By Shivaji Sarkar
The poll 2004 is all about Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee”s chari-sma. The undercurrent of goodwill for ´Atalji´ is seen almost everywhere in Uttar Pradesh. Even in the strongholds of opposition Samajwadi Party, he is popular. Be it a rural or urban constituency, there is no voter apathy towards Vajpayee.
The ´feel good´ has raised consciousness of the people about the shape the country should take. It has led to a feeling that the government is serious about its business. The most poignant factor for the realisation has been the construction of roads almost in all parts of the country.
As we pass through Etawah, Kanpur, Fatehpur, Allahabad, Pratapgarh, Rae Bareli, Lucknow and drive towards Delhi, everywhere people agree that nobody can match ´Atalji´ as Prime Minister.
Even in Bharthana, the Yadav-dominated stronghold of Samajwadi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, in the Etawah district and part of the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency, Barkhu Yadav, the owner of a roadside dhaba, echoes that. But he has his local compulsions. Between BJP´s Balram Singh Yadav and Mulayam Singh, it is a tough choice, in spite of his love for Vajpayee.
About 400 km east at Karchhana, in Allahabad district, the voter is far less confused. This forms part of the Allahabad Lok Sabha constituency, from where Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is seeking a fourth term. But never in the past could he establish a lead in the Karchhana segment, which remains the home Assembly segment of his rival SP candidate, state Transport Minister, Reoti Raman Singh. The voters this time are apparently moved by the spate of development works done in Allahabad. A number of them: be it Naresh Kumar, Srikant, Ramai Ram or Sukdev, all feel that they have to vote for Joshi because ´Atalji´ can bring in a change.
Bilhaur and Kanpur city constituencies, both parts of the Kanpur district, are markedly different areas. Caste combina-tions as well as social factors are different. One is rural and the other, urban. The BJP has strong support bases in both the areas. The opposition?SP, BSP and the communists?too have good support in the area. But even the staunch rivals of the BJP admit that apart from local combinations, Vajpayee remains the most important issue.
It is no different in Fatehpur or even in Rae Bareli. The BJP candidates in Rae Bareli and Amethi have been seeking votes not for them, but for Vajpayee. Because of the local factors, the positive feeling for Vajpayee may not however help them.
This is almost the picture everywhere. ´Atalji´ has become synonymous with development. A vote for him is being seen as a vote for a better quality of life. The opposition SP leaders as well as BJP leaders say that this factor could have a marginal impact. Would it tilt the result? Most of them say that they were not sure. All, however, admit that it remains a factor.
Whether it is a wave or not, the results alone would reveal. But it has the capacity to influence the voting pattern. In about 20 constituencies, where the BJP had lost by slender margins in the last election, it could make a dramatic change. ´Atalji´ and ´feel good´ may spring the surprise that possibly no one has ever dreamt of.