Poll campaigns in Maharashtra a family affair

By Quaid Najmi,

Mumbai : India’s national election has not been only about parties and their candidates. Spouses, children, parents, relatives and friends are also slogging it out in the campaigns in Maharashtra.

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Former Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari was accompanied by his family – his wife, sons and daughters-in-law – when he came to vote in Nagpur April 10.

Shivani, the 18-year-old daughter of Congress MP from Mumbai North Sanjay Nirupam, went a step ahead by leading a rally April 14 with thousands of youth, including many first-time voters.

Her mother Gita has also been campaigning among women voters, especially Gujaratis and minorities, to boost her husband’s chances.

In the same constituency – Mumbai North – BJP’s Gopal Shetty has also deployed his wife Usha to campaign for him.

In Baramati constituency, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate Supriya Sule was joined by her husband Sadanand, teenaged daughter Revati and son Vijay during a campaign in Khadakvasla.

Asked what prompted the family to join her, Sule laughingly said they wanted to see first-hand how she worked with the people.

“We all know she works very hard and has done a lot of work for the area. We have come to give her moral support,” said Sadanand Sule.

Whether the Gen-Next was interested in politics, Supriya Sule said: “Oh, they are too young. Let them first finish their education before thinking of politics.”

On a serious note, she said the people of the constituency were her “real family” as she spends more time with them than her husband and children.

Meanwhile, Sule’s cousin and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s son Parth suddenly visited Tuljapur to campaign for Padamsinh Patil, his grand-uncle and sitting NCP lawmaker re-contesting from Osmanabad.

The Thackeray clan is also famous for campaigning for the Shiv Sena, but none of them – barring a cousin Shalini Thakare – has ever contested elections.

After party patriarch Bal Thackeray’s death two years ago, his grandson Aditya Thackeray now helps his father, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.

Aditya heads the party’s youth wing, and campaigns for party candidates across the state, independently or with his father.

Uddhav’s cousin, now Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, was an aggressive, star campaigner for the Shiv Sena with his uncle.

Samajwadi Party state chief Abu Asim Azmi’s son Farhan, who once used to campaign for his dad, is being accompanied by his glamourous wife, Bollywood actress Ayesha Takia, as he (Farhan) tries to wrest the Mumbai North-Central seat from Congress lawmaker Priya Dutt.

In Pune, state Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam is campaigning for son and Congress candidate Vishwajeet Kadam – perhaps, repaying an old favour when the son used to campaign for his dad!

A few years ago, former union minister Murli Deora’s son Milind cut his political teeth on his father’s campaign trails. Now, Milind is himself a central minister, but his ailing father has taken a back seat in this election.

On family participation in campaigns, an aide to Sanjay Nirupam said: “It projects a very positive, soft image for the candidate. Family signifies an emotional bond which goes down well with the masses.”

However, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights recently sought a ban by the Election Commission on parties using minors in campaigns.

“Children don’t have sufficient maturity to judge the nature and consequences of their conduct. Therefore, using children, even with their consent, is against the law,” MSCPCR secretaty A.N. Tripathi said in a letter to the poll panel.

Using children in election work by parties causes mental and physical suffering to a child, which amounts to violation of child rights and attracts the penal provision under the Juvenile Justice Act and Indian Penal Code.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])