All of us love the David and Goliath syndrome, especially when it comes to elections. But we also quite relish the Goliath and Goliath show. This election, like others in the past, sees some very high profile candidates take on equally heavyweight ones in several constituencies in what promises to be really interesting electoral battles.
The first that springs to mind is that of Narendra Modi being taken on by fledgling AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. Now Mr Kejriwal may be relatively new in politics, but he has already defeated the mighty Sheila Dikshit in the Delhi assembly polls.
If the Congress springs in with a big name, the fight for Varanasi becomes all the more riveting. Then we have the flamboyant Amarinder Singh taking on the erudite Arun Jaitley in Amritsar while all eyes are on whether the once ‘sexy sanyasin’ Uma Bharti will take the field against Sonia Gandhi.
Ms Bharti, however, has said that she will not contest the Rae Bareli seat. And, of course, whether cine star and BJP politico Smriti Irani will pose a challenge to Rahul Gandhi in the family pocket borough of Amethi.
In many of these cases, observers are far more interested in the actual fight than the outcome, which can often be surprising. Not too many people expected that long ago and faraway, a Raj Narain could humble the unofficial empress of India Indira Gandhi but he did. George Fernandes took on and defeated a titan like SK Patil. And Sushma Swaraj made a stab at besting Sonia Gandhi in Bellary but failed.
But what added spice to that battle was Ms Swaraj’s promise of tonsuring her head if Sonia became prime minister. She refused the post and Ms Swaraj got to keep her hair. This time, in the Capital an epic battle is likely in Chandni Chowk where the sitting MP and minister Kapil Sibal will face AAP’s journalist turned politician Ashutosh and also BJP veteran Harshvardhan.
It was in Delhi in an earlier election that a fading superstar Rajesh Khanna almost beat BJP leader LK Advani. The Congress’ Shashi Tharoor is in for an interesting battle in Thiruvananthapuram with a strong BJP candidate O Rajagopal against him.
The Indian elections are arguably the most colourful and raucous ones in the world. The carnival-like gaiety serves to mask some very bitter battles. For those months in the run-up to the elections, however, all of India is seized with a sense of optimism, even hope that what is in store has to be better than what we had. It is an illusory sentiment as we have so often seen, but few can resist getting caught up in the spectacle that signals a renewal of our democracy.