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WHAT WE KNOW / WHEN THE VOTE BEGINS
(Or the faces the prime contenders have shown us, knowingly or otherwise, while asking for votes)

VITAL STATS

Narendra Modi

The outsider who wants in

Has a 56-inch chest

You don’t need too many books to guide you, if you can induct educated people. (“Granthwalon ko paas rakh loonga”)

Was a tea boy and wants to be the chowkidar of the Indian treasury

Thinks nothing of bringing in a tainted Yeddyurappa or Sriramulu

Ambassador for animal rights. “Seriously” believes rhinos are being killed to make space to settle Bangladeshi infiltrators. Cares about cattle that are being slaughtered as part of a “pink revolution”. Love for “puppies” already well documented

Swears by development and lets aides like Amit Shah do the dirty work of swearing revenge for riotsFacts are not so sacred, claims are free. Familiarity with history is not among his strengths

Pan-India means seeing a Gujarat connection in many places he visits

Silent on the R-word (Reliance). Delegated Gujarat government to respond to Arvind Kejriwal’s charges. Flaunts one Big B as Gujarat’s brand ambassador and is accused of counting another Big B (big business) as a crony

Manages to make the beard look the same everyday

Has an army of wordsmiths poring over the thesaurus. Can spit acid from AK-47-like coinages on A.K. Antony and Arvind Kejriwal

Says the election result is already known. Poor Shri V.S. Sampath, the chief election commissioner, who has been made redundant

Says “totally devoted to the service of the nation as there is no one before me, there is no one behind me”

VITAL STATS

Rahul Gandhi

The insider who has remained an outsider

Believes chest-thumping threatens the fabric of India

So serious and earnest that some wonder if he is serious about becoming PM

Reads too much history, geography, political affairs. And too little public pulse?

Thinks deeply about his vision for India and can’t stop talking about it

Says he will get a thick skin if he needs one. Has not spoken about the thick-skinned but poacher-hunted rhino

Holds forth on the “idea of India” with the delight of a kid in a candy store

You can’t rile him by calling him a shehzada (“It’s for the people to judge a politician’s choice of words”)

Silent on the R-word, leaving it to petroleum ministry to respond. Another R-topic he usually steers clear of: Robert Vadra

Knows physics — perhaps a bit more than what is needed while speaking to potential voters. Stumped many at a meeting of weaker sections by speaking of the need for “the escape velocity of Jupiter” for Dalits to succeed

Can’t decide whether to keep facial hair or opt for a clean shave

Rails against corruption but fields Ashok “Adarsh” Chavan

Steers clear of personal attacks

Has the shoulders of his mother and sister to lean on. Waiting for the right girl

POLICY STAND

Narendra Modi

Economy

Will embrace globalisation and focus on urbanisation. Will link anti-poverty schemes to asset creation. Develop infrastructure — 100 new cities, twin cities “like New York and New Jersey”. Manufacturing will be given importance. The official position will be known only after the first round of voting starts as the BJP will release its manifesto only on Monday

Price rise

Will set up a “price stabilisation fund” for the poor. Collate real-time data on quantities of different crops being grown in different parts of the country

FDI in retail

The BJP officially remains opposed to FDI in retail but Modi has left the door ajar in his speeches

Jobs

Focus on skill development, mapping industry needs for the future and training accordingly

Foreign policy

Focus more on economic ties — “trade treaties” as he called them recently — than on traditional strategic geopolitics. But that shift is already happening and will continue with or without Modi, analysts said. Modi gives the impression foreign policy means taking potshots at Pakistan and China

Corruption

Special courts to try black marketeers. Task force to draw up a legal framework to bring black money back from foreign banks

Terrorism

Has blamed the UPA for allowing “an upsurge” in terrorism. But has not specifically listed measures he will take to curb terrorism. Nor has he acknowledged that the attacks have gone down since the Mumbai strikes of November 2008

Gay sex

Homosexuality remains an unmentionable subject. But BJP president Rajnath Singh has articulated his party’s support for criminalisation of gay sex

POLICY STAND

Rahul Gandhi

Economy

Will retain focus on inclusive growth. (“When you play the politics of alienating communities, you stop the movement of people and ideas. When that happens, we all suffer. Businesses suffer and the seeds of disharmony are sown and the dreams of our people are severely disrupted”)

Price rise

Knows why, how and where it hurts — but his prescription sounds like old wine in a new bottle. “We must crack down on hoarding and profiteering. We must ease infrastructure bottlenecks and rapidly modernise the supply chain from the field to the plate.”

FDI in retail

FDI in retail will create new jobs and boost profits for India’s farmers. If the poor have to progress, then FDI is needed, then economic reforms are needed

Jobs

Has promised to work towards generating 10 crore jobs in the next five years

Foreign policy

Views remain a mystery

Corruption

A big challenge for India, but the UPA has done “more than any other government to combat corruption”. The Right to Information Act has been the most powerful weapon in the fight against corruption

Terrorism

Communal violence fanned by parties like the BJP creates anger that leads to terrorism. “You first engineer riots, instil anger among people and then wonder why there is terrorism.”

Gay sex

Clear stand. “My personal view is that these are matters of personal freedom. I would agree with the high court (ruling which had decriminalised gay sex). These types of matters should be left to individuals. This country is known for freedom.”