Politicians:Election, religion, caste, & Astrologers

Elections are here.

Can Caste, religion or Astrologers be far away?

Of politicians, superstitions and elections

Ambarish Mishra | TNN

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Mumbai: With the polls drawing closer, few parties are willing to tempt the fates, and are adhering to age-old beliefs to ensure that nothing goes wrong.

By all accounts, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine is seeking an auspicious muhurtham (moment) to sign off on its seat-sharing pact.

Poll talks between the two parties were suspended for two days on account of Holi, said a senior sate BJP functionary.

“People believe that the festival has ominous connotations. Good decisions are neither taken nor announced during Holi,’’ said the BJP functionary, adding that the Sena’s request that talks be resumed after Holi was accepted by his party.

The festival is popularly linked with tomfoolery and merry-making, and in many towns across the state, mahamurkha sammelans (big fool gatherings) were held on Wednesday to raise a toast to Mr Stupid.

At one function in Dhule, a donkey was the guest of honour.

“How can we meet and talk about elections?’’ asked a Sena leader, looking a tad worried. Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe denied that the Holi hurricane that has hit the brotherhood.

It remains to be seen if the Sena-BJP is ready to wrap up its talks and make a formal announcement on Friday the 13th. But the date has not drummed up any fear . “We are not worried about the date. Friday the 13th is a Western concept; it will not harm us,’’ said the BJP functionary. A Sena leader added,

“Tomorrow is a Sankashti and Lord Ganesha will turn Friday the 13th into an auspicious muhurtham.’’

Astrologers and godmen will soon arrive with their paraphernalia to soothe the nerves of candidates. Bhayyu Maharaj, the guru from Indore, has a sizeable following among political leaders, with former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh allegedly topping the list while Mumbai Regional Congress chief Kripa Shankar Singh is known to be a devotee of Asaram Bapu.

And while Sena chief Bal Thackeray is known for having kept godmen and gurus at bay, Uddhav Thackeray’s team has firm faith in yagnas, said sources. Uddhav is believed to have a soft spot for Namramuni Maharaj, a popular Jain sadhu who has a vast followingCaste divisions add to security woes

Caste Lines

M N Samdani | TNN

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Vijayawada: With the battle lines for the Election-2009 being drawn on caste lines, the police in the state are redesigning the entire security map.

Against the largely accepted security manuals of previous elections where not more than 10-20 per cent of the total polling stations were considered sensitive, the new graphs are throwing an entirely new picture.

According to the new charts, the hyper-sensitive and sensitive villages could touch a record 60-70 per cent of the total polling areas in the state.

This is, thanks to the expected division of electorate based on the caste lines. Police believe that the entry of Prajarajyam Party coupled with consolidation of Kamma and Reddy voters behind TDP and Congress respectively has changed the situation.

Earlier, the hyper-sensitive and sensitive areas were identified purely based on the faction and extremist violence reported in a particular village. According to sources, the police have re-jigged priorities in identifying the sensitive areas, taking the local caste factors into account.

The field officers have been asked to map each village and hamlet with the head count of electorate and their castes. “We are expecting that the elections could throw up keen fights, particularly with regard to the caste struggles in the villages,” a police official attached with graphing of the new charts told TOI.

According to him, faction and extremist-related violence have occupied fourth and fifth slots on the five-point agenda to prepare the security map.

Though not many incidents of riots or clashes between various caste groups were recorded in the past, the police are fearing caste reprisals in this elections. Previously, most of the clashes in the villages used to be branded as “political” in spite of the role of some caste groups.

“This time the division on caste lines is deep-rooted and highly sensitive to gauge,” confirmed an intelligence official. He observed that routine security bandobust near the polling stations and route parties might not be sufficient.

Sources told TOI that police are overhauling the security arrangements. More mobile parties are likely to be pressed into service around the villages to keep a close watch on the troublemakers. “We have told our cops to forget about the previous history of the candidates and elections.

They have to be in tune with the latest intelligence inputs from every village. We are making pucca arrangements to ensure a fair polling,” explained a DIG-level officer. Sources indicated that most of the 13,000 villages in the state will be given the ‘sensitive’ tag till the completion of the elections.

Muslim Ulema meet to discuss polls

Mohammed Wajihuddin & Somit Sen | TNN 

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Mumbai: Muslim intellectuals and ulema who met at the Islam Gymkhana on Thursday demanded an alliance of secular parties so as to prevent the division of secular votes.

Low representation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha has become a serious issue after the lone Muslim MP from the state, A R Antulay from Raigad, announced that he will not seek re-election. Muslims constitute 20% of the electorate in Mumbai; their share of votes in the state is 10%.

“We need to have one Muslim candidate from Mumbai who will voice our issues in Parliament,’’ said Maulana Syed Ather Ali, president, All India Ulema Association, the organisation that convened Thursday’s meeting.

He stated that the discontent over seat-sharing between the Congress and NCP, and the subsequent reports of an NCP-Sena alliance has caused confusion.

“We want secular parties to stick together so that our community can back them in the polls. We are also launching a 15-day campaign to ensure that more Muslims come out to vote,’’ he said.

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