It's 'strategy time' for political families

Updated on May 02, 2004 04:40 PM IST

Elections might not exactly be a time of crisis for the 14 Congress and BJP candidates in Delhi but it definitely is a time to reckon.

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PTI | BySutirtho Patranobis, New Delhi

In Coppola’s Godfather, the story of the Corleone clan, everytime the family plunges into a crisis, it regroups, takes stock over pasta and wine — and then hits back. Through strategy and some clear thinking.

Elections might not exactly be a time of crisis for the 14 Congress and BJP candidates in Delhi but it definitely is a time to reckon. And though the electoral fights on the streets of Delhi would presumably be limited to slanging matches and smear campaigns, its the Family that the candidates are turning to, both on the field as well at the dinner table.

The Sibal household on Purana Quila Road, for one, has about 20 people, mostly family, at the dinner table these days. Kapil Sibal’s sons, Amit and Akhil, both Harvard-educated lawyers, are among them. “At dinner, when the core group is back, we discuss the plans for the next day and also how the day’s campaign went. Changes are made and often new meetings are added to the next day’s campaign,” says Akhil (25), almost always referring to his father as the “candidate”.

He and his brother, Amit, around 29, have their work divided. “I’m more of a backroom boy. I co-ordinate my father’s daily meetings and programmes. The logistics behind fighting an election is complex.That needs to be handled well. I also ensure that party workers, who are the prime resource, have access to father,” Amit says.

Being lawyers, both say, helps them to easily interact with people from different classes and economic sections. Agrees, South Delhi Congress candidate, RK Anand’s, younger son, Chetanya, a law graduate from Delhi University.

“Though I began  assisting my father in his cases only six months ago, it has given me exposure on how to deal with people. That is of great help when I am interacting with party workers as well as the people in the constituency,” Chetanya says.

His elder brother, Tapeshwar, who would like to be called Tapish, is a London-based vascular surgeon. For the past few weeks, however, he has been running around urban villages in South Delhi with a microphone, rather than a scalpel, in hand.

“The other day, I went to Munirka village. It’s a completely different world. But the people are so warm and welcoming. Even in slums. Campaigning has been a whole new experience. And its fun as well,” Tapish says.

For BJP’s South Delhi candidate VK Malhotra’s, daughter, Anupama Malik, campaigning is not that much a novel experience. “It’s a cadre-based party and I have been interacting with workers for many years. I campaigned for father during the 1989 election. So, its not very new but still very exciting,” Anupama says.

Her job is to mobilise support for VK Malhotra among the RWAs and give sharp direction to the ‘mahila morcha’ of BJP’s South Delhi unit. “Every day, we deploy three to four jeeps and move around the constituency. The areas are decided from before,” she says.

Anupama, who is completing her MCA from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, has an exam coming up on May 6. ``I also have two children to look after. Its tough managing so many sides at the same time. But the rest of the family, including my sister-in-law, Ruchi Malhotra, is pitching in. My brother, Ajay, is coordinating the campaign show from home,” she says.

Jagdish Tytler’s wife, Jennifer, as the principal of JD Tytler school, and an English teacher, is more used to holding exams for her students than sitting for one. In her spare time, she likes to give company to her pet cats, Ophelia and Marcus Orelius.

But past few weeks, like six times before, she has been busy campaigning for husband.

“This is my husband’s seventh election and I have campaigned for him in all seven elections for at least 15 to 20 days. As the constituency is large, we have to work in tandem though we usually don’t accompany each other to meetings. I go out separately and largely target the women,” she says.

Trust. That’s possibly the main reason why campaigns are often flanked by family members. “It doesn’t mean that candidates don’t trust any one else. Its just that family members can be trusted blindly. And at the end of the day, its the family that provide the support, physical as well as emotional, to the candidate,” says Anupama.

Amit says the family is often the bridge between the candidate and his constituency. And voters and even party workers usually find the presence of close family members as some sort of assurance.

“For the candidate, especially during campaigning, it is almost impossible to give time to everybody. As a result, they come to us, the candidate’s family. Local leaders are still the focus of our campaign, but the family, be it son or daughter or anyone else, can step in whenever there is a gap in communication,” Amit says.

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