LUCKNOW: At sundown, the serene flow of Gomti, with the fragrance of attar and kivam (a fragrant tobacco) wafting, can be mind blowing. Add the discourses laced with crisp Urdu shayari, people attired in chikan kurtas of tanzeb --- and the proverbial Sham-e-Awadh reflective of the ‘Nawabiyat’ of Lucknow comes alive.These days, Lakhnavi debate and discourse on the streets and at every nook and corner is all about the elections.
“It’s a foregone conclusion; the BJP will win hands down,” says Kishore Rupani, a watch trader at his showroom in Hazratganj. “The Opposition has been dwarfed. Lucknow will support only Modi, or whosoever in his name,” he adds.
The high-profile seat has remained a saffron citadel since 1991. Former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpyee represented the seat five consecutive terms —1991 to 2004 — without breaking a sweat. Atal’s legacy passed on to his close confidante Lalji Tandon in 2009, followed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in 2014. This time the minister faces Samajwadi Party candidate Poonam Sinha, whose only credential is being wife of actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Singh, who switched over to the Congress, snapping off decades-old ties with the BJP recently. Congress candidate Acharya Pramod Krishna heads the Kalki Ashram in Sambhal.
Poonam with no political past, eyes the Sindhi-Kayasth and Bhojpuri vote bank of Lucknow as she herself is a Sindhi married to a Kayastha from Bihar. However, all three communities openly back the BJP.
A senior member of Sindhi Traders Association, Kishore Rupani, refuses to buy the idea that Sinha will get any support from the 80,000-strong community.
Nira Sinha ‘Varsha’, state president of Akhil Bharatiya Kayasth Mahasabha says, “No one is better than Modi.” Prabhunath Rai, president, Akhil Bharatiya Bhojpuri Samaj, too, places his bet on the BJP. “Like any other Lucknowite, we also want basic facilities. If we don’t vote for Rajnath, our votes are wasted.”
Lucknow has a dominant upper caste population which decides the winner, making it tough for the SP-BSP-RLD Mahagathbandhan.But there are other issues. Dead fixed in a traffic jam, a miffed Ashish Kumar says, “My vote will be for one who will solve the traffic problem.” Rajeev Shukla, a research scholar at National Botanical Research Institute, intervenes: “This is a local issue. This election is to choose the PM.”
Though the traders’ community, a dedicated BJP vote bank, feels GST and demonetisation were glitches, yet backs the BJP. “This election is to make the country strong. These issues won’t deter us from backing Modi,” says Rakesh Garg, a wholesaler.Shalabh Kumar, dealing in food products, feels that with the majority Modi got last time, he could have done much more. “It will not be easy for him to repeat 2014. He should have made more stringent laws against black money but there is no alternative to him.”
Kuldeep Tripathi, a student at Christian College believes “no gathbandhan will work in Lucknow for it is the BJP’s pocket borough”. Srilata, a second year student at King George Medical University, feels that distribution of tablets or laptops, which SP chief Akhilesh Yadav often boasts of, is hardly of any use. It’s not that the BJP doesn’t have critics. “If 100 families are given gas cylinders, only two or three Muslims figure among them,” rues Saeed, claiming that a majority of welfare schemes like Ujjwala haven’t reached all. Unemployment also figures prominently in discussions, yet ‘nationalism’ overpowers all. The only debate is, what will be the margin of BJP win.