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Off to the hustings

The new year will see Assembly elections in four states. Here?s taking stock of what is at stake

india Updated: Dec 23, 2006 06:42 IST

Uttar Pradesh: It’s a clash between behenji (Mayawati) and netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) on the one hand and the two big national parties — the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party — on the other. While Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, playing the Dalit card, will hope to ride on anti-incumbency against the Samajwadi Party government, Yadav is hoping that his backward castes and Muslim vote bank is intact. The Congress is upbeat with Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi monitoring the party’s electoral preparations. Led by former Chief Minister  Kalyan Singh, the BJP too hopes to improve its tally. The election is a matter of prestige for party president Rajnath Singh, a former state CM. RLD chief Ajit Singh is likely to be a key player in Western UP.

Punjab: Putting up a united face after four years of infighting, the ruling Congress led by flamboyant chief minister Amarinder Singh is trying to make a comeback. The Congress is in full election mode with Singh taking out a Vikas Yatra with Deputy CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and state Congress President Shamsher Singh Dullo in tow. The Shiromani Akali Dal, with its alliance partner the BJP, hopes to upset the Congress apple cart this time led by Parkash Singh Badal. Badal’s son Sukhbir and the BJP’s new found Jat-Sikh face, Navjot Singh Sidhu are likely to be active campaigners.

Uttaranchal: The ruling Congress has its work cut out. It must battle dissidents led by state unit chief Harish Rawat as well as anti-incumbency. Chief minister N.D. Tiwari’s reluctance to run the state can’t have given the party much to cheer about. The BJP is all set to give the Congress a fight with former Union minister Maj Gen B.C. Khanduri and state unit chief Bhagat Singh Koshiari, considered close to the RSS, the key players.

Manipur: NSCN (IM) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah’s meeting with leaders in Delhi and the issue of a Greater Nagaland will have a direct bearing on the elections. Regional parties have merged into the Manipur Peoples Party (MPP) led by President L Chandramani Singh. The MPP will directly challenge the Congress led by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.