When BJP chief Rajnath Singh sported the “dushala” (shawl) saying it had been given to him by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee along with his blessings, he only underlined how important Vajpayee is in this Lok Sabha constituency, even though he is not in the fray.
And Singh has been harping on Vajpayee's “blessings” at almost all his election meetings here to impress upon the electorate that he is heir to the former prime minister's legacy. After all, Vajpayee had represented this constituency five times—from 1991 to 2004—and his name still evokes love and affection from the people of the “city of nawabs”.
Singh has also been telling voters he is here to complete the “unfulfilled dreams” of Vajpayee, and that a vote for him would in fact be a vote for Vajpayee.
Lucknow is considered a BJP stronghold, and Rajnath could not have chosen a safer seat after abandoning Ghaziabad, from where he had won in 2009, even though the sudden shift not only took local party leaders by surprise but also left many of them sulking.
Sitting MP Lalji Tandon, considered a close Vajpayee aide, has reportedly still not been able to overcome the shock, but he could do very little given the fact that Singh was national president and also known to be very close to the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Sources say Tandon has been promised a gubernatorial assignment if the BJP comes to power.
Developmental issues appear to have taken a backseat here due to the “Modi wave”. Pollution in Gomti river, the lifeline of Lucknow, lack of employment opportunities, traffic jams, law and order problems, and poor roads are no longer key issues.
The constituency has around 5 lakh “Vaisya” electors, who have been traditional voters of the BJP, and Singh is banking on their support. A visibly clear “Modi wave” and the feeling that Singh could get an important post in case the BJP forms the government seem to put him in an advantageous position.
Singh, however, may not get the support of Shia Muslims like Vajpayee. Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad said Singh was a “good man” but he could not support Modi.
Shia Muslims seem to be divided, however. While some may still vote for the BJP, many others could support the Aam Aadmi Party candidate and film actor Jaaved Jaffrey.
The youngsters, however, appear to be rooting for Modi. “We need a change and Modi should be given a chance,” said 25-year-old post-graduate student Ritika Shukla.
Punit Kumar, faculty at Lucknow University, echoed a similar sentiment. “We can expect Modi to usher in a new era of development in the country,” he said.
Madhurima Srivastava, another Lucknow resident, also feels Modi could bring down the rising prices. Singh's rivals are no pushovers, however. The Congress' Reeta Bahuguna Joshi, a sitting MLA, has the 2009 polls from here by a narrow margin. The BSP and the Samajwadi Party have also fielded strong Brahmin candidates, apparently in an attempt to woo the sizeable Brahmin voters here.
A division in Brahmin votes will benefit Singh.
The BSP candidate, Nakul Dubey, is banking on Brahmin and Dalit voters to sail through while the SP candidate, Abhishek Mishra, an IIM-A alumnus, hopes to get the support of all sections to emerge victorious.
The constituency goes to polls on April 30.