Poll pitch picks up in Rajasthan

May 3rd, 2009 - 12:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Jaipur, May 3 (IANS) It’s not just the mercury that is rising in Rajasthan. Poll fever has touched a high too with political parties busy canvassing for votes ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in the state May 7.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is the star campaigner for the Congress party while his predecessor Vasundhara Raje is seeking votes for her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Gehlot has so far addressed over 120 meetings in different parts of the state and has scheduled many more in the next few days.

Nearly 348 candidates are in the fray, including sitting MPs Sachin Pilot of the Congress and Manvendra Singh (BJP) - the son of BJP leader and former union minister Jaswant Singh. Union ministers Girja Vyas and Sis Ram Ola are also contesting.

While top party leaders are holding public meetings, the local leaders are busy organizing door-to-door meetings and small rallies.

Among the star campaigners of the Congress who have visited the state are Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has addressed two meetings, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi is to campaign Sunday.

For the BJP, party president Rajnath Singh has already addressed a few meetings and the party’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani is kickstarting his campaign Sunday.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has also addressed a rally in the state.

Local issues continue to dominate the election campaign in the state overshadowing national ones.

“At times I feel it is a state assembly election. BJP is raising the issue of failures of the Gehlot government while the Congress is only talking about the corruption issues of the previous Vasundhra Raje government in the state,” said Vijay Sharma, a political analyst.

The canvassing style of Gehlot and Vasundhara Raje is very similar. Both leaders target each other in their speeches. While Gehlot talks about corruption, Raje targets the “non-performance” of the present government.

“It seems both are not ready to talk much on national issues. That is very surprising to me,” said Rameshwar Singh, an executive in a public limited company.

The BJP even taunted the chief minister by broadcasting and telecasting cartoons making fun of the chief minister’s speech style.

The Election Commission Thursday banned the cartoons and said: “It has been observed from the manner in which the character is parodied in video and audio that it appears that someone’s speech disability is being made fun of.”

The searing summer heat - with the mercury hovering between 43-47 degree Celsius - is proving a hurdle in gathering supporters for rallies.

Rajnath Singh’s rally was attended by a few hundred in Jhunjhunu while Gehlot’s rallies have also been poorly attended.

Water scarcity has turned into a major campaign issue in some parts of Rajasthan.

The BJP has charged the Congress with scrapping many water projects.

“The Congress scrapped water projects with investment of over Rs.18 billion (Rs.1,800 crore). How will people get clean drinking water if they do this?” asked Arun Chaturvedi, BJP state vice president.

A Congress leader countered: “We know that water is a big problem, especially in western Rajasthan. We are taking steps and we are sure of solving the problem.”

Nearly 3.7 crore voters will elect 25 representatives in the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha polls Thursday. The ruling Congress has four seats while the remaining 21 seats are held by the BJP.

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