Going gets tough for Raj Babbar
Actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar, seeking another term from Agra Lok Sabha constituency on Samajwadi party ticket, is hard put to retain the seat in the face of challenge by BJP's new face whose nomination came as a surprise even within saffron party circles.
The main hurdle for Babbar is, as his critics say, that he does not live in Agra and makes only periodic visits to the constituency which are more in the nature of a doctor attending patients.
Babbar, who defeated Bhagwa Shankar Rawat of BJP by a margin of over 130,000 votes in 1999, had come to Agra as a whiff of fresh air in the form of a young handsome and dynamic person who had gone about saying he was Agra's backyard boy determined to make the city a model one.
Instead, the actor left the constituncy in the hands of a representative Dharapal Singh, a college teacher with an unimpresive record.
As BJP MLA of Agra Jagan Prasad Garh says "Agra needs a lok sabha member who stays here and not a glamour boy who pays rare visits and hosts luncheons and dinners in five star hotels before flying back."
Babbar supporters, however, claim more development work has been done in the city and other parts of agra lok sabha constituency during his tenure as mp than any other time in the past.
Babbar is banking on the traditional support base of Samajwadi Party, Muslims, Yadavs, Thakurs, Jats and Punjabis and Sindhis.
Babbar's wife Nadia has joined the campaign of her husband with regular performances of the play "Akbar ka darbar" to woo the voters.
The actor has succeeded in getting the support of local artistes who are organising street plays to win over voters.
The BJP had the mortification of watching Babbar emerging in its own stronghold since the assembly seats of Agra East and Agra West have always been captured by it and the Agra cantonment constituency till the SP wrested it from the saffron party during the last assembly polls.
The BJP knows that it lost to Babbar after winning in 1991, 1996 and 1998 because of the actor's glamour as well as the anger of the voters against B S Rawat who had allegedly failed to nurse the constituency when he represented it.
This time, however, the BJP is fielding a new face in Murarilal Mittal' Fatehpuria whose nomination was quite a surprise to local BJP hierarchy.
Since Fatehpuria is a surprise choice, the initial support from local BJP workers was not warm.
But the RSS took his nomination as a challenge and has during the past week or so built up a strong cadre base support.
Fatehpuria had never before figured in an election and is believed to have been given the ticket on the hope the he will get the support of the over two lakh Vaisya (bania) voters in the constituency.
The BJP is busy projecting Fatehpuria as a "bania" who would work for vaishya community's interests.