As polling day nears, Vilasrao Deshmukh’s camp is actively trying for a third term for him as chief minister. He has addressed over 50 campaign rallies with more to go in the next two days. He is also in touch with smaller parties in the Third Front and several Independent candidates who are likely to win. He has even got his rival Narayan Rane on his side.
All this has made the Chavan camp nervous enough to start a whisper campaign about the need for a younger face (like Chavan of course) at the helm.
But they have to reckon with an old warhorse. In the 1999 race, if you remember, Deshmukh was unexpectedly made CM as the Congress wrested power from the Sena-BJP. He was replaced by Sushilkumar Shinde in 2003, to avoid an anti-incumbency factor in the 2004 Assembly elections. But once the results were out, the shrewd Vilasrao was back as CM. He had secured the support of a majority of newly-elected Congress legislators while Shinde was left gaping.
Deshmukh would have stayed as CM had 26/11 not forced Congress to replace him with Ashok Chavan. Now he’s gearing up for a second comeback. And the Chavan camp had better watch out.
Gadkari turns pink
Politicians are quite used to barbs from opponents. So when MNS chief Raj Thackeray made a statement on TV that state BJP President Nitin Gadkari was best suited to be chief minister, Gadkari didn't quite know how to react. If his close aides are to be believed, Gadkari wondered how the two chief ministerial hopefuls — the Sena's Uddhav Thackeray and BJP's Gopinath Munde — would react to Raj's statement.
The rumour in political circles is that the support for Gadkari is just a trick to block Uddhav's chances if there is a hung assembly and the MNS's support is sought by the Sena-BJP camp. Last heard, Raj's camp had got a message from Gadkari: “Thank you, but please save me the embarrassment…”
A stirring campaign
A Shiv Sena-BJP advertisement that appeared in Friday's newspapers has a classic goof-up. The advertisement, which talks about inflation, has an old sepia-toned picture of a ‘rolling pin’ morcha taken out by a bunch of socialist women leaders protesting against a price hike. Problem is, the picture is placed right next to one of Sena Chief Balasaheb Thackeray. Funny, because Thackeray has always been critical of these socialist women leaders all through!
Uddhav's digital PA
Uddhav Thackeray's key assistant during this election campaign has been his favourite gadget, the iphone. Thackeray has been using it to store a whole lot of data, to communicate with key people in the Sena through emails and get email and SMS feedback from citizens.
So with all this feedback, is he able to understand the problems of the aam janata better? Will this ‘high-tech’ campaign management translate into votes?