11 pm: Here are the top updates from Wednesday.

  • Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said she will not contest the Lok Sabha elections, keeping the “current political situation” in mind.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologised to security guards around the country, claiming that “some people” have started calling “chowkidars” a thief. He claimed that these people have raised doubts about the integrity of security guards.
  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, meanwhile, took a jibe at the BJP’s “Main Bhi Chowkidar” campaign and said people should vote for PM Narendra Modi if they wanted their children to grow up to be chowkidars.
  • The BJP finalised a seat-sharing agreement with the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena and the Kerala Congress for the Lok Sabha elections. Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats and will vote on April 23.
  • The Congress and the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference announced a pre-poll alliance in the state for the Lok Sabha elections. The polls will be held from April 11 to May 19, and the results announced on May 23.
  • Congress leader Kapil Sibal hit back at Narendra Modi after the prime minister accused the Congress of indulging in “dynastic politics”. Sibal said Modi would not have become the prime minister without the support of the Sangh Parivar.
  • Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said PM Narendra Modi should “stop thinking that people are fools”, and realise that they can see through everything. Her statement came after Modi said in a blog post that “institutional insult is the Congress way”.
  • Representatives of social media platforms and the Internet and Mobile Association of India have agreed to devise a “Code of Ethics” for the industry by Wednesday evening to prevent the abuse of such platforms in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.
  • Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said the Prime Minister’s Office had turned into the “Publicity Minister’s Office” under Narendra Modi. “He [PM Modi] is very good at publicity,” Gandhi said. “He is very good at marketing himself.”
  • Opposition leaders called diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s arrest a mere symbolism ahead of the elections. Congress General Secretary for Uttar Pradesh (East) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra asked who let Modi flee in the first place.

10.25 pm: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who wrapped up her three-day tour of Uttar Pradesh in Varanasi, has described the elections a new freedom struggle. Referring to a confrontation between BJP and Congress workers in the city earlier in the day, she asks the BJP to follow the path of non-violence like the Congress had done during the freedom movement.

Gandhi says people were harassed during the British rule and there was no one to listen to them. “Today, the country is facing a similar situation. The only difference is that the dictator is a Hindustani,” she says. “We fought for Independence and it was fought on the basis of truth. This is a new freedom struggle.”

10.20 pm: The BJP in Uttarakhand refutes Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s charge that PM Narendra Modi was posing for cameras at the Corbett National Park when the Pulwama terror attack took place on February 14.

“The Congress president’s allegation is ridiculous,” says Uttarakhand BJP media chief Devendra Bhasin. “The Prime Minister’s pictures related to environment conservation were taken hours before the terrorist attack in Pulwama, when no one had an inkling of it. The Congress leaders are spreading lies because they have no issues to talk about in the election season.”

Gandhi had mocked Modi and called him “Prime Time Minister”, claiming he was shooting for a film until three hours after the Pulwama attack.

10.18 pm: Twenty one candidates, either independents or those from local outfits, have so far filed their nominations for two phases of polling in 17 of the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra. While seven Lok Sabha constituencies go to polls on April 11, voting in 10 others will take place on April 18.

Nine nominations were filed for the first phase and the remaining for the second, according to PTI.

10.15 pm: As many as 144 transgenders have been enrolled in the electoral list in Haryana, with the maximum number, 24, in Karnal district. Joint Chief Electoral Officer Inder Jeet says 13 transgenders enrolled in Palwal district, 11 in Faridabad, and 10 each in Jind, Panipat and Sirsa districts.

Polling for the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana will take place on May 12.

10.13 pm: Telugu Desam Party’s SPY Reddy joins the Jana Sena Party, according to ANI.

8.50 pm: Former Nationalist Congress Party leader Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil joins BJP, reports ANI.

8.11 pm: BJP Central Election Committee started its meeting at the party headquarters in Delhi on Wednesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Party President Amit Shah, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath have arrived for the meeting. They are likely to discuss seats in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

8.05 pm: The BJP files a complaint with the Election Commission against four Trinamool Congress leaders for allegedly intimidating voters. “We have filed a complaint against ministers Firhad Hakim, Rabindranath Ghosh and senior TMC leaders Jitendra Tiwari and Anubrata Mondal,” BJP General Secretary Jai Prakash Majumdar tells PTI. “They have violated the model code of conduct by trying to threaten and intimidate voters. These four leaders should be kept out of election campaign and other poll-related procedures.”

7.55 pm: The Jammu and Kashmir BJP calls the pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the National Conference “opportunistic”. It accuses the Congress of conceding to the National Conference’s pro-separatist agenda. “The NC-Congress alliance is an eye wash and a wake up call for Jammu,” says BJP spokesperson Brig (retd) Anil Gupta.

7.42 pm: Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan releases the first list of 21 candidates from his party Makkal Needhi Maiam for the Lok Sabha elections, reports News18. However, he is yet to reveal whether he would contest. “All speculation about me contesting will be put to rest on [March] 24th,” says Haasan. “Yes, I wish to contest in the elections, but my party men need to tell me that. I need to take their advice.”

7.30 pm: Former BJP MP Uday Singh, alias Pappu Singh, joined the Congress on Wednesday ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, reports PTI. He said he did not understand why the saffron party surrendered to Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) by agreeing to allocate 17 of the 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar. Singh had resigned from the BJP in January.

6.05 pm: Sasmit Patra, who claims the BJP has been trying to rope in dissident leaders from other parties, takes a jibe at BJP chief Amit Shah’s stated mission of winning 120-plus seats in the Odisha state Assembly. “The BJP has made tall claims, but it is still looking for candidates,” he says. “It is not getting 120 candidates to field in the elections.”

Both the BJD and the Congress have released the list of candidates for the first and second phase of polling on April 11 and April 18.

6 pm: The ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha has ridiculed the opposition BJP for delay in announcing candidates for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state, reports PTI.

“Are they [BJP] looking for dissidents from other parties ?” asks BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra. The last date for filing of nomination papers for the first and second phase of polls is scheduled for March 25 and March 26, respectively.

5.55 pm: The Congress continues to attack the government on the issue of unemployment, accusing the country’s “chowkidar” PM Modi for “stealing” jobs from 4.7 crore youth.

“Modiji has eaten up 4.7 crore jobs of the youth. Due to the BJP’s ‘pan-pakoda’ policy, 4.7 crore youth had to wash their hands of their jobs,” says Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.

5.52 pm: National Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh says there is a massive political and social crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, which is passing through its most difficult times since the 1990s.

“This is only because of the mess created by the ruling clique, who have been robbing [the] state and squeezing the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to serve their own interests,” he alleges.

5.50 pm: The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party says it will contest all the six Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. “The party will declare its candidates on March 23, March 24, March 25 and March 26 for all the six seats in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh,” party leader Bhim Singh said in Jammu.

Elections in the state will be held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19, with counting on May 23.

5.48 pm: A Bahujan Samaj Party leader from Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi, Chandra Prakash Mishra ‘Matiyari’, has joined the BJP. The former MLA says he will work to ensure the defeat of Congress President Rahul Gandhi from his Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP is likely to field Union minister Smriti Irani from Amethi – she had lost in 2014.

“Amethi remains under slavery and I will ensure that it tastes freedom,” said Mishra, who fought from Amethi against Gandhi in 2004.

5.45 pm: The Income Tax Department has deployed surveillance teams and set up control rooms in seven states in the North Eastern to check the movement of unaccounted money ahead of the elections, according to PTI. The cash could be used for bribing electors, it said.

The Investigation Directorate of the department has also deployed air intelligence units at airports in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.

5.40 pm: If a person disagreeing with the government is a “compulsive contrarian”, can someone who always agrees with it be called “his master’s voice”, asks senior Congress leader P Chidambaram. He was responding to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who on Tuesday described a group of 108 economists and social scientists as “compulsive contrarians”.

In a statement on March 14, the group had urged the government to restore the integrity of statistical organisations as their national and global reputation was “at stake”.

5.35 pm: Former Telangana minister DK Aruna from the Congress joins the BJP, News18 reports. She is likely to contest from Mahabubnagar Lok Sabha constituency against Vamshi Chand Reddy of the Congress.

“There is no hope for the Congress party in Telangana and in order to fulfill the aspirations of my people, I joined the BJP,” said the three-time MLA from Gadwal. BJP National President Amit Shah, National General Secretary Ram Madhav and Union minister JP Nadda were present when she was inducted into the party.

5.32 pm: At an election rally, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra blames the BJP for not fulfilling promises made in its manifesto for Varanasi ahead of the 2014 General Elections. “Modiji had made eight promises in this manifesto, has even one of them been fulfilled?” she asks.

5.30 pm: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra concludes her three-day Ganga Yatra in Varanasi, according to ANI. Varanasi, PM Modi’s parliamentary constituency, was the last leg of her boat journey.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra arrives at Assi Ghat, Varanasi, on Wednesday. (Photo credit: PTI)

5.25 pm: Modi claims people like Congress President Rahul Gandhi were attacking all chowkidars as he “lacked the guts” to directly name the prime minister. “Some people are abusing ‘chowkidars’ and bringing every watchman under a cloud,” he says. “They lacked guts to name me.”

5.20 pm: Modi criticises the Opposition parties for questioning the integrity of the armed forces. “Every citizen should be proud of our soldiers, who were so brave in the face of danger to their lives, they avenged the lives of the country’s martyrs,” he says. “Every Indian is proud, but everyone is surprised and dejected with the attitude of the Opposition parties.”

5.15 pm: PM Modi says India has to progress much further. “We have to make our children doctors, engineers, soldiers, even the country’s prime minister,” he says. “But we have to keep alive the watchman’s belief inside us.”

5.06 pm: Some people have run a “disinformation campaign” against chowkidaars in the last few months, the prime minister claims. “I want to apologise as some people in last few months for their vested interests have run a disinformation campaign against ‘chowkidaars’. It is unfortunate that language of these people has hurt you, he adds.

Those calling “chowkidars” thieves were raising doubts about the integrity of security guards, says Modi.

5.04 pm: Modi claims several people of different languages have understood the word “chowkidaar” or watchman. “It seems as if they all have accepted it in their vocabulary,” Modi says, according to ANI. “You must have noticed that these days everywhere it is you who is being discussed, be it TV or social media, be it in India or abroad. Today every Indian is saying ‘Main bhi Chowkidaar’.”

5.03 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins interaction with security guards across the country.

5 pm: The Bharatiya Janata Party finalises a seat-sharing agreement with the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena and the Kerala Congress for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats and will vote on April 23. BJP National General Secretary Muralidhar Rao says the party will field candidates in 14 seats in Kerala. Ally Bharath Dharma Jana Sena will contest in five seats and PC Thomas-led Kerala Congress will fight in one, he adds.

3.42 pm: The Congress and the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference announce a pre-poll alliance in the state for the Lok Sabha elections. National Conference President Farooq Abdullah says that the Congress will contest the polls from Jammu and Udhampur constituencies. Abdullah will be a candidate from the Srinagar constituency.

3.40 pm: Biju Janata Dal MLA from Daspalla, Purna Chandra Nayak, resigned from the primary membership of the party on Wednesday, reports ANI. He was reportedly upset after being denied a seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Party MP Pratyusha Rajeshwari Singh too resigned on similar grounds, reports local media.

2.45 pm: Congress President Rahul Gandhi says the Prime Minister’s Office has now turned into the “Publicity Minister’s Office” under Narendra Modi. “He [PM Modi] is very good at publicity,” Gandhi says at an event attended by students in Manipur. “He is very good at marketing himself.”

2.07 pm: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik files his nomination from Hinjili Assembly seat in Ganjam district, reports The Hindu. This is the fifth consecutive time that Patnaik has contested from the seat.

2 pm: Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav says the mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance in Bihar is intact, reports ANI. “...Seats and constituencies will be announced after Holi,” he says. “There is nothing to worry, all is fine in the alliance.”

Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav had earlier announced that the alliance would hold a press conference on Friday to announce the seat-sharing arrangement in Bihar.

1.55 pm: Rahul Gandhi claims the Narendra Modi government “destroyed one crore jobs in India” in 2018, reports The Indian Express. “It is so absurd that PM promises to give two crore jobs in India but the truth is everyday 30,000 jobs have been destroyed,” he says in Imphal.

1.45 pm: Actress Sumalatha Ambareesh files her nomination as an independent candidate from Karnataka’s Mandya seat, reports ANI. Her husband, MH Ambareesh, was a three-time Congress MLA and MP. He died in November last year.

Sumalatha Ambareesh will contest against Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s son, Nikhil Gowda, who is the candidate for Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance, reports The News Minute.

1.40 pm: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi targets Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying nobody knows whether Modi went to university or not, reports ANI. “We still have not had access to PM’s university degree,” Gandhi says in Imphal. “There is an RTI filed in Delhi asking for PM’s university degree but it has not been responded to.”

1.35 pm: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor says he will write to Kerala’s chief electoral officer on “malicious attempts” by the BJP and Sabarimala Karma Samithi to vitiate polls by publicising material to appeal to religious sentiments of voters, reports ANI.

Read: ‘Don’t use places of worship, activities of defence forces for propaganda,’ poll body tells parties

1.06 pm: The Congress alleges that the country’s “chowkidar” is responsible for “stealing jobs”, reports PTI. Prime Minister Narendra Modi refers to himself as “chowkidar” or watchman.

The party made the statement after a report in The Indian Express claimed that the actual size of India’s male workforce has shrunk for the first time since 1993-’94. “Modi ji has eaten up 4.7 crore jobs of the youth,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala. “Due to the BJP’s ‘pan-pakoda’ policy, 4.7 crore youth had to wash their hands of their jobs.”

1.02 pm: Congress leader Kapil Sibal hits back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s over his remark criticising the Congress for “dynasty politics”. “What is the PM talking about? No one in the BJP can occupy any public position without the support of the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh],” Sibal tells PTI. “The Sangh Parivar is the biggest parivar [family] in the world. Without their blessings no one can hold any public position in the country, be it the position of a PM, a minister, governor or chief ministers.”

12.45 pm: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra asks voters to reject a negative government. “You need a government that will understand you, I have only one request from you: Please raise your voice against a negative government – anti-farmer, anti-woman and anti-labourer government,” she says while addressing a rally in Varanasi, reports The Indian Express.

12.40 pm: Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati says she will not contest Lok Sabha elections, reports ANI. Her party has tied up with Samajwadi Party to contest in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

12.35 pm: Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav says the mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance will convene a press conference on Friday to announce the seat-sharing arrangement in Bihar, reports ANI.

The grand alliance in the state comprised the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha, Loktantrik Janata Dal and Vikasshil Insan Party

12.30 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal mocks BJP’s “Main bhi Chowkidar” campaign. He says if people want their children to become watchmen, they should vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “If you want your children to get good education and become doctor, engineer or lawyer, they should vote for AAP,” he campaigns on Twitter.

12.26 pm: Gandhi says the Congress fought against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Parliament and defeated it. “We are absolutely clear that there will be no encroachment on North East,” he says. “We will fight tooth and nail to ensure Citizenship Amendment Bill does not become a law.”

12.23 pm: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi says Narendra Modi has turned the Prime Minister’s Office into a “Publicity Minister’s Office”. He says Modi’s administration is an imposition of mediocrity while speaking to students in Imphal, reports PTI.

12.10 pm: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav criticises the BJP for not giving tickets to current MPs. “The ruling party has not given tickets to majority of its MPs,” he says. “This proves that they have conceded defeat. This formula should also apply to team captain too.”

BJP General Secretary Anil Jain on Tuesday said the party will not field 10 of its sitting MPs or any of those defeated in the 2018 Chhattisgarh Assembly elections.

11.32 am: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra responds to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s criticism of the Congress party. “The BJP has systematically attacked every institution in last five years including the media,” she says, according to The Indian Express. The Prime Minister should stop thinking that people are fools, and understand that they see through this.”

Also read: Priyanka Gandhi says PM Narendra Modi should stop thinking that ‘people are fools’

11.29 am: Modi says institutional insult is the Congress way. “Everyone is wrong, only the Congress is correct,” he writes. The prime minister says the Congress does not believe in internal democracy. “If a leader dares to dream to head that party, he or she is shunted out of the Congress,” he says. “The sense of entitlement can be seen in their conduct towards routine legal processes.”

Read: ‘Voters chose honesty over dynasty in 2014’: PM Narendra Modi lashes out at Congress in blog post

11.24 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a blog post, in which he criticises the Congress and says institutions are the “biggest casualty of dynasty politics”.

“As you go to vote, remember the past and how one family’s desire for power cost the nation so greatly. If they could do it then, they can surely do it now. Eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty,” he says in the blog post.

10.15 am: A delegation of Trinamool Congress leaders on Tuesday lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of India for allegedly violating the Model Code of Conduct. The delegation, including Derek O’Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray and Chandan Mitra, claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image was being used on railway tickets as part of a government scheme. It asked the poll panel to ensure that the pictures were taken off the rail tickets.

9.15 am: Gujarat’s Chief Electoral Officer S Murali Krishnan said the ruling BJP has not violated the Model Code of Conduct by holding a meeting of its State Parliamentary Board at Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s official residence, reports PTI. The electoral officer had ordered an inquiry after the Congress lodged a complaint.

The state unit of Congress said it will approach the Election Commission. “This is a clear case of misuse of state machinery and property,” said said Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi. “Though BJP was at fault, the local election authorities chose not to take any action.”

9.10 am: The Mumbai University rescheduled exams for 76 papers as it coincided with the Lok Sabha election dates in the Mumbai region, reports PTI. Fresh dates for the examinations will be announced on the university’s portal. Exams scheduled on or around the last two phases of elections in the state – April 23 and April 29 – have been postponed.

9.05 am: At 4.30 pm, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address nearly 25 lakh watchmen across the country via audio bridge on the occasion of Holi. Modi refers to himself as the “chowkidar”, or watchman, of the nation, and had launched the “Main Bhi Chowkidar” campaign earlier this week.

9 am: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal criticised the Congress and BJP, saying they betrayed the “people of Delhi by not delivering on their promise of full statehood”, reports The Indian Express. “In the past 70 years, BJP and Congress have filled their pockets and seven generations of their families will sit at home and eat,” Kejriwal said. “But they are scared of people from the gullies like us holding power.”

8.55 am: Two sitting ministers in Arunachal Pradesh and six legislators of the BJP joined the National People’s Party, reports ANI.

Arunachal Pradesh: Eight BJP MLAs, including two ministers, switch to National People’s Party

8.50 am: Trinamool Congress legislator Jitendra Tiwari promised party councillors contracts worth Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore if they ensured the victory of the party’s Lok Sabha candidate Moon Moon Sen, reports PTI.

8.45 am: Union Minister Kiren Rijiju criticised Congress President Rahul Gandhi alleging that Arunachal Pradesh had remained the most backward state in the country due to his party’s 40-year long “misrule”, reports PTI.

8.40 am: Former Telangana minister and Congress leader DK Aruna joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday, reports ANI. BJP chief Amit Shah, Union minister JP Nadda, and party General Secretary Ram Madhav were present.

8.35 am: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Central Election Committee met at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday evening.

8.30 am: The Congress on Tuesday night released a list of two candidates in Kerala and seven in Maharashtra, reports ANI. The party has named 146 candidates so far. The list was cleared late on Tuesday night after a meeting of the party’s Central Election Committee chaired by Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Maharashtra MLA Kunal Patil, the son of former state minister Rohidas Patil, will be contest from Dhule, a family stronghold.

7.45 am: Here are the top updates from Tuesday.

  • The Bharatiya Janata Party has said it will drop all its 10 sitting MPs from Chhattisgarh and field new faces. The state, which sends 11 MPs to the Lok Sabha, will go to polls in three phases – on April 11, April 18 and April 23.
  • The Samajwadi Party has announced an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party in Maharashtra. The two parties will contest all 48 seats in the state.
  • In West Bengal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) announced candidates for 13 more Lok Sabha constituencies, taking the total number of nominees to 38. There are 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
  • Bharatiya Janata Party’s Tripura vice president Subal Bhowmik quit the saffron party and joined the Congress.
  • The two major parties in Tamil Nadu – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam – released their manifestos, both promising to scrap the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for medicine entrance examinations. Both parties also promised that if voted to power, they would release the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
  • In Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party filed a complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer and sought action against the Aam Aadmi Party for allegedly “indulging in violent acts” and for violating the Model Code of Conduct.
  • The Election Commission advised parties and candidates against using the activities of the defence forces for political propaganda during campaigning.