Allahabad: A young BSP MLA seeks to retain the Allahabad (West) Assembly seat for the third time amid challenges thrown by a still younger student leader-turned-politician fielded by SP and a Delhi-based BJP heavyweight.
Pooja Pal (37) has come a long way since she plunged into politics more than a decade ago. Her political debut in 2005 had followed the assassination of Raju Pal, her husband of three months and the sitting MLA from the seat.
She lost the ensuing bypoll to Ashraf – brother of mafia don-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and one of the prime accused in her husband’s murder – amid allegations of poll rigging.
However, she earned enough goodwill and sympathy and finally wrested back the seat for BSP in the 2007 Assembly elections, which also saw her party gaining an absolute majority in the state for the first time.
In the 2012 Assembly polls, her party was routed but her own electoral performance shone as she ended up as the only victorious BSP candidate from Allahabad, which has the highest number of 12 Assembly seats for any district in Uttar Pradesh.
Dynamics, though, are different this time.
Neither Atiq – who had won the seat five times on the trot and was the runner-up in the last Assembly polls – nor Ashraf is in the fray.
In terms of arithmetic, it may help Samajwadi Party’s Richa Singh, who shot to fame two years ago as the first woman to have become president of the Allahabad University Students' union after Independence.
The diminutive Singh (29) has been carrying out a tireless campaign, which is likely to be bolstered by the goodwill claimed to have been generated by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the consolidation of different communities in her favour owing to her party’s tie-up with the Congress.
Another key figure in the electoral battle here this time is Siddharth Nath Singh, national secretary of the BJP, who was greeted with black flags by party cadre last month when he arrived in the city upon announcement of his candidature.
Singh, however, brushes aside the "outsider" tag, and points towards his roots in the city.
The BJP national secretary is the maternal grandson of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who represented Allahabad in the Lok Sabha.
Besides, veteran Congress leader and a three-time MLA from the assembly segment Chaudhary Naunihal Singh was his uncle.
The BJP, however, has not been a force to reckon with in the assembly segment so far.
In 2012, it had polled a measly 5.5 percent of the total number of votes.
The party, however, is buoyed by its stunning performance of 2014 Lok Sabha elections wherein it had got a decisive lead in the assembly segment by securing more than half of the total votes polled in Allahabad (West).
It hopes to do well in the assembly polls too by virtue of the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Voting for Allahabad (West) will take place on 23 February.
Updated Date: Feb 12, 2017 13:55 PM