Atiq Khan

This time the party hopes to get a 20 per cent vote share

Upbeat about performance in nine of 13 seats in the third round

Claims “unexpected support” of Muslims

LUCKNOW: With three rounds of polling completed in Uttar Pradesh in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections and two more to go, the Congress is expecting a turnaround in the form of increased share in the popular vote, a far cry from its position in the previous general elections, particularly after it was reduced to the fringe in 1989. This despite the fact that the average polling percentage in the first three rounds remained below the 50 per cent mark.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress polled about 12.04 per cent votes. It contested 73 seats and won nine.

“We are targeting about 20 per cent of the popular vote in Uttar Pradesh,” said Subodh Srivastava, chief spokesman of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee.

Elections have been held for 48 Lok Sabha seats in the State. Eighteen seats will go to the polls in the fourth round on May 7 and 14 seats in the final phase on May 13. In the third round, which concluded on April 30, the Congress contested 13 seats; it left the Mohanlalganj (reserved) and Hardoi (reserved) seats to its ally, the Rashtriya Swabhiman Party (RSP) of the former Minister, R.K. Chaudhary.

Congress poll managers claimed that of the 13 seats, the party was in strong contention in nine. Considering that the poll outcome in Rae Bareli is once again likely to be on predictable lines, the party is upbeat about its performance in Lucknow, Kanpur, Barabanki (reserved), Jhansi, Unnao, Sitapur, Abkarpur, Fatehpur and Bahraich.

In Lucknow, where it fielded State Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi against the formidable candidature of Lal Krishna Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the fight put up by Dr. Joshi seems to have taken even the party by surprise. Akhilesh Das Gupta of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Nafisa Ali of the Samajwadi Party are the other candidates.

The Congress optimism in Lucknow is based on the “unexpected” support of the Muslim voters and the backing from the hill people settled in the State capital as well as the upper caste voters.

Mr. Srivastava claimed that there was a strong undercurrent in favour of the party.

In the fourth phase on May 7, the Congress has sitting MPs in Ghaziabad (Surendra Prakash Goel), Mathura (Manvendra Singh) and Aligarh (Chaudhary Brijendra Singh). Besides, it was expecting to put up a spirited fight in Farrukhabad where the party has fielded the former UPCC president, Salman Khurshid; Baghpat, where the former Union Minister, Sompal Shastri, has been pitted against Rashtriya Lok Dal president Ajit Singh; and Muzaffarnagar, where Harendra Malik is contesting against Anuradha Chaudhary of the RLD.

Corrections and Clarifications:

The sixth paragraph of a report "Congress expects a turnaround in U.P." (May3, 2009) said that in Lucknow, the Congress has fielded its State presidentRita Bahuguna Joshi against Lal Krishna Advani of the Bharatiya JanataParty. The BJP has fielded senior party leader Lalji Tandon. (The BahujanSamaj Party's candidate is Akhilesh Das Gupta, who joined the party afterquitting the Congress, while the Samajwadi Party's candidate is Nafisa Ali.)Mr. Advani is contesting from the Gandhinagar constituency in Gujarat.