Poll vault

60Captainscaptain Illustrations by Jairaj T.G.

A swing through the election states brings up many colourful characters and stories

Captain’s captain

It is well known in Tamil Nadu that the woman behind Vijayakanth's success is his wife, Premalatha. When captain was in the movies, she ran his fan club, which eventually became the DMDK. In fact, the DMDK rebels call her the autocratic anniyar (sister-in-law) for a reason. But at a recent rally, she took the pain to explain it to the party cadres. “I am controlled by my husband, Vijayakanth, and he controls the party,” she said. “In such a situation how can the rebels say that I am controlling the party?” | Illustrations by Jairaj T.G.


Phantom fight

The first political leader in West Bengal to fight an assembly election from jail, Madan Mitra has no doubts about his chances. The former minister is the Trinamool Congress candidate in Kamarhati. “I am sure I will win. What I did to nurture my constituency from jail, none could have done. My kin are there on the field, even if I am not,” he said recently while being taken to court. His wife, sons and daughters-in-law are campaigning for him. Mitra was arrested in December 2014 by the CBI for his alleged involvement in the Saradha scam.


Star fighter

The Congress and infighting are synonymous, especially when elections are around. This time in Tamil Nadu, however, the party looks united under state president E.V.K.S. Elangovan. In fact, the biggest problem for the party seems to be finding a safe seat for the party's star campaigner Khushboo Sundar. Rumour is that Elangovan met DMK chief M. Karunanidhi twice for a Chennai seat for her. Star power is more important for the Congress this time. Khushboo is already on a roll, blending her charisma with caustic wit | R.G. Sasthaa


Making no bones

When M.M. Mani makes news, it rings loud and clear. Former district secretary of the CPI(M) in Kerala's idukki district, Mani has got a fan following in the high ranges, where his earthy witticism and aggressive posturing add to his status as an orator who can whip up crowd frenzy. In May 2012, addressing a gathering in his district, Mani curiously owned up the murder of three Congress workers. “One was shot, one stabbed, and the remaining one hacked,” he thundered.

Last February, he was at it again when he abused the woman principal of a polytechnic. Also at the receiving end was a sub-inspector of police, on whom was heaped choicest of abuses. The police registered a case against him for using filthy language and rioting, but Mani had got his mileage. He is the CPI(M) candidate from Udumbanchola in Idukki, where he is pitted against the Congress leader Senapathy Venu. Here's hoping that the clear air in the hilly terrain remains so in the run up to the polls.


Tata no no

It was probably the dumbest thing a candidate could have done in Singur in West Bengal. The CPI(M)'s Rabin Deb started his campaign in the constituency in a Tata Nano car. It did not go down well with the local people who had fought tooth and nail against a Nano factory in Singur. Deb figured out the vibes quickly. So the next day he campaigned in a Mahindra Bolero. And the Nano never returned.


Change, please

Keshab Chandra Bordolaye, 103, has voted in all elections since 1952. He also claims to hold the distinction of being the first voter at the polling station, wherever he has stayed. This assembly election in Assam, the licentiate medical practitioner, claimed to be India's oldest voter, as he cast his "vote for change" in Dispur.

Bordolaye was angry that Shyam Saran Negi of Himachal Pradesh was widely hailed as the oldest Indian voter during the 2014 general election. Besides the government in Assam, he sought a change in the 'record', too.


Uncle's agony

The Congress has not lost in Sujapur in West Bengal for more than five decades. In fact, the constituency in Malda has been with the Kotwali family since 1962. Former union minister A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury won here five times. In 2011, Choudhury's brother Abu Naser won as a Congress candidate but he recently joined the Trinamool Congress. The Congress has this time fielded Isha Khan Choudhury, son of Abu Naser's brother Abu Hasem. Abu Naser was not amused. “What can I do?” he said. “A junior should have understood that a senior family member is fighting.” Either way the constituency will stay in the family


That's the spirit

Biju Ramesh became a household name in Kerala as the bar bribery scam hit the roof, and the names of ministers K.M. Mani and K. Babu were dragged through the slush. The working president of the Bar Owners' Association was a permanent presence on visual media, where he threw up the names of ministers and Congress leaders who, he claimed, were on the association's payroll. In fact, it seemed he was the only bar owner working overtime to wreak vengeance on the UDF government which banned bars, save the ones with five-star rating, in the state.

Ramesh has now surfaced as the AIADMK candidate in Thiruvananthapuram. “I have been an AIADMK member for the last six years,” he told the media. It is another matter that party boss J. Jayalalithaa has announced phased prohibition in her state if voted back to power, and rival DMK saying it would implement total prohibition if given a chance.


Vanishing act

S. Sreesanth could swing the cricket ball appreciably, and the BJP could not be faulted for expecting him to sway the voters in the Thiruvananthapuram constituency. Though there was some heartburn over the 'imported' candidate (Sreesanth hails from Ernakulam), BJP supporters have accepted his new role in the capital city. And, Sreesanth made all the right noises: about making the city his new home and his dream of making Kerala's development on a par with Gujarat's. Data miners, however, trolled and trampled his dream on social media and trashed the Gujarat model. Then, one day, Sreesanth did the vanishing act. He surfaced in Fort Kochi on April 9 to shoot for his Malayalam movie, Team Five, at a house where Vasco da Gama once stayed. He said he would shoot for a couple of days and return to campaigning, and complete the remaining shoot after the elections. In the movie, Sreesanth acts as the head of a biker gang.


The spoiler

Vellappally Natesan, general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam for as long as one can remember, has always played his cards close to his chest during election time. Making the right noises, picking on his many enemies, patting the back of his favourites, but never committing which side he will swing. Not this time, though. He has formed a political outfit, the Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena, and hitched it to the BJP bandwagon in Kerala. He claims that he has not much to do with his party, and that it is run by his son, Thushar Vellappally. But then that is the case with many of the affiliated organisations of the SNDP Yogam, where his writ runs. At one point of time he was reported to be the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP-BDJS combine, though nobody is talking about it now. With poll surveys predicting just a seat for the BJP in the best case scenario, his role and that of the BDJS would, most likely, be limited to that of a spoiler.


Spicing it up

This was one yummy idea to woo voters. Bahrul Sheikh, 32, who sells jhalmuri—spicy puffed rice snack similar to bhelpuri—distributed his delicacy for free to capture hearts and votes. The Rashtriya Secular Congress candidate in Assam's Dhubri constituency is “one of the poorest among the 525 candidates contesting in 61 seats”, said a newspaper report. “I know the big parties will buy votes, but I have only jhalmuri to give people I come across while campaigning,” he said.

Will the jhalmuri pull off a coup? Wait till May 19.


Air pollution

Anubrata Mandal has a waspish tongue. A close confidant of Mamata Banerjee, he is the voice of the Trinamool Congress in Birbhum district. During the panchayat elections in 2013 he made headlines when he asked the Trinamool workers to throw bombs at the police. He was rewarded by Mamata with the responsibility of the party in Burdwan district as well. And the chief minister seems to have figured out the reason for his potty-mouth as well. “He has a lung disease,” she said. “He does not get enough oxygen.”


Friend in need

A few chairs were arranged in front of the dais at the launch of the AIADMK's election campaign in Chennai. People thought those were for the party seniors and second-rung leaders. Only after party chief J. Jayalalithaa took the stage, everyone realised those were meant for her close confidant Sasikala Natarajan and her family members. It was a reminder that like every election, this time, too, Sasikala will be by Jayalalithaa's side.

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