Saturday, March 10, 2012

Prez Poll: Cong Should Make Consensus on Kalam

By Raza Elahi

After the hard-fought recently-concluded Assembly polls, which pushed the Congress in the back seat, another round of tough battles is in store for the party. Elections of President, Vice-President and 58 Rajya Sabha MPs are all lined up one after another, but the ruling party at the Centre is in no position to have its sole say.

Will the party be able to find consensus candidates for President and Vice-President posts, or will it concede defeat or will it have some facing solution?

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN RS Polls?: Election for 59 RS seats that fall vacant in April is scheduled for March 20. The six-year tenure of Deputy Speaker in the House K Rahman Khan also comes to an end on April 2. Given the UPA’s numerical strength in the Rajya Sabha, where it finds itself in a minority, it is unlikely that the ruling coalition would be able to have its way, unless SP bails it out(among the seats falling vacant include 10 from UP).

A DALIT TO BE THE NEXT V-P?: While the vice-president Hamid Ansari’s five-year term is going to end in August (a month after the term of the President ends), his successor will depend on who becomes the President. If a Muslim becomes a President, then the V-P's post is likely to go to a Dalit or vice versa.

WHO'LL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT?: With UPA having just 30% vote share in the electoral college of the presidential election (The NDA has 28% while others command 42% of the vote share) due in July, it is certain that there's going to be a long drawn battle/negotiations among political parties before anyone settles in at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

There are reports coming in media that sympathisers of vice-president Hamid Ansari have begun hectic lobbying for fielding him as a candidate. According to them, he stands a good chance of emerging a consensus choice because, being a Muslim, he is likely to be backed by both Left parties and the Samajwadi Party that now commands a chunk of votes in the electoral college. But being seen as Congress man, Ansari's role on the last day of Lok Pal debate in the RS and may not go down well within many parties. The other names -- Pranab Mukherjee, Gopal Krishan Gandhi, Karan Singh (by the way his name crops up everytime during President & V-P elections, but gets eliminated soon), Meira Kumar and Sushil Kumar Shinde -- are all set to make their way out of the race.

WHAT'S THE OPTION FOR CONGRESS?: There is one name which is seen as NDA candidate, but SP and Trinamool may not oppose, and which Congress should propose is former President APJ Abdul Kalam. He was an NDA candidate (with the backing of SP and BSP) in his first stint in the Rashtrapati Bhawan. In getting Kalam in is a better option for the Congress this time, than facing defeat in the Prez poll. Congress may also find itself more comfortable with Kalam rather than any other NDA or SP-sponsored candidate. If this time Congress proposes his name, NDA may have no problem, and SP and Trinamool may also not ignore him because of his clean image and also being a Muslim candidate.

WHY KALAM AGAIN?: People of the country will certainly not ask why Kalam again because of his magnificent first innings. There is another reason too: Kalam's second innings will also save a good amount of tax-payers money, which the State spends on a former President.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

UP Muslims Play Their Cards Right

By Raza Elahi

The 2012 UP polls saw a usual scramble among all parties to woo Muslims, who can tilt the balance in 140 of the total 403 assembly constituencies. Unlike previous elections (say post-1989), when Muslim votes got divided, this time the community has voted sensibly. And thus the outcome: 69 Muslim MLAs, highest since the Independence.

Out of the 69 Muslim candidates who won, 43 belong to the SP. The party had fielded 78 Muslim candidates. The BSP, which gave tickets to 85 Muslim candidates, could get 16 seats. Among other Muslim MLAs, two belong to Congress, 3 to Peace Party (of Dr Mohd Ayub), 2 to Quami Ekta Dal (floated by Afzal Ansari) and three Independents.

RESULTS PATTERN: The Muslims largely voted in favour of SP, which helped the party to comfortably cross the magic figure. Results of the 140 constituencies, where Muslims are over 30% of population, show that SP won 72 seats, while BSP and Congress got 27 and 11 seats respectively.

INTERESTING MISS: Muslim-dominate Saharanpur failed to send any Muslim MLA to the Assembly. Mohd Umar, son-in-law of Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari, lost from Behat in Saharanpur district.

QUICK COMMENT: Muslim voters in UP have realised the strength of their votes. They have preferred SP over Congress and BSP in a larger perspective, but also voted constituency-wise to increase their Muslim representatives in the Assembly. They have shown that no party can take them for granted.

LESSON & CHALLENGE: It is a lesson for Congress that 'crocodile tears' won't work and challenge for SP that promises are not made to break.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Poll Pilgrimage of Senior Editors

By Raza Elahi

During the poll season, you must have read many columns and seen TV programmes based on the journalists' tour to the poll-bound areas. Each journalist do his/her reporting in individual capacity for the organisation he/she works. But very few know that for the last one and a half decade some of the country's best-known journalists and columnists (around 15-20) travel in a group to check the pulse of the voters and obviously to predict the people's verdict.
At the end of every trip, the group does a poll. The person whose prediction comes close to the actual results of the election is declared winner.

The group, which include Shekhar Gupta (editor-in-chief, The Indian Express),Arindam Sengupta (executive editor, The Times of India), Radhika and Prannoy Roy (NDTV founders), Columnists Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Surjit Bhalla, former Businessweek journalist Manjeet Kripalani, former BBC journalist Sanjeev Srivastava and psephologist Dorab Sopariwala etc, has covered every Lok Sabha poll and important assembly elections - 19 trips so far.

As per the wishes of the organisers, the tours and information about fellow-travellers rarely get mentioned in media. However, recently, a newspaper report carried some interesting experiences of these high-profile journalists when they went out together on poll pilgrimages, but the reporter's efforts to find out frequent winners among those high-profile journalists were not successful.