Monday, 13 February 2012

Frist-hand report from the election frontlines in UP

By Rhema Rao D’Souza (included on my Blog, by kind permission of ARVP)

Young Rhema joined the campaign trail with ARVP leaders to assess first-hand the travails of the trail, and encountered a life-changing experience…

She traversed Pathardeva district, Gorakhpur and Lucknow,while following the dust and sweat trails of the candidates on her sojourn. Here is her story, edited for length, yet largely in her own words…

She kicks off her journey by first making her way from Lucknow to Deoria (part of Purvanchal, most people here speak Bhojpuri) by train.

We take a train from Lucknow to Deoria, and a 2-hour drive thereafter into the interior of U.P. in the Purvanchal area. On approaching a village, I hear a familiar voice giving a ‘bhashan’ (speech) in a ‘Nukkad Sabha’ (village gathering)…. I am then greeted by the sight of Sunaina Singhon a stage with the bright bold ARVP posterproviding an eclectic backdrop.

I try to grasp the entire picture and fit it into my head – about where I am and what I am about to experience. I am thinking to myself –“utar aaye hum UP ke rajneeti ke Rangmansh par”! (I’ve finally set foot on the political playground of the entire country – UP)…. & this is what it looks like!

Sunaina’s speech is mesmerizing. She speaks like a dream and is giving villagers statistics of foreign countries like France, U.S.A. and Dubai and the debt India has collected over the years and what we can do for India if we begin with changing U.P. What she is able to do is win over the collective goodwill and strike a chord with the people by appealing to their emotions.

After the speech, she personally goes to the villagers reminding them to press the button on the “Torch” (ARVP emblem). It is well past sundown now with no electricity in any of the villages, when we find ourselves making our way with the speakerjeep into other villages, where she meets with more village elders asking them permission to have nukkad sabhas in their areas.

It is well after 1-2 hours that we get to her village (Mathiya) house where we are once again accosted with a big ARVP poster at the entrance wall. The next day we start on a Padyatra into the surrounding villages near Mathiya where Sunaina and her circle leaders (2), and I accompany her. She individually goes to each house and family asking them for votes with yet another set of moving lines and speeches.

We cover a total of 6 villages in this manner and then make it to her Nukkad Sabha – where she is to deliver another speech that day.

As she goes into the villages on a padyatra, her circle team headed by her husband organise the entire logistics for her meeting. All she has to do is speak. Alongside her, members of her circle team give better speeches than Rahul Gandhi! She delivers another shattering speech for over 2 hours in the center of that town on a busy road surrounded by shops, buses,etc. The people accord her undivided attention and actually stay for 3 hours to hear her and her supporting crew.

She even manages to get donations in!!!

Overall this lady has it all figured out, backed with some matchless organization and teamwork that I have not even seen CEOs of MNCs exhibit! She has all the right ingredients for a win... most of all the hard work she has put in! What remains now is to live up to that image and the promises!

In Gorakhpur, I go to the court with the others to file their nominations. This is quite an experience for me as the “only” woman there at the time with male eyes glaring at me in the manner of a pack of wolves.

Briefly, what I experienced was everything I expected it to be like. Maybe because I’ve seen a lot of movies like Gangajal, Yuva etc., which were set in the same tone and background, I identified with it. Overall, I had a fabulous experience though the staying conditions in the villages were a little rough because of the cold weather, though I did know what to expect! It reminded me of my experiences in Africa, Ladakh and Nepal with no electricity, biting cold, open baths with cold water and fields to go relieve yourself in.

It’s sad to see so much of India still in this state and I really hope and pray that the coming set of political leaders will change this situation and make India progressively better with basic infrastructure like road, water, electricity and basic education for all.

Living in fast and furious Mumbai city, we often forget where and what rural India is like!

ELECTION HEAT ROUNDUP: It was quite like what I saw in the movies in my first experience here. Its only when you see posters of bigger parties like Congress, BSP, SP etc. with their big cars and resounding speakersdo you feel the competition.

I think I felt the heat most in the Gorakhpur court when leaders from all different parties came to file nominations. Everyone was inquiring about the other, chitter-chattering, questioning others’ preparations, responses, how their campaigns were progressing, strategies, etc.!

What ARVP has attempted is MISSION IMPOSSIBLE! It isamazing work…

This movement deserves to be moulded into an ocean of good for the sake of our country. Thank you!


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