BJP's 'weak' Lallu Singh finds the going tough in Faizabad

Despite the so-called ‘Modi factor’, BJP nominee Lallu Singh appears to be finding the going tough in the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency mainly owing to the perception that he is ‘too weak’. 

Singh was the BJP nominee in the 2012 Assembly polls from Ayodhya and had lost to Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Tejnarain Pandey.

Numerous saffron flags fluttering atop the shops leading to the makeshift Ram Temple in Ayodhya, an Assembly segment which is part of the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency, makes one believe that the BJP is sparing no effort to change its fortunes this time around.
The perception, however, quickly changes once one speaks to the local shopkeepers. “Kya karen....neta log jhanda laga kar chale jaten hain (What can we do...the leaders put the flags atop the shops and disappear)”, said a shopkeeper, who appeared reluctant to reveal his name.

The BJP’s defeat in the Assembly elections in Ayodhya in 2012 had shocked the saffron party as Ayodhya has been the epicentre of the Ram Temple movement and was considered a BJP bastion.

Gyan Das, the president of the All India Akhara Parishad and mahant of the Hanumangarhi temple, who strongly roots for Narendra Modi, is also of the opinion that Singh is a weak candidate. The mahant, however, feels that Lallu Singh will scrape through riding the ‘Modi wave’.

Singh's candidature has not gone down well with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Former BJP MP and VHP leader Ram Bilas Vedanti had openly opposed Singh. Vedanti had threatened to contest as an independent but was persuaded not to do so.

Developmental issues have taken the backstage in Faizabad constituency and have instead been overtaken by caste equations. Local people appear to be sore with successive governments for not doing anything to tap the potential for religious tourism in Ayodhya. 

“There was a proposal to beautify the Ram ki Paidi, situated on the bank of Saryu river and paint the buildings of the Naya Ghat in pink on the lines of Jaipur but it has remained on papers,” complained Ram Ugrah Tripathi, a resident of Ayodhya. Likewise, the International Ramleela Centre remains incomplete after a year, he pointed out.

The SP has fielded Mitrasen Yadav, a sitting MLA from the Bikapur Assembly segment of the constituency. Yadav, who is said to wield considerable influence on his community, is also banking on the support of the sizable number of Muslim voters, who appear to be inclined towards the SP.

“Most of the members of our community are likely to vote for Mulayam...some may also support the Congress”, says Sirajuddin, a resident of Rudauli, where Muslim voters outnumber others. The ‘Modi factor’ seems to have made a dent into the Yadav vote bank of the SP. “The Yadavs in my village will support Narendra Modi...it is not the assembly elections...Mulayam is not expected to rule at the centre,” says Ram Kumar Yadav, a resident of Kot Sarai village, about 10 km from Faizabad town.

Munnalal, a tea vendor in the town, however, said that the contest here was between the Congress and the BJP. Congress candidate Nirmal Khatri, who is also the state chief of the party, had won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls by a margin of 54,000 votes. The question is whether Khatri can pull off a victory this time.

The BSP has fielded a young candidate, Jitendra Singh alias Babloo Singh, who is banking on the support of the traditional BSP voters as well as the Thakur community. Faizabad goes to polls next Wednesday.

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