By Saurabh Gandhi:
Political newbies seem to be the flavour of the election season in India. Be it a Union Territory like Chandigarh or the urban constituencies of Bangalore or the hills of West Bengal; some of the candidates declared by the political parties are generating a lot of interest, and rightly so, because at the end of the day, whoever wins the election at the MP (Member of Parliament)’s level will determine the overall national picture. And the local candidate can very well swing the votes one way or the other. Here is a list of 3 Lok Sabha Contests to Look Out For:
(Chandigarh Constituency) — One is a former Miss India. The other is a former Union Railway Minister. One is contesting on a ticket of the newest political kid on the block, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The other on a ticket of the Grand Old Party (INC). Let us look at their pluses and minuses:
Pluses: A model and an actor, she is literally what you call a ‘fresh face’. She was born in the city and hence has the local connect. Her age (35 years), profession and her known craze for fitness give her the ‘youth connect’. Add to this the fact that she hasn’t been un-opinionated on current issues.
Minuses: It is this trait of being vocal about politics that has raised certain questions about her choice of party. In 2012, she had endorsed Narendra Modi for PM on Twitter. In her defence, she says, “That was when there was no AAP around. You look for no alternative and find the one-eyed in a land of the blind (andhon me kaana raja). It is not a choice. Narendra Modi for PM was something that came from resignation and a sense of fait-accompli.’‘ Apart from this, the lack of support from the local workers of AAP (many of whom feel she was parachuted as a candidate) could hamper her chances.
Pawan Kumar Bansal:
Pluses: He is the sitting MP from the seat. In fact, he has represented the constituency four times in the Lok Sabha. His political experience and the strong organization of the party in the area are his only advantages.
Minuses: His image (along with his party’s) took a hit when he had to resign as Railway Minister after an allegation of bribery involving his nephew (the quintessential “bhanja”) surfaced. Presently, there is no case against him as the CBI cleared him and the same has been accepted by the court.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has recently declared actress Kirron Kher as its candidate for this constituency. There is widespread discontent in the local party workers regarding her nomination. If she can overcome that, she would be a formidable force.
(South Bangalore Constituency) — One is a successful businessman. The other, a full-time politician. South Bangalore will witness a fight to the finish between INC’s Nandan Nilekani, former Infosys technocrat and head of the Aadhaar initiative of the Government of India (he has already resigned as UIDAI chief) and the five-time sitting MP of the BJP, Ananth Kumar.
Pluses: He may be a newbie in electoral politics, but he has had experience in dealing with politicians as UIDAI chief. Apart from the good work done by him and his wife in the field of philanthropy, his clean image, along with administrative acumen (which he highlights by mentioning the fact that he headed the effort which made it possible for 60 million people to get the Aadhaar number) and his positive campaign till now (he has focused on public utilities, transport and employment) are his pluses.
Minuses: His choice of party might be a stumbling block in his victory. Though he is confident of winning and cites his ideological familiarity as the reason for choosing INC, the local connect might be a problem. Although he is a Bangalorean, he tries hard to sound natural while speaking in Kannada. He conceded in an interview that his hi-tech campaign was not good enough. One still has to go and knock on people’s doors and ask for votes, he said.
Pluses: A National Secretary of BJP, Ananth Kumar is a five-time sitting MP from the constituency. The fact that INC has not won this seat since the past 25 years speaks volumes in his favour.
Minuses: In comparison to Nilekani, he may fall short in the urban connect. Nilekani has all characteristics that today’s youth look for: he got into an IIT on merit, co-founded an IT company and made it successful with his skill and hard work and even contributed towards building Bangalore’s infrastructure as part of a task force in the past. Kumar, on the other hand, is a full time politician since a young age.
The good news for Nilekani is that the state of Karnataka has always bucked the trend. Whenever, people of India choose INC at the Centre, people of Karnataka choose BJP. When INC loses at the central level, Karnataka offers a saving grace to the INC.
(Darjeeling Constituency) — This is one constituency which didn’t have a local candidate in 2009 and it won’t have one in 2014. The people of Darjeeling will have to choose between former Indian football team captain Baichung Bhutia fielded by All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) and BJP’s National Vice-President, S. S. Ahluwalia.
Pluses: In comparison to his rival, Baichung Bhutia can claim that he is less of an outsider as he hails from the neighbouring state of Sikkim. Add to that the fact that he is a well-known footballer with huge fans all over the country, more so in the eastern part of India.
Minuses: Bhutia has shifted the goal posts by entering politics. His lack of political experience can be described as a minus. Other than that, he does not carry any baggage that may go against him.
Pluses: He has been a Lok Sabha MP from both Bihar and Jharkhand. He has also served as a Rajya Sabha member. In short, he is not short of political acumen.
Minuses: He is a complete outsider. Add to that, the fact that the BJP doesn’t have much of a presence in West Bengal.
The local dominating political party in Darjeeling, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has declared its support for BJP candidate. Even in 2009, the GJM had supported Jaswant Singh (BJP) and he had won. GJM demands a separate state of Gorkhaland and BJP is in favour of creating such a state. But Mamata Banerjee’s AITC cannot be ignored this time as they handled the statehood demand quite strongly and the CM has given special attention to North Bengal.