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‘Congress vs rest in Lucknow’

Omar Rashid
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Rita Bahuguna says other parties are trying to buy out Congress leaders

BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla and Rita Bahuguna Joshi at a press conference in Lucknow on Saturday.- Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury
BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla and Rita Bahuguna Joshi at a press conference in Lucknow on Saturday.- Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

After two failed attempts in the past, former U.P. Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi believes this is the year she will make her way to the Lok Sabha. This, despite the fact that she faces the daunting task of the BJP chief Rajnath Singh. Contesting the Lok Sabha elections for the first time from Allahabad in 1999, Ms. Joshi ran a distant third. In 2009, she rallied to secure a second spot in Lucknow losing out by only 40,000 votes to the BJP's Lalji Tandon, who bore the legacy of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But call Ms. Joshi the ‘main challenger’ and she frowns. She considers herself the front runner. “The mood is upbeat. In 1999, I was skeptical and had told the party that I would lose. In 2009, I had assessed that I would come a close second. The exact happened. This time we are winning,” she said.

Ms. Joshi, who is sitting MLA for the Cantonment seat, contends that her commitment towards Lucknow is there for people to see.

“I give the people confidence. I don’t give them any promises. I am known by my work for the past two years as an MLA,” she says. Despite her optimism, Ms. Joshi fears any attempts by the RSS-BJP to derail her campaign and polarise votes just before the polling day, March30.

“They can polarise votes through some means, so we need to watch,” says Ms. Joshi. The Congress leader even goes to the extent to say the fight in Lucknow is a ‘Congress versus the Rest’ as the other parties were colluding to defeat her.

Accusing the BJP and the SP of having knitted a behind-doors deal, she says the SP replaced its candidate Ashok Bajpai to split the secular votes and help Mr. Singh.”(SP MLA and its candidate)Abhishek Mishra was brought to create noise and confuse the voters,” says Ms. Joshi. Also, she alleges, actor Javed Jaffrey, the AAP candidate, was fielded to eat away the Muslim votes. “The BSP leadership, including Satish Mishra, is assisting him.

“Ms. Joshi says the other parties are trying to buy out Congress leaders. The Congress’ district head Neeraj Bora recently quit the party and extended his support to Mr. Singh. Ms. Joshi is primarily banking on the consolidation of the Muslim and Brahmin votes. But the daughter of former U.P. Chief Minister Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna and sister of Vijay Bahuguna, Ms. Joshi is confident that her father’s legacy will provide her a “huge base” in Lucknow. Add to that her “association” with the Pahadi community (from Uttarakhand) in the constituency, roughly 1.75 lakh voters.

Her main opponent, Mr. Singh has also tried to win over the community by associating personal relations with it.

“He has no links with the community. His is political wooing, mine is association built over many years,” Ms. Joshi says.


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