BJP-RSS close ranks in UP pollsBJP-RSS close ranks in UP polls

Virendra Singh Rawat

While the Congress has invested its entire political capital to win or retain its pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, a corporator has hit the campaign trail to wrest a smaller citadel in Lucknow, last won by the grand old party almost 4 decades back.

Lucknow East assembly constituency will witness a bypoll along with the 14 Lok Sabha seats in UP in the 5th phase on May 20.

The constituency was won by Congress leader Swaroop Kumari Bakshi for four consecutive terms in 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1985. Bakshi was a close confidante of the Nehru-Gandhi family, and married to a distant cousin of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Lucknow East constituency fell vacant after the death of Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashutosh Tandon in November 2023.

In Rae Bareli, Rahul Gandhi, who replaced his mother Sonia Gandhi as the Congress candidate, is hoping to retain the party’s sole Lok Sabha seat from UP in the current Lok Sabha.

In Amethi, which Rahul Gandhi lost in 2019 polls to Smriti Irani, the party has fielded Gandhi family loyalist Kishori Lal Sharma, and hoping to retrieve the constituency from the BJP.

In Lucknow East, Congress-INDIA bloc has fielded Mukesh Singh Chauhan, who is a Congress corporator from the densely populated Indira Nagar area of the capital city. He is also the general secretary of UP Congress Committee (UPCC) and the party’s former Lucknow city unit president.

Lucknow East slipped from the Congress’ grip in 1989, when Janata Dal candidate Ravidas Mehrotra won the assembly poll from the constituency by defeating Bakshi.

In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Mehrotra, who is a sitting Samajwadi Party (SP) member, is the joint INDIA bloc candidate from the Lucknow parliamentary constituency against defence minister and BJP candidate Rajnath Singh.

In 1991 UP assembly polls, Bakshi was defeated by BJP candidate Bhagwati Prasad Shukla. Since then, the saffron party has held the prestigious constituency. Later, Tandon won the seat in 2014 (bypoll), 2017 and 2022.

In 2022, Tandon polled 59 percent of votes and defeated SP candidate Anurag Bhadauria, who polled almost 33 percent of votes, by a margin of nearly 69,000 votes.

Bakshi was born in Lucknow on June 22, 1919 in a Kashmiri Pandit family. Her father Pt Badri Prasad Shinglu was an Urdu and English poet. In 1940, she married Raj Kumar Bakshi, an advocate and second cousin of Indira Gandhi. Bakshi, who was also an educationist, died in April 2019 in Lucknow.

Meanwhile, BJP has fielded O P Srivastava, who is a member of the party’s state committee, from the Lucknow East constituency. Earlier, he was also the treasurer of BJP Awadh region.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded Ashok Kushwaha from the Lucknow East seat. However, there is a direct fight between the BJP and the INDIA bloc candidate Mukesh Singh Chauhan.

He claimed to hold the edge in bypoll owing to his work in the constituency and the popular support that INDIA bloc was receiving at the hustings in the ongoing LS polls.

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