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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

From bureaucrats' books to verbal duels and a banned rally: controversies galore in 2014 polls

Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 15, 2014
First Published: 15:38 IST(15/5/2014) | Last Updated: 19:20 IST(15/5/2014)

Varanasi rally row
The BJP and the election commission (EC) headed for a showdown after the Varanasi administration refused permission for a rally by its prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi in Beniyabagh area, which has a sizeable Muslim population.

The BJP directed it's ire at the EC and returning officer, district magistrate Pranjal Yadav, before going on to conduct a massive roadshow for Modi in the city.

Chief election commissioner VS Sampath held a rare press conference following the controversy and asserted the poll watchdog was not afraid of any party and committed to ensuring "free, fair and peaceful" elections in a non-partisan manner.

Yadav, who is facing the BJP's wrath, is a mechanical engineer from IIT-Roorkee. The 34-year-old is a 2006-batch IAS officer. He had been the district magistrate of Azamgarh before coming to Varanasi.

For many locals, he is a hero for tackling encroachment and improving the condition of roads.

Shazia Ilmi lands in 'communal' soup
Days before the April 24 polling in Mumbai, Aam Aadmi Party leader Shazia Ilmi landed in a massive row for saying "Muslims ought to be communal this time" during a conversation with some people, apparently in the city.

The AAP distanced itself from her remark, captured on video. Contacted, Ilmi told HT, "Communal means 'of the community', not in a hateful manner. What I was telling them is not to be a political slave to a party. Not to live in fear." She added, "It was more of a sarcastic comment, play of words." Ilmi, the AAP candidate from Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh), did not deny the content of the video. "I haven't said anything wrong. Congress has done nothing for us all these years. This is my interpretation of secular versus communal," she told a news channel.

A file photo of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Shazia Ilmi. (HT photo)

Gandhi versus Gandhi:  Priyanka, Varun war of words
Congress president Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra set the ball rolling in Amethi with remarks on cousin Varun Gandhi, the BJP candidate from neigbouring Sultanpur.   

"He (Varun) is my brother. But he has gone astray. When a young one in the family chooses the wrong path, the elders show him the right path. I urge all of you to show my brother the right path," she told Congress workers on April 12.

Varun's mother and senior BJP leader Maneka Gandhi hit back the next day, saying, "If he has gone astray while serving the country, the country will decide."

Varun broke his silence two days later and suggested Priyanka had crossed the "lakshman rekha of decency" with her remarks.

Storm over 'Yeh dil maange more'
Kargil war hero Captain Vikram Batra's mother dubbed Modi a "pseudo-patriot" after he invoked the martyr's legacy during an election campaign in Himachal Pradesh.

Modi's pitch in Palampur (Capt Batra's hometown), which included the catchphrase "Yeh dil maange more", became the trigger for the row.

"Yeh dil maange more", the tagline of a Pepsi commercial, has a huge emotional connect in India because young Captain Vikram had said this to journalist Barkha Dutt before he died days later fighting Pakistani infiltrators in 1999.

The martyr's mother, Kamal Kanta Batra said Modi was in Palampur during the Kargil war, "but he did not visit us". She has been fielded by the AAP in Hamirpur against BJP's sitting MP Anurag Thakur.

Reacting cautiously to her statements, Modi tweeted, "Have immense respect for Kargil martyr Vikram Batra & his parents; will quit politics rather than allow dignity of martyrs be hurt (sic)."

'Neech rajniti' Low-level politics
A row erupted after Narendra Modi, in a series of tweets and at a rally in Uttar Pradesh, said some people thought he practised "low-level" politics just because he was from a backward caste.

His remarks came a day after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused him of insulting her father, late Rajiv Gandhi, and charged him with stooping to "neech rajniti" (low-level politics). Union minister Kapil Sibal targeted Modi for giving the issue a "spin". "He knows that he is misinterpreting. He does it purposefully. That is Narendra Modi. He will give it a spin that has nothing to do with fact."

Priyanka's brother and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi hit out at Modi for dubbing her remark as an attack on his caste. "Jaati nahin, karm neech hote hain (It is not caste but actions that are low)," he said in response to a question on the controversy. The BJP defended Modi, saying Priyanka was "ill-advised" on using the "neech" expression.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi are showered with flower petals by supporters before Rahul filed his nomination for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Amethi. (AFP photo)

Modi versus Didi in royal Bengal 'tiger' tussle
Trinamool Congress boss and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee hit back at Modi on the illegal Bangladeshi immigration issue, daring him to "touch them" and face the consequences.

On April 27, Modi said at a rally illegal Bangladeshi entrants should "pack their bags" and leave after May 16 – the election result day. Banerjee responded, saying, "The BJP wants to divide the people of Bengal on the basis of religion and ethnicity. It wants to throw the refugees of 1971 out of India. If even one Bengali is touched, we will not sit silently.

It's good to be brave but it's unwise to become a daredevil." She said, "Modi is a paper tiger, but he has not faced a royal Bengal tiger… NaMo babu is being filled with gas by the media."

Modi counterattacked, challenging the Bengal CM to jail all the culprits of the Saradha scam. "If you have the guts, put the Saradha culprits behind bars. Then I will admit you are a real tiger."

Clash between Farooq Abdullah and BJP
Two explosions occurred near campaign venue of Jammu and Kashmir's ruling National Conference on April 27.

"These explosions will not deter me and should also not deter you from coming out and voting for the National Conference… Pray to God to save us from communal forces so that we can move forward. India cannot become communal. If it becomes communal, then Kashmir will not remain with India. Communalism is not acceptable to Kashmiris," NC leader Farooq Abdullah told people at Khanyar, the site of the first explosion.

In a dig at BJP leader Giriraj Singh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Praveen Togadia, he said, "They say those who do not vote for (Narendra) Modi should go to Pakistan. (I say) Those who vote for Modi should drown in the sea."

The BJP hit back, saying India did not need a certificate from Abdullah to become secular.

Arvind Kejriwal slapped twice, targeted several times 
AAP leader Kejriwal was repeatedly attacked in the campaign trail. He suspects these were part of a larger conspiracy.

He met auto driver Lali who had slapped him at a roadshow in Sultanpuri area of northwest Delhi on April 8. Lali apologised even as Kejriwal said he forgave him. 

Four days prior to Lali's attack, Kejriwal had been slapped by a youngster in south Delhi's Dakshinpuri area. APP supporters roughed up the attacker before the police took him into custody. Kejriwal and his party's leaders have also faced several ink attacks including in Varanasi.

Arvind Kejriwal arrives at the dharna at Parliament Street in New Delhi. (HT photo/Mohd Zakir)

Fight erupts between BJP and AAP over Kejriwal detention in Gujarat
Kejriwal's brief detention in Gujarat in March, when he had gone on a fact-finding mission to Modi's state, triggered clashes between AAP and BJP supporters.

Protests by AAP workers outside the BJP office in Delhi against Kejriwal's detention snowballed into a clash and activists from both sides threw stones and chairs at each other before the police intervened and used water cannons to disperse the crowd.

Armed with brooms, AAP workers also clashed with stick-wielding BJP activists in Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow. AAP activists allegedly attacked the BJP office with bricks, drawing retaliation as the saffron party workers, carrying sticks, took to the streets. Several people were mercilessly beaten up after being knocked down on the road as rival groups chased each other.

Books by insiders Baru and Parakh hit PM, Congress
Two books, in quick succession, undermined the Congress even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came out looking like a forlorn figure.

In his book, former coal secretary PC Parakh said the PM's inability to impose his authority on cabinet colleagues to push coal sector reforms led to the 'Coalgate' scam amid allegations of arbitrary allocation of coal blocks.

Parakh's book followed one from Sanajya Baru, former media advisor to the PM. Baru wrote the Congress repeatedly undermined the PM's authority.


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