Debating India


Fight for second place hots up

Monday 8 May 2006, by JHA*Ajay

Rae Bareli: Today’s polling in Rae Bareli Lok Sabha by-election has essentially become a fight to elect the runners up in view of predictions about a sweeping victory for the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Emerging second has become a matter of life and death for parties sponsoring three principal opponents to Sonia.

The Samajwadi Party which is leading the ruling coalition in Uttar Pradesh wants to show that its influence is intact and growing.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to use this election to bounce back and give an impression that it is in the reckoning to come to power in the state, it is an occasion to test the political waters for expelled BJP leader Uma Bharati who floated her own Bharatiya Janshakti Party about 10 days ago.

The polling today is being used by Bharati to test if her area of influence extends beyond her home state Madhya Pradesh.

There is a battle within the war for ballots in Rae Bareli between the BJP and its clone floated by Bharati.


Even if the Samajwadi Party finishes second, Bharati would be happy if her nominee Prabha Singh Lodh finishes ahead of Vinay Katiyar of BJP.

Bharati wants to send a message to the masses in Uttar Pradesh and the entire Hindi heartland that she is ready to dislodge the BJP and fulfil her avowed aim of making her party the real BJP.

While Sonia is seen as Rae Bareli’s daughter-in-law as both her in-laws Feroze and Indira Gandhi had represented Rae Bareli in the Lok Sabha in the past, the voters here see the three among 15 other challengers to Sonia as rank outsiders.

Even Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is also president of the Samajwadi Party, and his Man Friday Amar Singh, had difficulties in remembering name of their party nominee Raj Kumar Chaudhary, a political greenhorn.

Chaudhary was an unknown entity even within the Samajwadi Party circles when his candidature was announced. His only claim to fame is that he is the son-in-law of senior Samajwadi Party leader Beni Prasad Verma, who represents neighbouring Barabanki seat in the Lok Sabha.

Political novice

Likewise Prabha Singh Lodh is a political novice, a typical housewife thrown into the political arena.

Uma Bharati picked her up from nowhere and made her make her debut in politics against a heavyweight like Sonia simply because she wanted to reward Prabha’s husband who impressed her with his devoted service during Bharati’s recent Ram Roti Yatra that she undertook between Bhopal and Ayodhya.

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