Southern Discomfort

There is a great deal of confusion within the Congress about Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad. Senior party leaders and would-be Rahul confidants were confident that the party president would not venture South, particularly when Rahul did not look too pleased when the suggestion was mooted at a party rally in neighbouring Karnataka. Then what changed his mind? Party sources speculate that it was not so much as A.K. Antony but K.C. Venugopal, who was instrumental in this decision. Venugopal, the newly appointed general secretary in charge of the organisation, is fast emerging as a key Rahul confidant. And some say that he himself harbours chief ministerial ambitions and hence it’s in his interest to see the Left decimated in his home state. Others, however, wonder if taking on the Left was a battle best left for a later date.

Campaign Talk

The Congress-NC tie up in the Valley has not gone down well with the PDP, which is still smarting over its ill-fated alliance with the BJP. Speaking to NewsX, PDP leader Naeem Akhtar pointed out that this alliance has only been done for the “benefit of one Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha”. Although he didn’t elaborate on camera, it was clear that his target was a politician who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Srinagar and another politician who is the architect of the alliance and a Rajya Sabha member.

Polls apart, or not quite?

Why is Dharmendra Pradhan not contesting the Lok Sabha or Assembly polls from Odisha? It’s no secret that the former was set up to be the BJP’s CM face in the run up to the polls. However, of late the BJP seems more interested in the national rather than the Assembly polls. There is a feeling that should the numbers not add up, the BJD could be a crucial ally. Hence the PM is careful not to attack Naveen Patnaik personally during poll rallies. BJP sources also claim that an olive branch has been reached out to the CM via his sister (who declined the Padma Shri conferred to her by the Modi government). However, at the time she made it clear that she did not want to embarrass her brother, keeping the timing in mind. BJP sources are, however, hopeful that just as there is a time to say “no”, there is also a time to say “yes”. It all depends on the “timing”, i.e. before and after the polling is done.

The Ghost Writer

Who wrote L.K. Advani’s blog on “Nation First, Party Next and Self Last”, which was a thinly veiled attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah? Although it went out in Advani’s name, the current BJP leadership suspects Advani loyalist Sudeendra Kulkarni to be the ghost writer. It’s no surprise then that Kulkarni was seen on various TV channels the day the blog appeared.

The Andhra Vote

Which way has Andhra voted? Well if the psephologists are to be believed, then it’s Jagan Mohan Reddy who has got the maximum vote share, while Chandrababu Naidu may end up with the larger share of seats. So, go figure.

The Verdict

Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala’s book on decoding Indian elections has some interesting nuggets. An interesting insight on voter behaviour is that for an issue to click, it not only has to be important, such as say corruption, but it also has to fulfil one other condition—one side/party must be seen to be better at solving the issue than the other side. “No matter how important an issue is for the voters, if they feel that all parties are equally useless at fixing it the issue does not affect voting choices”, write the authors. Which may explain why the Rafale issue raised by the Congress is failing to click. The authors quote the late Cho Ramaswamy to hammer this point home: How does a voter choose between a pickpocket and a thief? Another interesting observation is that “as the memories of the freedom struggle and the generations that fought for Independence fade away, with them the trust that the voter once placed in the Indian politician diminishes.” Noting that of 650 cell phone users, at least 350 million use smartphones, the authors conclude that 7.5% is India’s Mobile Rate of Growth. Whether you agree with them or not, it’s nuggets like this which make The Verdict a must-read in the middle of an election season.


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