By Nuzaira Azam
It was a pleasant morning in Lucknow on Friday, February 28. My husband Zafar Iqbal and I were sitting in a long curved veranda facing a huge court yard.This was a Haveli like house where Indian National Congress leader and Member Legislative Assembly Rita Bahuguna Joshi was residing. My cousin Khurram Bilgrami, who is associated with Joshi had invited us to meet with her. The appointment was at 9:30 a.m. I was looking around and unconsciously was comparing with any of Pakistan’s political leader’s house. It was a very simple setting – no valuable paintings, artifacts, huge silky sofas and nothing that would showcase “richness” of the resident.
“I am so sorry, that you had to wait for me,” a very simple woman emerged from one of the many doors opening in Veranda. I looked at her, oily hair, wrapped in a Kashmiri gown, no makeup…..this was Rita Bahuguna Joshi. “Well, you know today Rahul Gandhi is coming to visit Lucknow, Barabanki and Amethi so I was busy in giving directions, since you were coming I thought to get ready after you leave” she said sitting next to me. She apologized for being so informally dressed up saying ”tum tou hamaray ghar kay log ho,” (you are family to me). She is a family friend to my aunt and uncle.
Your house is very nice, I said, “This is a rented house!” and again there was a comparison crawled into my mind. She gave some instructions to her aides and with a gesture of hand told him not to let any of her aides disturb her. We stayed with her for around twenty minutes, had tea with her, and left with a nice feeling.
There was a common assessment that Congress was heading for a loss in elections and since they have been ruling for ten years at Center, and failed to control unemployment and weakening economy, it was about time for a change.
Rita Bahuguna Joshi has a PhD in history and she was a professor at Allahabad University, and also served as Mayor of Allahabad, a city that gave many prime Mmsters (Jawaharlal Nehru, La Bahadur Shastri, and Indira Gandhi) of India. In next few days, we heard that she was going to contest elections from Lucknow for Lok Sabha (the Lower House) and her rival candidate would be Raj Nath Singh—the BJP President. Nath has also served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, but this is for the first time he is contesting Lok Sabha election from Lucknow, the Capital of Utter Pradesh.
An interesting candidate Javed Jaffery is also contesting from Lucknow, a dancer and “Boogie Woogie” star he is a candidate from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). “Lucknow may have added an interesting dimension to the electoral choreography in this VIP constituency, but his relevance promises to remain limited to entertainment and novelty value at best,” reports a news analysis web site. Some commentators in Indian newspaper stated that although his (Jaffery) entry has filled the vacuum of a Muslim candidate in Lucknow but it is hard for him to win, for the simple lack of connect to the city of Nawabs.
Lucknow was engulfed with the election frenzy, roadside bulletin boards, multi-color flags, election slogans in Hindi, English and few in Urdu could be seen everywhere but very few banners for Congress. Bhartia Janta Party (BJP) banners were on every corner of Lucknow streets and alleys. This will be interesting to know that for the last 25 years, it is the BJP that has been winning most seats in Lucknow. “Congress has not worked as they were expected to do,” said one of our Muslim friends.
The elections 2014 are India’s most important and expensive in thirty year for the country of 1.2 billion people.
“There are 810 million eligible voters this year, an increase of 100 million new voters from five years ago, according to the Election Commission of India. National elections were to be conducted in nine phase from April 6 to May 13 and the results will be announced on May 16, added Election Commission.
On the question of Muslims opinion about elections, Dr. Shakeel Ahmad, a scientist was little bitter, “education level is quite low in Muslim community, they are deprived of leadership, and understanding of political and social issues is less than desirable,” he said. Isn’t it that probably these local Muslim leaders are more democratic and want to be in the main stream? I asked, “No, this is not the case, basically, anybody who contributes in the field of politics considers himself the best,” he added. It was noticeable to know that even the Muslim populated areas like Farangi Mahal, Pata Nala, Nakhkhas, Chowk, Akbari Gate, Mahmood Nagar, and Jawai Tola, the Rashtarya Sewak Sankh (RSS) candidates win.
It appears that the main contest is going to be between Congress and the BJP; Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi are fighting to get India’s premiership. It is a common perception that despite the fact that the Indian businesses are funneling money for Modi’s success, the media are competing in building Modi image and playing down Gandhi. Modi is also using Pakistan bashing to attract votes. But it looks the BJP won’t be able to get absolute majority, Aam Admi Party and eleven other strong parties’ alliance will give a tough fight to BJP, political Pundits say.
Although the Muslim voters are quite decisive in numbers and one could feel despise against the BJP candidate Narendra Modi, the Muslims in India generally say they would never forget how during his government in Gujarat Muslims were massacred and their properties were burned and plundered. A big question remains whether the Muslim voters are united on this issue?
And what will the election, beginning April 7, produce for Indians, and the region is a question of immense importance, and everyone is watching closely.