BIJNOR (U.P.), April 4, 2014
Press club Of India, Indian Tehelka News
The actor is now locked in a make-or-break four-cornered contest in the western Uttar Pradesh constituency
Jaya Prada trudges along like an adopted daughter of the soil through the constituency. The actor is now a veteran politician, who has traversed from the Telugu Desam Party to the Samajwadi Party and now to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), with a term in the Rajya Sabha and two in the Lok Sabha.
At the Madhuban farm house, her camp office on the outskirts of Bijnor, she was surrounded by a crowd early in the morning.
Dressed in a mehndi-coloured salwar-kameez with a zari-bordered red dupatta, she listened to everyone patiently and pleasantly before getting on to an SUV for the day’s campaign with her sister’s actor-son, Siddhartha, at the wheel.
Just as the cavalcade began to move, a person appeared with a tiny box of sweets. After a little hesitation, she picked one. Another person made sure she remembered that she had to visit a bereaved Muslim family. She stopped by at the RLD office and then visited a nearby Sant Ramdas temple.
With her star value, Ms. Jaya Prada, 51, initiated her campaign well, but is now locked in a make-or-break four-cornered contest with Bhartendu Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Malook Nagar of the Bahujan Samaj Party, a wealthy dairy owner, and Shahnawaz Rana of the Samajwadi Party (SP), a steel businessman.
Alarmed at her early gains, the BJP replaced its original candidate, Rajinder Singh, a lawyer, with Mr. Bhartendu Singh, an MLA who was charged with hate speech in Muzaffarnagar.
The Lok Sabha constituency includes Bijnor and parts of Muzaffarnagar and Meerut districts, making the task of organising the campaign tough for her election managers.
“Rampur [the constituency she represents now] is in the same mandal as Bijnor and people understand that,” she said. “I have always done secular politics and have won twice from Rampur. Both the communities, the Hindus and Muslims, voted for me.” Asked why she found it unable to join the Congress, the MP said she wanted the former SP general secretary Amar Singh also to be admitted to the party. She believes that his political career got botched up because of her.
SP leader Mulayam Singh’s estranged colleague and the party’s most visible Muslim face, Azam Khan, made his comeback to the party conditional on the exit of Mr. Amar Singh and Ms. Jaya Prada.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Ms. Jaya Prada had to fight Mr. Khan tooth and nail first to get the SP ticket from Rampur, and then, to win the seat. “I would have won this time too, but I cannot contest again and again from there only to impress Azam Khan.”
Through the conversation, Ms. Jaya Prada time and again rolled down the window and waved out, particularly to women and youth. “Women are with me,” she said pulling her dupatta over her head. “Bijnor goes to the polls on April 10. I have had only 10 days to canvass. Let us see,” she said with quiet confidence.
The major challenge for her in this Jat heartland in western U.P. is to prevent the young voters from drifting to the BJP despite the recent bonanza of Jat reservation in jobs under Other Backward Classes announced by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. With the Dalit vote base unlikely to shift from the BSP, she is trying to win over Muslims and Gujjars with her secular credentials.
At a predominantly Muslim village in Chandpur, Ms. Jaya Prada spoke passionately about the welfare of sugarcane growers, and emphasised that the riots should not be used to derive political gains. “I have raised in Parliament the Nirbhaya [rape] case and security for women. I have worked for madrasas and kabristans. The SP government promised 18 per cent reservation to Muslims [in jobs and education], but did nothing,’’ she said to cheers.
Resuming her trek through the villages, she said: “I am new here, so was I in Rampur, but stayed on for 10 years. People are angry with the BJP candidate for the riots and with the SP for the way it was handled. The BSP candidate is pumping in a lot of money, but I feel people will take the benefits and vote for me. They have no reason to be angry with me. I am committed to peace and harmony.”
(From : The Hindu)