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UTTAR PRADESH

Sonia’s win a comeback sign in state: UP Cong

Friday 12 May 2006, by KHAN*Atiq

LUCKNOW, May 11 : UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s win by a record margin of over four lakh votes in the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha by-election has had an electrifying effect on the Uttar Pradesh Congress. It’s already nursing ambitions of replicating the outcome on a macro-scale in next year’s Assembly elections.

Sonia steamrolled the rival parties, making all the candidates forfeit their security deposits with a whopping 80.49 per cent of the popular vote despite a low turnout of 43.35 per cent. Her nearest Samajwadi Party rival Raj Kumar Chaudhary secured a little over 57,000 votes and Vinay Katiyar of the BJP had to be content with 19,657 votes. Katiyar’s tally was better than Prabha Singh’s, the Apna Dal candidate backed by Uma Bharati. In spite of the hype generated by Bharati’s forays into Rae Bareli, Prabha got a mere 6,201 votes. Sonia bettered her performance in the 2004 LS polls when she had secured 3.78 lakh votes, accounting for around 59 per cent of the popular vote. A 20 per cent increase in two years suggests that the Congress president’s popularity is on an upswing.

Sonia’s victory had been a foregone conclusion, as her daughter Priyanka Vadra said earlier. However, the run-up to the election and its result marks the emergence of Rahul Gandhi in UP. The Amethi MP managed his mother’s poll campaign and came out with flying colours.

Chief spokesperson of UP Congress Committee, Akhilesh Pratap Singh said, ??The credit for ensuring a cakewalk for Sonia in the face of misuse of official machinery by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government goes to Rahul. There was some concern following the low polling but the result proved the efficacy of measures initiated by the Amethi MP in the campaign trail.’’

In fact, it was a fiercely contested by-elections with the ruling Samajwadi Party, the BJP, and the Apna Dal in tandem with Uma Bharati’s Bharatiya Janshakti Party, playing the caste card by fielding Kurmi (Chaudhary and Vinay Katiyar) and Lodh (Prabha Singh) candidates against Sonia. While Katiyar was fielded essentially to deter Bharati from getting a foothold in UP politics, the Samajwadi Party government had pulled out all stops to reduce Sonia’s victory margin, though UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav may have known that it was extremely difficult to get the better of Sonia in her political backyard.

Yet, the ruling party poured in moolah and ministers in the VVIP constituency in a bid to upstage the Congress candidate and even managed to ensure that the voting percentage remained low. Congress sources alleged that the Rae Bareli district administration impounded about 1.25 ration cards in April on the ground of issuing new ones. Since they had not been issued voter ID cards, the absence of ration cards meant they were denied voting rights.

Describing the win as a triumph for sacrifice, CLP leader Pramod Tewari slammed the UP government for using unfair means. Tewari said the bypoll would mark the return of the Congress in the next Assembly elections.

atiq.khan@expressindia.com

See online : The Indian Express

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