Heavyweights rally for support in MP
By Abhinandan Mishra - BHOPAL
Published: 17th Nov 2013 07:13:02 AM
Both Congress and BJP are rolling out the red carpet for their respective star campaigners to ensure victory in Madhya Pradesh. While BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has been given the stellar role, for the Congress, apart from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi have taken up the responsibility of reaching out to the voters.
BJP party sources said Modi will be addressing at least 15 rallies in the state. “Close to 170 places were shortlisted for his rallies, out of which 20 were selected based on the chances of candidates, the location and electorate. Modi has been asked to focus on urban seats because his strength lies in connecting with urban voters. He will coming on November 18, 20, 21 and 22,” a party source said.
For the rural areas, the party feels the best man for the job is Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. “He comes from a rural-agricultural background and bonds with the rural population. He is very comfortable while speaking in front of them”, added the source.
In a first, both BJP and the Congress have shied away from using movie stars and cricketers for campaigning. Names like Navjot Singh Sidhu who campaigned for BJP and actress Nagma who appeared for Congress in the last elections are missing this time.
“The stars attract people to the rallies but the numbers do not transfer to votes. We had invited Celina Jaitley and Shakti Kapoor in the past. But they could not make any impact on voters. Also the cost of inviting them is huge, which adds to expenses. It was a conscious decision to not to invite them,” a Congress spokesperson said.
Thus the BJP has invited Modi, L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Ananth Kumar, Venkaiah Naidu, Prakash Jawadekar, Shahnawaz Hussain, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Sushma Swaraj to campaign. Both Sushma and Jaitley have been coming to the state at regular intervals and attended several meetings.
Other notable names that have been asked to campaign are Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, national vice president Uma Bharti, national spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad, Shahnawaz Hussain and senior Jharkhand leader Arjun Munda.
BJP has also retained Hema Malini, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna and Smriti Irani to add that celebrity quotient on the campaign trail. All of them are full-time BJP members. Commenting on their presence, BJP leaders said these stars were asked to campaign in their capacity of party leaders and because they are celebrities. “The electorates are smart enough and they might come to see the stars but their presence rarely changes their mind about whom they are going to vote. We have realized this,” said a BJP MLA from Bhopal.
Leaders like party general secretary Varun Gandhi and senior member Murli Manohar Joshi have not visited the state yet.
In the last two elections, Varun Gandhi was one of the most sought-after name for the BJP. Similarly, senior Bihar BJP leader Sushil Modi too is not coming. Also missing is Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Commenting on the absence of Varun Gandhi, party leaders said Chouhan was not too keen to have him in the state. “There is a certain image associated with him which Chouhan feels will not work in his favour. So he was not added in the list of star campaigners,” a senior party functionary said.
In contrast, the Congress is relying on local leaders to reach out to voters. Chief of state election campaign committee Jyotiraditya Scindia is leading the pack. He has been touring the state along with other state leaders like Digvijaya Singh, Kamal Nath and Kantilal Bhuria, all of whom have been given specific regions to focus on. One of the names missing from the list of campaigners is that of Ahmed Patel.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to address three meetings as the state goes to polls on November 25. After her Khargone and Rewa rally on November 15, she will be coming to the state on November 21 to address a rally in Jhabua. Rahul Gandhi was expected to address three rallies on November 18, 20 and 22, but they were cancelled as he was asked to go to other poll-bound states.
Commenting on the party campaigner list, Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said the party had given weightage to both national and state leaders while constituting its list. “Apart from the party president, prime minister and Rahul Gandhi, we have focused on local leaders to do the campaigning as they have been working amongst the voters. The electorates know them and can identify their aspirations,” he said.
The party’s list of star campaigners includes names like Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mohan Prakash, Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, K Rehman Khan, Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma, Prithviraj Chavan, Bhupendar Singh Hooda, Manikrao Gawit, Rajiv Shukla, Namo Narayan Meena, Manish Tiwari, Sachin Pilot, Pradeep Jain Aditya, P Narayan Sami, Jatin Prasad, Porika Balram Nayak, Sanjay Nirupam, Rakesh Kalia, Sajjan Singh Verma, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, Raj Babbar, Satpal Maharaj, Mohammad Azharuddin, Randeep Singh Surejewala and Priya Dutt.