New Delhi: At a time when reports of Azam Khan – the Samajwadi Party candidate for Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur Lok Sabha constituency – allegedly making an offensive remark on Jaya Prada, his opponent from the BJP, are doing the rounds, a video of two rival candidates in Assam’s Guwahati Lok Sabha constituency dancing together to a Bihu tune is being shared widely on social media.
The clip is of Congress’s Bobbeeta Sharma and Queen Ojha from the BJP.
Several people from the state appreciated the gesture on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, terming it ‘good political culture’ of the state.
Nothing unites people of #Assam like Bihu. @INCIndiaLive and @BJP4India candidates for #Guwahati seat @bobbeeta and Queen Oja take a break from campaigning to join the #RongaliBihu celebrations. #LokSabhaElections2019 #FestivalOfUnity pic.twitter.com/74K5BkL6gb
— Anupam Bordoloi (@asomputra) April 15, 2019
Though BJP’s Bijoya Chakraborty has won the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat thrice since 1999, it is for the first time that two women are challenging each other in a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP. The Asom Gana Parishad, as per its pre-poll alliance with the BJP, has left ten of the state’s 14 seats for the saffron party and the prestigious Guwahati seat is among them.
Upamanyu Hazarika, a Supreme Court senior lawyer and convener of the anti-immigrant platform, Prabajan Virodhi Manch, is another candidate trying to attract the majority Assamese khilonjia (indigenous) votes in these elections.
Even though two more phases of electioneering are to take place in the state, amid the seven-day-long celebrations of Rongali Bihu that marks the Assamese New Year starting from April 13, a wide part of the state is in a festive mood. In a subtle manner, both the Congress and the BJP candidates are trying to interact with voters at such sites.
The Latasil grounds of Guwahati city is the oldest venue for Bihu dance and celebrations. On April 14, Bobbeeta Sharma, accompanied by the former chief minister and Congress strongman Tarun Gogoi landed up there to take part in the festivity. So did the BJP candidate, Queen Ojha. Together, they joined the public to groove to Bihu steps in tune with folk songs.
Sharma told reporters that Assam has had “an interesting culture where social life is more important.”
“It is a public place and we are here to meet and greet people,” she said.
An octogenarian, Gogoi, who also displayed his dancing skills to the assembled crowd, said, “Despite election campaigns, people cutting across political lines are here, enjoying Bihu. We are criticising each other in poll rallies. It should always be like this.”
In 2017, the then newly-elected chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal was seen taking blessings from Gogoi at Latasil. Sonowal later tweeted saying, “It is our tradition to take blessings from our elders from the occasion of Bohag Bihu. With former chief minister Tarun Gogoi sir at Latasil.”
BJP’s Ojha too told reporters, “Through song and dance, we enjoyed with people and I also wanted people to see what I am as a real person, not politician.”
It was barely two weeks ago that Ojha had landed in a controversy for allegedly submitting a false certificate of her educational qualification in support of her nomination for the polls. Though she reportedly submitted in her affidavit that she had completed a ‘higher secondary’ degree from the Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University in 2011, the university vice-chancellor Hitesh Deka told reporters that the institution never offered a ‘higher secondary’ course.
Both her opponents – Sharma and Upamanyu Hazarika – spoke to reporters about seeking “legal help” to cancel Ojha’s nomination. However, the presiding officer, after scrutinising the papers, declared that the information furnished by her was true.
The Lok Sabha constituency is going to polls in the third phase on April 23.