Ballia, Dec 20: The Ballia parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh, which has long stood as a witness to 'personality versus development' showdown in election politics over the past decades, is gearing up for the Lok Sabha bypoll on December 29.
The bypoll was necessitated following the death of former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. A look into the last three decades of election politics would indicate that the successive polls were fought amidst the twin axis of development and personality of the Young Turk. However, the picture is different this time.
Claiming lineage to the personality of the late PM, his son Neeraj Shekhar is contesting the bypoll on the Samajwadi Party ticket. While, Neeraj is banking on his illustrious father's personality and the sympathy wave to romp home, the Opposition parties are making the development of Ballia an agenda for the upcoming election.
Barring 1984, Mr Chandra Shekhar had won all the Lok Sabha elections from 1977 to 2004. Since the bypoll was necessitated due to his death, the late PM remains at the centre of the byelection, which is likely to witness a four-corner contest. However, the main fight would be witnessed between principal opposition SP and Mayawati-led BSP, which rode to power in UP in the last assembly poll, on its unique concept of 'social engineering'.
BSP has fielded Vinay Shankar Tiwari, the son of muscleman and former UP minister Hari Shankar Tiwari, while the BJP and Congress have given tickets to Virendra Singh and Rajiv Upadhyay respectively.
Of the five assembly segments in Ballia, three seats of Sadar, Baansdih and Doaba are currently held by the BSP, while the remaining Kopacheet and Chiklehar had sent the SP candidates to the state assembly. If the total votes polled here in the last UP assembly poll in April-May are added, the SP and BSP had cornered almost equal votes at 1.55 lakh and 1.54 lakh respectively.
The BJP and Congress candidates in the assembly segments falling under the Ballia parliamentary constituency had received 82,544 and 50,273 votes. Besides the sympathy wave, Neeraj Shekhar is also counting on the thakur, Yadav and Muslim votes for registering his victory at the hustings. On the other hand, BSP is aiming to corner Bhahmin and Dalit votes. The Congress and BJP candidates are Brahmin and Thakur respectively and are considered prominent leaders among their communities. They are pulling all stops to spoil the party of BSP and SP.
Ballia Lok Sabha seat has about 15.22 lakh voters and based on the caste equation, no community can claim to be a majority in the area. Although, based on the successive elections from 1952, it can be safely contended that Kshatriyas wield influence here.
In the last Lok Sabha poll, Congress had not fielded its candidate from Ballia seat. The main fight was between Chandra Shekhar, who also commanded SP's support, BSP's Kapil Dev Yadav and BJP nominee P N Tiwari.
The Young Turk polled over 2.70 lakh votes and was declared elected defeating Kapil Dev of BSP, who bagged 1.98 lakh votes. BJP's nominee secured third position with 1.1 lakh votes. Meanwhile, canvassing is in full swing for the December 29 bypoll.
SP supremo and former UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has asked the electorate to vote for Neeraj Shekhar to preserve the legacy of the former PM and usher in speedy development in the area. Similarly, BJP vice president and another former UP CM Kalyan Singh and other senior party leaders are leaving no stone unturned to ensure the victory of Virendra Singh.
The fact that has come handy for BSP is that the party had declared the candidature of Vinay Shankar from Ballia six months back and he had become active in public interaction since then. BSP chief and UP CM Mayawati is slated to address an election meeting here on December 21 to canvass in favour of the party candidate.
All the candidates have made tall claims with the election nearing when their fates would be sealed. The votes would be counted on January 2, 2008.