Soccer samba in mayor poll

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In soccer season, a classic shot — and not the Marcelo misadventure — is what some young Ranchi mayoral aspirants are hoping for to score against opponents in the civic polls slated on June 23.


As Brazil beat Croatia, 3-1, in the opener of what football fanatics call the biggest show on earth, Fifa World Cup 2014, at Sao Paulo, Brazil, many mayoral candidates in Ranchi are piggybacking on “soccer-samba” for better mass connect.


This year, 14 candidates of various political parties and Independents are in the fray for the June 23 polls, including the controversial Rama Khalkho, whose alleged cash-for-votes bid in April 2013 led to last year’s mayoral elections being countermanded. Mud stuck on then Congress MP and Khalkho’s biggest backer Subodh Kant Sahay, who went on to lose Lok Sabha polls last month.


It’s mud of a different kind that mayoral aspirant Lokesh Khalkho is enjoying. Lokesh campaigned from St Paul’s school grounds where youths were practising football in a bid to connect with “the young generation”.


“My idea was to build rapport with the boys and connect mayoral campaign with the game. I engaged in some dribbling. Then, I listened to their hopes and dreams about Ranchi. The boys were happy and said nobody had chosen their grounds to campaign before. I have promised them that if all goes well, I will try to do something for developing the grounds and promoting the game here,” Lokesh said.


Did he watch the opener? “Oh, yes. I am a huge Brazil fan. I grew up listening to the tales of the legendary Pele from my dad,” Lokesh said, adding he might campaign from Morabadi football stadium too.


Ajsu-backed Varsha Gari is also no less of a football buff, which reflects in her campaign at Harmu grounds during a B-division football league match. “I love the game and am rooting for Argentina this world cup,” said the self-confessed Lionel Messi fan.


She added football was a good way to establish mass contact. “I spearheaded the drive for a national meet at Harmu grounds last year. We also sent 16 of our soccer players later for a national camp in Ajmer. So, if I win, people will know football will flourish,” Gari chuckled.


Mayoral aspirant and architecture graduate Naveen Lakra, another soccer fan who said he had played state-level football in school, wistfully said he “would have liked to pursue the game”.


“I wanted the football as my election symbol but got a bat instead,” Naveen laughed. “Football is a great leveller and unifier. During campaigns, I am stressing on creating playing grounds in Ranchi.”


Whistleblower Durga Oraon, who backed out from Lok Sabha polls, but is campaigning to become Ranchi mayor, had the last word. “As a football fan and honest citizen, if elected I will try to uproot graft from civic schemes and sports. I am waiting for June 23 (poll day). After that, I’ll switch off from this world and tune into Fifa,” said the diehard Brazil fan.


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