In what is being described as a defining moment for Indian democracy, all political heavyweights had to literally sweat it out for every vote in their constituencies during Mandate 2014.
Overconfidence had in the past made political giants avoid rallies in their constituencies between the day of filing nomination papers and collecting the victor’s certificate.
But this election saw leaders work harder to be seen, which political analysts believe will change the way elections are fought in the coming years, particularly in Uttar Pradesh that plays a crucial role in deciding the government at the Centre. Every candidate, they say, will have to perform for five years, as dynasty or stature would not bail them out if they fail to deliver.
Even Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, despite his family’s 28-year-old association with Amethi, was told by an old woman: “Son, don’t worry but make it a point to visit the constituency every two years.” It’s another matter that Rahul visited his constituency more than many of his critics have done in theirs.
Describing the close combats as a positive sign for a vibrant democracy, Allahabad University’s political science professor Yogeshwar Tiwari said, “The new generation is changing the grammar of the electorate. They are demanding accountability from their representatives and not masters (that MPs tend to believe).” Post-independence leaders used to keep in regular touch with the people but the bonding got lost after politicians started hiring middlemen as their link agents, he added.
Retired bureaucrat SN Shukla, convenor of an NGO named Lok Prahari, has a different take. “Contrary to the unsaid tradition of not fielding serious candidates against top leaders, the political parties are out to dislodge each other in a fight to finish. The leaders have now realised that they can’t take the voters for granted,” he said.
Barring UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, every other political personality despite is looking forward to the final outcome to refresh themselves. Sonia did a customary rally two days before the polling date in Rae Bareli and left the canvassing to her daughter Priyanka, but her visit to Amethi spoke volumes about the family’s level of confidence.
In Varanasi too, BJP’s top leadership spent days before campaigning came to an end. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is also edgy about Azamgarh constituency though Mainpuri looks like a sure seat for him. The entire Yadav clan had campaigned in Azamgarh to pacify the anger of people against SP’s local MLAs. The party had won 9 out of 10 seats in 2012 assembly polls.
As polling reached its final phase, the BJP, Congress, SP and BSP stopped discussing victory margins and focused more on winning or retaining seats. The leaders of these four major parties thus had to struggle for every vote.
For instance, Rita Bahuguna Joshi went the whole hog to challenge BJP president Rajnath Singh, who camped in Lucknow for a week to leave nothing to chance. AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, after defeating three-time chief minister Shiela Dixit in Delhi, campaigned extensively to ensure Modi doesn’t win that easily.