The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) can boast of being part of the government at the Centre almost continuously since 1998, which even the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam cannot. Except for about 15 months between February 2001 and June 2002 and a few months in 2004, the PMK was a constituent of all the Ministries at the Centre. In 1998-1999, Dalit Ezhilmalai was Union Minister of State (with independent charge) for Health. From 1999 to 2004, N.T. Shanmugam, E. Ponnusamy and A.K. Moorthy were Union Ministers. When Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister in May 2004, Anbumani Ramadoss and R. Velu became Ministers.

The head priest’s story Among the BSP’s four Brahmin candidates in Maharashtra — part of its “social engineering” experiment — is the head priest of a temple. Sudhir Das, the mahant at the Kalaram temple in Nashik, says he joined the BSP to atone for his grandfather’s sins against Dalits: his grandfather reportedly prevented B.R. Ambedkar from entering the temple in 1930. As far as poignancy goes, Mr. Das’s story will be hard to beat on the campaign trail. But whether this will be enough to give the BSP an improbable victory in Nashik — the party won just 2.3 per cent of the vote-share in 2004 — remains to be seen.

The long wait

Hundreds of ticket aspirants and their supporters have been camping in Bhubaneswar to know if their names would figure in the final list of candidates of their respective parties. One can find them in hordes outside the party offices and hotels and guest houses. With the major parties watching each other to prevent desertion of leaders and delaying release the candidate list, the long wait for tickets has worried the aspirants.

Life of Pawar

Pawar’s ambitions and where he’s headed may be the hot topic of discussion in the country but his museum in Baramati provides a peep into the past. You can see old and rare cartoons of him drawn by none other than R. K. Laxman, apart from a massive collection of pens of every description, various degrees, the Krishi Ratna, and photographs showing a young and lean Pawar, his characteristic lop sided grin in place. There are old ink stands of every description and his pen collection comes in all sizes and expensive brands. A plethora of ties, crickets bats including one autographed by Frank Tyson, pictures of his first election in 1967, and with various celebrities of his age frame the walls. And the journey is far from over.

No nomination, no vote

If the Congress and NCP thought the secular card was enough to woo the Muslim votes, they miscalculated. It appears the community would like some representation too. The near-absence of a Muslim candidate in Maharashtra (A. R. Antulay of Congress is still undecided about Raigad) has prompted Muslim organisations to come out against the two parties. They have demanded that since Muslims constitute 10 to 15 per cent of the State population, five of the 48 seats should go to Muslims. If the parties fail to do so, the leaders will urge people to support Muslim candidates from other secular parties like the BSP or RPI, or back Independent candidates.

(Contributed by T. Ramakrishnan, Ananth Krishnan, Prafulla Das, Meena Menon and Rahi Gaikwad)