The Election Commission was recently taken aback by the request of a foreign-educated Independent candidate in Allahabad.
He wanted to drop pamphlets from a helicopter. The EC denied permission, as air-dropping pamphlets would tantamount to defacing buildings or walls.
In the absence of traditional methods of canvassing, candidates are coming up with unique ways to woo voters across the state. The most popular method of impressing voters is the LTM (Leg Touching Machine), wherein the candidate touches the voter’s feet, and ATM (cash distribution) in the rural areas.
Sarvaraj Singh says, "Gone are the days of candidates visiting voters with folded hands. They now please voters with a handful (of cash)."
Youthful BSP candidate from Gadwara constituency Brajesh Saurabh is finding it difficult to match his arch-rival Raja Ram Pandey’s ‘efficiency’ in using the LTM.
Dudhi Ram says Pandey used to symbolically touch the knees of all, irrespective of caste or age, earlier. "But he now continues to hold your feet till you promise him your vote". "What to do, one has to promise him that," say others in unison.
In fact, Brajesh had complained to the EC that Pandey was distributing money, saris etc. The LTM factor seems to be working for the SP candidate.
Clearly impressed, Dudhi Ram says, Brahmin ho kar bhi hamare pair choota hai (He is a Brahmin, but still touches our feet).
Voters say quite openly that if Pandey wins the seat, it will not be because of the LTM or the ATM factors.
In Allahabad West, Phulpur MP Atiq Ahmad tells voters in a lighter vein that MLA status will help his brother Ashraf get a better bride.
Ashraf tells people in ‘hostile’ areas like Beniganj that he alone can be their saviour in troubled times. Addressing a night meeting in a school, he openly says, "After Nehru, it is my brother Atiq who won from all the five assembly segments of Phulpur during the Lok Sabha election."
The comparison to the former prime minister seems odious to many fighting the brothers’ terror in Nehru’s Allahabad. Ashraf further says, "Our family has not allowed any communal clash in the city over the past 18 years."
Both Atiq and Ashraf are facing criminal cases in court. Both were in jail recently in connection with BSP MLA Raju Pal’s murder.
Voters point out how both Ashraf and Raju Pal’s widow Puja Pal have been trying to link the election to their security.
Samajwadi Party candidate Ashraf and his men plead for support or else Ashraf will be hanged. At the same time, Puja Pal says, "They will kill me if I do not win the election." However, while talking to HT, she put up a brave front and said, "I do not need any arms to save my life. I have the support and strength of 90,000 people of Allahabad (referring to the votes she got the last time)." Both have been given extra security.
"Aane wale din batayenge kaun kis par bhari parega (Time alone will tell who will prove more powerful)," says Puja with an air of innocence.
Slain MLC Ajit Singh’s wife in Unnao Shakun Singh is also moving door to door with her two children. Her appeal: "It’s a vote for the protection of my family."
In Mirzapur, Sunil Shastri, son of late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, is trying to project corruption as a poll issue.
He is contesting the Mirzapur-Bhadohi Lok Sabha seat under the banner of his newly constituted Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan Mazdoor Congress.
He, his wife Meera and their sons talk about Sunil’s connection with the ‘nanihal’ (maternal grandmother’s place). He also vows to remove the blot that previous MP Kushwaha had left on the constituency through his involvement in the cash-for-questions scam.
In Bahraich, Supreme Court lawyer Reshma Arif’s display of Gandhigiri embarrassed the cops and put her in the spotlight. Angry with detention of party workers at the Kotwali, Reshma Arif confronted the police with roses requesting them to arrest her, not her party workers. The workers were released immediately.
No wonder, voters feel candidates are trying to play to the gallery with tantrums and tactics as they seem to have nothing constructive to bank on.