Singles’ day out They are single, but not ready to mingle. In the ongoing General Elections, they are the faces of their respective parties and will play a major role in the post-poll scenario. Team Day After explores how important these leaders are in the 15th Lok Sabha elections What is common between Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Narendra Modi, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa? The answer is simple: They are all major political leaders in the world’s largest democracy. But there is another angle to it — they all are still unmarried. Yes, now it might have struck you, isn’t it? Oscar Wilde had said once, “By persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation.” When legendary cricket umpire Dickey Bird was asked why he had not got married, he said that he was already married to the game of cricket. Similarly, it seems that veteran politicians like Banerjee, Modi, Mayawati, Jayalalithaa and Patnaik have prefered another way of entering into matrimony i.e. marriage with politics. We are leaving Rahul out of the race since, hopefully, he will tie the knot later. India has had a history of political leaders who never got married, the notable names being A B Vajpayee, Uma Bharti, K M Govindacharya and the names mentioned above. Each had his/her strength and mass appeal with which he/she gained political grounds. We are drawing closer to the election results of the 15th Lok Sabha, and interestingly, the above-mentioned names can change a lot of equations in the post-poll scenario. But, what has marriage got to do with their political acumen? In one sense, nothing, since they could have anyways reached the pinnacle of success in their political careers even had they tied the nuptial knot. Each has his charm that helps him or her to make a dent into his or her enemy’s vote bank. If Banerjee draws her support from the grass-root level, Jayalalithaa has quite cleverly worked on her mentor’s support to make a mark of her own. Modi on the other hand has transformed himself into one of the most successful Chief Ministers in the country. Rahul faces the first major test of his life, as he travels the length and breadth of the country to garner votes for his party. Over the last few months, we have been flooded with a plethora of serious articles on who forms the government. This is just an attempt to analyse the political scenario from a different angle. So, how crucial are these single leaders? Here’s how they can make or break a government. Rahul Gandhi Forget M S Dhoni, Rahul Gandhi is the most eligible bachelor in the country now. On the personal front, the son of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and current Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, had a girlfriend. But stories are that they have split. He is the face of the Congress party and hailed as the most accomplished to sit in the PM’s chair in the future. Various surveys indicate that there are some sections which already want him as the prime minister if the Congress comes to power. Since joining politics a few years back (surprisingly, it was her sister Priyanka who was considered to be a better bet), the St. Stephen’s educated 39-year-old man, has made his political statement with his suavity. His youth mantra is gaining momentum and his call for reservation of seats in the Parliament for youths has only added to his popularity. Interestingly, the immaturity he showed before, is making way for a much more composed tone. Statements like he made in 2007 while campaigning for the party in the 2007 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, “If anyone from the Gandhi-Nehru family had been active in politics then, the Babri Masjid would not have fallen,” may have rubbed many even within his own party the wrong way, but Rahul is playing his cards close to his chest. Reacting to his cousin, Varun Gandhi’s communal remarks against Muslims, he said, “I am surprised by his views. Life is full of surprises. Those are his views. I have my views. I don’t carry hate and anger with me. Hatred and anger blind you,” was how he reacted to Varun’s remarks. With the largest number of youths voting this time, the Congress party is counting on Rahul’s charm and appeal. Mayawati The daughter of a clerk, Mayawati’s rise in Indian politics is exemplary. There is hardly anything about her love life to talk about (marriage is the last thing in her mind at 53). The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has already made her aspirations clear to don the responsibility of the prime minister. A protégé of Kansi Ram, the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Mayawati claims to be the face of the Scheduled Castes and has played the caste card with perfection over the years to rise in the echelons of Indian politics. This time around, Mayawati is the most important player of the Third Front. On her movements the future of the front depends a lot. Despite being in the Third Front, Mayawati is keeping her options open though, and this what makes her stance very critical. She had won 19 seats in the 2004 General Elections, but is expected to improve on the tally this time around. Opinion polls have suggested that she might end up with 40 seats this year, which means she will be a major player in the post poll scenario. She does have her advantages— the Bharatiya Janata Party has further alienated Muslim voters thanks to Varun Gandhi’s comments and her long-time rival Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav’s shaking hands with former CM Kalyan Singh, under whose tenure Babri Masjid was demolished, strengthens her chances as a secularist force. She is one leader that every party is trying to keep in good humour, be it the Congress or the Left parties. What she does ultimately will be interesting to watch. Narendra Modi It is true that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi (59) is not contesting the Lok Sabha polls this year, but he is one of the biggest players in these polls especially for the BJP. He is sometimes rumoured to be married to a school teacher but there is no official word on that front from Modi. He is a self professed bachelor. When Godhra happened in February 2002, nobody had thought that he would be able to survive the carnage in which thousands of Muslims were killed. However, he came unscathed in the Assembly polls held just after the riots. He has carved a niche for himself for being a development-oriented chief minister. Whether secularists like it or not, Modi ran Gujarat like a company heading it as its CEO. Under his rule Gujarat developed leaps and bounds. During the 2007 Assembly polls, Modi fought it on the development plank and came up trumps. Needless to emphasise, this victory for Modi completely altered the landscape of Indian politics — both within the BJP and outside. From then on, Modi became one of the tallest leaders within the BJP. He is one of the very few leaders in the party who have achieved spectacular electoral successes consistently — something that can be rivalled in Indian electoral history only by a Jawaharlal Nehru, a Jyoti Basu or an M G Ramachandran. If he is able to win most of the Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat and BJP does well where Modi campaigned, his stature will grow even further. The BJP is banking heavily on the Modi factor and he is travelling all across the country to campaign for the party. This proves how important a factor he is for the party. Over the years, his reputation as an efficient administrator has increased making him a PM choice too, as some survey results proved. Mamata Banerjee Didi (elder sister) has been fighting for a cause for the last two decade—throwing the Left Front out of power in West Bengal. The Trinamool Congress leader knows that this is perhaps her last chance to disrupt the Left equations in West Bengal. Like in the case of Mayawati, you really need to struggle to find some romantic link-ups in her life, which is dedicated to the people, as Banerjee (54) herself would like to prefer. Many in the political circuit tend to write her off as an emotional fool. But at the same time, her mass appeal is unquestionable and her party men make political capital encashing her name only. In this General Election, Banerjee has joined hands with the Congress to eat into the Left Front’s voting bank. Her victory in Nandigram bye-election and triumph in the Panchayat Elections in both Nandigram and Singur — areas which have hogged the limelight, have given a severe jolt to the ruling Left Front. But there are experts who feel that she was the one who forced the Tatas out of Singur where the company had set up its Nano factory, and her opponents (read the Left Front is going all out in this campaign). This can turn the tables on her, some opine. Banerjee has to counter this challenge. She had won just one seat in the last General Elections, and it remains to be seen how far she goes this time. J Jayalalithaa She is the last hope of the AIADMK launched by her co-star and mentor, former Tamil Nadu chief minister, M G Ramachandran. Amma or Puratchi Thalaivi , as she is lovingly called by her supporters is trying to make a comeback. And her desperation is visible. Firstly, she asked the Congress to cut off ties with the DMK and then she became one of the most vocal leaders championing the cause of the Third Front. Single but not ready to mingle, she has all this while shown utmost commitment to her mentor MGR with whom her equation went beyond the silver screen. But the question is: what impact can a regional leader like Jayalalithaa (61) make in the post poll scenario? She drew a blank in the 2004 parliamentary elections. But as things stand now, she is likely to make significant progress this time. Despite being in the Third Front, she is keeping her options open like Mayawati. But it will ultimately boil down to how many seats she ends up with. In the case of a disastrous performance like in 2004, her dream of returning to national limelight will fall flat. But the ruling DMK is fighting the anti-incumbency factor and Jayalalithaa has to cash in on this. Knowing her, if at all she manages to ride on the anti-incumbency wave, you might even see her returning to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance of which she was part, though she has categorically ruled it out. Naveen Patnaik When he first joined politics after his father Biju Patnaik’s death, he was considered to be a novice. His weakness with his native language made his critics write him off. But years down the line, he has proved them wrong with his deft administrative skills as the Orissa Chief Minister. Why he hasn’t tied the knot is a question not answered, but the Biju Janata Dal chief is a major force to reckon with in the General Elections. Incidentally, Orissa also hosted its Assembly Elections simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls. Patnaik (62) left the BJP-led NDA on the ground of the Kandhamal communal riots to show solidarity with the Third Front, and this has upset many calculations. Patnaik seems to be gauging the scenario. Though the Orissa CM has made his stance very clear when he said in an interview, “Let me assure you on behalf of my party, we will not back a Congress or BJP-led government at the centre. We hope to do very well in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections and we will use our strength in Orissa to strengthen the centre,” but, you never know in politics. What can actually worry the Congress is his hobnobbing with the Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar who is still a member of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. With the Lalu-Mulayam-Paswan support looking uncertain at this point of time, Sonia Gandhi has reasons to be bothered by the Pawar-Patnaik bonhomie. Definitely, Patnaik whose party won 11 seats last time, has emerged as a key player.