A report on the VVIP constituency
Vajpayee all the way in Lucknow
By Shivaji Sarkar
Lucknow city has a Teflon leader as their hero. Nothing seems to deter the Lucknowites. They all want their leader to continue to rule them. “Whatever may happen, it is ?feel good? for Atal Behari Vajpayee,” says Vinai Kumar, a civil contractor.
The feeling is not peculiar to Vinai. Just talk to anybody in this city, they all have only one common thing to say, “No other candidate can match Atalji.” The exit polls on NDA have not made any change in the voter”s mind. Many wondered why Ram Jethmalani has chosen to contest from this constituency. Some say that the Congress has befooled him. The others say it was his “legalistic” brain that has out-witted the Congress. Across the board all have a common wish-“Jethmalani must lose his deposit.”
The Samajwadi Party candidate, Dr Madhu Gupta, a practising physician, is yet another surprise. All are amused at the selection of the candidate. She is a virtual political non-entity. Most people, at a teashop in Nishatganj, ask why she is a candidate against the venerated Atalji. Then they themselves answer, “Possibly to hog the limelight.”
Jethmalani'sten questions every day have become a joke. It evoked little interest among the people. Nobody seems to take him seriously. This constituency”s voter-be it a Hindu or a Muslim-wants to return the person who is certain to be the Prime Minister again. The voters do not want to lose the privilege of giving the nation its Prime Minister.
This ?feel good? for Vajpayee is not merely because he is the Prime Minister. Very few might have worked the way Vajpayee did in his constituency. During the past five years he spent almost all his weekends in Lucknow, meeting the people of his constituency.
He is described as the most efficient representative for any constituency. Lucknowites feel that they are not only hogging the national glory but on the development plank too, they can compete with anybody. It is the fastest developing city in northern India, after Delhi.
In the last five years, development projects worth Rs 157.57 crore have been completed. Similar projects worth Rs 1484.78 crore are underway.
Smooth and wide roads have been constructed in the city. Many flyovers and overbridges are being constructed. A ring-road connec-ting Hardoi-Sitapur, two adjacent districts, has been laid. There are projects underway to make the city more beautiful-Janakinagar Extension, Gomatinagar Exten-sion, Sitapur road plan, Kalyan Kutir Bhavan, Deoras Bhavan and Valmiki Ambedkar house for the homeless.
Undoubtedly, the voter knows more about this VIP contestant than the poll managers that BJP has brought from outside the state. “Vajpayee,” says Bilkis, the kababwallah, “has been developing the heritage zone of Kaiserbagh, where once the Nababs of Oudh lived. The 1857 war of freedom museum and light-and-sound show at Residency has commenced.”
He has extended the electrified rail route to Lucknow and connected it with Delhi and all major UP cities with the fast Shatabdis and Janshatabdis. He has also given it the most prestigious circular railway network, though surprisingly not many Lucknowites use it.
Software and biotechnology parks also have kindled hopes. The younger generation looks towards him. They have hope that in the days to come, Lucknow and many UP cities would have as bright a future as Bangalore and Hyderabad.
In a highly caste-based society of UP, Lucknow looks more cosmopolitan. In some pockets, in the rural and some minority-dominated segments, voting still may take place along the sectarian mode. However, it is largely being considered as an aberration.
Muslims in UP look to BJP
The Muslim voters are known to vote en bloc in a strategic manner. On an average the Muslims form 12 to 14 per cent of the electorate. They constitute 20 to 30 per cent of the electorate in as many as 130 of the 402 assembly segments-almost one-fifth of the Lok Sabha seats in UP.
With the Imam of Jama Masjid, Abdullah Bukhari, on an open call to the Muslims to vote for the BJP in this election, the equations could change dramatically in UP. There are many other backward Muslim caste groups which have declared their allegiance to the BJP. The SP and Congress are wondering whether this has in any way caused any wedge among the Muslim voters.
The rise of the BJP has led to a rethink in the community. They have realised that they have been used only as vote banks by the other parties. They now blame the Congress for having used and thrown them.
Another significant difference has been noticed this time. Earlier, the BJP candidates could hardly hold any roadside meeting in Muslim-dominated localities. This time the Muslim groups, mostly local ones, have been approaching the candidates, requesting them to come and address them. HRD Minister, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, and his wife Tarla Joshi are in demand to hold repeated meetings in their localities. So it is in Varanasi, Lucknow, Mirzapur and the normally surcharged Kanpur.
In various meetings in the state and elsewhere, Vajpayee has given a call to them to think differently for the development of the country and be a part of the mainstream.
There are indication that Muslims are deviating from their previous voting pattern. They are now swinging a little away from the Yadav. The 2004 elections may mark the beginning of an important change. It is likely to change the future political course of Muslim politics. A new era of synthesis in the political spectrum may begin.