THE MAYORAL election is witnessing a multi-cornered fight in the State capital.
Seventeen contestants, including five supported by different political parties, are in fray for the coveted post. The civic election is taking place ahead of the run-up to the assembly election in the State early next year.
The Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, and the Akhil Bharatiya Loktantrik Congress candidates are in the contest. All of them are first-timers. The Samajwadi Party has fielded Madhu Gupta for the second consecutive election. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has kept itself away from the civic poll, although its supporters are fighting independently.
Ahead of the assembly poll, the civic election is a litmus test for the Congress. Therefore, it has left no stone unturned in supporting its candidate. This is evident from the fact that it has deputed a Central minister Akhilesh Das as the party leader in charge of the election. Das has claimed the party candidate Prof Manzoor Ahmed is no run-of-the-mill contender as he is a former IPS officer and ex-vice-chancellor of Agra University.
On the other hand, the BJP is out to salvage its pride. It has fielded Dinesh Sharma. The party won the post in the last two elections. Though senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon has denied internal bickering, he has been conspicuous by his absence during most of the campaign.
“We are holding sabhas and meetings to campaign,” he says. Sharma is considered Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s choice and he has been selling the dreams of the former Prime Minister to garner votes.
The contest is as significant for the the Samajwadi Party as it is for the BJP. Its candidate Madhu Gupta is contesting the election the second time after 2000.
Though Gupta lost the 2000 civic election by a margin of barely 13,000 votes, the party high command will not like to see her lose again right under their nose.
Therefore, the party has deputed senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Bhagwati Singh as Gupta’s election in-charge. Despite visible dissension, senior party functionaries have associated themselves with the campaign to avoid displeasing the high command. However, the party, which is in power in the State for the last three years, can feel an undercurrent of the anti-incumbency factor. But Gupta refuses to accept this. She says there is no such factor and she is going to win.
Independent Shailesh Kumar Singh ‘Shailu, who has had a long stint in student politics, is posing a challenge to party candidates. He says he has been getting students’ votes so far and his support will swell this time as the students’ family members will also vote for him.
Bhawan Singh Rawat (Rashtriya Lok Dal) and Badrinath Agnihotri (Akhil Bharatiya Lok Tantrik Congress) are among the new entrants in the fray. Like others, they are reaching out to people facing civic problems and claiming support from various sections of the society. Singh says there is no challenge to him from any party.
The SP and others kept on deferring the civic poll for fear of losing the ‘battle,’ which, in turn, would have an impact on the Assembly election, he says and adds that it is only his party which pressed for the election at the ‘right time.
Agnihotri has filed a PIL against the Congress, the BJP and the SP for violating Supreme Court orders by ‘displaying’ plastic flags all over the city. “It is detrimental to the environment,” he says.
All the 17 contestants dream of making Lucknow a Bangalore, if not a Paris or a Shanghai.
But none have a solution to mushrooming slums and unauthorised colonies in the city.