Lucknow has always been the showcase of political etiquette, observed diligently by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. They never encroached on each other’s political territory during election campaigns.
As long as Vajpayee contested from here, Gandhi simply stayed away. Vajpayee also responded by not visiting Rae Bareli and Amethi, constituencies of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi barely 80 to 100 km away.
However, with Vajpayee out of the campaign trail, Lucknow has turned into a virtual battleground. Even Gandhi came to Lucknow twice to drum up support for Uttar Pradesh Congress president Rita Bahuguna.
As Lucknow goes to the polls along with Rae Bareli on November 30, there is one factor that is bothering the pundits. Even with a stalwart like Vajpayee contesting, the poll percentage in Lucknow was as low as 35 per cent in 2004.
And now that there is no charismatic leader in the fray, the constituency stands sharply divided on caste lines like the rest of the state. Despite Jago Re Jago campaigns by saints and seers, a further dip in turnout is feared.
Gandhi faces the same challenge in Rae Bareli, especially after the poor 40 per cent turnout in Amethi. As her victory is assured, workers may get complacent. So Captain Satish Sharma is working on bringing out the voters on the election day despite the mercury touching 42 degrees.
This round of elections has a corporate figure, Annu Tandon, besides former bureaucrat P.L. Punia and Home Minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal - all from the Congress - contesting from Unnao, Barabanki and Kanpur, respectively.
Among the constituencies going to the polls on April 30 are Lucknow, Mohanlalganj, Sitapur, Hardoi, Misrikh, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Kanpur, Akbarpur, Jalaun and Jhansi.