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Wednesday, October 6, 1999

The lighter moments

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA  
NEW DELHI, Oct 5: As the day of reckoning arrives, candidates look back at the long hard campaign trail which had its moments of fun and good humour too.

The popular talk show, Movers and Shakers hosted by actor Shekhar Suman provided BJP inspiration for a spoof show with Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar look-alike dummies answering queries on contentious national issues like Kargil and natural born citizens.

Going a step further, in Maharashtra, the Shiv-Sena BJP alliance gave ads in local papers in Italian -- what read like the recipe of some Italian dish with the ingredients listed and cooking procedure identified.

But the recipe appeared incomplete and the ad abruptly ended with: "You can't understand Italian. She can't understand Hindi".

If this wasn't enough, every time people in Dadar-Prabhadevi area of Mumbai North Central picked up the phone, they heard recorded messages in English, Hindi and Marathi saying, "I am Manohar Joshi. I am your candidate. Please vote for me... JaiMaharashtra."

Not wanting to be left behind, the Congress distributed letters written by industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani in South Mumbai exhorting the people to vote for party candidate Murli Deora.

But its candidate from South Delhi constituency, Manmohan Singh, relied more on intellectuals like Javed Akhtar and Khushwant Singh to campaign for him rather than Sonia.

The rest was taken care of by leaflets praising him as a "person with the midas touch", an "outstanding economist, educationist par excellence and administrator of rare acumen".

However, the former finance minister was not the only one who learned to fight without the presence of Sonia.

Ex-Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal roped in every supporter in sight to campaign for him -- including Shobha Nehru, the state's only eunuch municipal corporator.

It turned out that Shobha was also a committed `Congressi' right down to tricolour sari, tricolour nose ring and tricolour hair band.

In Hisar, Geeta, shobha's dancing companion anddisciple campaigned for Congress nominee Birender Singh.

"We're neutral in sex, but not neutral politically," she says.

Toeing the line, eunuch municipal councillor Santosh Mahant in neighbouring Punjab too cheered, but for the Akali Dal in Bathinda.

Down South, the otherwise drab poll campaign had a saffron hue added to it this time with posters depicting Vaiko as Arjun and Karunanidhi as Krishna adorning walls in Tamil Nadu. And it was not long ago that the duo were always at each others throat.

If polls are a beauty contest, the BSP had a headstart in Nainital, where ex-miss India Naina Balsaver was the party's candidate.

From being former model, dutiful wife, doting mother, overseer of the family's hotel near Corbett National Park and socialite, Naina was pitted against stalwarts like N D Tiwari (Cong), K C Pant (BJP) and filmmaker Muzaffar Ali (SP).

While the Trinamool Congress candidate from Howrah, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, in West Bengal is an ultra sonographer, an independent candidate fromCentral Chennai, R Janakiammal's only claim to fame is being a mother of a coolie son.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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