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HindustanTimes Wed,03 Sep 2014

Brahmins dare BJP in 'Atal land'

Manish Chandra Pandey , Hindustan Times  Lucknow, March 31, 2014
First Published: 00:35 IST(31/3/2014) | Last Updated: 00:38 IST(31/3/2014)

The support for BJP in Lucknow has been atal (firm) since 1991. Party president Rajnath Singh's entry – and the excitement around Narendra Modi – is believed to have made it firmer.

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Lucknow has been synonymous with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who won this prestigious seat five times since 1991. Such is his popularity that the party successfully marketed his khadau (slippers) to help Lalji Tandon win in 2009.

The BJP hopes the 'Vajpayee magic' will work along with the 'Modi wave' to see Singh, 62, through. Before setting out for Lucknow, he visited his ailing mentor Vajpayee in Delhi last week to seek his blessings. And to campaign, he brought along Vajpayee's close aide Shiv Kumar.

"The BJP chief is going to record a handsome win from Atal land," Tandon said. 

But Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has already sought to give a new spin to Vajpayee's legacy in this constituency where 12% Brahmins matter.

"Now that senior Vajpayee is no longer contesting, please support junior Bajpai," Yadav had said referring to Ashok Bajpai, who was to have been the party candidate.

Yadav replaced Bajpai with UP minister Abhishek Mishra, 37, to tap the connections of his ex-bureaucrat father JS Mishra. In 2012, UP polls Abhishek had pulled off a win against Tandon's son Ashutosh from Lucknow (North) assembly segment.

The Brahmin factor also made BSP chief Mayawati field Nakul Dubey, 48, who won his first assembly election in 2007 and became a minister.

Yadav is hoping to divide the 'Vajpayee vote' in the same way as the BJP is hoping to divide the estimated 24% Muslim vote by comparing Singh to Vajpayee, who being the party's liberal face, commanded the support of some Muslims in 2004. A few Muslim delegations have already met Singh and his eldest son Pankaj, also the UP BJP general secretary.

However, Singh is likely to face a stiffer challenge from Congress's Rita Bahuguna Joshi, 64, who had given Tandon a scare in 2009. Not surprisingly, Congress is planning to get Vajpayee's niece Karuna Shukla, who recently quit the BJP, to campaign.

"We may get her to raise the issue of real versus fake inheritors of Vajpayee's legacy," a Congress leader said.

The caste dynamics do not favour Singh; Thakurs, his caste, are just 6% in the constituency. But BJP strategists aren't worried.

"Just as Vajpayee was considered equally acceptable by all castes so is Rajnathji. You will see how all castes vote for him," BJP leader Narendra Singh Rana said.


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