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Why Was I Prevented From Taking On Modi?

Last updated on: May 21, 2024 11:32 IST

'Those who feared that I would have run one hell of a campaign targeting the most powerful people in India snatched away my democratic right from me.'

'I will expose these democracy-killers.'

IMAGE: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra D Modi files his nomination in Varanasi, May 14, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Comedian Shyam Rangeela, well known for mimicking Prime Minister Narendra D Modi's mannerisms and voice, feels he was unceremoniously ejected by the district administration in Varanasi and didn't get much help from the Election Commission of India when his nomination papers were rejected late night on May 14, the last day for filing nomination papers from Varanasi from where Modi has won two Lok Sabha elections and is campaigning for a sure-shot hat-trick.

Rangeela, though dejected by his rejection, is in great spirits when he reveals to Prasanna D Zore/ his plans to create public awareness about how Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party are throttling democracy and why even the Congress is chickening out from taking on the mightiest political leader in India.

Why did you choose Varanasi to contest your maiden Lok Sabha election?

I decided to contest because what happened in Surat was totally unjustified and unethical. I could not choose Surat because the (BJP) candidate had already won from there. By that time the Rajasthan elections were also over.

I chose Varanasi because Prime Minister Narendra Modi contests from there and that makes it a very prestigious seat. The whole country and world has its eyes on this seat.

I knew that the media of this country will cover it extensively and give the election in Varanasi nation-wide publicity. That would have helped me bring to immediate attention the dire issues facing our country and how the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Modi are either ignoring these issues or adding fuel to the fire to gain political dividends.

I would have succeeded in raising my voice against how they (the BJP and Modi) are finishing off India's democracy by riding on the back of the same democracy.

I would have also succeeded in sending a message to the country how Independent candidates and politicians belonging to mainstream parties are being bought out by the BJP by either threatening them with investigation agencies or enticing them with the lure of money and power.

Do you feel that your democratic right to contest against Modi has been snatched away from you?

Yes. Those who feared that I would have run one hell of a campaign targeting the most powerful people in India definitely snatched away my democratic right from me.

The district collector first didn't allow many candidates like me to get the nomination forms. We were given these forms on the last day and were set stricter deadlines to submit them.

We made super efforts to compete the formalities in time, but these people plotted against candidates like me and ensured that our nomination forms were rejected under one reason or the other.

Do you have any alternative plan to still being part of campaigning in Varanasi?
Like supporting an Independent candidate and canvassing for him/her and raising all the issues that you would have raised if your nomination had gone through?
Or supporting Congress candidate Ajay Rai and raising the very same issues from Varanasi?

I don't have any personal animosity towards the DM (district magistrate of Varanasi who Shyam claims rejected his nomination) or Prime Minister Modi. I want to fight to save India's Constitution and democracy.

Even though my nomination was rejected I have got enough publicity among the people of India that I know for sure wherever I go people will follow what I am saying, they will try to find out what my political views are.

My following on social media has increased tremendously and I will ensure that till June 1 (the last phase of the Lok Sabha election ends on June 1) I will use my social media presence to create awareness among Indians and explain to them how democracy is being murdered in India.

I will expose these democracy-killers till the time election campaigning continues.

Are you planning to stay in Varanasi and continue your fight?

If my nomination was not rejected, it would have kept me glued only to Varanasi. Now that I am no more contesting I will use this freedom to fight these fascist forces across India.

I am planning to roam wherever required and continue to fight them. But I will spend most of my time in Varanasi and contribute towards my aim of fighting the fascist forces.

I will not support any remaining candidates from Varanasi because all those fighting against Narendra Modi from Varanasi are not serious about fighting against him.

All those contestants against Narendra Modi were allowed to file their nominations only after the Election Commission spoke to them. I can't trust these people to give a serious and sincere fight to Narendra Modi.

Would you not trust Ajay Rai of the Congress?

No, I don't trust him at all. When more than 150 of us were queued outside the district collector's office to file our nominations on May 13, Ajay Rai and his entourage were allowed to bypass us and were escorted comfortably inside the office to file his nomination. He took just 15 minutes to finish the formalities and came out.

This happened in broad daylight, in front of all of us and that makes me doubt even Ajay Rai's intentions. I can tell you confidently that Ajay Rai will not fight against Modi at all.

He is contesting against Narendra Modi for the third time and nobody knows about this man in Varanasi. There is a difference between a man who spends his time among the people for 10 long years and someone who appears on the election scene just two months before the election date and starts campaigning. Ajay Rai is not serious at all.

IMAGE: Shyam Rangeela steps out of the Varanasi collectorate after filing his nomination papers which were rejected later. This is what he wrote on his FB page after filing his nomination:
'With all your love and cooperation I have filed my nomination meeting all the requirements as per the law, I still have full faith in the democracy of this country. Now the next two three days will be important.'
'Thank you very much for your support.'
'My election future is in the hands of all the election officers guarding our democracy... They all will strengthen our faith in this hope.'Photograph: Kind courtesy Shyam Rangeela/Facebook

What issues would you have raised if your nomination was not rejected?

Compare the prices of petrol and diesel, cooking gas from 2014 till today, the ten years in which Modiji was prime minister.

Price rise would have been my top topic of campaigning. I would have exposed their attitude to rising prices especially when their ministers were asked about it by the people of this country.

I would have highlighted how their ministers laughed off concerns of common man about price rise.

Now, just before the election they reduced the rate of cooking gas as if they were doing the public a great favour.

The way they tried to thwart farmers' agitation by spraying nails on the roads leading to Delhi, by raising artificial borders to prevent them from marching towards Delhi as if farmers were terrorists.

The prime minister is so arrogant that he didn't have the time to meet the agitating farmers or our women wresters who were molested by one of their MPs.

Now, the entire country is seeing how the Election Commission of India and many other Constitutional institutions are being controlled by this government.

Whoever Modi fears is a political threat to him are being arrested and dumped in jail or their bank accounts are being frozen, or their political parties are split vertically only so that he continues to rule India like a dictator.

They have been able to prove nothing against (Arvind) Kejriwal and yet he had to spend time in prison. He (Modi) is so much after concentrating all powers in his hand and controlling all the democratic voices that it all points towards his dictatorial attitude.

Even media houses these days are taking orders from the PMO. You won't hear or see any prominent Opposition voice in the electronic or print media. It is only the digital media that is showing some semblance of opposition and fight back against Modiji.

There is no news on any of these channels and newspapers except Narendra Modi.

Why do you think that the district magistrate of Varanasi and the Election Commission rejected your nomination?

I must admit that I was not given any special treatment, but more than 10-15 nominations were rejected for some reason or the other. It would be wrong to say that only Shyam Rangeela was their target. I have seen the terrible times the rest among us whose nominations were rejected have gone through.

I am glad I chose Varanasi to contest from because that gave me an opportunity to share the dejection of other candidates and empathise with them. I am glad I could share their troubles with the people.

Now, I was told (by the district magistrate's office) that I could submit my nomination papers even by 11.59 pm that night (filing of nominations in Varanasi began May 7 and ended May 14).

Different nominees were given different times. People were asked to submit their nominations by 5.30 pm, 6.30 pm and that too when we were given the nomination forms at 5 pm on the day (May 14) which was the last day for submitting the nominations.

Those who submitted their papers even before 6 pm as directed even they were told to come the next day and that it was not possible to accept their nomination forms on that day because the deadline was 3 pm.

We have documented everything (video evidence, paper evidence) how we were fooled (by the district administration) to ensure that our nomination forms were rejected anyhow.

We will be knocking on the doors of the courts to see justice against this murder of our democratic rights.

We have the video footage of us reaching the collectorate meeting hall (the district administration office where nomination forms were to be submitted) by 10 pm, we have documents to prove all our charges along with the time when it happened and the location where it happened.

I have the paper that shows that I was allowed to submit my nomination till 11.59 pm.