NEW DELHI: The BJP has lined up mega battles in Uttar Pradesh, pitching Union Minister Maneka Gandhi against the closest friend of her deceased husband Sanjay Gandhi, the Congress candidate from Sultanpur, and cinestar Jaya Prada against her inveterate foe, Samajwadi Party nominee Azam Khan at Rampur.
The two clashes with the personal history of the rivals have the potential to rivet most attention among all Lok Sabha contests this time.
While Maneka swapped places with her son Varun Gandhi, who moves to Sikh dominated Pilibhit, which she represented three times and Varun once in 2009, the Sultanpur nomination has made for an ironic political twist for the Gandhi-Singh families.
Varun, incidentally, had represented Sultanpur in the 16th Lok Sabha defeating Sanjay Singh’s wife, former national badminton champion Ameeta Singh in the 2014 elections. Singh, a close friend of Sanjay Gandhi since Indira Gandhi represented Rae Bareli — adjacent to Rampur — had befriended Rajiv Gandhi too and been a friend of the family to which Maneka belongs.
Meanwhile, Jaya Prada a two-time MP who joined the BJP on Tuesday afternoon returns after a decade’s break to Rampur to take on political heavyweight Azam Khan.
The two have been bitter rivals, especially since a fallout which involved now Independent Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh.
Jaya Prada had alleged Khan harassed her and even attempted an acid attack, which Khan dismissed as a figment of her imagination.
It was Amar Singh, then in SP, who weaned Jayprada away from the TDP in 2004 before his bush wars with Khan within SP led to his ouster, making Jaya Prada’s tenure in SP untenable.
With Jaya back in Rampur, Amar Singh is now expected to use his resources in the region to tilt the balance in favour of the BJP and settle scores with Khan.