UP sees big battles as polling for fifth phase ends

Smriti Irani, Rahul Gandhi
Smriti Irani, Rahul Gandhi

Lucknow: Polling for 14 Lok Sabha seats in central and east Uttar Pradesh took place on Monday, to decide the electoral fate of political bigwigs such as UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh. Constituencies that saw polling included Dhaurahra, Sitapur, Mohanlalganj, Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Amethi, Banda, Fatehpur, Kaushambi, Barabanki, Faizabad, Bahraich, Kaiserganj and Gonda. About 58 per cent polling had been recorded across the state at the end of voting, even as the entire region saw intense heat throughout the day.

The verdict on these seats means a make-or-break situation for the Bharatiya Janata Party and the alliance comprising Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal, although the last-mentioned RLD does not have a stake in any of the seats. These seats include those two which the Congress had won in 2014 (Rae Bareli and Amethi). The SP-BSP alliance expects to do well in many seats, while the BJP, having won all except two in 2014, hopes to keep up the record.

The Congress expects not only Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to win, but also expects a good show by Jitin Prasada from Dhaurahra. Other prominent candidates hoping to do well include Kaiser Jahan (formerly of BSP) from Sitapur, Savitri Bai Phule (formerly of BJP) from Bahraich and Tanuj Punia (son of former MP PL Punia) from Barabanki.

For BJP, besides Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, other veterans in fray are Niranjan Jyoti from Fatehpur, Lalloo Singh from Faizabad, Kaushal Kishore from Mohanlalganj, Kirti Vardhan Singh from Gonda and Braj Bhushan Sharan Singh from Kaiserganj. The SP-BSP alliance used to have its strongholds in many of these seats till 2009, and is now banking on a mix of reshuffling of its candidates and some turncoats. In Sitapur, the erstwhile MP Kaiser Jahan of BSP defected to Congress last year, and now the party has put up Nakul Dubey, belonging to Lucknow, to be its candidate in Sitapur. In Banda, the SP is depending on Shyama Charan Gupta, the former BJP MP from Allahabad, as its candidate.

Shah, Smriti Irani
BJP National President Amit Shah during an election roadshow in support of party's candidate from Amethi seat Smriti Irani for Lok Sabha polls, in Amethi, on May 4. PTI

Except for Lucknow, none of the seats has a record of supporting a particular party over many terms, and frequent upsets have been the norm. The Lucknow seat has been with the BJP since 1991, with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee representing it for five terms (1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004) while Lalji Tandon won in 2009. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh won the seat in 2014, and is now being challenged by Poonam Sinha of the SP and Acharya Pramod Krishnam of the Congress.

In Amethi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi faces a stiff challenge from Union Minister Smriti Irani of the BJP, who had lost by about 1 lakh votes in 2014, giving a scare to the Congress. This time Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has devoted quite a lot of time to Amethi to ensure a smooth win for her brother. Irani has been staying put in Amethi and on polling day, she said she had informed the election commission through a tweet about alleged booth capturing in Amethi. However, the Congress said that the BJP candidate was staring at defeat and therefore was looking for excuses.

Rajnath Singh
Union Minister and BJP candidate from Lucknow, Rajnath Singh, and his wife Savitri Singh show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting vote at a polling station during the fifth phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in Lucknow, on Monday. PTI

In Rae Bareli, Sonia Gandhi faces a challenge from her erstwhile confidante Dinesh Pratap Singh who recently joined the BJP. In the 2014 election, Sonia had defeated Ajay Agrawal of the BJP by a margin of 4.53 lakh votes, which was higher than the margin of her earlier victory.

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