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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Awadh’s niceties offer sweet contrast to poll bitterness

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, bandit-turned politician Malkhan Singh had canvassed for Congress leader Jitin Prasada in the Dharauhara Lok Sabha constituency.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 06, 2019 15:50 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Dharauhara Lok Sabha constituency,Jitin Prasada,Malkhan Singh
PSPL’s Malkhan Singh and Congress’s Jitin greet each other.(Sourced)

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, bandit-turned politician Malkhan Singh had canvassed for Congress leader Jitin Prasada in the Dharauhara Lok Sabha constituency.

This time the two are rivals. Malkhan is contesting the election on Shivpal Yadav’s Pragati Sheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) ticket, while Jitin Prasada is the Congress contestant from Dharauhara which is among the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh (UP) that vote on Monday.

They embraced, when they met each other during the campaign in Maigalganj, offering a welcome contrast to the rest of the 2019 campaign in which political mudslinging has been rampant.

Indeed, Lucknow with its long history of anecdotes about political niceties provided the much needed oxygen to a campaign when the discourse sunk to newer depths elsewhere.

When union home minister Rajnath Singh’s son Neeraj touched the feet of his father’s political rival Pramod Krishnam, the seer who is contesting on a Congress ticket in Lucknow, old timers were elated.

“Lucknow has always been like that; conducting itself with grace,” said Pradeep Kapoor, a veteran journalist who has seen several elections.

In Rae Bareli, another seat in the Awadh belt, old timers recalled how Feroze Gandhi would give his jeep for campaigning to his political rival Nand Kishore every evening.

“Aware that he (Nand Kishore) didn’t have the kind of resources that he had, Feroze would give his jeep to his political rival who was a socialist, and former secretary of Ram Manohar Lohia. Such political niceties and magnanimity are rare now,” recalled Kapoor.

In 2009, Rita Bahuguna Joshi had similarly won hearts when she had touched the feet of her BJP rival and veteran leader Lalji Tandon when the two met during campaign at city’s Botanical Gardens.

Joshi was contesting from Lucknow on a Congress ticket.

“I had helped your father Hemvati Nandan Bahugunaji when he had contested from here in 1977,” Tandon is reported to have said.

Tandon, who was a sitting lawmaker from Lucknow (west) assembly segment, won the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat. In the by-poll for the assembly seat vacated by Tandon, BJP’s Amit Puri narrowly lost to the Congress’s Shyam Kishore Shukla.

Even before his 1200-vote loss was officially confirmed, Puri walked across to congratulate his Congress rival.

“It was a narrow loss, I could have demanded a re-count, but it would have been against the spirit of Lucknow, against the teaching of our political leader Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji who always taught us to never lose dignity in any situation,” Puri said.

Lalji Tandon, now in an apolitical role as the Bihar governor, was the city’s best known political raconteur of anecdotes that now many find hard-to-believe.

For instance, he had shared how in 1967 elections, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) leader Nanaji Deshmukh had disallowed a move to get noted Hindi litterateur Bhagwati Charan Verma to contest on the Jan Sangh ticket from Lucknow because Justice (retd) AN Mulla, was also a well-known Urdu poet, was in the fray too.

“Yes, I also heard that from Tandonji and the reason was that Nanaji wanted the election to be reduced to a contest between Hindi and Urdu,” Pradeep Kapoor recalled.

“The election then was a straight contest between prominent industrialist VR Mohan vs Justice (retd) AN Mulla, an independent, who was put up primarily to reject money bags in elections. Lucknow chose Mulla over VR Mohan, who had also done a lot for Lucknow. But the city preferred a literary personality over an industrialist,” Kapoor said.

In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections while canvassing for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Tandon had sought to counter the star support for Vajpayee’s rival by deftly recounting an incident that took place during a municipal poll in Lucknow.

“It so happened that once a charming courtesan named Dilruba contested the polls against a well-known hakeem Shamsuddin. The hakeem saw crowds turning up for the courtesan. He took a poet’s help to counter the threat with the line: Dil dijiye dilruba ko, vote Shamsuddin ko’. The line was a hit, Shamsuddin won then. Today, Atalji is Shamsuddin,” Tandon said during the campaign. Vajpayee won.

Shoaib Khan, the state secretary of the Samajwadi Party’s minority wing, shared how even in Ayodhya almost all the contestants greet each other, even share tea and snacks at times together.

“There is something about Awadh belt as it is here that elections are still fought with decency,” Khan said.

Former Bahraich lawmaker Mayankar Singh, 68, who has quit active politics due to illness, said he had seen times when politicians would eat together despite contesting against each other.

First Published: May 06, 2019 15:50 IST

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