Campaign tale of two Allahabad families – and their ‘bahus’

By Sharat Pradhan, IANS, Allahabad : It is the Gandhis versus the Bachchans in this historic Uttar Pradesh town in these crucial campaign days, with the political dynasty vying with the glitter of Bollywood to attract voters. And the eminent daughters-in-law of both families are using every sentimental trick in the book to strike a chord.

Claiming family bonds with this city, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan descended into the heat and dust of the campaign trail Monday to boost the chances of their parties in the sixth round of the staggered Uttar Pradesh assembly elections Thursday.

Support TwoCircles

While the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and daughter-in-law of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty addressed a well-attended rally here Monday evening, the actress and wife of Amitabh Bachchan left no stone unturned either to impress upon a lukewarm crowd that she was the real ‘bahu’ (daughter-in-law) of this city.

Gandhi, whose late husband Rajiv took over as prime minister from his mother Indira, recalled her “five-generation” link with the city, while Bachchan said it was she who had had a stronger bond with Allahabad.

Both the women have more than well-known husbands in common. Both were married into famous Allahabad families, both are eminent in their own right and both their children are stars too – Rahul Gandhi is MP from Amethi and is the main draw in the Congress’ campaign while Abhishek Bachchan is also coming into his own as an actor.

Gandhi’s mother-in-law Indira, her father Jawaharlal Nehru and his father Moti Lal Nehru lived in Allahabad for years. Their induction into India’s freedom movement began here.

As for Bachchan, her husband Amitabh was born here and his father, the celebrated litterateur Harivansh Rai Bachchan, too had his roots in this city.

Bachchan, whose husband has been propagating Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s rule as ‘heaven on earth’, did not like the idea of being compared to Gandhi as far as her the ‘bahu’ status was concerned.

Focussing on the links of the Bachchan family’s links with Allahabad, she told the crowds: “I come here today to seek your support for the Samajwadi Party. I am sure you will not disappoint a ‘bahu’ who has rarely asked you for anything.”

When asked by a journalist what she thought of the other daughter-in-law, who was also staking claim to voters’ support on the same issue, she retorted: “Let me tell you, my husband was born in Allahabad whereas her husband was not born here.”

Gandhi, whose late husband and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was born in Mumbai, also sought to recall the traditional association of the Nehru-Gandhi clan with “the soul of this city”.

In an emotionally charged speech, she said: “I cannot think of our family without Allahabad; if it were not for Allahabad, I would not have been there at all.”

While addressing two rallies at Karchana and Handia, Bachchan said: “I am not only ‘bahu’ of this city but of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Uttar Pradesh, where people respect and love not only their daughters but also daughters-in-law.”

She added in the same vein: “I have always got your love and affection in the past and I am confident that you will not let me down this time.”

In an obvious defence of a much criticised advertisement where Amitabh Bachchan describes Uttar Pradesh as “Uttam Pradesh” (supreme state) where “crime was low”, Bachchan said: “My husband did not say that there is no crime here; all he meant to emphasise was that there was less crime here than in so many other states in the country – a fact borne out by an official report tabled in the parliament as well.”

She skilfully averted the rather sensitive issue of the Samajwadi Party MP from Allahabad Atiq Khan, who is facing several criminal cases including murder. His brother is being fielded as the party’s candidate in this assembly election and Bachchan was here last month with Mulayam Singh Yadav sharing the dais with him.

How will this goes down with the voters here is yet to be seen. Which ‘bahu’ will get the votes, and whose family is the better draw – it will all be known next week when the results are declared.