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The Rediff Election Special/A Ganesh Nadar in Gwalior

November 17, 2003

Anoop Mishra is Atal Bihari Vajpayee's nephew; the prime minister's sister's son. He is also a Bharatiya Janata Party member of the Madhya Pradesh assembly, one of two members of Vajpayee's immediate family in legislative politics. 

Mishra is in the electoral ring for the fourth time. In 1989 he won the Girdh seat, but his first term as MLA was cut short by the Babri Masjid demolition when the Madhya Pradesh assembly was dissolved. He lost the 1993 assembly election, but won the Lashkar West constituency five years ago. This time he is contesting the Lashkar East seat, which is located in Gwalior city. 

We catch up with the candidate as he makes his way in the inevitable procession of about 60 people. A couple of men herald the campaign party's progress by a rousing tattoo on the drums. Others carry party flags and pamphlets to distribute. A few paste party posters wherever they find a vacant spot on the city's walls. Every now and then a young man shouts "Anoop Mishra," but the accompanying "Zindabad" isn't particularly enthusiastic.

The campaigning has just began but the young men sound bored already.

Unmindful of the tepid enthusiasm, Mishra strides on from house to house. Accompanying him are three young men from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. They say they are full-time RSS workers and will stay with the candidate till the results are declared on December 4.

Pratul Mishra is Anoop Mishra's nephew. He has traveled from Bhopal to help his uncle. It is all in the family. Anoop Mishra's campaign manager Deepak Vajpayee is his cousin, the prime minister's elder brother's youngest son. Deepak was Mishra's campaign manager in the 1998 election too. 

"We had a meeting of party workers," Deepak explains today's schedule. "Then we met influential people in the constituency. Now we are going door to door asking for votes. In the next phase we will hold street corner meetings. (BJP) Mahila Morcha members are also going door to door. Then we will have public meetings with the star campaigners, national leaders and film stars." All he knows for now is that there will be "star campaigners;" he is unaware of their identity. 

Anoop Mishra has the best posters in Gwalior. He has obviously invested a lot of money on them but his campaign manager says the Opposition does not know how to make quality posters. At every house Mishra touches the feet of elders. Some greet him with a smile, others with sweets and samosas.

"I am a government servant so I cannot reveal my choice," says S C Gupta, "but my family will vote for the BJP. He is known all over as the PM's nephew." But another voter Shabbir Khan says, "He won the last time because he is the PM's nephew. But how many times will that name work? He never does anything for the constituency. Why do you think he changes his constituency before every election? People see through him. This time he cannot fool the public." Deepak Vajpayee disputes this contention. "He (Mishra) cleaned up all the canals in the city and relaid the entire sewage system with funds from the central government."

At every corner, party workers argue whether they should go one way or the other. At some places they start hollering at each other. Mishra pacifies them and continues doggedly. The prime minister's nephew has his brief cut out and it looks like he is going to work hard, at least till the election. After that, who knows?

The voter apathy and cynicism is obvious. "Who cares who wins?" asks an autorickshaw driver. "Everybody knows that whoever wins cannot and will not do anything for the public."

Photograph: Sriram Selvaraj. Concept: Lynette Menezes


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