Before entering the Returning Officer's room to file his nomination papers as a BJP candidate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi waited for around half an hour at the district magistrate's office. He had reached there a bit early, not by chance, but as per a well-coordinated plan.
Inside that waiting hall besides his senior party colleagues like Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Yogi Adityanath, Himanta Biswa Shama and all his allies Nitish Kumar, Parkash Singh Badal, Uddhav Thackeray, Ram Vilas Paswan, M Thambidurai, Anupriya Patel and political partners from the North East gave him company. They all had specially flown in or had been invited by the BJP to Varanasi with a purpose: To showcase unity of purpose and strength. To convey a message to the nation that Modi was not only the undisputed leader of the ruling BJP, but also of the NDA. The prime minister had their blessings and unstinting support in this election.
By doing so he was also countering the claim of his political rivals, particularly those in the Congress, that the BJP or the NDA government was a one-man show and it was run as per the dictatorial whims of one man, Modi. The presence of allies from across the country was to convey a message that while Modi may be at the steering wheel, everyone in the ruling coalition was valued and had a role to play in decision-making.
Contrast that with nomination-filing of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother and party patron Sonia Gandhi. Both of them led a roadshow before filing their nomination from Amethi and Raebareli respectively.
The optics of a grand roadshow organised by the Congress in Amethi for Rahul filing his nomination papers on 10 April ended up giving credence to the BJP charge that for the Congress what mattered most was the interests of its its first family. Standing on a flower-decked truck, Rahul was accompanied by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, brother-in-law Robert Vadra, nephew Raihan Vadra and niece Miraya Vadra. No other Congress party leader including Jyotiraditya Scindia was allowed to be get onto the truck that carried the Nehru-Gandhi family members on the roadshow.
The presence of Priyanka's children gave rise to speculation as to whether they too would, in due course, take a plunge into politics and take commanding positions in the Congress. When Rahul with other family members entered the RO's office, Sonia was waiting for them. When Rahul filed his nomination papers, once again, no non-family Congress leader was present. In any case as per the norms, only five persons can accompany a candidate when he or she files his or her nomination paper to the RO.
A day later when Sonia filed her nomination papers as a Congress candidate, she took a leaf out of Modi's 2014 poll strategy: Hold a roadshow and file nomination papers on a day when polling was in progress in other parts of the state and country. Before embarking on a roadshow, albeit seated inside a bulletproof vehicle as per the SPG security protocol, she participated in a havan with all her family members — son, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren before embarking on road show.
Following the pattern Rahul had set a day ago, she went inside the RO's room flanked by Rahul, Priyanka, Robert, Raihan and a lawyer. Once again, it was an all-family affair.
On Friday, when Modi went to file his nomination papers, he was accompanied by four persons from varied social strata and communities — Annapurna Shukla, Jagdish Raja, Subhash Chandra Gupta and Ramashankar Patel. They all belonged to Varanasi, and the fifth member was his trusted friend for decades from Gujarat Parindu Bhagat also known as Kakubhai. Shukla is an 81-year-old doctor and a veteran academician. She is known as a manasputri of Madan Mohan Malaviya, founder of Banaras Hindu University. Raja is the son of Domraja. As per Hindu norms, the last rites of a deceased person are performed by dom (Dalit), a community that lives at and around cremation grounds. Gupta is the oldest RSS-BJP worker in Varanasi and Patel is a veteran agro-scientist. The social composition of his nomination proposers included a Brahmin, a Dom, a Vaishya and a Kurmi — upper caste, Dalit and OBC.
Jagdish Raja, the Domraja designate is of significance. He sends a message to the Dalit community that Modi wants to take them along. It should be noted that he had washed the feet of Safai Karamcharis (belonging to the Dalit community) in Prayagraj at the conclusion of Kumbh. Myawati must have been watching that closely.
Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.
Updated Date: Apr 26, 2019 18:07:06 IST