Updated: May 6, 2014 2:04:33 am
Rajni Rawat of the third gender, accompanied by about 20 others, was at the gate of Balmiki temple grounds in Dehradun’s Nai Basti on May 1, welcoming people to an election rally. While greeting the visitors, Rajni was also blessing them. Finally, Rajni’s chief guest, Saket Bahuguna, who is former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna’s son and the Congress nominee from the Tehri parliamentary seat, made an appearance amid drumbeats. Rajni escorted him to the dais.
“He is like my nephew. Trust me and vote for Saket. If you fail to find him after the elections, you can catch me at my residence. Rajni ka chehra dekhkar vote dena hai,” Rajni introduced Saket to voters, referring to her own credibility.
Rajni needs no introduction as a political player, having bagged around 45,000 votes during mayoral elections in 2008 and 2013, though she lost both. She has a strong network, particularly among the economically downtrodden, whom she reportedly helps financially.
Saket, who is aware of Rajni’s popularity, addressed her as bua (paternal aunt). “I express gratitude to buaji for seeking votes for me. She had supported us during 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the result went in our favour. In the 2012 bypolls, we were not together and the result went against us. We have corrected that mistake and buaji is with us this time,” he said amid thunderous applause.
Saket was referring to his father’s victory in 2009 from Tehri with Rajni’s support and his own defeat in the 2012 bypolls, which was necessitated by his father’s resignation after becoming the CM.
Vijay Bahuguna did not miss her show either. He joined the rally a little later. “Your maharani is Rajni. The days of raja-maharaja is over,” he said, indirectly referring to his political rival and BJP nominee Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah. She is the daughter-in-law of erstwhile Tehri royal family scion Manbendra Shah, who has represented this seat a record eight times.
Although father and son have undertaken intensive campaigning in the past one month, they are reportedly finding it difficult to counter the BJP candidate in urban parts — home to a majority of voters of this constituency. The constituency is spread across 14 assembly segments and seven of them are in Dehradun city. In 2012, Saket had difficulty wooing the urban voters.
Shah was elected to the Lok Sabha one-and-a-half years ago and has been in touch with her voters since then — visiting people in slums and making frequent trips to disaster hit areas. Narendra Modi, who addressed a rally at Herbertpur in the constituency on April 29, described Shah thus: “She rises above politics to do social work.”
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