When MNS Lok Sabha nominee for Mumbai South constituency Bala Nandgaokar, Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant and a few of their rival candidates attended a "meet your candidate" program on Monday, none of them was wearing a politician's trademark attire – white kurta. All of them came in crisp well-fitted white shirts with full sleeves.
Mumbai North-East candidates the Congress's Sanjay Dina Patil and Kirit Somiaya of the BJP both wear white shirts so as Sanjay Nirupam, the sitting MP and Congress nominee for Mumbai-North. Nirupam was seen in kurtas during the 2009 polls. He uses colours and stripes as well.
For first-time candidates like MNS'Aditya Shirodkar and his opponent Shiv Sena's Rahul Shewale, both trying their luck at the South-Central constituency, the dress code is "cool white" shirts only. Women candidates too are not lagging behind. Priya Dutt and Poonam Mahajan can be seen in chudidaar-kurta unlike yesteryear's women leaders.
Dressing up like a commoner seems to be a trend in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. "Politicians cutting across the party line have taken their cue from Aam Aadmi Party founder and ex-Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who struck a chord with the middle class with his simple attire," said a leader.
Shaina NC, a fashion designer and BJP leader denied that the trend has anything to do with the Kejriwal. "Times have changed hence politicians' dress style has also changed," Shaina said. Nizamuddin Rayeen, a congress leader also defended, "Shirts are more comfortable in the summer, especially since the leaders have to attend so many rallies and make padyatras."
Citizens are welcoming the change. "I would feel more comfortable if my neta dresses up like one of us," said Shweta Rane, a post-graduate student. Homemaker Renuka Singh says, "Actually, many films and TV serials had portrayed politicians negatively. Therefore, kurta and saree-clad politicians don't appeal to people anymore."
Netas from Maharashtra know it well. Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar, Suresh Shetty, Parful Patel, Devendra Fadnavis and many others mostly wear shirts. While Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's jackets attract his rivals too, Ajit Pawar's colourful kurtas are widely discussed among them.
Khadi out, linen in
Khadi, once the style statement of politicians until recently, seems to be losing the battle against the smarter, finer and costlier linen. Madhav Agasti, a Bandra-based designer who stitches dresses for the politicians across India, says, "Today, linen is the preferred material. The fabric is much in demand due to its richness, softness and fineness." Agasti says the Khadi ranges from Rs100-2,000 a meter, while linen goes up to Rs5,000 a meter (Rs10,000 for woollen linen).