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Lucknow: Mad scramble to step into Vajpayee's shoes

Source: PTI
April 11, 2009 11:24 IST
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A B Vajpayee, former prime minister and veteran Parliamentarian, will be a hard act to follow. But 56 candidates want to try, as they seek election from Lucknow Lok Sabha seat.

With Vajpayee stepping away from the electoral battle-field, there is a mad scramble among hopefuls to go into battle.
Of these 56 candidates, 18 filed their papers on Thursday, the last day for filing nomination.

Among the major parties, the BJP has chosen to field Lalji Tandon in the place of Vajpayee, who had won the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat five times in a row since 1991.

Tandon, a sitting MLA from Lucknow, is banking on the name and charisma of Vajpayee to see him through to New Delhi.

"Lucknow had been the karmbhoomi of Atal and he has done a lot for the development of this constituency. I am confident that people ensure my success, because if I win, it will be the former Prime Minister's victory," Tandon said.

However, Tandon is expected to face stiff opposition from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) nominee and former Union Minister of State for Steel Akhilesh Das Gupta.

Gupta, besides being a former member of the Rajya Sabha, is also the son of former Chief Minister Banarasi Das Gupta.
Interestingly, Gupta, who joined the BSP last year, had filed his nomination papers as the Congress candidate in the last Lok Sabha election in 2004. However, he had to withdraw after the Congress decided to support independent candidate Ram Jethmalani against Vajpayee.

This time, Gupta says he will find favour with voters as a champion of development.

"There is a wave in my favour as people have realized that except me no one can ensure development of the city," a confident-looking Gupta said.

Gupta had been nurturing his ambitions for the Lucknow constituency for a long time and had earlier fielded his supporters, Achal Malhotra and later Manzoor Ahamd, in the elections for the post of the city Mayor. Though both of them were defeated, they remained the main opposition.

The fight for the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat appears to be primarily between the BJP and the BSP candidates as others, including state Congress President Rita Bahuguna Joshi and the Samajwadi Party (SP) nominee Nafisa Ali are new to this constituency.

Joshi, who is also the daughter of former Chief Minister Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, came as a surprise for many including her own partymen, as she was seeking ticket either from Phoolpur or Allahabad.

Though Joshi accepts that she was a late entrant into the political battleground of Lucknow, she exudes confidence of getting peoples' support.

Continuing with its policy of fielding Bollywood personalities from Lucknow, the SP has fielded former Miss India and social activist Nafisa Ali as its candidate, after its move to field Sanjay Dutt was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Ali is now trying hard to defend herself from the Opposition's portrayal of her as an "outsider and non-Hindi speaking candidate".

Prior to this election, the party had fielded Bollywood actor Raj Babbar and Umrao Jaan director Muzzafar Ali as its candidate from Lucknow.

"With Sanju Baba (Sanjay Dutt) with us, we will certainly romp home victory. He has been campaigning here for past few months and Nafisaji is his choice, which is acceptable to all", said SP's Lucknow in-charge Arvind Singh Gope said.

Besides, there are others, including historian Amresh Mishra of the Ulema Council, Ravi Shankar of the Bharat Punarnirman Dal and SR Darapuri of the Lok Rajniti Manch—a party of social workers, who are also in the fray. In 2004, Atal Bihari Vajpayee won this seat defeating SP candidate Madhu Gupta.

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