The political battle in Lucknow just cannot seem to escape the legacy of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who held the seat five times in a row till 2004.

After the BJP chief and its candidate Rajnath Singh's attempts to associate with the former PM, it the Congress that is now trying to reap the benefits of his legacy, as Mr. Vajpayee's niece, Karuna Shukla is campaigning for the Congress candidate here, Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

Ms. Shukla, who ended her three-decade-long association with the BJP last October, said the era of "Atal-Advani" had come to an end and the BJP had degraded to "a party of a few jackals" who were 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, the Congress candidate in Bilaspur, Chattisgarh, told reporters here at the Congress headquarters.

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

Training her guns on Mr. Singh, she accused him of trying to manipulate Mr. Vajpayee's name for political benefit. "Just by wearing the angvastram gifted by Atalji you cannot lay claim to his legacy. You care about the angvastram. How did you behave with his niece? (Rajnath) He 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, its candidate 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 explore the myth," she told The Hindu.

Ms. Shukla's Brahmin identity is further expected to boost the Congress's confidence in a constituency, where Brahmins and Muslims are the two largest groups.

Mr. Singh, on the other hand, is facing the heat in winning over the Brahmins, who hold him responsible for the sidelining for senior Brahmin leaders of the BJP. On Saturday, he visited the house of former Uttarakhand Chief Minister and well-known Brahmin leader N.D Tiwari and sought his blessings. While 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 evoked his past relations with Mr. Tiwari. "When I delivered my first speech after being elected to the Vidhan Sabha in UP for the first time, he (Tiwari) told me 'you are the future of this state'," he told reporters after the close door meeting here.