Monday, February 20, 2012

[ZESTCaste] UP elections 2012: The contrasting styles of Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati

21 Feb, 2012, 01.15AM IST, Bodhisatva Ganguli,ET Bureau
UP elections 2012: The contrasting styles of Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh
Yadav and Mayawati

LUCKNOW: Rahul Gandhi, the 42-year-old scion of the political lineage
started by his great grandfather, independent India's first Prime
Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, is on a mission to revive the fortunes of
India's grand old party.

But he is facing a tough challenge from the leaders of rival clans of
a rather more subaltern origin, Akhilesh Yadav, the 38-year-old son of
three-time UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav; and Mayawati,
arguably India's most powerful Dalit politician since BR Ambedkar, the
father of India's Constitution.

The contrasts are stark. Gandhi comes from a political dynasty, which
is the closest India has to royalty. In contrast, the Yadavs, who rose
to prominence in the 1980s, and Mayawati, who emerged in the following
decade, are the products of what some scholars describe as the
deepening of Indian democracy.

Gandhi's sustained campaigning - he has been camping in UP from almost
the start of the year - appears to be having an impact on his more
upstart rivals, at least judging by the number of references to him at
the rallies of his opponents.

The pitch chosen by Gandhi, panned by his foes as 'Yuvraj' and by
sycophantic Congress leaders as the 'Hridaysamrat' or the 'king of
people's hearts', is to remind the masses of the good old days, the
40-year Congress tenure, which ended in 1989 when the elder Yadav
became CM for the first time.

Addressing a large crowd at Bhogniput, a town near Kanpur on February
18, Gandhi expressed outrage over the alleged embezzlement of Central
funds by the BSP regime.

Gandhi bemoaned the large-scale migration from UP due to the absence
of opportunities closer home.

"When you ask people in Mumbai building roads where they are from,
they say they are from UP. The Delhi Metro was also built by people
from UP," Gandhi said. He quoted construction labourers at the Delhi
Metro as saying they would not be able to use the acclaimed urban rail
network on the ground that "big people ride the Metro". Metro fares
range from Rs 8 to Rs 27 while minimum wages at construction sites are
well in excess of Rs 100.

Gandhi also panned attempts to "turn Bundelkhand into Israel", a
reference to promises made by the BJP to introduce drip irrigation
technology from the Jewish state to raise agricultural productivity in
the arid region. Gandhi's references have drawn the ire of the Wall
Street Journal's opinion pages, which said the disparaging references
to Israel were meant to be a code to attract Muslim votes.

Gandhi did press the Israel point a number of times, at one stage
asking the audience whether they "wanted Bundelkhand or Israel?" But
if he was speaking in a code, it was far too obscure for his audience,
whose response was distinctly tepid.

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