces should not succeed, and appealed to the Opposition parties not to take advantage of the present situation.

DMK may reap a grim harvest in Coimbatore
The BJP is going all out to exploit the resentment among Hindus against DMK leaders for their alleged patronage to the Al-Umma and its leader Kovai Basha.

Blasts will not make a crucial difference to poll outcome
Indications are that the AIADMK-led alliance, particularly its partner the BJP, may stand to gain in 'marginal constituencies', where it had a fighting chance on hand.

The President votes!
In a marked departure from tradition, K R Narayanan on Monday cast his vote at a higher secondary school in the sprawling Rashtrapati Bhavan complex. He is the first President to do so.

Bihar makes a mockery of election
'Although paramilitary forces are deployed in Patna, people claim they largely remained spectators...' Tara Shankar Sahay reports from the state where 15 people were killed on Election Day.

The host is absent at his own party!
'On the day Jalandhar is scheduled to vote for or against Prime Minister Gujral, all three theatres are booked solid for all four shows...' Prem Panicker reports from the premier constituency.

'I know what you have done, you bastard. You just wait...'
Savera R Someshwar reports from Deve Gowda country.

Gurdaspur sees stars
Vinod Khanna says he deliberately kept the stars out of the campaign. "As it is, the Congress is trying to trivialise my candidature -- a lot of stars running around would only have given them more ammunition!" But four of his insistent friends from Bollywood set the Ravi on fire.

In volatile Rayalaseema, it's only a war of words as yet
Dump fragile egos into poverty and idleness, add a dash of the scorching sun, plus red hot chillies which are a staple in every meal, and you understand what is it that makes Andhra Pradesh's answer to Bihar, a Molotov cocktail that explodes during election-time.

Anger is the most dominant mood in Tamil Nadu
By the time Jayalalitha's entourage reached Pondicherry, people began trickling in. It was a disappointing crowd. They did not applaud or whistle or dance when Amma spoke except, of course, when she mentioned MGR's name.

The return of Shankaranand?
Or will the Lok Shakti dash his hopes in Chikkodi?

'Earlier people voted for me because of my father's name. But now they are voting for me because of my achievements'
The goodwill the lady has earned among the electorate is, without exaggeration, astounding: Be it brahmin, scheduled caste or bania, in Aligarh they all want to vote for the BJP's Sheela Gautam.

Belgaum has nil independent candidates!
Belgaum in Karnataka, where polling had to be postponed by a month in 1996 due to a record number of Independent candidates, 452, has none this time!

Sonia for Congress PM, says Ghulam Nabi Azad...

Alliance only if Congress apologises, says Basu

V P Singh seeks action against Bofors guilty

Killer instinct
Varsha Bhosle reacts to the Coimbatore blasts.

Lies, damned lies and politics
Pritish Nandy is disgusted by the choices confronting the electorate.

The Backroom Boys
Rajiv Shukla on the invisible hands who, to a large extent, manufacture the poll prospects of political parties.

Issues '98: 'Police can improve only if the political structure changes'
K Mohandas, a former DGP of Tamil Nadu, on the state of the police.

'I know for sure the kind of leader that I want does exist somewhere'
Pravin Soni, jeweller, on what he expects from his leaders.

Stories from February 1-February 15
Stories from January 16-January 31
Stories from January 1-January 15
Stories from December '97