In India, every Lok Sabha election has its own share of hotly contested ‘high-profile’ seats. While some nondescript constituencies hit the popular imagination because a ‘stalwart’ or a big leader choose to contest from there, several others remain important for their cultural and political significance.
Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh is one such constituency where the contest will be closely watched.
Being a Lok Sabha constituency that has been represented by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for five times, Lucknow automatically qualifies to be a high-profile seat. Currently, it is being represented by Union home minister Rajnath Singh who first contested from Lucknow in 2014 and won with more than 2.7 lakh votes.
A closer look at the candidates fielded by prominent political parties (in last Lok Sabha elections) in constituencies like Lucknow, Amethi, Rae Bareli shows that how they play safe with high-profile seats which rarely poses a tough challenge to the ‘stalwarts’.
Given the fact that Lucknow is a prominent seat being the capital city of India’s most populous state, it is expected that the Congress will file a candidate who is strong enough to put up a fight against a senior leader like Singh. Ironically, the choice of candidate by the Congress in the last elections and the name of the probable candidate this time, inspire little confidence or hints at a tight fight.
In 2014 Congress fielded Rita Bahuguna Joshi from Lucknow. For Congress Bahuguna was its best bet as she comes from a prominent political family. She is the daughter of Congress veteran Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. She was a sitting MLA from Congress, representing Lucknow Cantonment and had earlier been the president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee from 2007 to 2012. However, when juxtaposed against Singh the contest clearly looked unequal.
Singh was then BJP national president and was Member of Parliament from Ghaziabad. He had also served as the chief minister of the state and had been Union minister in the Vajpayee government. The contest was one-sided and this became evident once the results were declared. Singh secured 55 percent of the total vote share and defeated Joshi by 2,72,749 votes.
In October 2016, few months before the Assembly election was to be held in the state, Joshi joined BJP and was given a ticket in the 2017 elections, which she won and now is a cabinet minister in the Uttar Pradesh government.
This time the probable candidate of the Congress party is Jitin Prasada who has won the Lok Sabha polls twice in 2004 and 2009 from Shahjahanpur and Dhaurahra respectively. However, he failed to retain Dhaurahra in 2014. The interesting part of Prasada’s candidature is that till a few days ago speculations were rife that he will be joining the BJP. The reason for discord with his party was that while Congress wanted him to field from Dhaurahra, Prasada had expressed unwillingness for the same. According to some reports only after he met Congress president Rahul Gandhi who told him to contest from Lucknow and in case of defeat he will be sent to Rajya Sabha, Prasada dropped his idea of joining BJP.
Prasada who was Minister of State for Human Resource Development in the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh comes from a prominent political family of Uttar Pradesh. His father Jitendra Prasad was vice-president of Congress party and Member of Parliament from Shahjahanpur Lok Sabha seat for four times. Apart from this Jitin is also projected as a prominent Brahmin face in Uttar Pradesh. In case of Jitin while it would be wrong to mark his candidature as ‘irrelevant’ or ‘already lost', the fact remains that he is a not a tough match for the opponent-incumbent and it is not a confident bet for the Congress either and probably this is the reason it has assured a Rajya Sabha seat to Jitin in case of a defeat.
Political parties understand that the fight is toughest in the constituencies where ‘topmost’ leaders of any party are in the poll fray. In this scenario either they choose to field a candidate who can fight decisively and actually pose a challenge to the incumbent, irrespective of winning or losing or they put forward a candidate who accepts to fight a ‘lost battle’ in return of some rewards to be given in future.
This trend is not limited to a specific seat as political wisdom, in general, ensures that parties don’t field candidates whose loss can be equated to lack of confidence in the party itself.
Vajpayee who contested from Lucknow five times hardly had to face a political heavyweight of his stature as an opponent. Most famous of those who were pitted against him were senior advocate Ram Jethmalani as an independent candidate, Karan Singh of Congress, filmmaker Muzaffar Ali on Samajwadi Party ticket and actor Raj Babbar from Congress in 2004, 1999, 1998, 1996 respectively. But all of them were defeated with huge margins.
Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency which is represented by former Congress president Sonia Gandhi since 2004 has witnessed the same trend. Be it BJP, Samajwadi Party, or Bahujan Samaj Party, none of its candidates had a match to Sonia in their political stature. Ashok Kr Singh (BJP), RS Kushwaha (BSP) or Ajay Agarwal (BJP) who contested against Sonia and came a distant second in 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections respectively are hardly any match for the political figure like Sonia.
Rahul Gandhi who made his political debut in 2004 and contested the Lok Sabha election from Amethi had Chandra Prakash Mishra from BSP, Ram Vilas Vedanti from BJP as main opponents. All these candidates might have good ground connect but none of them had the political weight that could have posed a serious challenge to the ‘legacy’ that ensured Rahul’s victory. As expected Rahul won the election by around 3 lakh votes.
Again in 2009, the list of candidates fielded by different parties in Amethi made it clear that Gandhi scion will have an easy win. He won the election with even greater margin by securing 71.78 percent of total votes polled. In 2014 “young and energetic” Smriti Irani was fielded against Rahul who gave a tough fight to him but could not secure a seat for her party. But the fact that she took on Rahul decisively was appreciated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who made her Union cabinet minister with a portfolio of Human Resource Development that was held earlier by likes of BJP stalwarts Murli Manohar Joshi.
In the days to come two major political players in Uttar Pradesh that is SP and BSP who have come together to take on the ruling BJP will announce their candidate for Lucknow and other high profile constituencies like Varanasi, which is represented by Prime Minister Modi. It will be interesting to see if their choice of candidate hints at a willingness for a tough fight or will they be fielded just because of compulsion to field one.
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Updated Date: Mar 26, 2019 10:31:49 IST