Assam Seesaw over CAA
Conflicting signals are emanating from the BJP and the Congress in Assam over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). While top BJP leaders have shown commitment towards implementing the CAA, the issue finds no mention in the party’s manifesto. The Congress declared the repeal of CAA as one of its five poll guarantees, but a full-page ad by the party in a Bangla newspaper in the Barak Valley gives any such assurance a miss. Understandably so, as the CAA is widely supported in the Hindu Bengali-dominated Valley. It is also the reason why Sushmita Dev, the Congress’s most prominent face in Barak Valley, has never opposed the law in public.
Three prominent Assam leaders have had their poll campaigns disrupted. Akhil Gogoi, chief of the Raijor Dal, could not campaign at all as he has been in judicial custody following arrest for allegedly instigating violence during the CAA protests and for alleged links with Maoists. Assam Jatiya Parishad chief Lurinjyoti Gogoi rescheduled his events after his mother died of a heart attack on March 29. The BJP’s Himanta Biswa Sarma faced a 48-hour EC ban (later commuted to 24 hours) for allegedly threatening a rival candidate. Sarma could hold only one rally in his home constituency of Jalukbari.
WEST BENGAL STAR WARS
JAYA HE! Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan has joined the Trinamool Congress campaign. Jaya, who did a few roadshows in Kolkata, indirectly owes her Rajya Sabha seat in 2018 to Mamata Banerjee. Apprehensive that the SP might not send her to the Upper House, she had approached Mamata, who offered her all possible help. The SP eventually had a rethink and nominated Jaya, but she remains indebted to Didi—and what better payback time than polls.
DIVAS IN DISTRESS
Two Trinamool Congress MPs in huge demand are Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan. Both have their hands full doing back-to-back events almost every day. While Chakraborty often ends up skipping meals, Nusrat is apparently hardpressed for time to even finish her basic chores. So, while travelling to Baruipur recently, she hopped off her vehicle to buy fresh vegetables from the local market. The election schedule has really upset their daily routines, eaten into gym and yoga time, and even disturbed restorative sleep.
THE FILMI SHOW
Union minister and singer Babul Supriyo is a big hit at poll meetings, where he often belts out some of his popular film numbers. On several occasions, the aroma of food being cooked in nearby homes gets him curious about the recipe. Supriyo created a big splash in Tollygunge the other day when he arrived with Bengali film actors Srabanti Chatterjee and Paayel Sarkar, both BJP candidates. Discussions in the crowd soon shifted to film stars and Supriyo, who has also acted in Bengali films.
Mamata Banerjee had a scare during a roadshow in Howrah’s Nandi Bagan when news spread that a bull was on the loose. Party workers and security personnel went into a tizzy trying to escort the wheelchair-bound Mamata to safety. The police overpowered the animal in time and prevented a mishap. While Howrah was abuzz with rumours that this was the BJP’s handiwork, the joke in the saffron camp was that now that Mamata had expressed her desire to contest from PM Modi’s Lok Sabha seat Varanasi, she better learn to revere the bull (the Nandis of Kashi Vishwanath temple).
On April 3, en route to Kolkata airport to fly out for campaigning, West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was forced to sweat it out for an hour on the road. Reason: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was landing at the same helipad to attend a few rallies in the state. Chowdhury, who was forced to cancel some meetings due to the delay, shot off a protest letter to the Election Commission. The poll office has since been debating if there has indeed been a violation of the model code of conduct. Even Chowdhury has since gone quiet on the issue.
Kerala Double Whammy
Former Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan could neither campaign for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) nor cast his vote. Achuthanandan, 97, was unable to travel from Thiruvananthapuram to Ambalapuzha, where his name figures in the electoral rolls. To add to his woes, an old photograph has been in circulation in this assembly election, showing Achuthanandan consoling K.K. Rema, United Democratic Front candidate from Vadakara and the widow of Revolutionary Marxist Party leader T.P Chandrasekharan, who was allegedly killed by CPI(M) workers in 2012. The visit, which had left the CPI(M) embarrassed then, has come back to haunt Achuthanandan.
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