Allahabad: A seat that was once represented by Congress party stalwarts and former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Allahabad Lok Sabha constituency has long ceased to be a priority seat for the party.
The last time a Congressman represented Allahabad was in the 1980s, when Amitabh Bachchan, then with the Congress (I),defeated former Uttar Pradesh CM HN Bahuguna in 1984.
The seat, however, grew in prominence for the BJP with senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi representing the seat thrice before being defeated in 2004 by Samajwadi Party’s Rewati Raman Singh. The senior SP leader went on win the seat again in 2009 and is now hoping for a third consecutive term as MP.
But Singh faces a formidable contest in 2014, facing not only public anger against the SP-led state government for unleashing a goonda raj, but also a resurgent BJP that is riding high on the Modi factor.
"It is my observation that SP will be the big loser in this election. They are suffering from the anti-incumbency factor. The last two years of SP governance has been extremely disappointing. And the siting MP is also facing a lot anger from the common man because he failed deliver during his tenure as MP. He is also facing charges of promoting a particular caste. But credit to him, he is an effective poll manager and booth management always counts," Sunil Shukla, a senior journalist, said.
The Modi factor, Shukla said, will see a lot of the ‘floating vote’ gravitate towards the BJP.
The only hitch for the BJP is its candidate, Shyama Charan Gupta, who has turned what could have been a no-contest for the party (had BJP fielded a strong candidate) into a highly competitive multi-cornered fight, says Shukla.
Gupta, formerly with the SP, is a new entrant to the BJP.
“The candidate BJP has chosen was an MP from SP from a neighbouring constituency. He doesn’t have a good image nor does he have a local connect. However, I feel that in the name of Modi, mass support will go to the BJP,” Shukla said.
According to Allahabad University professor Yogeshwar Tewari, the 'Modi wave' has begun to erode the caste barriers that were previously impregnable.
The 'Modi wave' unlike political waves in the past that were triggered either by national factors or emotional events, Tewari said, is the first that is both national and emotional.
"Despite the fact that India, especially Uttar Pradesh, is still embedded in that same formulae of caste, creed and religion, there is one factor, the emotional factor, that is gradually making inroads into caste, creed and religion.. The caste fort stands strong but inroads into it have begun. And how successful these inroads will be, we'll know after May 16," he said.
Explaining the "emotional" aspect to the "Modi wave", Tewari said,"The emotional aspect is the aspiration of the youth. He is promising Rome in five years. It is a big test for Modi. He knows the hopes he has aroused."
Allahabad, the history professor said, was experiencing a change.
"Allahabad despite being caste- ridden and embedded in religion - the maha kumbh happens here - this time there seems to be a change. There is a new excitement, there is hope for change. In UPA I and UPA II, the youth felt things had come to a grinding halt. They don’t want to wait any more," Tewari said.
Also among the favourites to win the Allahabad Lok Sabha constituency is BSP’s Kesri Devi Patel who is banking on the caste arithmetic – the BSP’s base vote and the Patel community vote - to give her an edge over her rivals. The Dalit voters in Allahabad Lok Sabha constituency are about 2 lakh and the Patels account for another 2 lakh.
So much so, the BJP says its contest in Allahabad seat is with the BSP.
"Our fight is with the BSP. Even though they don’t have votes in the city, they are giving a good fight in the villages on the strength of the patel vote," a local BJP leader said.
Incidentally, the BSP has never won from the Allahabad Lok Sabha constituency. But history is about to be made, says BSP leader Guru Prasad Maurya.
“Ever since SP formed the government, corruption, goonda raj and injustice has gone through the roof. Having witnessed two years of mis-governance, the voters have now turned to the BSP. This time we will create history. As far as Modi is concerned, the wave is only on TV and the media. On the ground there is nothing,” Maurya said.
While political observers say Congress is in the worst condition in Allahabad, there are voters who say the fight is between the BJP and the Congress, which has fielded a strong local leader Nand Gopal Gupta.
Popularly known as 'Nandi', Nand Gopal was a cabinet minister in the Mayawati government and joined the Congress after he was expelled from the BSP in March.
"The fight is very close. If I were to pick the strongest candidate, I'd say the first is Nandi (congress) and second is Gupta (BJP). The young generation is going with Modi. Shyama Charan Gupta, left to himself, would not be in the fight, but because of Modi his chances are high," Ashok, an employee with a pharmaceutical company, said.
"In Allahabad's surrounding areas, there are a large number of Agarwal families (Bania community) who will vote for Nandi. He was in constant touch with people when he was with the BSP. Shyama Charan Gupta (also from the Bania community) is out of touch with Allahabad," he said.
His colleague, Rajesh Kumar, disagrees.
"I don’t know who the fight is between. But it will be the BJP that will win. Because the wave is there. Our faith in Modi has increased. Having seen how the central government has cheated us, Modi is the need of the hour. He is the best candidate for being prime minister. Congress will be in second position," he said.
Speaking about the "Modi wave" in Allahabad, RK Sharma, a high court advocate said, "Today the voter is feeling greater connect with the BJP. This is a national election. The SP and the BSP are neither in a position to raise national issues nor are they capable of fighting at this level... There is an anti-Congress sentiment in the country and Modi has successfully channelised it. That is why people want a leader who can take decisions and work in the national interest."
Responding to whether the Modi wave was more hype than substance, Sharma said, "No. Earlier, people would cast their vote on the basis of caste. But that chapter is closed now... We should cast our vote in national interest. BJP is the only party that is capable of providing an alternative."
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Updated Date: May 11, 2014 09:22:47 IST