In high-pitch poll battle, she silently follows a weekly ritual

Natarajan in Neemuch, Friday.PTI Natarajan in Neemuch, Friday. PTI

Only three days remain before campaigning comes to an end in Mandsaur, but Congress candidate Meenakshi Natarajan did not utter a word all through Saturday during her visit to nearly two dozen villages in her constituency.

The 40-year-old observes a maun vrat every Saturday — a ritual she chose to observe even at this crucial stage in the campaign, when candidates are usually busy racing against time to persuade voters to support them.

Natarajan, a confidante of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, kept silent as local leaders, including district Congress chief Prakash Ratadia, addressed small rallies in her presence.

“It’s not a political gimmick but a personal rule she strictly follows. She meets people but does not talk to anyone, even switches off her phone on Saturday,” Ratadia, who addressed rallies on her behalf, told The Sunday Express over phone.

If the matter is very urgent, Natarajan uses a pen and paper to communicate.

Ratadia said the sitting MP began the ritual four years ago and draws spiritual energy by keeping silent for 24 hours. In the 2009 elections, the young leader had defeated BJP veteran Laxminaryan Pande, senior to her by more than four decades. Mandsaur was among the 15 seats chosen for primaries by the Congress.

BJP candidate Sudhir Gupta said he respects his rival’s “personal choice of silence for a day”. But on other days, the 56-year-old said, she has to answer for failing to keep her promises. “I don’t know whether the practice helps boost her image but she will lose because of the Narendra Modi wave,” he said.

AICC chief Sonia Gandhi addressed a rally in Neemuch in Natarajan’s support on Friday, while Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan held one at the same venue on Saturday — a sign of how important the fight is for both parties.