Congress loses out on star appeal as it hands over seats to the RLD
When film star-turned-politician Raj Babbar contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Fatehpur Sikri on a Congress ticket, he had little to lose. In the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, the Congress had altogether managed only about 5,000 votes in four of the five Assembly segments under this parliamentary constituency.
And “son of the soil” Raj Babbar, who hails from neighbouring Tundla and was a two-time Lok Sabha MP from Agra, not only fought valiantly, but in also obliterated several caste equations, with which elections in this part of western Uttar Pradesh have become synonymous.
In the end, the Congress tally stood just a little shy of 2 lakh votes and Raj Babbar came second after Seema Upadhyay of the Bahujan Samaj Party, who emerged victorious on Mayawati's famous “Dalit-Brahmin social engineering model.”
The efforts of Raj Babbar, who had dumped the cycle to join hands with the Congress, however, did not go unrewarded. Many in this region believed that the counting process was flawed and the election result did not do justice to him. So in the by-election from neighbouring Firozabad Parliamentary constituency in November 2009, he defeated Dimpy Yadav, daughter-in-law of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, in another keenly fought election.
But the rise in the popularity of the Congress in Fatehpuri Sikri appears to have been stemmed and reversed with Raj Babbar exiting the constituency. “When Raj Babbar was there, people voted for development, local candidate and star appeal. Also that was the time when Congress had announced a loan waiver package for farmers. Now we are back to old caste equations and the main fight in most of the constituency is between the SP and the BSP with Congress-RLD combine and BJP providing the rearguard action,” says Raj Kumar Srivastava, a keen political observer who works as a marketing manager with a leading FMCG.
On the other hand, the BSP – which many would have loved to write off – is still in contention as its playing the Brahmin card is still paying dividends.
What has surprised many is that the Congress has not taken Raj Babbar's performance into account while leaving seats for its alliance partner – RLD.
“The party cadre has been demotivated because it is only contesting in two of the five Assembly segments and have left three to RLD. It has fielded Upendra Singh from Agra Rural (SC) where it had come second then and Amar Chand Sharma from Bah, where it had taken the third position.
However, this time the Congress has given the Fatehpur Sikri Assembly seat to RLD, which has fielded Babu Lal, despite securing 53,971 votes here in the 2009 polls. Similarly, it has allowed RLD to field Satish Upadhyay from Fatehabad despite securing the second highest number of votes here.
From Kheragarh too the Congress has allowed RLD to field its candidate Pt. Umesh Sainthya, who had only a year ago lost the gram panchayat election in his village but has still been given the Assembly ticket.
The unrest in the Congress over the ticket distribution is quite palpable. And Raj Kumar Chahar, who was the BJP candidate from Fatehpur Sikri in the 2007 Assembly elections, had polled over 43,000 votes then and later switched to the Congress, is now contesting as a party rebel.