Keen contest on cards as BJP, BSP take on SP for historic seat

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Allahabad, Mar 25: It is set to be a case of caste equations and old loyalties to the fore in the contest for the Allahabad Lok Sabha constituency as BJP and BSP look to wrestle the seat from the ruling SP in Uttar Pradesh.

Samajwadi Party has made clear its intention to retain the seat by fielding sitting MP Kunwar Rewati Raman Singh. But looking for a change of luck here, Bahujan Samaj Party, the runners-up in the previous polls, has expelled its 2009 Brahmin nominee and gone with an OBC woman candidate for 2014.

And, with its aim set on outsmarting both SP and BSP, BJP has sprung a surprise by fielding a former SP leader and businessman as its contestant for the seat. Businessman-cum-politician Shyama Charan Gupta, the BJP's candidate for the Allahabad seat, had left the saffron outfit to spend years with SP, including as an MP from the party from Banda.

However, after being denied a ticket this time by SP, he joined BJP and was promptly given the Allahabad ticket. The move by the saffron outfit, however, has sorely disappointed senior BJP leader and former Assembly Speaker Keshri Nath Tripathi and Nand Gopal Nandi, a Cabinet minister in the former Mayawati government who was recently expelled by BSP.

SP has made clear to retain the seat by fielding sitting MP Kunwar Raman Singh.

Both Tripathi and Nandi were aspiring for a BJP ticket. BSP has put its trust in former Zila Panchayat president Keshri Devi Patel, who is expected to bring a chunk of OBC votes to the party's assured kitty of Dalit support. But SP would be counting on two-time MP Rewati Raman to deliver the seat.

Rewati Raman had made his Lok Sabha debut in 2004 by pulling off a stunning victory against three-time BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi. Congress, which has never won the seat after 1984 when actor Amitabh Bachchan trounced political heavyweight Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna to clinch the contest by the highest-ever margin of about two lakh votes, is yet to decide on its nominee for 2014's electoral battle.

In the last general elections, when the party appeared to have made a comeback in UP by winning 21 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Congress candidate here finished fourth after polling less than 10 per cent of the votes. Although Aam Aadmi Party may queer the pitch here for the several players locked in a multi-cornered contest, it is yet to formally announce its candidate for the seat.

The buzz, however, is that AAP founder-member Prashant Bhushan, who has his roots in the city, may try his luck from the historic constituency.

Allahabad, the city where India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was born, has played a crucial role in the politics of UP and of the country as a whole.

In fact, it was the by-poll here which was necessitated by Bachchan's resignation as MP in the wake of the Bofors controversy in 1988 which led to the emergence of two factors that changed the political landscape of UP.

First, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, who at the time had just resigned from Congress, won the 1988 bypoll defeating Congress's Sunil Shastri, the son of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. VP Singh later went on to become the Prime Minister of India. It was VP Singh's decision to implement the Mandal Commission Report which led to the emergence of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) as a very potent political force.

But the bypoll also marked the emergence of mercurial Dalit leader Kanshi Ram and his BSP as he surprised many by securing nearly 70,000 votes. That election in 1988 signalled the beginning of the end of the near monopolistic control of Dalit votes by Congress. Referring to the 1988 bypoll, BSP supporters claim that even more durable was the imprint that their leader Kanshi Ram's unorthodox and vigorous campaigning style had left behind on the Dalit psyche.

Ram, the then BSP supremo, and his associates would travel on bicycles to the remotest corners of the district, seeking "A note (Re 1) and a vote" from Dalits. It was also at this time that SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav became the new and powerful voice of OBCs. SP and BSP then rewrote the electoral script for UP after causing great confusion in the ranks of Congress and BJP which left old political equations in tatters.

Ashok Bajpai, son of former Union minister and close aide of Indira Gandhi, Dr Rajendra Kumari Bajpai, had seven years back sought a greener pasture in BSP after ending his two- decades-long association with Congress.

His wife Ranjana, however, remained with SP even as Bajpai unsuccessfully contested as the BSP candidate in the 2009 elections. Having since been expelled by BSP, he is now exploring other options. Allahabad casts its vote for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on May 7.


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