Karuna Shukla, now in Congress, says she, not BJP chief, is Atal’s political inheritor

It seems the political battle in Lucknow just cannot escape the legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who held the seat five times in a row till 2004. After the BJP chief and Lucknow candidate Rajnath Singh’s attempts to associate himself with the former Prime Minister, the Congress is now trying to reap the benefits of Mr. Vajpayee’s legacy.

Mr. Vajpayee’s niece, Karuna Shukla, is campaigning for Congress candidate Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

Ms. Shukla, who ended her three decades-long association with the BJP last October, said the ‘Atal-Advani era’ had come to an end and the BJP degraded into “a party of a few jackals” gripped by personality cult. “I am the political inheritor of Atalji’s legacy, not Rajnath, who is merely using Atalji’s name for his personal interests,” Ms. Shukla, Congress candidate in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, told reporters here.

Mr. Singh has in his speeches and sabhas regularly invoked Mr. Vajpayee’s legacy, even flaunting, during his nomination, an angvastram (stole) gifted by the former PM.

But Ms. Shukla says, “Just by wearing the angvastram gifted by Atalji you cannot lay claim to his legacy. How did you behave with his niece? He [Rajnath] has humiliated senior leaders and forced them to leave the party.”

Ms. Shukla lamented: “Today we hear about the Gujarat model but nobody talks about the Atal model. We see Atalji only on the hoardings. He gave his entire life to the party.”

While the Congress has attacked Mr. Singh for manipulating Mr. Vajpayee’s legacy, Ms. Joshi defended Ms. Shukla campaigning for her. “Rajnath is lying about his association with Atalji. What’s the harm if his niece wants to explode the myth,” she told The Hindu.

Brahmin identity

Ms. Shukla's Brahmin identity is further expected to boost the Congress confidence in a constituency, where this community and Muslims are the two largest groups. Mr. Singh, on the other hand, is facing the heat in winning over Brahmins, who hold him responsible for the sidelining of senior Brahmin leaders of the BJP. On Saturday, he visited the house of former Uttarakhand Chief Minister and Brahmin leader N.D. Tiwari and sought his blessings. While the BJP explained it as a courtesy call, a party office-bearer said it was an attempt to “associate with Brahmin faces.”

Mr. Tiwari extended his “support” to Mr. Singh. The BJP chief recalled his past relationship with Mr. Tiwari. “When I delivered my first speech after being elected to the Vidhan Sabha in U.P. for the first time, he [Tiwari] told me, ‘You are the future of this State’,” the BJP leader said after the closed-door meeting here.