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What’s in 11 names? Go for lotus

The Bard of Avon must have been a clairvoyant man. Nearly 400 years after Shakespeare left behind for posterity an immortal phrase, BJP worker Sohanlal Sahu has been advising voters in Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh, not to read the names on the electronic voting machine.

What’s in a name, he asks, although there has been a slight alternation: the BJP’s lotus has replaced the rose of Romeo and Juliet. “Just press the button against the lotus symbol,” Sahu tells everyone he meets in Simradi village, some 20km from Dhamtari town under the Mahasamund parliamentary seat.

Reason: The BJP’s Chandu Lal Sahu, the sitting MP, is one of 11 candidates with the same name, Chandu Sahu. Eight of them are Chandu Lal Sahu while the rest are Chandu Ram Sahu. Except for the BJP nominee, all his namesakes are contesting as Independent candidates for the seat.

Sohanlal is worried that voters might get confused when they enter the booths this Thursday. “I am telling voters they should not read the names on the EVM. If they read the names, they may get confused,” he says.

Chandu Lal Sahu, the BJP candidate, is pitted against Congress leader Ajit Jogi. “This is a cheap trick of Ajit Jogi. He has fielded 10 Chandu Lal and Chandu Ram Sahus,” says Chandu Lal. “Jogi expects he will win by this trick. But voters know whom to vote for.”

The Sahus account for a majority of the 14.75 lakh voters in Mahasamund.

Asked about Chandu Lal’s allegation, Jogi said: “I have no idea who these candidates are. I have nothing to do with them.”

The BJP candidate also claims that all his namesake nominees have no connection with politics. “They are all poor people, as is evident from their affidavits. The Rs 25,000 that has been deposited by each are currency notes of the same serial. I have complained to the Election Commission.”

Jogi does not touch upon this topic at all. At meetings, the Congress leader speaks in Chhattisgarhi Hindi, highlighting what he had done for farmers when he was chief minister.

Mahasamund district has hardly any industry. People depend mainly on agriculture. “When I was chief minister, I ensured that farmers got proper price for paddy,” he told a public meeting.

Jogi criticised the Raman Singh government, saying the state’s BJP rulers were claiming credit for welfare schemes started by the UPA government at the Centre.

Jogi moves around in a wheelchair, the result of an accident he met with while campaigning in the 2004 general election. He had won from this constituency then, defeating Vidya Charan Shukla of the BJP, but has surprised many by getting a ticket this time.

“We had heard that Shukla’s daughter would contest from Mahasamund. Now it is Jogi,” says Narayan Sahu of Jee Jam village. “I think this is the last opportunity for Jogi. If he loses, it will be the end of his political career.”

Jogi also knows this election is crucial and cites his health to seek “blessings” from voters. “In my body, four feet and eight inches from the head to my knee is now working fine. I have a problem with my leg, about one foot in length,” he says. “With your blessings, that portion will be all right.”

Mahasamund votes on April 17