Campaign trail: Tikka Sahib follows in father’s footsteps
Warming up: Shuns royal airs for common touch as he makes debut in assembly segment Virbhadra nurturedHimachalPradeshElection2017 Updated: Nov 04, 2017 12:36 IST
They are at two ends of the political spectrum. As chief minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, the oldest candidate in the fray, fights his last election, his son, Vikramaditya Singh, 29, is making his electoral debut as the Congress nominee from Shimla (rural).
Tikka Sahab (royal prince), as the young scion of the Bushahr family is fondly called, has no royal airs when it comes to winning over voters of the constituency his father nurtured for five years before vacating it for him.
An alumnus of Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, Vikramaditya prefers casuals as he breaks the ice with voters. He is accompanied by friends and aides. He has the unstinted support of his family too.
“Vikramaditya is young and energetic. People see Virbhadra in him but it will take him many years to reach that stature.” — Chandu Lal Kapoor (78), a Shimla rural voter
Before he leaves for the day’s campaign in Basantpur, he makes it a point to meet his sister, Aparajita, who is married to the Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’s grandson Angad. She has been camping here ever since he was given the party ticket in the third lot of candidates.
Vikramaditya likes to make his presence felt. He asks an aide to inform prospective voters that he would be reaching in half an hour. He squeezes in time to interact with an electronic media journalist who wants a byte on the BJP’s last-minute gambit to declare Prem Kumar Dhumal as its chief ministerial candidate. “It shows the BJP is afraid of Virbhadra Singh and they had to change their strategy. They want the onus of defeat to be on Dhumal,” he says confidently before boarding his SUV.
Accompanied by Punjab’s youngest MLA Angad Singh, who drives the vehicle, and Pradeep Verma, a Congressman from Shimla rural, Vikramaditya heads for Kachchighati, an urban area of his constituency. On the way, he peps up a worker from Sunni while gathering feedback. “Everything depends on you. I need workers like you,” he says.
In the meantime, Verma briefs him about the day’s schedule before he dials another number and directs a worker to carry out door-to-door campaigning.
HIGH ON ENERGY
“Aur ji kaise hain aap sab (And how are you all),” says Vikramaditya, accepting garlands with folded hands as he enters a ward-level election office. “We should not be complacent. Our government has carried out development works and we should take this message to the people from door to door,” he tells party workers.
He canvasses in the market before heading for another ward, Chakkar. On the way, he asks Verma about the voter profile. “We will organise a meeting here again,” he says. “I have visited the entire constituency. I know people personally. I’ve been in touch with them for five years,” he says.
He interacts with voters, young and old, amid slogans of ‘Tikka bhai zindabad, Raja sahab zindabad’.
“He is young and energetic. People see Virbhadra in him but it will take him many years to reach that stature,” says an ex-serviceman, Chandu Lal Kapoor, 78.
Vikramaditya leads a procession from Chakkar to Boiluganj via the state BJP headquarters. Addressing workers at Boiluganj market, he rakes up the goods and services tax (GST) issue before switching to the development works initiated by the Congress government. “It’s not over. Give us the opportunity to keep development on in Shimla rural and Himachal Pradesh.”
It’s 2.30pm and Vikramaditya’s motorcade, including four SUVs, heads for Totu. Half a kilometre before the Totu powerhouse, Congress workers stop the motorcade to welcome the state Youth Congress chief. Vikramaditya enthusiastically embarks on a door-to-door campaign in Totu market. An elderly voter is heard telling a first-time voter, Susheel Sharma, 19, “Ladka mehnat kar raha hai. Baaki toh chunaav mein janata janaradhan hoti hai (The boy is working hard. The rest depends on the public, which is equal to the Almighty during the elections).”
Another voter says, “Only the rural areas saw development. Tutu faces water shortage but who cares? We were part of Virbhadra’s constituency but our problems remain.”
Vikramaditya stops at a taxi union office and patiently listens to their demands before heading for the public meeting at Kalihatti village. After canvassing for an hour, his convoy heads back home, Holly Lodge, where a review meeting of the day’s campaign is held.
BY THE WAY
Vikramaditya has a team of professionals who manage his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. They update and track his day virtually. He is briefed about the trends on social media.
People may see similarities with his father but Vikramaditya is his own person. On the face of it, he prefers a maroon cap unlike Virbhadra, who has stayed loyal to his green Himachali cap.