Highlights and Sidelights

By Geeta Padmanabhan

india-elections21. Cashing in: Academy for political aspirants: Former Congressman Raj Ranjan believes “political thinking should be inculcated deep into human mind to curb corruption.” As a first step towards implementing this lofty but vague goal, he has launched The Netagiri Vidyalaya in Ranchi. The word “Netagiri” should have put off a lot of people, but it didn’t.  So far, he has imparted training to 200 aspiring politicians.
Admission comes with paying a fee of Rs. 50. Classes are held every Saturday for two hours. Lessons start with an explanation of what a manifesto is.
With no bar on age and ambition, you’ll find students like 69-year-old Sukhdev Lohra, among the 10 politicos on the roster now.  Raman Balhav, a lecturer says he is “proud of the school where ethics, moral values and government-sponsored welfare schemes comprise the syllabus”. He added, “I interviewed some of the candidates readying themselves to contest the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. I asked them how they would serve people. To my utter surprise nobody could give a proper answer.”

2.  Woman power hasn’t gone far in Indian parliament history: The number of women MPs in India’s 545-member Lok Sabha has never touched 50. This in a country that had a woman PM (Indira Gandhi) for 17 years. The 13th Lok Sabha after the 1999 elections had 49 women members. It was just 9.02 percent of the total Lok Sabha Seats. The last (14th) Lok Sabha failed to pass the bill giving 33% reservation for women candidates.

3. Glamour Girls:Having said that, let’s take a look at some of the women who will lend glamour to the contest. Meera Sanyal, country-head of ABN-Amro may be the first woman banker joining politics. She stands from Mumbai South as an independent candidate. Her rivals here are Milind Deora of the Congress, and Mohan Rawle of the Shiv Sena. Meera Sanyal is taking a sabbatical from the bank for a taste of Indian politics. Why? The 26/11 attacks on Mumbai last November was the trigger, she said.
She has a draft masterplan for the campaign. She’ll stay away from media ads and posters to avoid any conflict of interest, but she has launched a website. She knows her constituency well. Sanyal, 47, was a student of the Convent of Jesus & Mary and Cathedral School and went to Sydenham College. Her office is at Nariman Point. She lives on Malabar Hill.
It will be a miracle if she wins. Her biggest drawback is she has no political lineage.
“Is the banking industry collapsing in India?” asked a friend. “Is Sanyal trying to get out?”

4. Private helicopter companies in India will strike it rich this election season. Political parties are hiring them for poll campaigning, bringing in their wake (or should I say contrail) remarks like “Great way to gloss over problems”, “What you don’t see doesn’t exist” and “That’s how far they stay from reality.”
The demand for helicopters three times of what it was in 2004 general elections. Obviously, commercial aspects of campaigning are no longer a taxing consideration. The “stars” must reach the masses with the least fuss possible. “It’s only a means of transportation for them,” said M K Chandrasekhar, Director, Jupiter Aviation, Bangalore.
Reportedly, fleets of helicopters operated by various companies were booked by the political parties two months ahead of the announcement of the poll dates.
Deccan Aviation, an air service provider from Bangalore, has 12 choppers and five executive aircraft. All of them have been rented out.
Non-scheduled continuous flying takes a heavy toll on the pilots and the aircraft. So campaigning on chartered flights is not cheap. A chopper ride can cost a party as much as Rs. 80,000 – 1 crore per hour.
Do your Math about campaign expenditure.

Picture courtesy PBS.org

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