Kishori Lal Sharma deserves mention as a politician who has introduced a certain dignity to the 18th Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP).

The soft spoken Sharma is the Congress candidate from the Amethi parliamentary constituency where voting takes place in the fifth phase of the elections on May 20.

Ever since his candidature was announced last Friday, he has refused to bad mouth his main opponent in Amethi Union Minister Smriti Irani. Sharma appears on the rough and tumble political landscape of UP garbed in an old world charm where the virtues of the rival are resented, as well as celebrated.

Urdu poetry is filled with praise for the rival for his good taste of falling in love with the same beloved as him. “‘tujhse kheli hain woh mehboob hawaain jin mein… uss kay malboos ki afsurda mehak baaqi hai… aa ke wabasta hain woh husn ki yaadein tumse jinne iis dil ko pari khana banaya tha’ (the same beloved breeze has played with you in which the reek of melancholy still lingers in the garment… come as you keep alive memories of the beauty responsible for having once made my heart a land of fairies)”.

Even as Sharma promises to trounce Irani in the elections, he does not speak about his political opponent as if she was his enemy. Sharma who is contesting elections for the first time in his life said, “I don’t think I am a weak candidate. I know Amethi more than Smriti Irani does, that is why I will win”.

At a time when electoral rivalry is reduced to personal enmity, Sharma does not hit below the belt and he remains calm and congenial while talking to the media. When dubbed a ‘peon’ of the Gandhi family by a political opponent, Sharma politely said that he was not a paid servant of the Gandhis but a loyal soldier of the Congress.

He was a politician who has been nursing Amethi and Raebareli for over four decades as he believes in the direction that Congress wants to take India. He knows every nook and cranny of Amethi and Raebareli and the name of most of the residents. He owns a petrol pump in Punjab and a bicycle agency which takes care of the expenses of his family.

Originally from Punjab, Sharma came to UP in 1983 as a member of the Youth Congress. Ever since, Sharma has worked silently and consistently without boasting. Inspired by former prime minister Indira Gandhi, Sharma joined the Congress in his early 20s.

His selfless attitude attracted the attention of the sixth prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who made him in-charge of the area. Sharma became Sonia Gandhi’s close aide after the death of Rajiv Gandhi and managed her victory from Raebareli in 1999.

Sharma is making his electoral debut at a time when the political discourse in UP has turned unbearably toxic. It has been stripped of wit, humour and poetry with politicians spewing hateful words at each other. However Sharma is proof that decency has a place in politics and that it is possible to be amiable and congenial in public life.

Hotbed Of Politics

Uttar Pradesh is a hotbed of politics, and the home of nine out of 14 Prime Ministers of the country. The state is the cradle of the Independence movement and birthplace of the revolutionary cry “Inquilab Zindabad” (long live the revolution) coined by Urdu poet Hasrat Mohani who died in 1951.

During the freedom struggle Subhash Chandra Bose had cried, “‘Tum mujhe khoon do main tumhe azadi doonga’ (give me blood and I will give you freedom)”. Mahatma Gandhi’s popular saying was, “‘Karo ya Maro’ (do or die)”. The country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had famously said, “‘Aaram hai Haram’ (rest is impossible)”.

In Independent India election time had inspired poets to bring out the best in them as they had helped politicians to raise quick witted slogans and jingles to communicate with the people.

“‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ (hail the soldier and hail the farmer)” simple words used by PM Lal Bahadur Shastri had a powerful effect on the electorate. To which another PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had added “‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan’ (hail soldier, hail son of the soil, hail science)” in 1998 after the nuclear bomb tests in Pokhran.

Indira Gandhi’s tenure had raised the catchy “‘Garibi Hatao’ (end poverty)” to impress the poor of the country. Jayaprakash Narayan in response to the Emergency had coined “‘Indira Hatao Desh Bachao’ (remove Indira save the republic)” in 1977.

In UP the Congress has been out of power for nearly three decades and a recent jingle reads, “‘27 saal, UP behaal’ (27 years UP feels helpless)”. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has come up with “‘Betiyon ko muskurane do, Behenji ko aane do’ (let daughters’ smile, bring back sister Mayawati)”.

In the past the BSP had made crude claims like “‘Tilak, taraazu aur talvaar, inko maaro jutey chaar’ (tilak, weighing scales and sword deserve a kick)” and “‘Haathi Nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma Vishnu Mahesh hai’ (not an elephant but the elephant god Ganesh and the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh)” and “‘Chadh goondon ki chhati par, mohar lagegi haathi par’ (stand upon the chest of lumpens, the elephant will get the stamp)”.

For Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav who is contesting from Kannauj his followers chant “‘Vikas ka Pahiya, Akhilesh Bhaiyya’ (brother Akhilesh is the wheel of development)” and “‘Sab bolo dil se, Akhilesh Bhaiyya phir se’ (from the heart say, brother Akhilesh once again)”.

Seeking Divine Intervention

Voting will take place in Kannauj in the fourth phase on May 13.

To request divine intervention, Akhilesh Yadav had visited the Siddh Baba Gaurishankar Mahadev temple last Monday to pray. After the prayer ceremony some ruling party workers had allegedly washed the temple with the holy water of the River Ganges.

Yadav belongs to the ‘backward caste’ which is scorned by ‘upper caste’ members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). An annoyed Yadav told the media that the ruling party will be washed away by his slogan of “Pichda, Dalit, Alpsankhak”, (PDA) in the on-going Lok Sabha elections just like its workers had washed the temple after his visit.

The cutest chant was heard in Mainpuri in favour of the SP candidate Dimple Yadav, “‘Jeet ki Chaabi, Dimple Bhabhi’ sister-in-law Dimple is the key to victory).

Rajput Versus Yadav

Dimple Yadav is the wife of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and she has contested from Mainpuri where voting took place in the third phase on May 7.

Mainpuri is the heartland of the Yadav community. Out of the total population of nearly 12 lakh people, 35 percent are Yadavs. SP founder and supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav had won elections from Mainpuri five times.

After his death in 2022, daughter-in-law Dimple won Mainpuri by a margin of 2.88 lakh votes. Hindus are 94 percent of Mainpuri’s population out of which the Rajputs total about 1.25 lakhs and are an influential community.

The population of Muslim voters is about 60,000 which is being wooed by both the SP and the BSP. The ruling party candidate is Jaiveer Singh, a Thakur.

Dimple was born in a Thakur family and was hopeful of the support of both the Thakur and the Yadav communities in Mainpuri. On the eve of the polls however, the ruling party blamed the SP for insulting Thakur icon Maharana Pratap Singh by climbing up the Rajput hero’s statue in Mainpuri.

A video was released on social media where BJP workers were seen washing the statue of the mediaeval Rajput king with holy water, and hurling abuses at the Yadavs, including using unparliamentary language against Dimple.

The SP workers had earlier shouted “‘Jai Shiva Sardar ki, Jai Maharana Pratap ki’ (hail Shiva, hail Maharana Pratap)” during an impressive roadshow led by Akhilesh Yadav in support of his wife Dimple in Mainpuri.

The SP workers said that they had gone to the statue of Maharana Pratap Singh to hoist the party flag out of respect for the great Rajput warrior.