Two young women candidates belonging to rival parties and contesting from different constituencies in Madhya Pradesh have one feature common in the electoral arena: far higher educational qualification and half the age vis-à-vis their immediate opponents.
Himadri Singh of the Congress is a graduate fighting from Shahdol Lok Sabha seat; so is Manju Dadu who the BJP has fielded in Nepanagar assembly constituency. School dropouts face them at the by-polls slated for this Saturday.
Himadri (29) is pitted against the BJP’s Gyan Singh who is a class-7 pass, while 27-year-old Dadu’s main opponent Antar Singh Barde has studied up to class 8. Gyan, who is a state minister, is aged 65, while Congress leader Barde is 54.
Himadri and Manju share another commonality: both are striving to ride a “sympathy wave” to get through the elections.
For, Himadri is daughter of late leaders Dalbir Singh and Rajesh Nandini Singh, both of whom represented the Shahdol parliamentary seat in the state’s east. Rajesh Nandini (49) died of cardiac arrest in May this year.
The by-poll was necessitated due to Dalpat Singh Paraste’s death five-and-a-half months ago. He expired at a Gurgaon hospital on June 1 following a brain haemorrhage.
Manju is daughter of late MLA Rajendra Dadu. He died in a road accident at a village near Sehore on June 9 travelling from Indore to attend a BJP legislators’ meeting convened in Bhopal by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in connection with Rajya Sabha election.
Voters in Shahdol say Himadri, though a novice in politics, is giving a good fight to Gyan Singh who has been a Member of Parliament, too, from the constituency at least twice.
On Tuesday, she wrote to the CM a letter which political observers considered as a mature move aimed at demoralising her rival party and seeking public sympathy. Himadri reminded Chouhan how he called her his “daughter” and “desperately wanted” to get her to the BJP fold, but she was “committed” to the Congress ideology “like my parents”.
The Congress leader also attacked the BJP and targeted Gyan, saying his reciting a particular Bollywood song amounted to vulgarity. Reciting its lines — Dil ko dekho chehra na dekho, chehre ne lakhon ko loota, dil sachcha aur chehra jhootha — to target her did not behove of a senior politician, she claimed.
Himadri’s poll affidavit said she was not on social media, but soon after filing the nomination papers she opened Facebook (6,600-plus followers) and Twitter accounts.
Youth Congress state president Kunal Chaudhary says Himadri has created a “flutter” in the rival camp. Despite 10 ministers of the Chouhan government and two union ministers camping in the constituency for more than a week and the CM touring the constituency in a big way, Himadri’s image of a young and uncorrupted leader has given an edge to the Congress over the BJP.
As for Manju, she is not as strong politically as Himadri — and is keen about invoking family legacy. At rallies, the BJP candidate reminds people of the development work carried out by her father, grandfather and grandmother in Nepanagar down-state.
State BJP vice-president Vijesh Lunawat says development is the “only issue” in the by-polls. That’s why the party is “confident” over its victory, he adds.