UP election: In Lucknow, Samajwadi Party eyes a clean sweep, BJP a comeback | assembly-elections$uttarpradesh-2017 | Hindustan Times
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UP election: In Lucknow, Samajwadi Party eyes a clean sweep, BJP a comeback

The third phase of voting in Uttar Pradesh is also the battle for the capital, where long queues were seen outside polling booths on Sunday.

assembly elections Updated: Feb 19, 2017 16:12 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey and Pankaj Jaiswal
Voters queue up to cast their votes during the third phase of the UP assembly elections in Lucknow on Sunday.
Voters queue up to cast their votes during the third phase of the UP assembly elections in Lucknow on Sunday. (PTI)

The third phase of voting in Uttar Pradesh is also the battle for the capital, where long queues were seen outside polling booths on Sunday.

The Lucknow district accounts for nine assembly seats that will be fought over by the BJP, which has seen its influence wane over the years, and the ruling Samajwadi Party that has gained at its expense.

There are other players in the mix as well but Lucknow essentially is an SP-BJP contest.

Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who is eyeing Lucknow as an alternative to the Yadav pocket borough of Siafai, is taking the war to the BJP – publicising development works undertaken by his government in the last five years.

Development has, so far, been the BJP’s sales pitch.

The SP stormed the BJP bastion in 2012, winning seven of the nine Lucknow seats and wants to do even better this time.

It is hoping voters will respond positively to projects such as the Metro rail, international cricket stadium, Agra-Lucknow Expressway and Gomti River Front.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh, the Lucknow MP who cast his vote in the state capital on Sunday, has accused the SP government of taking credits for schemes funded by the Centre.

“Don’t know if Lucknow voters will vote for development. Whichever government comes in, it will continue to make the state capital better,” said Sharad Singhal, an engineer with a private firm.

The SP has gone in with big guns.

Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav is the candidate from Lucknow Cantonment, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin Anurag Yadav is in the running from Sarojininagar and his close aide, Anurag Singh Bhadauria, is in the fray from Lucknow East on the Congress ticket.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh after casting his vote at PWD in Lucknow, India, on Sunday, February 19, 2017. (Dheeraj Dhawan/Hindustan Times)

The SP and the Congress are contesting the elections as partners.

“The SP government is the government of development. In my constituency alone so much work has been done. People will vote for development,” a confident Aparna said.

Till the SP drove it out, the City of Nawabs, as Lucknow is popularly known, was a BJP bastion.

Former prime minister and one of the party’s most popular leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee represented the city in the Lok Sabha for record five terms.

Vajpayee as an MP -- from 1991-2004 -- ensured a smooth sailing for the party in five of the nine assembly seats that make up the Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency. The other four in the district are part of the Mohanlalganj Lok Sabha segment.

From 1993 to 2007, the BJP won at least four seats in every state election before its worst showing, in 2012 when it could only bag one.

Vajpayee had by then bowed out of politics. He addressed his last public meeting in Lucknow during the 2007 election.

His absence was felt when two years later the BJP surrendered its Lucknow West citadel to the Congress in a bypoll.

But, the party had started losing ground much earlier -- winning margins had been narrowing over the years.

For instance, Vidya Sagar Gupta, a three-time MLA from Lucknow East won the 1996 poll by 36,000 votes. The margin shrank to 600 in 2007 and in 2012 he lost from Lucknow Central.

“That is why the BJP decided to field outsiders in Lucknow. Barring old party hands, Gopal Tandon (Lucknow East) and Suresh Srivastava (Lucknow West), for the rest of the seats there are either new faces or imported candidates,” political expert SK Dwivedi said.

The party has repeated Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who switched over from Congress, from her Lucknow Cantonment seat. Swati Singh, wife of expelled BJP leader Dayashankar Singh, is its Sarojininagar candidate. Singh was expelled from the BJP for his derogatory remarks against Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati.