Varun banks on Sanjay, not Modi

Varun banks on Sanjay, not Modi

Sultanpur is perhaps the only Lok Sabha constituency in the country where a BJP candidate rarely mentions Narendra Modi in election rallies.

Varun Gandhi is instead seeking votes in the name of his father Sanjay Gandhi, who had represented the neighbouring Amethi twice. Earlier, Amethi was part of Sultanpur district.
Varun, who shifted from Pilibhit where he won the 2009 polls, is going all out to give an “emotional colour” to his campaign after realising that Sanjay’s name still evokes love and affection from the people here.

While Varun’s family background is helping him strike an emotional chord, the caste equations and the sizable Muslim voters may play spoilsport.

“Muslims are by and large with the Samajwadi Party this time,” says Sadique Ali Khan, a resident of Bankepur village, about 10 km from the district headquarters. The constituency has around 3,00,000 muslim votes and their support could prove to be the deciding factor. Khan said in 2009 the Muslims had supported Congress’ Sanjay Singh, who went on to win the polls. This time, Singh’s wife, Amita, is contesting on the Congress ticket. “Singh never bothered to find out if we have any problems though he passed through the village several times,” he added.

A few kilometers further Hasan Imam, a resident of Amhat, also echoes similar sentiment. He also said that BJP leader Giriraj Singh’s statements that those who do not vote for Modi should go to Pakistan, would “hurt” Varun here. “Muslim votes could get polarised in favour of SP nominee Shakeel Ahmed,” he remarked.

Kishen Dixit, a resident of the same area, however, was confident of Varun’s victory. “Varun is a big name...Sultanpur will also become a VIP constituency like Amethi if he wins from here,” he said.

Many here seemed to be extremely unhappy with the SP regime. They are particularly sore over acute power shortage, poor condition of roads and lack of employment opportunities for the youths.

“The state government has done nothing in the past two years. We will vote for Modi this time. He will ensure development of the region,” says Shyam Babu, who runs a general store at Lohramau market in the constituency.

Ashok Kumar, who operates a betel shop nearby, is not sure about Varun’s victory. “The contest is multi-cornered...Varun will not find it easy,” Kumar said.

The backward caste, with the exception of the Yadavs, seem to be with Modi. “We expect a lot from Modi,” said Tulsi Ram Soni, who sells chat at Lambhua market on the Lucknow-Varanasi highway.

Meanwhile, Ahmed, the SP candidate, is known as a thorough gentleman and enjoys goodwill even among other castes and communities. He is banking on the Yadav-Muslim combination.

Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Pawan Pandey is quite popular among the Brahmins and he is expecting support from his own community and the traditional party vote base. Amita hopes to corner Congress voters, besides the votes of her Thakur community and also a section of the Muslim votes.

The constituency goes to polls on Wednesday.

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