Man climbs tree for a Congress ticket to contest
By Kay Benedict in New Delhi
DRAMA in the amphitheatre of the Indian political scene is far from rare. Every few days, there are speeches, fights and claims of friendship to keep the avid election- watcher entertained.
The latest to jump onto the bandwagon of the theatre of the absurd is 50- year- old Prempal Singh.
On Saturday, a little after Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan completed the party’s daily briefing at the All- India Congress Committee ( AICC) headquarters, there was a flashback of a scene from 1970s blockbuster Sholay . A la Dharmendra — who played a character who threatened to jump off a tower if he was not allowed to marry his lady love — Singh was perched atop a 30- ft high tree, refusing to disembark unless he was given a ticket to contest from Hatharas in Uttar Pradesh.
The bare- chested ex- MLA was clad in a white dhoti and sported a Gandhi cap. From his green perch, he threw a bunch of his bio- data to the eagerly waiting throng of television and print journalists. According to Singh’s biodata, he was a legislator from Uttar Pradesh’s Jalesar during 1985- 1989.
He was keen to contest the Lok Sabha election from Hatharas constituency, which is reserved for Scheduled Castes.
His friend Mohammed Mansur Alam said his name had been earlier cleared for Hatharas but later, an outsider was allotted the ticket.
While the crowd below urged him to descend, he nonchalantly gave bytes to television crew, some of whom had also managed to climb up the tree along with their video cameras and equipment.
Those who had to enjoy the action from below seemed to be ruing their poor fitness level and their inability to give Singh company.
One national English channel went to the ludicrous extent of asking its bulky correspondent to climb the tree to do a “ phone- in” with the man on top! From the tree top, he raised slogans hailing Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, and Priyanka.
In his elements, Singh raised slogans against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for calling the Congress “ a budhia ( old woman)” and challenged him to climb the tree to prove his youthfulness.
Once he came down, the police took him into custody.
But anyone who thought Singh was serious about threatening to jump off was clearly mistaken.
Mentioned in the bio- data under the header ‘ Notable Actions’ in his resume he proudly mentioned his earlier “ heroic deeds”. He has a) Climbed a tree in front of 10, Janpath and remained there for eight hours trying to persuade Sonia Gandhi to become prime minister in 2004. He hadn’t mentioned what brought him down on the occasion.
b) Jumped into the Lok Sabha from the visitors’ gallery to protest against Mayawati’s abusive language.
Netas girdle up for rigging
Koride Mahesh | TNN
Hyderabad: It happens only in India. A six-year-old boy cast a vote at a polling booth in Engine Bowli in the Old City in the 2004 assembly elections. Similarly, a burqa-clad ‘person’ voted 17 times at a polling booth at Yakutpura, each time wiping clean the indelible ink mark with a chemical solution.
Though the polling staff knew, they could do nothing. “A political party brought the boy to cast a vote, but agents of other parties did not object. So, we could not do anything,” an official, who was manning the polling booth then, told TOI.
This is a regular occurrence at around 200 polling booths in the city. Most of them are located in the Yakutpura, Charminar, Chandrayangutta, Karwan, Nampally and Malakpet assembly constituencies. Interestingly, there are some polling booths in the upmarket Jubilee Hills constituency too.
With the polling day nearing, some candidates in the city are preparing for ‘cycling’ (a person voting more than once) and ‘rigging’ in polling booths.
The candidates engage some people in each polling booth to cast as many votes as they can. This is possible by removing the voting ink put on their finger after casting their vote. The ink, made of silver nitrate by mixing some other chemicals, dyes and aromatic materials, is generally removed by using acetonebased chemicals and hair oil.
“Bogus voters who resort to such practices first dip their finger in hair oil or acetone based nail polish remover or the liquid supplied with whitener before getting into a polling booth. After the ink is applied in the polling booth, they come out and remove it following the same method,” an officer said.
K Sowmya of National Election Watch, an NGO, AP chapter, said, “It was observed that those who resort to such malpractices, remove the voting ink within a few seconds after it is applied.”
Another organisation ‘Ennikala Nigha Vedika’ (Election Watch AP) brought this problem to the notice of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) I V Subba Rao a few days ago.
“This time the polling officers have been asked to put the ink half on the nail and half on the skin so that erasing the ink mark is not easy,” M Veda Kumar, state convenor of Election Watch AP told TOI.
“Several mistakes in the voter’s list and EPICs, and missing images in the list help parties to bring bogus voters on the polling day,” a former corporator of the city said.
Rigging normally takes place between 7 am and 9 am, and between 3 pm and 5 pm, an official who worked as presiding officer in Hyderabad said. Interestingly, agents of rival political parties are also managed by the dominant political party in the area. “Either they manage polling agents of other parties at the booths or they threaten them. The agents keep quiet and the officials do not react unless there is objection from the agents,” a RO said. There are 212 such polling stations in 15 assembly constituencies in the city. Of them, nearly 190 are in the Old City alone.
Booths include Subzimandi, Balappa Doddi, Mochivadi, Prasanthnagar, Pensionpura, Langer Houz, MD Lines, Moghalgunj and Risala Bazar.
Sultan Shahi, Bidi Bazar, Talab Meer Jumla, Gowlipura, Moghalpura, Meta Ki Khidki and Darulshifa.
Uppuguda, Talla Kunta, Jangamet and Riyasatgar.
Chinta Bavi, Manikeshwarinagr (polling booths 182 and 183), Tukaramgate and Addagutta.
Trees scarred in campaign flurry
Arpit Basu | TNN
Kolkata: Political leaders are good at advocating environmental causes. But when the time comes to act, they are the first to destroy the environment. For, despite a Supreme Court ruling that bans hoardings on trees, parties have blatantly flouted that and pinned posters on several tree trunks across the city.
When a TOI team visited Harish Mukherjee Road on Tuesday, it found that most trees along its eastern pavement, from Harish Park to Muktadal, had hoardings pinned on their trunks. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s house is just a few metres from the spot.
The team then headed for Pyari Mohan Ray Road and found that Trinamool activists had pinned large flex-boards on the trunks of at least 20 trees lining the pavement. Most boards carried photographs of Mamata Banerjee.
“Leaders should understand that in an age of global warming, trees are more essential than political campaigns. Such practices will severely affect trees and, in turn, make the human species extinct,” said Ravi Menon, a veteran green activist.
Though hoardings on Harish Mukherjee Road clearly stated that they were sponsored by the local ward committee, the local councillor was not aware that they were pinned on trees in violation of a Supreme Court order. “Did our men pin the hoardings on the trunks of trees? I have to check that out,” said local councillor Ratan Malakar.
Firhad Hakim, the local Trinamool councillor of Pyari Mohan Roy Road, looked a bit more active. “I know the Supreme Court verdict has been flouted. It was a mistake and we have to rectify it,” he said, claiming that he had already asked his partymen to remove all hoardings pinned on trees. These should be tied to lamp posts instead, Hakim had directed.
Joydeep Kundu, another green activist, was not happy with the councillor’s stand. “At a time when the Trinamool leader is raising questions on how safe the environment would be after the chemical hub, how can her party supporters flout a Supreme Court order and pin hoardings on trees?” he wondered.
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