Bitten by poll bug, parties select and woo communities

Indian Express, October 5, 2008
Pune, October 05 chunk by chunk: Everyone’s eye on Warkaris; Christian and Muslim votes too targeted
With Lok Sabha and Assembly elections getting closer, political parties have identified the communities whose votes they will target and set about wooing them.
Everyone has expressed solidarity with the Warkaris, who are in millions, spread across the state and have launched an agitation no one can afford to ignore. The NCP is also wooing Muslims while the Congress has expressed solidarity with oppressed Christians.
The Warkaris are waging a battle against the proposed Dow Chemicals research centre at Shinde village near Chakan. The Shiv Sena was the first to support their demand, with party leader Ramdas Kadam announcing that his party would not allow the Dow unit to come up. The BJP followed it up with party state secretary Vinod Tawade calling on arrested Warkari leader Bandatatya Karadkar in Yerawada jail and conveying his party’s support for the agitation.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar had criticised the Warkaris, but then Guardian Minister Ajit Pawar too announced that NCP would not allow the Dow unit to come up. Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil also announced withdrawal of cases filed against the protesting Warkaris.
The NCP’s Pune chief Jaideo Gaikwad sees the Shiv Sena and the BJP support as a political gimmick but says the NCP had no political motive in supporting the Warkaris.
But a Congress leader was frank enough to admit: “It’s obvious that no political party can go against Warkaris, who are in millions.” He added that his party too was trying to calm down the situation with Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh saying there was a misunderstanding among Warkaris about the Dow project.
Parties also hosted a number of iftar parties, with the NCP taking the lead in the city. Pawar attended one such iftar, organised by a local leader in Rasta Peth. City NCP executive president Anil Bhosale too organised an iftar at Sakhar Sankul in Shivajinagar.
Local NCP leaders brushed aside suggestions that the iftars were to woo Muslim voters. Gaikwad said the objective was to reach out to the Muslim community that is feeling alienated in the current atmosphere.
Another NCP leader said: “We are a secular party and have been organising various programmes for all communities. It is not true these are meant to woo voters.”
If the NCP is holding iftars, the Congress had taken to the streets recently in support of the Christian community. City Congress chief Abhay Chhajed was the first to extend his party’s support for the Catholic Association of Poona that held a dharna recently in protest against attacks on churches and Christians in several other states.
Although the leaders deny their support for any community had anything to do with the elections, political observers see it differently. They say the race to reach out to as many communities as possible will only increase in the coming days. In the current scenario, no party can afford to neglect any community. They have to reach out to all, they said, adding that delimitation had also somewhat changed equations in the constituencies and political parties could no longer be too sure about their previous strongholds….

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