Indore: Poll training given in locked rooms of colleges
Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP
Indore: Poll training given in locked rooms of colleges Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP

Mathura constituency polled in the second phase of polling April 18. BJP candidate and two-time MP from the constituency, Hema Malini, said she would win. But there’s the SP-BSP-RLD Gathbandhan to contend with. The Gathbandhan has fielded an RLD candidate against Hema. The question for Hema Malini: Is the Gathbandhan working at the ground level? Polling took place in eight Uttar Pradesh constituencies in the second phase. These are technically still Western Uttar Pradesh constituencies and include Congress leader Raj Babbar’s Fatehpur Sikri, which borders Agra, another of the ‘8’, where there’s clear division of urban and rural voters.

Stretch the imagination and ‘Mughal’ comes to mind. Both Agra and Fatehpur Sikri are timeless Mughal landmarks. But Mathura is quintessential ‘Hindu’, Braj-land! Playground of Krishna and his Gopis. Hema Malini can be forgiven for declaring the outcome in her favour before the votes were fully cast and the result declared. May 23 will correct impressions.

Six of the eight Gathbandan candidates, whose fate were being decided April 18, are BSP candidates and BSP Supremo Mayawati was expecting Samajwadi Party’s Yadav votes to transfer to the BSP contestants as surely and easily as her Dalit vote-bank does. The Yadavs have their own calculations and those may factor in the Congress. Maya’s call to Muslims to unite and vote was also being put to the test in the eight constituencies.

When Mayawati made her ‘Muslim United’ call, which landed her in trouble with the Model Code of Conduct and the Election Commission, it gave out a signal that the Gathbandhan was wary of the Congress more than the BJP – the Gathbandhan was apprehensive that Muslims would vote Congress.

A valid fear, especially after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra joined the Congress campaign in an “official” manner and after Rahul Gandhi chose to contest from “Muslim-dominated” Wayanad also. The Congress President tweeted April 18, asking voters casting votes “today” to keep in mind ‘Nyay’ and unemployment; and not forget the atrocities committed on the Dalit and the Muslim under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watch.

Rahul Gandhi may have breached the Model Code of Conduct with his “today” tweet, but the MCC is a casualty in these general elections in more ways than one, insulted by more people than one. Every party is breaking the MCC, not only the Congress. And one of the facilitators is Social Media- Facebook and Twitter.

The Election Commission does not have the wherewithal to stop political parties and politicians from using Social Media to influence voters, even on polling day. And politicians, from Tejaswi Yadav to Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, have net-savvy teams to tweet and post 24/7, people who stay awake to happenings pan-India.

Including Tamil Nadu, another big state which went to polls on April 18, where polling took place in all the Lok Sabha constituencies, besides bypolls in 15 assembly segments. Tamil Nadu is also where voters have gotten used to freebies and cash doles. The cash doles are like bumper crops TN voters harvest every election– Lok Sabha, assembly and bypoll. Tamil Nadu voters, despite high educational qualifications and political awareness, shamelessly accept cash doles and freebies as quid pro quo.

Maybe it is the mathematical genius in them and the proliferation of engineering degrees! Among the star constituencies and star contests in TN were MK Stalin’s sister Kanimozhi (DMK) from Toothukudi a.k.a Tuticorin and P Chidambaram’s son Karthi Chidambaram from Sivaganga. Income Tax officials have been very active in Tamil Nadu these last few days.

A third crucial state that saw polling April 18 was West Bengal where day broke with reports of Trinamool activists targeting women voters, barring them from entering polling booths. CPM leader and contestant from Raiganj Muhammad Salim, whose car was stoned and allegedly shot at, called the Trinamool workers “goons” who enjoyed state police patronage.

These goons were inside polling booths while the police were engaged in “area domination” outside, clearing voters from space outside the polling booths. Salim said polling in 22 booths in Raiganj should be countermanded and repolls ordered. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has mastered the art of winning elections by any means and this was proof of the pudding. Besides, this time, Mamata is also in the race to become Prime Minister!

Point is, if anyone believes violence, booth-capturing and ballot-stuffing are no longer a phenomenon in elections, West Bengal is the place to go. The Election Commission’s writ does not run this far towards the east, and there’s nothing the EC can do about it. The West Bengal Police is a wholly-solely sold outfit, more loyal to Mamata than to the uniform they wear. It’s an old story, say old Bengal hands, scripted and written by the “old” Left, and now acted to perfection by the Trinamool.

Talking of ‘acting’, Kamal Hassan’s Makkal Needhi Maiyam is in the fray in Tamil Nadu and actor Prakash Raj is a contestant in Karnataka. But while Kamal is being dismissed as a “vote-cutter”, Prakash Raj, whose “crazy villain roles” are the toast of both Kollywood and Bollywood, is an independent candidate making a “serious bid” from Bangalore Central. He is the one who made famous the quip “Kuch bhi” when talking of alleged Modi-infarctions – Kuch bhi!

And that probably is the story of the second phase of polling, even these general elections – Kuchbhi! Whether in West Bengal or in Maharashtra where reports of EVM malfunctioning were an ongoing story throughout the day. ‘Kuchbhi’ translates to ‘anything’ in English and it appeared like ‘kuchbhi – anything’ could take place anywhere.

From Rahul Gandhi tweeting “vote for Nyay today” to Mamata’s police engaged in “area domination” to Modi using the armed forces to swing sentiments. Polling in 13 states and 95 constituencies took place on April 18. With the 91 in the first phase, it added up to 186 constituencies. That leaves 356 seats yet to vote in the days to come and rest assured anything could happen – Kuch bhi!!

Sushil Kutty is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.