The Telegraph
Saturday , March 29 , 2014
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Mark of a man
- Cliché of crumpled kurta-pyjama laid to rest

This Lok Sabha, it’s a three- cornered style battle for the prestigious Jamshedpur constituency.

Forget the trademark campaign gear of crumpled white kurta pyjama and chappals, the three main contestants to watch out for — sitting MP and JVM nominee Ajoy Kumar (51), BJP’s seasoned leader Bidyut Baran Mahto (51) and JMM’s first-timer Niroop Mahanty (64) — are sporting their distinct styles on the campaign trail.

Though not in the same league as say, a Shashi Tharoor or a Naveen Patnaik, the Jamshedpur power troika is certainly blazing a sartorial trail.

Leading the dress code change is MP Kumar, one-time supercop who also happens to be the CEO of Max Neeman International, a drug research knowledge process outsourcing company. Kumar, whose clean-cut good looks in the early 1990s belied his tough SP act, is comfortable sporting trainers, jeans and casual shirts even after his stunning political debut in 2011.

“I believe one should dress in an attire in which one is comfortable rather than aping something for publicity’s sake. One cannot fool people nowadays with gimmicks. More than clothes, people understand the genuine willingness of a politician to solve their problem. I do not want to change my style of dressing simply because I have joined politics,” Kumar, an MBBS-turned-IPS of the 1986 batch, said.

He’s not particular about his shirt brands as long as they are in cotton or khadi. In jeans, he likes his Levis and Flying Machine. A fitness freak, he likes to wear Adidas or Nike trainers when he runs or takes a brisk walk. For campaigns, he is comfortable shod in local brands. And yes, he sports Fast Track or Swatch watches, nothing too fancy.

Former Tata Steel vice-president (HR and IR) and management consultant Mahanty, who joined the JMM earlier this month and is making his poll debut as the common UPA candidate — part of the JMM-Congress seat-sharing pact — on the other hand, is more old school.

He likes his collared shirts and formal trousers. And occasionally, he sports black cord jeans.

“I am partial towards the band collar shirt in linen and cotton,” says the soft-spoken Mahanty. “During campaigning, I wear black cord jeans or formal trousers, whatever I’m comfortable in. For extensive campaigning in rural areas, I prefer Woodland’s ankle boots, while for urban areas, I prefer formal black boots,” Mahanty, who is the wealthiest among the 15 candidates in the fray from Jamshedpur, said. He added that he also slathers on sunscreen (“Lotus 60 SPF”) during campaigns as a health precaution.

MLA from Bahragora and BJP candidate Bidyut Baran, who left the JMM to join the BJP this month, is also sporting a more suave look.

Of the same age bracket as Kumar, Bidyut Maran is also into shirts and trousers. His beard is neatly trimmed. Ask him about his style, and he says: “I usually prefer locally made shirts and trousers. And yes, I don’t like to tuck in my shirts.”

This is a big deal for a party where senior leaders are expected to conform to a traditional look. But BJP spokesperson Anil Modi said though most of their party seniors sport kurta-pyjama, “Bidyutji is already a stalwart in state politics and has his own style. We don’t want him to change it as long as he is comfortable.”

Should leaders dress for comfort or political correctness?