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Varanasi, the seat Narendra Modi contests, goes to polls on May 19, in the last and seventh phase, as per a ‘conveniently manipulated schedule’.

Elections in India are more an act of denial of democracy than seeking a people’s mandate.  It is more like bidding for and winning a contract to loot and plunder our country, its resources and people. ‘Win at any cost’– cost not just in monetary terms — is the only rule of India’s democracy. And Modi topped the table in this unscrupulous game.

Economic Times on March 12, 2019 reported under the heading : Why India’s election is among the world’s most expensive :

“ This time the polling exercise, due to start on April 11 and be completed by May 19, will cost an unprecedented Rs 50,000 crore ($7 billion), according to the New Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies. About $6.5 billion was spent during the U.S. presidential and congressional races in 2016, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks money in American politics. The CMS projection marks a 40 percent jump from the $5 billion estimated to have been spent during India’s 2014 parliamentary vote. And it amounts to roughly $8 spent per voter in a country where about 60 percent of the population lives on around $3 a day.”

May 19 is the last date of polling but May 23 is the date of counting. And money keeps flowing until after the final results are out. Therefore, Anand Mangnale and Bilal Zaidi of crowd-sourcing platform, Our Democracy, in a Rediff.com‘s e-mail interview estimated the costs at around Rs 80,000 to Rs 90,000 crores. Co-founder Bilal Zaidi is a former journalist who has also worked with the Global Campaign Organisation, Avaaz, and worked on United States Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign.

Parliamentary candidates’ expenditure is capped at up to 7 million Indian rupees (about $100,000), but the limit is widely flouted, more so by Modi-led BJP.

An RTI query by a Mumbai activist revealed in May 2018 that the Modi government had spent Rs. 4,343 crore on publicity since it came to power in May 2014. The money was spent on advertisements in the print and electronic media as well as outdoor publicity. (Indo-Asian News Service July 10, 2018). And now ? Narendra Modi’s campaign alone is estimated to cost thousands of crores. Many teleconferences were held at great cost.

Hardly one percent of what is actually spent is shown in official expenditure submitted to EC. 

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Basic problems of the people are NOT allowed to be part of election agenda

The leading parties, more so BJP and Congress had issued their manifestos, more as a formality, and that too very late, just a few days before polling commenced. BJP’s manifesto was dated April 8,while phase-1 of polling commenced on April 11. Despite huge costs, burning and basic problems of the people are NOT allowed to be part of election agenda. Plans were made and announced by some sections of people to raise burning problems neglected by the governments, as reported by countercurrents.org on April 6, 2019 :

Nizamabad Loksabha Constituency of Telangana had  185 candidates, including over 170 farmers, in the Phase-1 of current elections  held on April 11, 2019.  Mostly turmeric producers, they made big news by their novel protest: The farmers  had chosen to contest the elections, as Independents, to protest the governments’  failure to ensure remunerative prices for turmeric and red jowar (sorghum) produce and establishing the turmeric board. Both the Centre and the State are responsible for this. Turmeric rates in wholesale market have fallen Rs 4,000-5,000 per quintal this year in comparison to Rs 12,000 per quintal in 2014, reported PTI (April 04, 2019, Economic Times).

This form of protest was tried earlier by Fluorosis victims in Telangana, to draw attention to their problems neglected by governments. In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections in Nalgonda constituency, it may be recalled, a record number of 480 candidates filed their nominations to protest the lack of safe drinking water for the fluoride-affected villages of the district.

(https://countercurrents.org/2019/04/06/farmers-force-turmeric-red-jowar-into-nizamabad-agenda-170-farmers-file-nominations-to-focus-on-their-problems)

The protesters were indeed firm.

Varanasi, the seat Narendra Modi contests, goes to polls on May 19, in the last and seventh phase, as per a ‘conveniently manipulated schedule’. A Report byPTI from  Varanasi published on April 13, 2019 said :

“A group of 111 farmers from Tamil Naduand fluorosis victim Ansala Swamy are also among those set to take on Modi in Varanasi.  The group, comprising 111 farmers, is led by P. Ayyakannu. And they had staged protests in Delhi in 2017.There are others, too, like the victims of fluorosis from Nalgonda (Telangana) and Prakasam (Andhra Pradesh), (districts) led by activists Vadde Srinivas and Jalagam Sudheer. Fluoride contamination of groundwater is a serious issue in the two states and their aim is to talk about it from a place that will be in focus. ”

The group of 111 farmers were crowd-sourcing funds for their campaign. Their leader P.Ayakunnu, who is also president of the National South Indian Rivers Inter-Linking Farmers’ Association, told Newsclick that “Narendra Modi cheated the farmers of the country, and we do not want to let him fool us again… We are reaching Varanasi on April 24, and have booked train tickets for 300 farmers. We will walk on the road undressed to show our resistance.”

This was the same group of farmers that has protested in Delhi a number of times, in ways designed to attract the attention of the so-called mainstream media which is apathetic to their issues by design. In 2017 they protested at Jantar Mantar carrying the skulls of farmers who had killed themselves due to indebtedness.

They also protested carrying dead rats in their mouths to draw attention to starvation, malnourishment, and farmers’ getting inadequate prices for their produce. According to a recent Global Hunger Index report, child wasting (weight for height) has been increasing in India since the early 2000s.

Ayakunnu added, “We do not have any personal enmity with Modi, but we are fed up with his anti-farmer policies. We will not file nomination first, but we will ask people to collect money for our election deposit, which is Rs.25,000 each.”

Fluorosis victims

After farmers from Tamil Nadu, it’s the turn of fluorosis victims from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to file nominations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.Twenty victims and activists from the fluorosis-hit States are going to file nominations on April 22. Thirty-four-year-old Anshula Swami, Suvarna Ramavath (24) and Veeramalla Rajitha (25), are down with fluorosis, like thousands of others in Nalgonda district of Telangana. After years of protests, they along with 18 others have decided to file nominations from Varanasi and Rae Bareli, from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi are going to contest, respectively.

. “Fluorosis is a huge problem in some villages. But surprisingly, no politician talks about it. It is not even an election agenda. We would like to bring it to the notice of the nation,” said Sudheer Jalagam, an IT professional, who returned to India from the US to work on the issues faced by Nalgonda.

thehindubusinessline.com reported it all on April 09, 2019. It was among the few from mainstream media who gave some coverage to this news.

Fluorosis is a menace in UP, in Varanasi, and  in Gujarat. Across India, more than 300 districts and 10 crore people are affected or threatened by the problem, as highlighted in countercurrents.org. See below:

Varanasi area : Swatch Bharat without Swatcha water

Upriver from Benares, ask Sonbhadra’s people about the price of development. It shows on their bodies. Sonbhadra is the second largest district of UP.  Women below are not very aged, but affected with fluorosis etc water-related diseases. Large numbers are affected like these women in villages around Varanasi. (Outlookindia.com, 10 November2014)

https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/accursed-county/292455

Danger of  skeletal  fluorosis. Fluorosis victims : Thousands are crippled like this. See legs affected. From around Varanasi. Source : Varanasi Hindi News – Hindustan.

(https://www.livehindustan.com/uttar-pradesh/varanasi/story-the-danger-of-fluorosis-cruising-on-the-bones-of-the-varanasi-1699803.html)

But even protest is not tolerated by the governments.

Election machinery, backed by the over-all administration, was busy in creating hurdles rather than facilitating candidates to file nominations in Varanasi as can be seen by several reports given below. The reports also show how the protesters put up great efforts.  

Lot of pressures, threats, hurdles and non-cooperation, from officials and police, made it difficult even to file nominations. thehindubusinessline.com published a Report on April 30, 2019:

When the turmeric farmers of Nizamabad in Telangana decided to highlight their plight by contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi, the constituency from which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking re-election, they did not expect the process of filing nomination papers to be more arduous than growing their crop. But that’s exactly what has happened. Out of the 50 farmers who made the journey to the constituency to file their papers, only 26 have managed to do so. Besides the farmers, two activists from Andhra Pradesh who have been supporting the cause of fluorosis victims have filed their nomination.

The farmers claimed they faced several obstacles and could not elicit support from the locals, which is crucial for getting the nomination papers endorsed. Besides depositing a sum of Rs. 25,000 each, the candidates required the signatures of at least 10 local voters.  “We had talked to them quite early and they agreed to back our nominations. But they were threatened later. As a result, we could muster support only for 26 candidates,” a source close to the farmers told BusinessLine.

Out of the 50 farmers who made the journey to the constituency to file their papers, only 26 have managed to do so. Besides the farmers, two activists from Andhra Pradesh who have been supporting the cause of fluorosis victims have filed their nomination.

We had talked to them quite early and they agreed to back our nominations. But they were threatened later. As a result, we could muster support only for 26 candidates,” a source close to the farmers told BusinessLine….

Besides depositing a sum of Rs. 25,000 each, the candidates required the signatures of at least 10 local voters.

“There was a gathering of 500 people at the place where we were supposed to get an application and fill it up. It was three in the afternoon before we could get an application,” Ganga Reddy, one of the contestants, said. “We would like the country to know about our problems. We are making losses every year. An exclusive board for the commodity would help,” he said.

Vadde Srinivas, an IT employee, and Ravi Kiran, an activist, have also filed their nominations ( protesting neglect of fluorosis problem). They represent a movement that has been spearheading an agitation demanding completion of the Veligonda project which is supposed to provide drinking water to the fluorosis-hit areas in Nellore, Prakasam and Kadapa districts. Their peers from Telangana, however, could not make it.

“We could not muster the support of the locals to endorse our papers,” Sudheer Jalagam, who is supporting the fluorosis victims, said.

The protesters sat in a dharna in Varanasi. Some of them announced they were going to Delhi to convey their protest to Election Commission.

Telangana’s Farmers Tormented in Modi’s Varanasi is the title of a more explicit report : 

The road for nominations is not easy for the farmers. Besides depositing a sum of Rs. 25,000 each, the candidates required the signatures of at least 10 local voters.

Initially, the locals have agreed to support their nomination but dropped off in the last minute because they were threatened by the local BJP leaders.

Even Uttar Pradesh Government run by BJPalso posed a threat by deploying Intelligence Police after the farmers. They hampered the movement of the farmers, their stay, and their efforts to get the signatures of the locals. This has threatened the locals further and finally, they could muster support only for 26 candidates.

https://m.dailyhunt.in/news/india/english/mirchi+9-epaper-mirchi/telangana+s+farmers+tormented+in+modi+s+varanasi-newsid-115171250

Times of India on Apr 30, 2019  reported :

“ the ones whose nominations were not accepted due to various reasons staged a dharna in front of the Varanasi collectorate and have threatened to take the matter to the Election Commission of India.

“They have imposed rules which are not prescribed by the ECI. They insisted that we should physically present the 10 proposers and that their mere signatures or thumb impressions will not do. This is not part of the rules and the whole move appears to have been created to prevent us from contesting,” Deiva sigamani PK, Turmeric Farmers Association president and Tamil Nadu farmer told TOI over phone from Varanasi. The returning officials completely failed to perform their duties and we intend to complain to the ECI, he added.

Farmers alleged that they were hounded by local authorities for three days in order to ensure that they do not get local proposers.

Each nomination must have the signature of 10 proposers. “However, officials insisted that we should physically present the proposers. Though we did arrange them, they were not allowed to enter the premises,” said Kotapati Narasimham Naidu, Turmeric Farmers Association president from Telangana. Out of the 54 farmers who reached Varanasi, proposers were ready for 35 farmers.

Farmers said that the officials gave them tokens very late after making them wait for three hours. In all, 15 turmeric farmers filled their nominations by Monday evening and another 20 farmers were inside the collectorate waiting for their turn.

“At the last minute, several opted out. However, with the help of local advocates and people, we were able to get the support and some of us could file our nominations,” said Deivasigamani, who could not file his nomination, said. (TNN | Updated: May 2, 2019)

Fluorosis issue

Vadde Srinivasulu and Ravi Kiran Sarma filed their nomination papers for Varanasi Lok Sabha seat on April 29. They sought to focus on Fluorosis issue.

Vadde Srinivas, an IT employee, and Ravi Kiran, an activist, have also filed their nominations. They represent a movement that has been spearheading an agitation demanding completion of the Veligonda project which is supposed to provide drinking water to the fluorosis-hit areas in Nellore, Prakasam and Kadapa districts.Their peers from Telangana, however, could not make it. “We could not muster the support of the locals to endorse our papers,” Sudheer Jalagam, who is supporting the fluorosis victims, said.

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/agri-business/varanasi-voters-refuse-to-root-for-telanganas-turmeric-farmers/article26996078.ece

A total of 42 candidates contested in Varanasi parliamentary constituency in 2014. This year, as many as 101 people have filed nominationthere, from where PM Modi is a candidate. A total of 102 people, including farmers, Tej Bahadur Yadav and 25 turmeric farmers among others were in the fray. Around a dozen people have filed nominations from the little known political parties.

But the officialdom, under pressures from the party in power both at the Centre and in UP, would not allow. So finally…

After the rejection of papers of 71 candidates during scrutiny of nomination forms 31 candidates are in the fray…reported  Times of India. (TNN | Updated: May 2, 2019).

Thus less than last time’s 42 candidates were allowed. But the farmers did not leave it there.

Varanasi: As officials reject papers, farmers to meet CEC is the title of a report by KV Kurmanath published May 02, 2019 by thehindu.

“ A five-member committee is trying for an appointment with the CEC to lodge their protest, Tirupati Reddy, district president of the association, said. Even as Varanasi officials rejected all but one of their 25 nomination papers, the Nizamabad turmeric farmers refuse to budge. A group representing the farmers will visit New Delhi on Friday May 3 to lodge their complaint with the Election Commission (EC).

 

Nominations Rejected. Protesting farmers. 

“We all filled applications alike. We got them vetted by lawyers but they have accepted the nomination papers of only S Istari,” K Narasimha Naidu, leader of Turmeric Farmers Association of Telangana, told Business Line.

He sees foul play by the officials. “They have been creating hurdles from the day one. They tried to delay our filings by making excuses such as verifying and re-verifying our identity cards. They also delayed giving us the challan forms,” he said.

Fifty farmers from Telangana and an equal number from Tamil Nadu had announced their plan to file nomination papers for the Varanasi Lok Sabha Constituency. However, only 25 farmers from Telangana could file papers on the last day on April 29. Of them, only one farmer could pass the scrutiny, leaving the rest seething with anger. Meanwhile, the protesting farmers have decided to write a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to address their woes. The open letter will be released in Delhi on Thursday after their meeting with the Election Commissioner.

The agitating farmers refuted the allegations made by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is behind their movement. “We have been fighting for the last 13 years. Even some top BJP leaders attended our dharnas in Delhi seven years ago. No political party is behind us,” said Narasimha Naidu.

For instance : ‘Modi cheated, looted farmers’is the title of a Report published by The Hindu New Delhi, November 22, 2017 with the photo given below.

“I am pointing my finger at Mr. Modi, the whole Kisan Mukti Sansad is pointing fingers at Modi because he cheated and looted the farmers of this country, let us see how many fingers they can chop and how many hands they can cut off,” said  Yogendra Yadav, national president of Swaraj India party. Responding to his appeal, thousands of farmers raised their fingers in unison as a symbolic protest against the government policies. “We are not coming here just with demands, but with a solution as well, a well thought, well debated solution,” he said.Mr. Yadav also said that Mr. Modi does not have time to visit the farmers who are five minutes away from his residence and office.

 

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Among the more highprofile contenders in Varanasi is Chandrashekhar Azad, the Bhim Army chief. Azad, who staged a roadshow in Varanasi on March 30, declared that “the countdown to Modi’s defeat has begun”. He attracts Dalit youths because of his fiery speeches. Apart from the PM-lookalike Abhinandan Pathak, a retired High Court judge C.S. Karnan, who was convicted for contempt by the Supreme Court is said to be preparing to contest against the Prime Minister. Dalit youths who are campaigning for him.

Prof Vishwambhar Nath Misra, a BHU professor and the chief priest of the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi, who is also spearheading a campaign to clean the Ganga river, is also set to challenge Modi in Varanasi.

Apparently most of such protesters were all forced out of contest not to embarass the Prime Minister. 

Poll panel issues notice to sacked BSF jawan contesting on Samajwadi Party ticket in Varanasi

But the top-most desh bhakt (patriot), who in a brazen manner invoked the armed forces for his election campaign, flouting all rules and conventions with impunity, was more embarrassed by a BSF jawan who decided to contest against Modi. See the report given below.

The Election Commission on May 1, Wednesday cancelled the candidature of mahagathbandhan nominee Tej Bahadur Yadav “Fauji” from Varanasi citing an inconsistency in his papers, prompting Opposition politicians to accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using his clout to get a poll rival eliminated.

Fauji had first filed his nomination on April 25 as an Independent before repeating the exercise on April 29 as Samajwadi Party candidate.

“Both my nominations have been rejected. I’m talking to my supporters before taking a final decision whether to approach the Supreme Court,” Fauji, fired from the BSF two years ago for protesting the quality of food for jawans, told The Telegraph over the phone.

The nomination forms have a column that asks candidates whether they had been sacked from government service for corruption or indiscipline. In his first form, Fauji had said “yes”. In his second, he said “no” and wrote in the accompanying affidavit that the first “yes” was a mistake, because corruption or indiscipline were not the reason for his sacking.

Scores of retired or suspended army and paramilitary jawans who have been camping in Varanasi to campaign for Fauji were on a dharna near Singh’s office on Wednesday evening, protesting Fauji’s “harassment”. All the suspended troopers had paid the price for protesting corruption and the exploitation of jawans by their superior officers.

Fauji had planned to contest as an Independent to “expose” Modi as someone who seeks votes in the name of the armed forces but lacks any concern for the ordinary jawan. But the Samajwadi Party dramatically announced him as its candidate on April 29, withdrawing Shalini Yadav as its nominee.

“The (poll panel) notice was served to me at 6.15pm on Tuesday and asked me to furnish a no-objection certificate from the BSF by 11am on Wednesday,” Fauji told reporters in Varanasi. “The commission asked the son of a poor farmer to go to Delhi to bring the certificate. I’m not an industrialist like Adani or Ambani — I can’t hire a chopper…. Still, my lawyers are sitting at the Election Commission offices in Delhi and Varanasi, trying to get me cleared to contest.”

Photo of sacked Border Security Force jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav, who filed nomination in Varanasi .

He alleged that BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan were at the poll panel office in Delhi, “mounting pressure” on its officials “to cancel my nomination because I’m in a position to defeat Modi in Varanasi”….

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal accused Modi of getting Fauji’s nomination cancelled out of fear. “Such instances are rare in history when a country’s soldier feels compelled to challenge his Prime Minister. But this is the first time in history that a Prime Minister is so scared of a soldier that instead of contesting against him, he gets his nomination cancelled on technical grounds.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan termed the poll panel move “totally illegal, as there’s no bar (on) dismissed people from contesting”.  Section 9 in the Representation of the People Act disqualifies those dismissed from government service for “corruption or disloyalty to the State” from contesting for five years. Fauji was dismissed on the ground of indiscipline.

Yadav, however, claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi was responsible for the notice. “When I filed my documents on April 24, and also yesterday, there was no problem,” Yadav told The Quint.  Yadav alleged that the poll observer had put pressure on the returning officer by interfering in the filing of his nomination on Monday. “He took the returning officer outside and put pressure on him to issue a notice,” Yadav said. “From this is it clear that I am being stopped from filing my nomination. Modi is afraid that a real chowkidar will defeat him.”

Tej Bahadur Yadav was sacked from service after he posted a video on social media in January 2017 about the watery dal and burnt rotis served to soldiers. The video was viewed more than 70 lakh times, prompting the Prime Minister’s Office to ask for a report. Yadav was dismissed after a court of inquiry found him guilty on charges of indiscipline for going public with his grievances.

 In January 2018, Yadav’s son was found dead at his family home in Haryana.

The Supreme Court on May 9 Thursday rejected sacked BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav’s plea challenging the Election Commission’s decision to reject his nomination papers from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat to contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, PTI reported. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “We do not find any grounds to entertain the plea of Mr Yadav.” Mr Yadav had moved the top court challenging the decision of Returning Officer (RO) to reject his nomination papers from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat, saying it was intended to “give walkover” to PM Modi.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Election Commission, referred to various apex court judgments and said election petitions can only be filed after polls are over as it would vitiate the electoral process. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Mr Yadav, said that as per the earlier verdict of the apex court, the election petition can be filed during enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). At the fag end of the hearing, Bhushan sought liberty from the court to file an election petition after polling is over.

“We have done what we could have done. We find no grounds to entertain this petition,” the court said. The top court had Wednesday asked the poll panel to examine grievances of Mr Yadav.


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