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BATTLE ROYAL

india Updated: Oct 22, 2006 11:30 IST
M Hasan

As the ruling party is pulling out all stops to wrest the initiative from the
Opposition, the governor apprehends the possibility of an unfair local bodies’ election. Strangely, the SEC’s role is also being questioned.

FROM DOLE to deployment of criminals, the ruling Samajwadi Party has left no stone unturned in  a bid to wrest the initiative from the Opposition.

Already, a row has erupted between Governor TV Rajeswar and the Mulayam Singh Yadav Government over distribution of unemployment allowance and Kanya Vidya Dhan during the civic election. The governor also apprehends possibility of an unfair election.

However, this time, instead of directly confronting the government, the pro-active governor is pressuring the State Election Commission to take up cudgels for  a free and fair election. But the commission has dithered in taking action against the establishment.

Asserting that the commission is an autonomous body, State Election Commissioner AP Singh has made it clear that he is not bound by the Raj Bhawan’s advice. The State Government’s decision to bestow metropolitan status to Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Meerut, Varanasi and Agra is also being seen as an exercise to improve the SP’s electoral prospects.

Much to the consternation of the governor, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has already distributed dole in Faizabad, Moradabad and Basti.

However, under pressure from the governor, the SEC has refused permission for money distribution in Allahabad. At the same time, AP Singh says he is pained at banning the function. It amply sums up the SEC’s predicament. The BJP has already accused the SEC of openly supporting the SP. Information available from the smaller urban centres indicates that the police are openly supporting ruling party candidates. In some places in central UP, cops have fielded their relatives and are campaigning for them. The SEC is flooded with complaints against policemen, trying to influence the outcome of the election.

The governor, in his second missive, has advised the SEC to seek deployment of central para-military forces in Mau, Azamgarh, Moradabad and Meerut districts, where the law and order situation is not good. While the governor appears to be determined to scuttle the State Government’s ‘dubious’ plans, the SEC, inexplicably, is in no mood to cross “lakshman rekha”. 

The election has also provided the SP with an opportunity to test the continued support of the minority community and the party’s success in winning over the trading community. The SP is banking on the two communities, largely concentrated in the urban areas, to sail through the election. Even though the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is not in the fray, the B-S-P (Bijli, Paani and Sarak) has been causing concern in the ruling party. The ruling dispensation has thus launched a desperate drive to counter the anti-incumbency factor.

Poor civic amenities have certainly made the task difficult for the SP. While the SP is trying to cash in on the three-year performance of the Yadav Government, the opposition has largely targeted the SP on the law and order situation. Thus the issues,which were to dominate the forthcoming assembly election, have come to the fore in the civic poll and especially in mayoral contests in 12 cities.

While the civic election will indicate the strength of the BJP and the Congress, for the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), it is time to assess its position in urban areas.    

In Kanpur, BJP turncoat Neeraj Chaturvedi, now contesting on the SP ticket, has handed over poll coordination work to dreaded criminal Fahim. He has also been given the responsibility of ‘managing’ the Muslim community, which has turned hostile towards the SP for nomination of Chaturvedi, whose role in frequent communal troubles is alleged. 

Notorious criminals Munna Rahman and Saria are contesting for the corporators’ seat from the SP and many others have been deployed to ensure Chaturvedi’s victory. A strong Congress bastion with a formidable presence of the saffron brigade, Kanpur has always been a tough battle for the SP. The clout of the notorious gangster Fahim in the SP can be gauged from the fact that he played a major role in distribution of party tickets to ward candidates.        

While the Congress, which won the last mayoral election by defeating the BJP, has landed in trouble by fielding a controversial candidate Badri Narain Tiwari, the BJP is fraught with dissension over the nomination of Ravindra Patni, an acolyte of party national president Rajnath Singh.

There are also reports of gross violation of the code of conduct in Varanasi by the ruling party. During the nomination  process for the Gangapur Nagar Panchayat chairman’s election at the tehsil office, Gau Sewa Commission chairman Dr KP Singh Yadav allegedly used his official car with a beacon for SP candidate Vijay Kumar on October 3. He is reported to have entered into the returning officer’s room, along with a gunner. Similarly, Apna Dal state incharge Athar Jamal Lari says a minister has compelled Apna Dal candidate Madhu Kushwaha to withdraw her nomination papers for the post of mayor in Varanasi Nagar Nigam.

Lari says the SP will misuse the government machinery to influence the results.  There are 47 criminals, including 22 history- sheeters, in the fray in Varanasi.

Senior Congress leader Satya Prakash Malaviya says the Allahabad district magistrate is working as an election agent of ruling party candidates. However, SP mayoral candidate Vinod Chandra Dubey has refuted allegations, especially regarding misuse of the official machinery in the election.

There are also reports of violation of the code by the ruling party in Gorakhpur. With nearly half- a-dozen ministers camping in Gorakhpur, the opposition has expressed apprehension that there may not be a free and fair election. There are 18 mayoral candidates, including Anju Chaudhary (BJP), Sitaram Jaiswal (SP), Ramesh Gupta (Congress),  Chhedi Jaiswal (BSP supported), Janardhan Singh (Rashtriya Lok Dal), Mohd Arif alias Bhakool (Apna Dal-JD-U), Mohd Islam (NLP) and others. 

A large number of discrepancies on the voter list have led to resentment among the people. Anju says her name is missing from the voter list of her locality and her ward. It is mentioned on the voter list of another ward number 28.

Independent candidate for corporator Nabiullah Ansari says 4000 fake voters’ names have been included in ward number 9 (Rasoolpur).

The Bareilly mayor’s seat is reserved for a woman this time. The Congress has fielded Supriya Aron, wife of UPCC vice-president and former Health Minister Praveen Singh Aron, as its candidate.

The Samajwadi Party has fielded Dr Sagufta Yasmeen and the BJP Sanjana Jain, wife of Sudhir Jain, the party’s Mahanagar president. Noorjahan Jafri is in the fray as a BSP-supported candidate.

Also in the fray are Ravneet Kaur of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Abha Singh of the IMC and Independents Poornima Anil and Kusumlata Singhal. Eunuch Saroj is trying her luck as independent candidate. She produced her marriage certificate during the filing of nomination papers and the district administration accepted her candidature.

There seems to be a neck and neck fight between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. Supriya Aron has emerged as the strongest candidate.

“I am getting all-out support from all sections, including Muslims,” she says.  

But the SP, too, is also hopeful of winning the mayoral seat.

“Our candidate does not have any rival,” says Samajwadi Party district president Tara Chand Solanki.

At the same time, BJP candidate Sanjana Jain claims she will win:  “People know that record development work was done in the BJP regime.” 

In Meerut, the mayoral election is turning out be a big political show for politicians who have  fielded their better halves to grab the plum post. Those who were desperately looking to try their luck for the mayor’s post suffered a jolt when the seat was declared reserve for a woman. But, they soon fielded their wives.

Haj and Minority Welfare Minister Haji Yakoob Qureshi has fielded his wife Hajjan Sanjida Begum on an UDF ticket. Pitted against her is the SP candidate Lilawati. The BSP is extending its support to Hajjan Zubeda Begum, aunt of MP Shahid Akhlaq. The BJP has fielded political  novice Madhu Gujjar. The RLD has giveen the ticket to Shaista Khan.

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