In the latest effort to attract voters, political parties in Uttar Pradesh have begun prefixing titles to the names of key leaders to make an instant connect.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi with Gujarat Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia during an election campaign rally at Balasinor, Gujarat. (PTI Photo)
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Nirmal Khatri prefixed Pandit title before Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's name at an election rally in Pratapgarh on Saturday.
Though it was the first time that any senior Congress leader was addressing Gandhi as Pandit on a public platform, the move did not raise eyebrows as the state is steeped in caste politics and such appellations are common.
However, Khatri said not much should be read into prefixing the title before Rahul's name. He asserted that it was a very casual reference.
"Rahul Gandhi is the descendant of the first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. So, the reference (Pandit) is obvious," he explained.
Political observers, however, feel otherwise.
"Any reference to caste, community, language or region makes an instant emotional connection with the electorate," says SK Diwedi, former head of the department of political science at Lucknow University.
Rahul is not the only one who is being referred to as Pandit. In Mathura, actor and BJP candidate Hema Malini too has been referred as Pandit Hema Malini Chaudhary, as she comes from an Iyengar Brahmin family.
Though the trend has gained momentum due to polls, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief and Union civil aviation minister Ajit Singh has been using Chaudhary before his name for years. This is a common practice among the Jat leaders. The RLD chief's son writes his name as Jayant Chaudhary. Similarly, the Congress candidate from Aligarh calls himself Chaudhary Bijendra Singh.
Besides denoting caste, some other titles are used to refer to the royal lineage of the respective candidates. Congress sitting MP and candidate from Pratapgarh, Ratna Singh, writes Rajkumari before her name. The Congress candidate from Sultanpur is Rani (queen) Amita Singh while the Samajwadi Party candidate from Fatehpur Sikri is Rani Pakshalika Singh.
Using titles like Raja (king) and Kunwar (prince) is also a common practice to show a royal lineage. Such titles draw respect and help in gaining wider acceptance in the society.
A number of other candidates put doctor and engineer before their names. For instance, the Samajwadi Party candidate in Moradabad writes Dr ST Hasan. Similary, the BSP nominee from Etah is referred to as Engineer Noor Mohammad.
There is also a different side to the name game. The adversaries have used titles often to tease the opponents. Narendra Modi has referred Rahul Gandhi as 'Yuvraj' on several occasions, evoking strong reactions from the Congress camp.