Lucknow sees surprising undercurrent in Congress’ favour

May 1st, 2009 - 8:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Bahujan Samaj Party Lucknow, May 1 (IANS) Seemingly disillusioned with both the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the opposition Samajwadi Party (SP), Lucknow’s voters appear to have plumped for the Congress, though the seat is considered the bastion of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee won it five times in a row since 1991.
Polling was held in Lucknow Thursday in the third phase of the general elections. While the bulk of the voters remained at home and the turnout was only 35 percent, a large section of those who ventured out in the scorching heat expressed support for the Congress. The party put up its state unit chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

Others in the fray were the BSP’s Akhilesh Das, the BJP’s Lalji Tandon and the SP’s Nafisa Ali.

A major factor that seems to have put off the voter in the state capital against the BSP was the mushrooming stone memorials being built by Chief Minister Mayawati in the city at a whopping cost of about Rs.2,500 crore - at the tax-payer’s expense.

“Lucknow, that was once known as a city of gardens, is fast turning into a stone city with several gigantic stone memorials being erected,” said retired army officer Col F.U.Ahmed, adding he had nothing against Ambedkar or Kanshi Ram or any other BSP icon, but could not stomach blatant extravagance in their names.

The sentiment was echoed by 25-year-old management graduate Ravi Singh, who said he was sure that all the great social reformers, hailed as icons by Mayawati, would themselves have never approved of such wasteful expenditure and the money could have been put to more fruitful use.

Adding to the citizens’ antipathy towards the BSP’s Akhilesh Das was his “vulgar display of wealth”, against which several complaints are already pending with the poll panel.

Despite BJP candidate Lalji Tandon banking heavily on Vajpayee’s appeal to citizens to vote for him, the absence of the former prime minister seemed to have drawn the voters away from the party.

There was disenchantment against the SP due to its perceived patronage of criminals, and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s joining hands with BJP rebel Kalyan Singh has alienated Muslims.

“Since Vajpayeeji is not contesting any more, and one is sick of both Mulayam and Mayawati, I thought it best to go for the Congress, which must have learnt its lesson after remaining in wilderness all these years,” said Shamsher Bahadur, a guard in a private company.

Sushil Kumar, a Dalit, said he had earlier voted for the BSP but was now disillusioned with the party and voted for the Congress.

“People have tried and tested all others in the past 20 years and other than beating their own trumpet and making tall promises, none has done anything for the poor and needy. My father told me that Congress was still the best of the lot and I can see some hope in Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka,” he said.

The same reason was given by many other youth who were clearly tilted towards the Congress, like 21-year-old first-time voter Neeraj, who believed that after remaining out of power in the state for two decades, the Congress would be better than others.

Muslims too seemed quite inclined to favour the Congress, particularly in the aftermath of Mulayam Singh linking up with Kalyan Singh who is closely identified with the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque. Also, its nominee - actress Nafisa Ali - was not taken very seriously.

According to 53-year-old school teacher Andleeb Ahmed: “Congress is the only party that could be relied upon. Even someone like Mulayam Singh Yadav who was blindly supported by Muslims for years, has now ditched the community by aligning with the BJP’s most communal face, Kalyan Singh.”

Retired journalist Madan Mohan Bahuguna said the Congress’ candidate had also got the full support of the large Uttarakhand population in Lucknow because her father and former chief minister, the late Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, was highly revered by the people in the hills as well as by Muslims.

Roop Rekha Verma, a former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, said the people’s tilt towards the Congress was largely due to a search for a party with a rational leftist ideology, “which they do not any more see in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party that had completely lost track under the influence of people like Amar Singh”.

“In the absence of any visible presence of the left parties and SP having lost its credibility, the Congress has begun to be seen as the only party closer to that leftist ideology,” she added.

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