Bigwigs, criminals, millionaires in fourth round (Poll Curtainraiser - Uttar Pradesh)

May 6th, 2009 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Lucknow, May 6 (IANS) Several political bigwigs, alleged criminals and multi-millionaires are among the 314 contestants in the race for 18 constituencies that go to the polls in Uttar Pradesh in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections Thursday.
The fate of the chiefs of three major political parties - Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP) from Mainpuri, Rajnath Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Ghaziabad and Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) - would be decided in this round in which an estimated 25 million voters are eligible to vote.

The Election Commission is setting up 29,312 polling stations equipped with 29,649 electronic voting machines. As many as 270,000 personnel, including 150,000 security men, would be deployed for the smooth conduct of balloting.

There are other prominent leaders like BJP rebel and former chief minister Kalyan Singh, who has taken the plunge from Etah, with all out support from his one-time sworn political foe, Samajwadi Party; Raj Babbar is contesting as a Congress candidate from Fatehpur-Sikri; and Mulayam Singh’s son Akhilesh, who is in the fray from both Kannauj and Firozabad constituencies.

Of the 314 candidates, as many as 40 have criminal antecedents. According to a study carried out by Election Watch, the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) tops the list with seven nominees facing criminal charges, followed by four from the SP and three each from the BJP and the Congress.

The rest are from smaller political outfits or are independents. A chunk of them are allegedly involved in heinous crimes, including murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping for ransom, extortion and criminal assault.

The BSP is also ahead among the 86 multi-millionaires battling it out in Thursday’s contest. As against the BSP’s 14 multi-millionaires, there are 11 from the BJP, and 10 each from the SP and the Congress.

A striking aspect in this phase is the absence of a Samajwadi nominee against BJP president Rajnath Singh in Ghaziabad, where his main opposition is in the form of Amarpal Sharma of the BSP and S.P. Goel of the Congress. Rajnath Singh is banking heavily on the Thakur community vote in the constituency.

The BJP paid back by fielding a political non-entity Tripti Shakya from Mainpuri against Mulayam Singh.

No one knows how and why Tripti Shakya was handpicked by the BJP president. Otherwise a well known ‘bhajan’ singer, she neither belongs to Mainpuri nor does she have any political background. The Samajwadi supremo has only a BSP nominee, Vinay Shakya, to tackle.

“In any case, with two Shakyas in the fray, the vote of the Shakya community is bound to get divided, thereby benefiting Mulayam,” feels Prabhat Chaturvedi, a prominent lawyer in Mainpuri.

While RLD chief Ajit Singh is once again banking on the strength of his caste support in his family bastion Baghpat, Kalyan Singh is riding high as an independent from Etah where he is going around with a virtual Samajwadi tag. Not only has Mulayam Singh extended the party’s support to him, but he has also gone to the extent of addressing joint rallies with him in several constituencies that are up for Thursday’s poll.

Evidently, caste politics is well above every other factor that could influence the polls in this region, largely bordering Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi. It is the dominance of caste that is believed to have brought Kalyan Singh and Mulayam Singh on a common dais.

The proximity between them is clearly attributable to the interests of both the leaders as Yadavs and Lodhis (Kalyan Singh’s caste) are the dominant castes in at least 11 of the 18 constituencies going to the polls.

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