Unlike a section of the BJP, the VHP does not feel the need to be apologetic about Thakur’s remarks against late Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare. Uma Bharati was furious when the inexperienced Thakur was nominated from Bhopal instead of her.
The VHP and the RSS have taken total charge of Pragya Thakur’s campaign in Bhopal and her campaign headquarters is located in the VHP office. Unlike a section of the BJP, the VHP does not feel the need to be apologetic about Thakur’s remarks against late Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare. Uma Bharati was furious when the inexperienced Thakur was nominated from Bhopal instead of her.
Bharati’s credentials as a sadhvi are far more impressive — she had delivered religious discourses as a young girl and is a veteran of the Babri Masjid movement. As an OBC Lodh, Bharati was recognised as a major political asset for the party and has won multiple parliamentary elections, including from Bhopal. So Bharati made known her displeasure by remarking sarcastically that no doubt Thakur is a “great sadhvi” and she a foolish nobody. But clearly, someone in the Sangh Parivar at the highest level reprimanded Bharati.
She subsequently called on Thakur and touched her feet. Similarly, Sumitra Mahajan, who usually weighs her words carefully, and Poonam Mahajan seem to have been instructed to make statements justifying Thakur’s remarks. The VHP is focusing on three constituencies to establish the primacy of its views on Hinduism: Bhopal; Begusarai, where Kanhaiya Kumar is contesting; and Pathanamthitta in Kerala, where the Sabarimala temple is located.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra played an important role in choosing the Congress candidates for Uttar Pradesh. She was helped by Pravin Chakravarty, the party’s data head, who provided the breakdown of castes and religions in different constituencies. Priyanka’s claim that the first priority is to defeat the BJP has not mollified the BSP’s Mayawati and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav. Both are furious, believing that Congress candidates in UP have harmed the gathbandhan more than the BJP. The Congress even fielded Muslim candidates in seven to eight seats which are minority-dominated. The bad blood between the gathbandhan and the Congress over the UP parliamentary contest could linger on and make the formation of a post-election alliance harder.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and MNS chief Raj Thackeray became close after a programme in Pune six months ago where Thackeray was the interviewer and Pawar the chief guest. Pawar wanted Thackeray’s MNS as an ally, but the Congress vetoed the suggestion since Thackeray’s campaign against north Indians in Mumbai had alienated its voters. So the two came up with an interesting via media.
Thackeray attracted the maximum crowds in the Maharashtra election campaign by targeting Narendra Modi forcefully. Using video presentations, he recalled Modi’s 2014 promises and failure to deliver on them. The beneficiary of Thackeray’s oratory could be the Congress and NCP since the MNS did not contest the parliamentary polls. Thackeray hopes to formalise his ties with Pawar for the Assembly elections.
Tejashwi Yadav, who heads the RJD campaign in Bihar, recently cancelled his appearance at two major TV channel programmes in Patna at the last moment. Tejashwi blamed his absence on ill-health, but many suspect he does not want to answer uncomfortable questions about the rift in the family. Elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav is furious with Tejashwi for sidelining him in the campaign and not heeding his demand that his estranged father-in-law Chandrika Rai should not be given a party ticket from Saran. The real worry for Tejashwi is not Tej Pratap, who is known to be a maverick, but his older sister Misa Bharati, who is fighting the election from Pataliputra. Misa is believed to have encouraged Tej Pratap to embarrass Tejashwi, who did not show up to even campaign for his sister, though her Pataliputra contest is said to be tough. Mother Rabri Devi at home and father Lalu Prasad in jail can do little to control the squabbling siblings.
According to the grapevine in Amethi, it was a pro-Congress photographer who shot the video of BJP candidate Smriti Irani working furiously at a hand pump and shouting at a district magistrate over the phone for not being at the spot when some fields in Purab Dwara, a village in Amethi district, were burning. The lensman presumed that Irani was throwing her weight around during election time, especially when a fire tender had reached the spot. He had hoped the video would work against Irani. A miscalculation, since the video when loaded onto You Tube went viral and BJP sympathisers were quick to add laudatory captions.