Campaigning Hits Intense Pitch for Phase II Polls

Bhopal: With less than 24 hours to go before the Election Commission on Tuesday blows the long whistle on campaign activity ahead of the second leg, of the five phased elections, scheduled for April 22-23. The mood was aggressive as most leaders kicked up political storms while others attempted to pull their toes out of their mouths.

Tamil Nadu chief minister and Congress ally M Karunanidhi retracted an earlier statement and said that the LTTE was a terrorist outfit and asserted “we have not forgotten Sriperumbedur,” the venue of a ghastly LTTE launched suicide assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

In the last ditch to prove his pro-Lankan Tamil credentials, Karunanidhi had thrown alliance cautions to wind on Sunday while terming LTTE boss V Prabhakaran “a friend”.

He however said: “They (LTTE) did not start off as a terrorist group,” but later took up arms and adopted a militant outlook.

Karunanidhi’s statements came a day after the Congress, which stood off several alliance feelers from TN patriatch’s arch rival Jayalalitha, expressed disappointment over his remarks.

Meanwhile in Bihar, UPA constituents continued to lash out at the Congress, which they say was partly to blame for the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya.

Uncanning pre-electoral worms RJD chief Lalu Prasad, last week, blamed the Congress for the demolition that led to communal riots across the country and resulted in the meteoric rise of the Muslim-Yadav backed secularists in north India.

Taking cue from Lalu, LJP boss Ram Vilas Paswan questioned voters at an election rally in the Hajipur area of the state, “What wrong has he (Lalu Prasad) said?”

Miffed over the Congress’ decision to field a party candidate against him in the constituency, Paswan lampooned the challenge saying “they know that they cannot garner even 2,000 votes.”

With poll pundits suggesting that the fight for the secular vote was down to the wires, Congress spokesman Rajiv Shukla accused Prasad of “strengthening communal forces” and claimed that the allegations against his party were baseless. He was speaking to correspondents in New Delhi.

On the Campaign trail in Assam, Rahul Gandhi continued to attack the Bharatiya Janata Party over the Kandahar hijacking and the alleged neglect of the “Aam Aadmi”.

On his first full fledged campaign deputation, Rahul Gandhi according to poll watchers has come of age and was playing in strict accordance with a clear-eyed strategy.

In Uttar Pradesh, arguably the most important electoral battlefield in the country, BJP president Rajnath Singh responded in kind and shredded the Congress attack to pieces over the “inordinate delay in carrying out the death sentence awarded to Afzal Guru”.

Addressing an election rally in Lucknow, Singh refreshed attacks against the new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Navin Chawla. The BJP, in the past, has insinuated that Chawla favoured the Congress.

Not one to be left behind NDA prime ministerial hopeful while addressing an election meeting in Bangalore dismissed the Third and Fourth Fronts as a “joke”, he said: “no government is possible at the Centre without the support of BJP or Congress”.

Attempting to build tandem with party colleague Rajnath Singh, Advani said: “Third Front…Fourth Front…it has become a joke. Third Front is theory, Fourth Front is a farce”

“No voter in the country wants to see smaller parties form the Government at the Centre. It’s not going to happen,” he claimed.

Caught in a squeeze by political opponents on one side and prospective allies on the other, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on campaign trail in Orissa said that the Naveen Patnaik led Biju Janata Dal was as much to blame for the 2008 communal violence in Kandhamal as the BJP.

Closer home in Bhopal, Congress leader Anil Shastri attempted to target the BJP over its recent pronouncements on Indian money in Swiss banks.

“Since Advani knows well that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was not coming to power after these elections, he has cautioned his people to withdraw money from Swiss banks by the time the next United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government assumed power at the centre,” he said while speaking to the media in the state capital.

Shastri, who had sought the party ticket to contest the polls from Bhopal, further alleged that the BJP state government was harassing Congress candidates in several constituencies in the state.

This on a day when political pundits said that ideological lines were fast diminishing in the run up to the crucial second leg of the elections and extreme left could just prove to be a liberal right or vice-versa, when results are finally declared on May 16.

Campaign activity in Manipur, which goes to polls on Wednesday, came to an end on Monday while the EC prohibition on campaigning comes into force in 140 parliamentary segments across 12 states on Tuesday.

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