Winning this Lok Sabha seat, which the BJP has held since 1991, will be a “cakewalk” for Union minister Rajnath Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma claimed, even as SP’s Poonam Sinha seeks to give a tough fight to the saffron party.
The seat was won by late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee five consecutive times between 1991 and 2004, and Sharma believes that Singh will win as he has carried forward the BJP stalwart’s “vision for development”.
Lucknow is one of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh and will go to polls on Monday, the fifth phase of the general elections.
While the SP-BSP-RLD alliance’s Poonam Sinha, who is backed by her actor husband and former BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha, is making her political debut, the Congress has fielded self-styled spiritual guru Pramod Krishnam, who had unsuccessfully contested Sambhal in 2014 and got just 1.52 per cent of the votes.
Krishnam is seeking votes invoking Vajpayee’s legacy and has promised that if he wins, he will build a grand statue of Vajpayee in the UP capital on the lines of the Statue of Unity in Gujarat.
The statue in Gujarat is designed as a memorial to India’s Home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
In the midst of his hectic campaigning, Sharma told PTI: “The (Lucknow) seat will be a cakewalk for Rajnathji, who has carried forward the vision for development of Atalji in this constituency.”
Singh was a minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet between 2003 and 2004, and also the president of the BJP from 2013 to 2014 before Amit Shah took over.
He was made the district chief of the Jana Sangh in 1975, became an MLA in 1977 and an MP in the Rajya Sabha in 1994.
Campaigning in Lucknow, an urban constituency, has been peaceful, with Shatrughan’s daughter Sonakshi Sinha adding a tinge of glamour towards the fag end of hectic electioneering by her mother.
On his part, Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister between 2000 and 2002, during his campaign, tried to portray a balanced image by visiting temples and Muslim clerics.
Since Muslim voters are a force to reckon with in Lucknow, with around 13 per cent of the city’s residents belonging to the community, every party has been making efforts to woo them.
Singh met with some Muslim clerics, including Lucknow Eidgah Imam Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali.
Rasheed, however, downplayed the meeting as “non-political”, saying it had nothing to do with the elections.
Poonam Sinha, too, has been meeting Muslim leaders. “We are meeting Muslim clerics because we feel they are important. We need their blessings,” she said.
During most of his public meetings, the Union home minister has harped on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“India has surged ahead under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the entire world has acknowledged the fact that Modi has done wonders to help the country attain great heights,” he has been telling voters, sounding confident of a big win from Lucknow.
He led a massive road show in the Uttar Pradesh capital in April before filing his nomination.
Similarly, gathbandhan (SP-BSP-RLD alliance) candidate Poonam Sinha held public meetings in Aminabad, an area in old Lucknow with a large Muslim population, and famous for ‘chikan’ (thread work).
Khalid, a rickshaw puller who mostly plies his cart between Qaiserbagh and Hussainganj, hoped that Muslims will vote for the SP-BSP alliance candidate.
However, in the busy commercial zone of Hazratganj, a Muslim youth, requesting anonymity, said young voters would back the BJP for Modi’s “vision and dynamic personality”.
Poonam Sinha is relying on transfer of votes from the BSP along with SP’s own votes.
“But, presence of a Congress candidate will queer her pitch,” said, Harish Tiwari, who runs a betel shop outside Charbagh railway station.
“Ultimately, Rajnath Singh will emerge victorious,” he said, with a BJP party flag fluttering atop his kiosk.
Tiwari pointed out that Singh has been a politician for over four decades.