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Bigwigs throw their weight around

india Updated: Oct 28, 2006 10:45 IST

A LOOK at the heavyweights campaigning in Lucknow and one wonders whether the forthcoming election is for the post of mayor or for the State Assembly.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh, Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot, Akhilesh Das, Salman Khurshid, Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders Azam Khan and Jaya Prada have all pitched in for their candidates.

The BJP has roped in former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and party president Rajnath Singh for campaigning. However, extending an invitation to Vajpayee raises doubts over the ability of the local party leaders in wooing the voters. Incidentally, BJP mayoral candidate Dr Dinesh Sharma is Vajpayee’s choice.

At a public meeting in the city, Rajnath Singh chided the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) asked the people to vote for BJP. He, however, desisted from highlighting local issues. Rather, he dwelt on matters that are of importance at the State and the national levels.

“There was no plan to call Vajpayee and Rajnath. But, the changing dimensions in the civic polls have forced us to invite them,” said a BJP leader. An undercurrent of dissension could be felt in the party over the ticket distribution issue. On the other hand, Lalji Tandon had rubbished dissent in the party.

Union Minister of State for Steel Akhilesh Das is in charge for the Congress mayoral candidate Manzoor Ahmed’s campaign. Despite internal bickerings in the party over ticket distribution, UPCC president Salman Khurshid and senior party leaders like Pramod Tiwari are supporting Das. Notably, Congress city unit president Achal Mehrotra was perceived to be the most probable candidate, but was sidelined for Manzoor.

“The results of the civic poll will decide the future course of politics in the State,” said a senior Congress leader with the hope that his party adds some more seats to its kitty in the Assembly elections.

If elected, Manzoor would be the first Muslim mayor of Lucknow after independence.

The Samajwadi Party initially took the poll lightly and thought its candidate Madhu Gupta would have a cakewalk. Of late, it has realized the significance and seems to have shed its complacency. The ruling party was hell bent in postponing civic poll on the pretext that it would become an impediment in its preparations for the assembly election. But the party has now sprung into action and deputed senior leaders to campaign for its candidate.

Seeing Muslim vote bank shifting to the Congress, SP has called on its Muslim ‘idol’ Azam Khan to keep its minority vote bank intact. Azam and film actress Jaya Prada are holding rallies.

In the 2000 civic polls, Madhu Gupta had lost to the BJP candidate SC Rai by only 13,000 votes. While the BJP candidate polled over 2.65 lakh votes, the Congress candidate received just 95,000 votes.

BSP candidate Shiv Kumar Gupta has been drawing support from the district level party workers. Though BSP has abstained from the civic poll and barred its candidate from using symbols and pictures of its leaders Mayawati and Kanshi Ram, the candidate was fighting with the support of his party workers.