Raising slogans of “Sattu Bhayya zindabad,” supporters of Congress leader Satyanarayan Sharma, party candidate from Raipur, milled around him and demanded that the 70-year-old clamber on board an open jeep to campaign.
A visibly apprehensive Mr. Sharma relented, but had to be supported by Vikas Upadhyay, the young District Congress Committee president.
A former minister, Mr. Sharma is not the only elderly contestant from Raipur. He is pitted against the BJP’s Ramesh Bais, who was born just before India got independence.
“Don’t go by my age. Look at the way I connect with the younger generation,” said Mr. Sharma, pointing to the bikers following him on his roadshow. Mr. Bais, six-time MP from Raipur, also said his age would not be a factor against him in the elections.
“The younger generation wants change this time and they would vote for the BJP to bring in change,” Mr. Bais told this reporter when asked if he faced any problem in connecting with the youth.
In a constituency where the fight is between the BJP and the Congress, the Congress candidate is campaigning on the plank of the “inability of the sitting MP,” while the BJP nominee is distributing copies of a booklet with details of his work.
Mr. Bais refuted the Congress’allegations and claimed that his voters were happy with the development work he had brought in and his performance in the House.
Interestingly, the Congress changed its candidate thrice before settling on Mr. Sharma, who is Raipur (rural) MLA.
Mr. Sharma’s supporters allegedly went on the rampage and damaged the party office in the city when he was initially denied ticket. However, Mr. Sharma said, “They were not my supporters. It was done by the BJP people.”
He faces the ire of some sections of his own party and uncomfortable caste equations in the constituency.
If the former Chhattisgarh Chief Electoral Officer, Sushil Trivedi, is to be believed, it was Congress’ “mismanagement” which turned the Raipur seat into a BJP bastion.
“Mr. Sharma is a powerful leader and has good mass connect, but fielding a Brahmin candidate in a constituency where 50 per cent of voters are OBCs is not viable,” Mr. Trivedi told The Hindu.
The Aam Aadmi Party has fielded Sandip Tiwari, while the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate is Virendra Kumar Daharia. Raipur is among six seats in Chhattisgarh going to the polls on April 24 .