The elite constituency of Allahabad normally does not accept anybody so easily. It has been always considered a difficult constituency. Even Pt Jawarhar-lal Nehru preferred not to contest from Allahabad and selected the neighbouring Phulpur as his constituency.
The people particularly in the city are cynical about anybody. They are the worst critics of all governments and naturally all the sitting MPs. The personality of the candidate has been of significance to them. Among those who had represented Allahabad include former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, former UP Chief Minister and Central Minister, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, cinestar Amitabh Bachchan, Samajwadi Party leader Janeshwar Mishra and former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh. But most of them preferred to look for a new constituency for their next tenure.
Union HRD and Science and Technology Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi has the rare distinction of having been returned from here for three consecutive terms-1996, 1998 and 1999. Each time, however, he polled a lesser percentage of votes. In 1996, he had got 42 per cent votes, in 1998 it was 39.7 per cent and in 1999 it was a mere 33.8 per cent. But compared to 1998 when he had won by a margin of 44,000 votes, his margin in 1999 increased to 81,000 votes as the contest was triangular. His main opponent on both the occasions was Reoti Raman Singh, who is again contesting as the Samajwadi Party nominee.
The last election was the most difficult one for Dr Joshi. His opponents played mainly on two issues. They campaigned against him on the plea that Dr Joshi had little time for the constituency. The other issue was more personal. His opponents and sometimes the friends also had been saying that Dr Joshi treats the voters like his students and sometime was not very nice to them. That was the major complaint against him. He could score for his position in the national politics as well as the way his supporters campaigned for him saying, “You vote and all that had never been done in Allahabad would be accomplished.”
Dr Joshi kept the promises they had made. Allahabad had become a backward area during the tenure of the V.P. Singh, and did not gain much even during the tenure of Bahuguna. Joshi has made development the key plank during the past five years. Joshi”s stronghold had been the two city constituencies: Allahabad North and Allahabad South. He used have a tough time in the rural Meja and Karchhana areas. The caste configuration has not been very favourable. Joshi decided to pander to the needs of every constituency.
He spent almost all his weekends with the people of the constituency and monitored the progress of a number of developmental projects that he had undertaken. The most significant was the second bridge over Yamuna, that connects the city with its industrial hub Naini and the eastern as well as southern India.
Despite being a busy Central Minister, he spent almost all his weekends with the people of the constituency and monitored the progress of a number of developmental projects that he had undertaken. The most significant was the second bridge over Yamuna, that connects the city with its industrial hub Naini and the eastern as well as southern India. The old rail-cum-road bridge had become a traffic problem and it used to take sometimes hours to cross the river. One of the main reasons for Amitabh Bachchan defeating the stalwart Bahuguna was this bridge. He promised it and Allahabad voted for Bachchan. After him several others promised for it but none could even make the beginning.
The tall cantilever bridge is in its final stages and the talk is that the Prime Minister would inaugurate it soon after the new government takes over. The bridge has become a part of the Golden Quadrilateral project. It has led to building of an excellent road network in and around the city. Everyone credits Joshi for this rare feat.
It is not only this project but a number of other rural road networks and other developmental projects that have apparently won for him the hearts of the people. His efforts to modernise the Muslim schools or madrasas have also won him friends among the Muslims. The computers he has provided through the HRD funds is changing the looks of the madrasas. A devout Hindu, Joshi is now being seen as a friend among the minorities. Will they vote for him? Ehsan Malik, a resident of the city says, “Not many, but some will definitely vote for Joshi.”
He has also given to Allahabad the Indian Institute of Information Technology and has been striving to give Allahabad University the status of a Central university. The SP”s opposition to the move had stalled his move. The Science City project has kindled the hopes among locals that Allahabad would be another Bangalore.
Joshi himself has developed that necessary truck with his voters. The voters believe that Joshi listens to them and does all that is possible.
It may not be a cakewalk for him. He has as his rival a feudal but a popular Transport Minister, Reoti Raman Singh, who has some strong pockets in the rural areas. His vote bank is not that large but because of the SP he can bank on the support of some OBCs and quite a few Muslims. He is resource-rich as well.
The Congress has pitted Satya Prakash Malaviya, a former Socialist, Lok Dal and Ajit Singh, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader. Malaviya has been a minister in UP and at the Centre. He is also a popular figure and has a clean image. His drawback is that he has been in politics mainly through the route of Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad. He is into a direct election after almost two decades. He contested for UP assembly in 1980. But he has his socialist loyals. The Congressmen in Allahabad remain divided. Malaviya, being a new entrant to the party, has yet to win over the old Congress loyalist leaders. Malaviya may cut into some Brahmin and upper caste votes. Congress vote share over the years has drastically come down. Twice in the past, the Congress had to satisfy being the third runners-up and once the fourth.
Malaviya describes his both the opponents as “seasoned politicians. Though BJP and SP are busy in hate campaign, no one is indulging in mud slinging against him.”
The high intellectual campaign plane is to the liking of the sophisticated people of Allahabad. It is expected that Joshi”s lead from the two city constituencies are likely to increase. His rural support base has also increased over the years. Despite the elections being caste based, Joshi is seemingly having the advantage of being a national leader. Many people in Allahabad, not only in the BJP but also in Congress and SP, see him as a powerful leader in the National Democratic Alliance. He is also seen as the one who has brought Samajwadi Party leader, Mulayam Singh, close to BJP. All these factors may prove favourable for him. He may set a record by winning this difficult constituency for the fourth consecutive term.
He has as his rival a feudal but a popular Transport Minister, Reoti Raman Singh, who has some strong pockets in the rural areas. His vote bank is not that large but because of the SP, he can bank on the support of some OBCs and quite a few Muslims. He is resource-rich as well.