Patna is ready to vote again — not on ballots or EVMs, but online.
Students across campuses and youngsters formed serpentine queues at cyber cafés on Monday to vote for Shilpa Singh although most of them came to know about the Bihar girl competing for the Miss Universe crown only a couple of days ago.
Shilpa, born in Samastipur but brought up in Mumbai in her teenage years, seemed to be a craze among Patna residents who championed many a reality television contestant in the past. But this contest is quite tough as Shilpa will have to fight it out against 88 other country representatives at the Miss Universe pageant at PH Live, Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, on December 19. If Shilpa secures maximum number of votes, she will sail through to the semi-finals.
With only a few hours left for voting, NIFT Patna faculty Toni Sharma has asked his students to vote for Shilpa, who spent her childhood in Muzaffarpur, Ranchi and Jamshedpur before moving to Mumbai. “I thought my students were busy with their exams but I was wrong. Gradually, I came to know that around 45 per cent of them have already voted for her,” said Toni.
The Niftians, considered to be quite stylish, think Shilpa — who will appear in an Anjalee and Arjun Kapoor neon pink dress in the grand finale — is a strong contestant for the crown. “I just love her toned body and her Indian cocktail as well as western looks,” said Ujjwala Roy, a student of NIFT Patna.
The “Titali Gang” headed by Anubha of Magadh Mahila College left all the girls behind by voting for Shilpa. “Besides our classmates and seniors, all of us have requested our family members to support Shilpa,” said Anubha.
Anyone above 16 years can vote for a contestant 10 times every day.
Amitabh Singh, the owner of a cyber café in Maurya Lok, was seen requesting every customer to vote for Shilpa. “Till now, I have asked around 35 people to vote for her. We can make an international benchmark and I want to be a part of it,” said Amitabh.
Incidentally, Shilpa’s family members did not hope for such support from her state of birth. “We have not got expected votes from my hometown Samastipur as well as Patna,” Shilpa’s brother Salab Singh told The Telegraph from Pune.
He added that a buzz has been created in the colleges and the schools in west Mumbai. Nivedita Jha, a professor of mass communication and journalism at Patna University, showed her dissatisfaction over the lack of posters and billboards in the city. “When we can have poster for Ritika Raj (Indian Idol), Mayuresh Wadkar (Dance India Dance), then why can’t we have at least a couple of posters for Shilpa who is representing India on the global stage?” she asked.
But residents of Bishnupur Diha village in Samastipur district, around 150km northeast of Patna, are elated. Village head Brajendra Kumar Singh Murari said: “We are proud of Shilpa. We pray to God for her success.”
Murari added: “We never thought that a girl of my panchayat will represent India in the US. Shilpa’s family visits the village regularly as her grandmother Brinda Devi lives here.”
Salab agreed: “We keep on going to Samastipur. In spite of time crunch, my father takes us all to our village on different occasions.”
Shilpa’s LKG teacher at North Point Children Public School, Premlata Sinha, recalled: “I asked her a few questions in the viva voce. She came out with flying colours in all the final exams from LKG to Class II.”