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Home / Lok Sabha Elections / Lok Sabha Elections 2019: As Rajnath visits temples, meets clerics, rivals bank on seers, star power

Lok Sabha Elections 2019: As Rajnath visits temples, meets clerics, rivals bank on seers, star power

An interesting political contest is taking shape in Lucknow where union home minister Rajnath Singh is blending his temple run by visiting prominent Muslim clerics even as his Congress rival Pramod Krishnam is getting seers to campaign for him.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 01, 2019, 15:51 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Union home minister Rajnath Singh at a temple in Lucknow.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh at a temple in Lucknow.(HT Photo)

An interesting political contest is taking shape in Lucknow where union home minister Rajnath Singh is blending his temple run by visiting prominent Muslim clerics even as his Congress rival Pramod Krishnam is getting seers to campaign for him.

The SP-BSP-RLD alliance candidate Poonam Sinha, wife of actor-turned-politician and Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha, is busy riding metro trains to connect with the people. Her daughter and actor Sonakshi Sinha is also expected to drum up support for her.

In her campaign, Sinha is highlighting the development work carried out in Lucknow by former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

“People want a change. Wherever I go, I have seen people fed up with the BJP, Modi and Yogi. Akhilesh ji has done such phenomenal work here. Look at the Metro, Janeshwar Mishra Park, and so many other projects. People want development,” she said.

This is the first time that a Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate has the backing of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Lucknow Lok Sabha seat where the Congress is anxious to reclaim its lost ground.

Little wonder then that though outwardly the leaders are talking of development, or the lack of it, in Lucknow, it has inwardly boiled down to religious symbolism.

In contrast to the growing Hindutva pitch within the BJP as the 2019 Lok Sabha polls nears its final lap, union home minister Rajnath Singh has sought to maintain religious balance, blending his campaign to retain Lucknow Lok Sabha seat by visiting prominent clerics amid his temple visits.

On Tuesday, Rajnath met prominent clerics of both Shia and Sunni sects in Lucknow. The meeting ahead of May 6 polling holds significance.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Rajnath had defeated his nearest rival Rita Bahuguna Joshi (then in Congress) by 2.72 lakh votes bettering the 2.16 lakh margin record of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998.

Rita Joshi later switched over to the BJP and is a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh.

Rajnath, has already visited several temples including the famed Hanuman temples at Hanuman Setu and Hazratganj, the Mankamaneshwar temple in Daliganj, besides a few gurudwaras. He has also sought to reach out to the Muslim community by visiting two prominent Shia clerics – Maulana Kalbe Jawad and Maulana Hamidul Hasan – a few days back. Lucknow has around 6 lakh Muslims.

After paying a visit to Durga temple at Shastri Nagar on Tuesday, Rajnath visited a host of clerics including Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali, the imam of Eidgaah, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, a Shia cleric who runs several educational institutions, Syed Ali Nasir Saeed Abaqati aka Maulana Agha Roohi, and Maulana Yasoob Abbas, among others.

He also visited the famous Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, home to Muslim scholars.

“I guess Rajnath ji is cut in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee mould. Like Vajpayee ji, he is also equally popular among Muslims. So we welcome him. Though we would leave it to the community to decide on whom to vote,” Farangi Mahali said.

In contrast, a group of seers under the leadership of Computer Baba from Madhya Pradesh, has decided to campaign for Congress’s Pramod Krishnam, whose recitation of ‘marsiya’ (an elegiac poem written to commemorate the martyrdom and valour of Hussain Ibn Ali and his associates in the battlefield of Karbala) is quite popular in Lucknow’s old city.

“We will take out a ‘padyatra’ (foot march) from Hanuman Setu temple in Lucknow to the Gandhi statue at Hazratganj in support of the Congress candidate,” Computer Baba said.

The Congress is also expected to get Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to campaign for Krishnam.

“I hardly see any development that a constituency represented by a top leader of the ruling party should have witnessed,” Krishnam has been telling the people, adding that he is out to conquer Lucknow with love.

Rajnath has also sought to reach out to the Muslim community by getting their demands fulfilled.

Just before the model code of conduct had come into effect, he had flagged off the inaugural flight for the holy city of Najaf in Iraq from Lucknow’s Chaudhary Charan Singh airport. A flight connecting Lucknow to Najaf, revered by Shias, was a long pending demand of Muslims.

Accompanying him then were chairman, National Minorities Commission, Gairul Hasan Rizvi and Shia clerics Maulana Kalbe Jawad and Maulana Agha Roohi.

“I don’t think there is any fight for Lucknow. Rajnath ji would win by a huge margin. We urge all BJP supporters and voters to ensure cent per cent polling,” said BJP leader Narendra Singh Rana.

During his 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, Rajnath had got a Muslim minister from Rajasthan, a burqa-clad deputy mayor from Nagpur (which houses the RSS headquarters), a former Muslim judge of the Odisha high court and 100-odd clerics, intellectuals and politicians to seek support for him.

Athar Husain of the Centre for Objective Research and Development said: “I guess Rajnath ji doesn’t carry a hawkish image, doesn’t talk harsh on other communities and is known as a leader who can carry everyone along. That’s his strength in keeping with Lucknow’s character which has always preferred moderate leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who represented the city for a record five terms, present Bihar governor Lalji Tandon who won in 2009, and Rajnath ji.”

Rajnath’s entire family, including his wife Savitri Singh, two sons Noida MLA Amit Kumar Singh aka Pankaj and Neeraj Singh, and daughter Anamika Singh have been campaigning for him.

During campaigning, Neeraj had won hearts by touching the feet of Congress’s Pramod Krishnam.

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