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Sonia's yagna

April 16, 2004 12:33 IST
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Italian born Sonia Gandhi might be under fire from the Opposition for her foreign origins. But she made it a point to perform a yagna before stepping into the district election officer's chamber to file her nomination papers for the Rae Bareli parliamentary seat in Uttar Pradesh.

Pandit Gyan Prakash Shukla performed the 30-minute ritual at the Congress party's office in Rae Bareli. Also present were Gandhi's son Rahul, daughter Priyanka and son-in-law Robert Vadra.

Sharat Pradhan in Rae Bareli

Shifting seats, loyalties

Rahul Gandhi's plunge into politics and Sonia Gandhi shifting to Rae Bareli has given a shot in the arm to the Congress party's otherwise rather demoralised rank and file. In Rae Bareli, workers of even rival parties are crossing over to the Congress in large numbers.

"I am a BJP activist but this time I, along with a large number of my colleagues, am going to work for Sonia Gandhi," said local businessman Gulab Tiwari.

"She will sweep this election hands down," remarked Ashok Tripathi, a shopkeeper who until last week was a sworn BJP supporter.

Ram Sewak, a vegetable seller, explained why. "For people of Rae Bareli, Sonia means the return of Indira Gandhi. I see no contest here. She will sweep the poll," he predicted.

Sharat Pradhan in Rae Bareli

North and south of Chennai

April 1. 10:25 am. I am to meet North Chennai candidate Sukumaran Nambiar of the BJP at his home. The appointment is at 10.30. The gun-toting security guard smiles and ushers the accompanying photographer and me into the living room.

Soon another person switches on the air-conditioner and asks us what we would like to drink. He comes back with two glasses of cold water and informs us that 'Sir' will be with us in ten minutes as he is taking a bath.

Within five minutes, Nambiar comes in apologising profusely for the five minute delay. He offers coffee, tea. After the interview, Nambiar sees us off.

April 2. 10:10 am. I am to meet South Chennai candidate Baddar Sayeed of the AIADMK. The appointment is at 10:15.

The closed verandah is crowded with people who look like party men. I ask for Baddar Sayeed's secretary. Somebody tells me to go inside. It is an air-conditioned room where some people are waiting for Sayeed. Her secretary tells me she will join me soon and instructs me to sit outside.

"There's no space there. I will stand outside the house," I tell her. More people landed at her doorstep, but there is still no sign of Sayeed and the secretary is not being helpful.

After bearing the hot summer sun for about an hour, we are thirsty and tired and ready to give up. When the secretary calls  'Madam' and informs me of a further delay, we walk out.

Shobha Warrier in Chennai

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh
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