BJP candidate Ajay Kumar Mishra (in Nehru jacket) campaigning at Nighasan in Lakhimpur Kheri. HT photo
This central UP district could well serve as a mini political laboratory for the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). There is good reason for that. Having been decimated by the two regional players — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — over the years, the two national outfits who are attempting to claw their way back into the political reckoning in the country’s most populous state could make an impression here.
The Congress last had an MLA from any of the seven assembly constituencies of the district 22 years ago, the same amount of time the party has spent out of power in the state. The district now has eight constituencies.
The BJP’s show has just been a shade better, with the party having a solitary MLA (Krishna Raj: the Mohamadi reserved seat) from the district in the present assembly. Locals admit that the contest in all the eight constituencies could go down to the wire.
“It could be a photo finish with the SP and the BSP, which controlled six of the seven constituencies among them in 2007, striving hard to keep the national players out,” says a local Congress leader. Keen to open its account in the district, the Congress has got Arvind Giri, a three-time SP MLA from Gola, to switch loyalties.
He is tipped to do well against the BSP’s Simmi Bano (wife of Daud Ahmad, the sitting BSP MLA from Pihani), the SP’s Vinay Tiwari and the BJP’s Ishwar Deen Verma.
From Dhaurerhra assembly constituency (union minister Jitin Prasada is the Congress MP from here), the sitting BSP MLA Bala Prasad Awasthi has shifted to the nearby Mohamadi. The Congress’s hopes rest on first-timer Samar Pratap Singh whose father Saraswati Pratap Singh had been a three-time MLA from this seat. The SP is banking on two-time MLA Yashpal Chaudhary while the BJP has opted for former zila panchayat member Vinod Shankar alias Vinod Dhaurehra. In Palia, the Congress’s Dr Vinod Tiwari is giving a tough fight to Ram Kumar Verma. The BSP has opted for a new face in Harvinder Singh, a trader. An independent candidate and former MLA Nivendra Kumar Mishra, too, is in the fray. The SP has got senior leader Krishna Gopal Patel to contest the seat, making it a four-cornered contest. The BJP is relying on the Kasta reserved seat to make an impression. It has fielded its sitting MLA Krishna Raj from here. Raj is up against the BSP, which has fielded Saurabh Singh ‘Sonu’, the son of BSP’s zonal coordinator Jugal Kishore. At 26, Sonu is the youngest candidate in the fray.
The Congress has fielded former MLA Bansi Dhar Raj. The SP has gone for Ram Kumar Bhargava. At Mohamadi, the BJP’s hopes rest on its district chief Lokendra Pratap Singh who is up against the Congress candidate, a grandson and namesake of the famous freedom fighter Ashfaq Ullah Khan. But, giving them a tough fight is the SP’s Haji Imran Ahmad and BSP’s Bala Prasad Awasthi. The BJP, which has fielded Ajay Kumar Mishra (Teni) from Nigahasan is hoping to do well here. Teni is up against the Congress’s Ajay Prakash Mishra, the BSP’s Daroga Singh and the SP’s Rafi Ahmad Usmani. In Lakhimpur (City), the SP’s young MLA Utkarsh Verma (an MBA) is sitting pretty, despite being challenged by his own uncle Yogesh Verma (Peace Party), the BJP’s Vinod Mishra and the BSP’s Gyan Prakash Vajpayee.
The Congress’s hopes ride on Raghvendra Bahadur Singh. In Srinagar (now reserved), the Congress candidate’s name may sound familiar – Mayawati (she is known by this name among everyone here though officially she is Maya Prasad)! “Even Rahul Gandhi had said that the Congress too has a counter to Mayawati with its own Maya,” says a local Congress leader.