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Wake Up Rai Bareilly
|by Usha Kakkar|
Today, I stand before you, my dear brothers and sisters of Rae Bareilly, to beg for your support. Begging isn't exactly something I would boast on my resume; nevertheless I shall take a crack at it today. I am going to make an attempt, which political pundits will predictably write off as futile, to resuscitate you from the clutches of Madam.
By virtue of having been in the spotlight for decades, Rae Bareilly is an essential ingredient in the ever simmering cauldron of Hindi heartland politics, just like an item number in a Bollywood masala film today. Without it, life wouldn't be fun anymore.
You are impervious to whatever I say - you people will not vote for Sonia, you will vote for the Gandhi family irrespective of their first name. Such is the glamour of the power surname that even Mahatma Gandhi, the original Gandhi, would lose these elections if he stood opposite your bahu.
You voted Indira Gandhi into power in 1971 and then again in 1980. For a constituency that has been the Prime Minister's constituency for so long, I fail to see what you people are pleased about. I must remind you that it is the same constituency that this Gandhi family dumped in favor of Amethi in the 80s and through the 90s with Rajiv Gandhi choosing to nurture his brother's dream and not his mother's karmabhoomi. Even your beloved bahu first ran for elections from safer Amethi before turning it into a nursery for her political green-horn son Rahul. Only when she needed an equally trustworthy electorate for herself, she turned to you, asking family friend Satish Sharma to vacate to nearby Sultanpur. The Gandhi family has been treating this district like its ancestral fiefdom.
On the contrary, what has this family provided you in return for your decades of servitude, allegiance and loyalty? Literacy rates are at abysmally low levels at hardly 55%. The literacy rate for the nation is 65%. Ironically the community is represented by a Cambridge educated scholar. Female literacy is shockingly low at a meager 40% in a constituency headed by a woman! It is outrageous that 55% of the population is below the poverty line in a district which sends the most powerful family in the country to the parliament. 46% girls who get married are below the legally permissible age of 18 years. Merely 52% children have been immunized while barely 58% households have access to safe drinking water. The overall ranking of the Rae Bareilly district out of 569 districts of India according to the Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) Program is a pitiable 473! The reality on ground is alarming and a world apart from what the newspapers project. Courtesy the ever obliging celebrity obsessed media you hungrily ogle at photogenic Gandhis in Gucci sunglasses, kissing babies flashing their pearlies for the cameras. What you do not spot is that the infants are naked, undernourished and sick.
Maybe calling yourself a VIP constituency is solely that excites you. If that is so, then I shall not deprive you of this strange addiction. If it is not water or education or health care that you yearn for, then I could suggest Shah Rukh Khan as a more appropriate representative to the Parliament. You cannot have a more important and powerful person in India today.
However, if it is development and a better life that you seek, maybe it is about time you look beyond the supremacy of the surname. Look at the person asking you for your vote. Don't vote for someone who uses the election process as a mechanism for popularity and sainthood. Show the bahu the door this time. This is not a soap opera. This is your life.
Your vote is all that you have and you have a bright future to lose if you don't exercise it wisely. Wake up Rae Bareilly.
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