The four superstars of the Great Indian Poll Movie are expected to be runaway successes in Uttar Pradesh (UP). But their campaign managers would rather ensure – to cite a cinematic maxim – all’s well that ends well.
Few in the state doubt how the election will pan out for BJP chief Rajnath Singh (Lucknow), Congress president Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli), Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi (Amethi) and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi (Varanasi).
These four constituencies, as a senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader said, are among a fourth of UP’s 80 seats where the outcome is a ‘foregone conclusion’ owing to the stature of the candidates. That, however, hasn’t made the parties complacent; they are going the whole hog – from organising roadshows to raking up controversies and engaging in slanging matches Bollywood-style – to avoid an embarrassment.
Of course, cold caste calculations have kept party machineries whirring beneath the ostentations and rhetoric.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, for instance, reminded many of Amitabh Bachchan while campaigning for her mother in Rae Bareli. She exhorted: “Jitna woh hamein zaleel karenge, utna hum mazbooti se ladenge’ (The more they abuse us, the stronger we will fight). Her emotional approach has gone side by side with her grassroots penetration through party workers.
Sonia Gandhi’s BJP rival and lawyer Ajay Agarwal is unsure if voters will identify with his party’s symbol unless Modi campaigns, but is going about town claiming, “I have already won the election.”
In adjoining Amethi, Sonia Gandhi ‘dedicated’ Rahul Gandhi to the people, saying, “I give my son to you.” The Congress is also playing on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s connection with Amethi through the slogan ‘Kabhi na bhula bhaiya Rajivji ka ehsan, puri duniya mein Amethi ki pehchan (we will never forget how Rajiv Gandhi gave Amethi global recognition)’.
Out to queer Rahul’s pitch are Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Kumar Vishwas who goes theatrical with seemingly popular poetic lines such as ‘Abhi to Shiela haari hai, ab Rahul ki baari hai (Shiela has lost and it is now Rahul’s turn). BJP rival Smriti Irani finds resonance with the public as she demands to know what difference the Gandhis have made to people’s lives in Amethi and Rae Bareli despite claiming to spend Rs. 55,000 crore on development projects.
In Lucknow, the BJP is confident of Rajnath Singh’s victory but party workers are aware of the challenge he faces from Congress’ Rita Bahuguna Joshi, SP rival and state minister Abhishek Mishra and BSP’s Nakul Dubey. Apart from entrusting his son Pankaj to prepare a blueprint for development, Singh has been spending evenings visiting gurudwaras, churches, maulanas and mohallas. He is also relying heavily on the legacy of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he hopes to inherit.
The BJP is surer about Modi’s victory in Varanasi, the constituency he chose to contest because “ Maa Gangaa asked me to ”.
But that did not prevent the party from targeting rival Arvind Kejriwal of AAP as ‘ Delhi ka bhagoda (escapist from Delhi)’ or his supporters from thrashing AAP leader Somnath Bharti during a television talk show.
Superheroes, as locals say, apparently need villains to add to the entertainment value.