Badal grows up quickly

As the controversy over the Indian Army Chief's age hogs the national press, a similar version is playing itself out in Punjab. How old is Parkash Singh Badal? The affidavit the Chief Minister filed when filing his nomination for the 2007 poll recorded he was 76 years old. Now, it has it down as 84 – which means that he grew eight years in five.

Badal thinks too much is being made about this matter. The truth is I don't exactly know my age, he suggests. But I know I am well over 25, the minimum age to contest, he declares. His archrival Captain Amarinder Singh, who heads the state Congress unit, has had the last word. “Badal will never grow. In 2002 during our government, we sent our Youth Congress leader to their function when they were supposed to be celebrating his 80th birthday.” he chuckles.

Ways to file

Under the watchful eye of the Election Commission, which prevents candidates to be accompanied by more than five persons to file their nominations, the noisy processions to the Returning Officers have given way to muted but novel trips.

Former minister, Manoranjan Kalia of the BJP, chose to walk to file his nomination papers in Jalandhar. Youth Akali Dal chief, Bikram Singh Majithia, rode on the pillion of a motorcycle to the Returning Officer in Majitha constituency. The BJP’s Navjot Kaur, wife of former cricketer and MP, Navjot Singh Sidhu, cycled her way in Amritsar East. Another sitting Akali MLA, Amarpal Singh used a horse driven cart in Ajnala.

Temptation in land of feni

The fact that 18 of the 20 election observers deputed to oversee electioneering in Goa are women has led to plenty of speculation. Though Goan officials declined to comment, an investigation by journalists soon brought out the facts. Election Commission sources here said there were serious complaints in the past that several male observers had forgotten their job and instead fallen to the “temptations” of the land of feni. Many of them really seemed to have “let their hair down” during their Goa election duty.

Perhaps this is what led Chief Election Commissioner S. Y. Quraishi to voice concern over the free-flow of liquor during the Goa elections and their determination to curb the same. Mr. Quraishi recently added to this his concern over “flow of money.” Determined to tackle complaints of liquor, money and freebies in the Goa polls with an iron hand, the ECI appears to have decided not to take chances this time and opted for women to monitor electioneering.

Election fever

Nothing promotes friendliness and good cheer among some politicians than an impending election. The other day it was a pleasant surprise to find the BSP's general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra and senior ministers, Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Swami Prasad Maurya interact freely with media personnel at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mayawati's 56th birthday celebrations. Whether it was fear of being reprimanded by Ms. Mayawati or just plain arrogance, these worthies had kept themselves away from the prying press. But no longer it seems. In fact, they were friendly and hospitable to a fault at the luncheon hosted by the Chief Minister, ushering journalists in and insisting they have a bite or two. “Election fever,” quipped a wag, who noticed the markedly changed behaviour.


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