Atiq Khan

Leaders not waiting for the outcome of the Congress-SP seat-sharing talks

LUCKNOW: While the issue of ticklish seats in Uttar Pradesh remains to be sorted out by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh, the respective party candidates whose names have reportedly been finalised by their leaders are not wasting time waiting for the outcome of the seat-sharing exercise between the two parties. Most of them have hit the campaign trail, or are in the process of doing so.

Samajwadi Party rebel Raj Babbar, the Member of Parliament from Agra, is all set to contest the next Lok Sabha election from Fatehpur Sikri on Congress ticket. The shift is on account of Agra being declared a reserved seat now. The film actor-turned-politician is likely to join the Congress at a rally-cum-election meeting at Targhar Maidan in Agra on Sunday where the formal announcement of his candidature from Fatehpur Sikri would be made. UP Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi will be present at the rally.

Jan Morcha

Having fallen out with the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister before the 2007 State Assembly elections, Mr. Babbar joined forces with former Prime Minister V.P. Singh and revived Jan Morcha. He campaigned against the Samajwadi Party but both Mr. Babbar and Jan Morcha failed to make any impact.

The SP MP from Moradabad in the Rohilkhand region of the State, Shafiqur Rehman Barq, has prevailed upon the party leadership to be shifted to Sambhal, which is represented in the Lok Sabha by Mulayam Singh’s brother Ram Gopal Yadav. Since Mr. Yadav is likely to contest the Raja Sabha elections due in November 2008, Mr. Barq opted for Sambhal. Fresh delimitation of constituencies with a couple of Assembly segments considered to be Mr. Barq’s strongholds being transferred to Sambhal led him to change his constituency. When contacted, the Samajwadi MP confirmed the change from Moradabad to Sambhal.

Mr. Barq’s shift to Sambhal has fuelled speculations of Moradabad being allotted to the Congress, with the former MP from Rampur, Noor Bano, being talked about as the possible candidate from the brassware city. Congress sources said Rampur is unlikely to be given to the party as it is represented by Jayaprada of the SP. Ms. Jayaprada has already hit the campaign trail.

The possibility of Begum Noor Bano’s son Kazim Ali Khan alias Naved Mian being fielded from Rampur as the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate by UP Chief Minister Mayawati is also not ruled out. The Begum, however, was non-committal on contesting the polls from Moradabad. “The decision on my candidature and from where I have to contest has to be taken by the party president Sonia Gandhi. I will abide by the decision of the party high command,” she told The Hindu from Delhi.

In the neighbouring Amroha, it is a toss-up between the Congress and the SP. Rumours of SP MP from Saharanpur, Rasheed Masood, being shifted to Amroha were scotched by the Lok Sabha Member. Mr. Masood said while he has been asked to contest from Saharanpur, his son Shaizan Masood would be the SP nominee from Kairana. Samajwadi Party rebel MP Beni Prasad Verma’s desire to contest the polls from Gonda in Central UP on Congress ticket has met with opposition from Mulayam Singh. SP sources said notwithstanding the fact that Kirti Vardhan Singh is the sitting MP from Gonda, Mr. Singh is not ready to forgive Mr. Verma, who ditched him before the UP Assembly polls. Senior Congress leader Sanjay Singh from Sultanpur, Union Minister Jitin Prasada from Dhaurhara and former BJP MP from Balrampur, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, as the SP candidate from Kaiserganj too have started electioneering.