'Gandhi's contest may have put the place on a national spotlight but not many here do not imagine him to understand their problems, let alone solve it.'
What Saisuresh Sivaswamy learnt about the election from television and the newspapers.
A must read column, folks!
Wayanad and the scion
Rahul Gandhi, accompanied by his sister Priyanka, filed his nomination for the Lok Sabha polls from Wayanad in Kerala on Thursday and embarked on a roadshow, but according to Nidheesh MK writing in The Mint, 'Gandhi's contest may have put the place on a national spotlight but not many here do not imagine him to understand their problems, let alone solve it.'
'For indigenous people -- Wayanad district is home to the largest concentration of tribals in Kerala, at 18.55% -- the houses are still crude; many of them made of clay and wild cane. People walk barefoot. This is the least populated district in Kerala, but there are hardly enough schools, colleges, medical dispensaries or even water and electricity in some pockets,' he writes.
But it's not just the tribals, even 'the outsiders or the early cultivators who later settled in Wayanad and form the majority of the population now, are equally upset over the bad performance of the district,' writes Nidheesh.
'Last decade, a crisis of falling prices and glut in the market gripped the small land holding farmers who work the soil of Wayanad, considered as one of the most fertile; hundreds died of debt and starvation. It is how Pulpally in Wayanad came to be known as Kerala's Vidarbha.'
Reading Nidheesh's report, one gets the feeling that Rahul Gandhi has his task cut out, if he is elected from Wayanad that is.
Carnatic musician and outspoken critic of the present establishment T M Krishna never minces his words, and his interview to Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today TV on Wednesday night was no different.
Rajdeep, the consummate devil's advocate (as one is meant to be, don't get me wrong) in the garb on interviewer, tried to needle him with the usual whataboutery that defenders of the realm throw at their critics.
Like, how come you folk come out with your award wapsi etc only during election time, where were you during the previous establishment, is it your case that India started its backward slide only in the last five years, etc.
Krishna, articulate and unfazed, rebutted the theory that the liberals have only found their voice now.
Whenever atrocities have occurred we have spoken up, we have always voiced our concern, so this is not a new thing for us, he gently ticked off Rajdeep, who I suspect loves getting a slight rebuke every now and then.
Rajdeep then pointed out what actor Vivek Oberoi, who was in the studio the previous day, had to say about the critics of his forthcoming film on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Vivek felt that that those questioning why he was portraying the prime minister, were in fact being intolerant of his right to do so, so where do you stand on it?
Krishna was unequivocal. "As far as I am concerned, Vivek Oberoi has every right to act in the film, there can be no two ways about it,' he said. 'But I question the Election Commission of India for allowing a propaganda film to release during election season.'
Bond, Election Bond
The Election Commission of India may have been unwilling to bite the bullet on the Modi biopic, but it has otherwise been fully occupied in cracking down on illegal cash transfers during poll time ostensibly as payoffs to various 'service providers'.
But Nidhi Razdan, on NDTV's Left, Right and Centre chose to focus on another aspect, namely, the election bonds that were touted as an instrument of transparency by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech while introducing the scheme, but which actually turned out to be more opaque than ever before, by putting a cloak of anonymity on those donating less than Rs 20,000 to a political party.
There were dissenting voices on her show, of course, but when a man like former CEC S Y Quraishi weighs in on the side of the prosecution, there's little that can be said.
Not that it prevented the BJP spokesperson on the show from doing so, but neither M K Venu of The Wire, nor Quraishi or Shama Mohammed of the Congress were willing to buy his protestations.
Bhupendra Choubey of CNN-News18, meandering through Uttar Pradesh, was in Ayodhya, interviewing a mahant and speaking to Ayodhya-ites aboard a ferry on the Sarayu river.
The man in saffron robes agreed that the Ram mandir was not a priority for the government anymore, even though it may become an issue later, but whitewashed it by saying that it was important to build the nation first, the temple can always be built later.
The local residents were more categorical than that. For the rest of the nation this may be the issue, but for us, the people of Ayodhya, what matters for us in Ayodhya and Faizabad are the same as for the rest of you, the basic issues, said one of them.
Voices of reason, clearly, but not the kind that gets heard often during poll time.
The X factor in the Andhra Pradesh election is popular actor Pawan Kalyan, whose Jan Sena Party is in the fray along with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the two Communist parties.
In the 2014 election, he was with his elder brother, actor Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party, and the BJP.
Naturally, his opponents have been quick to brand him as pro-TDP and anti-Jagan Mohan Reddy.
'In both the seats where I am contesting -- Gajuwaka and Bhimavaram -- my direct fight is with the TDP, so if I had any understanding with them, why would I lock horns with them?'
'I am equally vocal against both TDP and YSRCP at my public meetings. It is because political parties pick up what they want to hear and allege. Common people know this,' he tells The Times of India.
Pawan Kalyan is also a lone ranger, in that he has no senior leaders by his side, functioning as a solo act. There has been talk of him joining his brother once again, but he has scotched the rumours.
'With Chiranjeevi, an issue is there. I haven't spoken to him or his family members on joining or campaigning. They are busy in their work, and I don't want to disturb them.'
'I know many seasoned politicians from my PRP days. They do not like me because I am a practical man and say what I feel. The respect is mutual. They do not want me, and the same goes for me.'
Pawan Kalyan has a dress code of dhoti and kurta, and not without reason. 'I believe cultural identity is very important, and self-identify. After the division of Telugu states the need for identity is much more now. I am trying to make it a symbol of Andhra pride and cultural identity.'
BJP is flying high
If airpower is the differentiator in the battlefield, it is the same in the electoral arena as well.
And the BJP, which rolls out its wermacht every election season, clearly has the upper hand here.
Mihir Mishra writes in the Economic Times that the BJP's 'hired fleet of aircraft and helicopters is the highest ever in Indian poll campaign history.'
Quoting people familiar with the business, Mishra reports that while the BJP has hired a fleet of 20 helicopters and 12 business jets, the Congress has hired 10 choppers and four business jets.
The difference is not just in numbers, but also in the quality of the flying machines.
The BJP has gone in for expensive variants like Cessna Citation XLS, which cost Rs 280,000 an hour, and Falcon 4000, which cost Rs 400,000 an hour, the Congress has hired the cheaper aircraft. Its Cessna Citation Jet 2 costs Rs 180,000 an hour, and the Citation Excel costs Rs 280,000 an hour.
The spokespersons of both parties, of course, had nothing to say.