The interesting bit about the Azamgarh poll finding on India TV was the whopping percentage of Muslims backing the SP-BSP alliance, which sort of negates Mayawati’s appeal to the community to not split their vote with the Congress, says Saisuresh Sivaswamy.
Food for thought
For the press corps out on the campaign trail during elections, it can be akin to a wartime manoeuvre, with the same kind of adrenalin rush, the hectic planning, the coordination between production and scheduling teams and the actual execution of work.
And just as an army marches on its stomach, so do the travelling scribes. After all, how often does one get to taste exotic, authentic fare in a diverse country like India, that too at company expense?
But while journalists keep the focus strictly on their work -- watch Prannoy Roy’s travelogues from around the country on NDTV to know how it can be done with panache -- there are some who get all too carried away by the culinary expanse facing them, more than they are about the political permutations and combinations.
I am specifically talking about the rollicking time that Rajdeep Sardesai has been having on the campaign trail in Tamil Nadu these last few days.
Granted, it is not possible to helicopter into a landscape one has had little exposure to and turn into this political maven in a jiffy. Add to it the complexities of the region beyond the Vindhyas, and the challenge becomes magnified manifold.
Conclusion, Rajdeep has realised the difficulties facing him in Tamil Nadu and decided to make it a road trip on camera with elections thrown in.
So one day we saw him in Thoothukudi, translator in tow, meeting the families of the victims of the police firing near Sterlite and talking to activists, and the next moment marching off in chase of Curry Dosa (mental note: must try this dish the next time I am in Thoothukudi).
Another day he was in the temple town of Madurai, oohing and aahing at the sights and sounds around the Meenakshi temple, the jasmine flowers on parade and making a meal of it at the Murugan Idli Shop where he was given a rockstar’s welcome by the manager.
The next day he was in Sivaganga, exchanging notes with the BJP’s H Raja and assorted AIADMK leaders, and wound up by asking one of them which was the best place in town to taste mutton curry, Chettinad style. Palanisamy’s he was told, and off he traipsed in that direction.
Oh, in between he also quizzed the citizenry about their political preferences between EPS-OPS and M K Stalin, whether Sterlite was the biggest issue facing Thoothukudi, etc.
No lehar in UP?
On India TV, we had a seat-by-seat count of which way the political wind is blowing and the results were not too surprising.
In Azamgarh, where Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Singh Yadav has replaced his father Mulayam as the candidate, the opinion poll showed that 95 per cent of the Muslim vote went to the SP, as did 81 pc of the Yadav vote and 60 pc of the Scheduled Castes vote. Of the non-Yadav OBC vote, however, only 30 pc went to it, with 51 pc going to the NDA. Winner: Akhilesh Yadav.
But across the state, the results may not be so conclusive. Unlike 2014 there is no wave in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi now, nor is there one in favour of the Mahagaghbandhan, and the Congress is not in the picture.
The interesting bit about the Azamgarh poll finding on India TV was the whopping percentage of Muslims backing the SP-BSP alliance, which sort of negates Mayawati’s appeal to the community to not split their vote with the Congress but to fully vote the Mahagathbandhan.
But the shockwaves of such an appeal refused to subside.
On CNN-News18, the BJP’s Sudhanshu Mittal was aghast that such an overture could even be made (never mind that subtle and not-so-subtle appeals to the Hindu community are made all the time). Appeals on the basis of religion are against the Constitution, will you take action against it, he asked the anchor angrily, only to be told that the action needed to be taken by the Election Commission, not TV anchors.
When Rashid Kidwai, his co-panellist, said no doubt he shared the anguish of Mittal over such an appeal and condemned it, but also wished that the latter felt the same way when his own party colleagues like Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath spoke the same language, it took the discussion to another decibel level.
Election season is also advertisement season, and while surfing channels I managed to catch an incisive ad for the BJP.
It showed a young girl bustling in and urging her mother to join her in casting their vote. The mother tells her to carry on, she still has household chores to finish up, like cleaning, and will cast her vote later.
The daughter says there Modiji is cleaning up corruption and here what are we doing about it. To which the mom says true, he is indeed doing a great job, he needs to be re-elected.
The daughter retorts, don’t stop with giving him your praise, also give him your vote then. And the two are off happily to the polling booth. The BJP, as you can see, is leaving no base uncovered in its re-election bid.
TN’s missing X factor
Thanthi TV telecast an opinion poll across the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state (39 in Tamil Nadu and 1 in Puducherry), after surveying 29,500 respondents till March 31.
The results were still tentative, with the conclusion being that the people were waiting for that one factor to make up their mind.
But what could that factor be?
As the opinion poll results gave the various constituencies to either the ruling AIADMK or the Opposition DMK, the pollster was very clear that the one certainty was that the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam of AIADMK rebel TTV Dinarakan was very much there to stay, and is a player in the state.
PC does it easy
Puthiya Thalaimurai TV interviewed former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, and all I can say is, what’s it they got that we ain’t got?
Because Chidambaram, whose calendar must be full given his political and legal assignments, has kept Rediff.com hanging for an interview for well over two months, ever since he came out with the second collection of his newspaper columns. I guess a television interview has its own charm that the rest of us cannot match.
As far as the interview went, it was good to see the former MP from Sivaganga speak in Tamil in the same polished manner he does in English.
So did Rahul Gandhi run away from Amethi to Wayanad, the interviewer wanted to know. When Modi went to Varanasi in 2014, did you say that he ran away to UP? So if you go from West to East it is okay, but when you come from North to South it is not? You cannot deny that South India generally feels let down, for various reasons, so Rahul Gandhi was right in contesting from Kerala.
But that has upset the Communists, who say you are diluting the fight against Modi and the BJP and are instead fighting them in Kerala?
Prakash Karat is my friend, but it is a fact, that for the UDF, the LDF is enemy in Kerala. Rahul has said nevertheless that he won’t criticise the CPM; however, if they want to criticise us in their election campaign they are free to do so, when did we ask them not to do so?
In Tamil Nadu the fight is between two fronts, yours and AIADMK-BJP’s. How do you see the outcome?
The DMK and Congress are a tried and tested secular front, while the other front members have fought elections separately. On what basis they have allotted five seats to the BJP in Tamil Nadu I don’t know, but I think it is too much.
There are also new players like Kamal Haasan in the fray this time, what do you think about it?
Kamal is a close friend, and I am more worried than happy for him that he is in the fray.
And TTV Dinakaran?
There is a saying in Tamil, a lone tree does not an orchard make. He is all alone, and his fight is against the AIADMK not us. His win or loss will not affect the Government of India, because he wants to take over the AIADMK... that is his fight.