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Big surprise! Congress ahead of all in Uttar Pradesh

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
May 16, 2009 11:07 IST
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Marching ahead of all its rivals in the country's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party appeared to be heading to spring the biggest surprise not only for others but also for its own leadership.

The available trends from UP's 80 Lok Sabha seats after the first two hours of counting clearly indicated a huge surprise for the Congress that was ahead on as many as 22 seats, followed by Samajwadi Party that had taken the lead on 21 seats .

The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party that had itself proclaimed a potential of winning 40 to 50 seats, was just behind with leads on 20 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party was trailing with leads in only 15 constituencies. Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Janata Dal was ahead on just two seats so far.

That the voters of Uttar Pradesh appear to be inclined towards national parties was visible in the leads taken by both Congress as well as the BJP from where the two parties stood at the end of the 2004 elections. While Congress had won only nine seats, the BJP tally too stood at a paltry 10.

While an upward swing for the Bharatiya Janata Party was predicted by most pollsters, not many were willing to accept the existence of a Congress undercurrent in several parts of Uttar Pradesh, a state where it has been out of power for two decades. The current Lok Sabha election appears to have brought the party on a revival path in this state where it had earlier held sway for four decades.

While top leaders of all other political parties were camping in New Delhi, BSP supremo Mayawati has preferred to keep herself confined to the four walls of her chief ministerial bungalow on Lucknow's Kalidas Marg, accessible only to a handful of her inner coterie.

While her party's Brahmin mascot Satish Misra was the first one to reach there, a few others like Naseenuddin Siddiqui followed with some of her favourite bureaucrats. With media having been kept at a distance all along during the run-up to the results, no one was aware of what was cooking within the BSP camp.

Some insiders, however, claimed that Mayawati was looking quite grim and worried over the party's performance. The BSP is the only party in the country to have contested each of the 543 seats. However, other than UP, the BSP's leads were limited to a lone seat in Himachal and another in Madhya Pradesh.

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow