Indian election elicits keen interest in Pakistan (Election Special)

Lahore, April 16: Will Narendra Modi win? Will India get a stable government? What are Arvind Kejriwal’s prospects? Is the Congress finished? The questions fly thick and fast in Pakistan, where interest in India’s ongoing parliamentary election runs high, for once overriding questions on all other issues including Kashmir.

An IANS journalist who visited Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, to cover the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, was bombarded with dozens of questions on the world’s largest electoral exercise.

There was not a single question on Kashmir!

Many Pakistanis have their favourites in the Indian political landscape. Clearly, Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, is not the most liked Indian politician.

Activist-turned-politician Kejriwal’s popularity has transcended the borders. He is a favourite with many in Pakistan.

“I would like to see Arvind Kejriwal heading the Delhi government again,” businessman Hardeep Khullar, a Pakistani Hindu, told IANS.

“I think whatever he did during his short stint (as chief minister) is commendable,” said Khullar.

Naved Siddiqui, a 40-year-old working in the hospitality sector, agreed, comparing Kejriwal with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) once created ripples like the AAP.

“We see a similar spark in Kejriwal,” said Siddiqui. “His Aam Aadmi Party did wonders even during the short stint. I want him to win because I like his ideology.”

Many Pakistanis seemed to see Kejriwal as a young and energetic leader who has his heart in the right place.

“Kejriwal is the youngest of the lot. So I want him to win,” 22-year-old fashionista Anum Sana told IANS, quickly adding that she would also like Modi to win “since he is a bachelor”.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is out of the reckoning as far as Pakistanis are concerned.

Despite the publicity he is garnering, Modi remains an enigma in Pakistan.

Nawazzudin Khan, a young entrepreneur and PR consultant, felt that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had erred by declaring Modi its prime ministerial candidate.

“Modi is still struggling to wash away the blot of Gujarat’s riots of 2002,” said Khan. “Also, his attitude towards the Muslim ‘topi’ (skullcap) is something that is not appreciated here.”

Interestingly, most Pakistanis feel that India won’t get a stable government even after this Lok Sabha election, notwithstanding the hue and cry over a possible Modi-led BJP victory.

“I guess it’s going to be a ‘khichdi sarkar’ in India, a coalition government, instead of a single party government,” felt Ghulam Allauddin, an Islamabad resident.

“But, yes, Modi is emerging stronger,” he added.

Amarpreet Ahluwalia, a Pakistani Sikh who lives in Karachi, felt political parties were wasting too much money on the election campaign.

“I have been hearing a lot of songs on ‘Modi ki Sarkar’. They (BJP) have spent so much money on advertisement. I wish they spend this kind of money on the common man,” he said.

“It would have made a whole lot of difference,” he added.

Pakistanis, who have visited India, underline that Lahore resembles Delhi. And many felt there is much in common between the campaign rhetoric in the two countries.

When it comes to rhetoric and mud-slinging, India and Pakistan seem to be on the same pedestal, some of those who spoke to IANS said.

“People in India are simply pointing fingers at one another to score brownie points. That’s what happens in Pakistan too,” said Mohsin Rehman, a young taxi driver.

(Nivedita can be contacted at nivedita.s@ians.in)

IANS