The BJP with foresight and deep pockets booked nearly all the chartered helicopters available in West Bengal months back. (The Congress's Anand Sharma, in fact, earlier complained of the BJP's near monopoly on aircraft all over India. But the national party managed eventually to put together a fleet of planes thanks to help from private owners and some charter companies.) By the time Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress woke up to the need for helicopters for the campaign, there were no aircraft for hire.
One solitary charter company offered a rather outdated model. Banerjee had perforce to use this helicopter on her election trips. In Jalpaiguri, the undependable helicopter broke down and Didi lost her cool, especially when she saw her petrified party workers trying to give the aircraft a manual push as if it was a stalled car. Eventually Banerjee had no option but to go by road to her next destination. She later called up her good friend, TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu, to request for his helicopter, since the elections in Andhra Pradesh are over. Naidu is reportedly taking his own time to respond.
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy wept copiously at a rally in Mandya. The family has a tradition of bursting into tears when things get tough and the CM fears that his son Nikhil could lose. Pitted against Nikhil in the Mandya parliamentary constituency is film actress Sumalatha Ambareesh, whose late husband actor Ambareesh has a lot of goodwill in the Karnataka film fraternity, nicknamed Sandalwood. Sumalatha is backed totally by Sandalwood and even southern actors from other states, such as Rajinikanth, are pitching in.
The BJP is also supporting Sumalatha and has not fielded a candidate in this Vokkaliga belt. Kumaraswamy's fear is that some in the Congress, particularly his old rival Siddaramiah, may secretly be working against Nikhil. The Congress is furious that it had to give up the Mandya seat for the CM's son even though the Gowda family had already appropriated constituencies for two other members, patriarch H D Deve Gowda and his grandson Prajwal Revanna. If Nikhil loses, it bodes ill for the Congress-JD(U) government in the state.
K Veeramani, the elderly leader of the Dravida Kazhagam movement, is a headache for DMK president M K Stalin, just as former RSS chief K S Sudarshan was an embarrassment to the late PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he spoke out of turn. The DMK is an offspring of the DK rationalist and atheist movement in Tamil Nadu. So when Veeramani speaks, the DMK gets associated with his remarks. Recently Veeramani took a potshot at the way Hindu gods and goddesses are depicted, and referred to Sita dancing and Lord Krishna in the pool with gopis.
There was widespread condemnation, since Hindu sentiment in the state is growing. Stalin is now at pains to disown the DMK's anti-religion past. After Veeramani's remark, Stalin declared that leaders should be careful when they speak so as to not offend religious feelings. He denied that the DMK was an anti-Hindu party and pointed out that his wife visited the temple daily. He even issued a press release claiming that 80 per cent of party members are Hindus.
Row (tele) Prompted
There were many caustic comments on the Internet about a curious video of several SPG men scurrying away from the landing pad at Chitradurga, Karnataka, carrying an enormous black box, after arrival of the PM's helicopter. It was whisked away to a waiting vehicle even as Narendra Modi was still greeting those who had come to receive him. The local DCP and SP clarified that the box only contained "security and logistics material". In fact, the box, which is transported on all the PM's trips, contains two large teleprompters and a synchronization unit, plus cables to assist Modi when he makes speeches at rallies.
BJP's new Slogan
Whether because the electoral campaign is so long drawn out or the BJP feels its advertising material needs to be buttressed, the party has come out with yet another slogan which will be introduced in the later phases of the polls. The earlier slogans centered around Modi. First it was 'Modi Hai Toh Mumkin Hai', later 'Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar', and 'Chowkidar Modi'. The new catch line is 'Kaam Ruke Na, Desh Jhuke Na (The work should not stop, the country should not bow)'. This is meant to reinforce two themes. The ongoing development work should be allowed to continue. And that the nation must be strong and not falter, an indirect allusion to the Balakot air strikes.