I was in Lucknow over the extended weekend and was alarmed to discover the city inundated with Mayawati. Mayawati, who is the chief minister of UP can be encountered almost as soon as you step out of the railway station. The city has been completely plastered with her posters, hoardings, pole kiosks, buntings and even statues. Mayawati seems to be omnipresent. In most of these she is seen sharing space with one Akhilesh Das, who is apparently the nominee of her party for the forthcoming Loksabha elections. The constituency is presently represented by the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Akhilesh Das is a local politician, who used to be with the Congress till he was dropped from the union cabinet as a junior minister. He promptly switched sides and is now busy mollycoddling Mayawati. He also happens to be the son of a former chief minister of UP, Babu Banarsi Das.
Though the general elections are yet to be notified, Lucknow seems to be already in the grip of the election fever. Apart from Mayawati and Akhilesh Das, huge hoardings glorifying Mayawati’s political outfit The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are all over the city. Most of them feature a huge elephant, which is her elction symbol. The elephant has also been given divine powers and bears comparisons with Lord Ganesha!
To make matters infinitely more interesting, Sanjay Dutt, of the Munna Bhai fame is all ready to descend on the city as the official candidate of the Samajwadi Party headed by the wily former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. Sanjay Dutt is busy discovering his connections with the city. (apparently his father Sunil Dutt had spent some time with a Muslim family before he went to Mumbai and became a famous filmstar). Sanjay’s politician sister, who is a sitting Member of Parliament (Congress) from Mumbai, has already denounced him and his connections with Samajwadi Party. The family is feuding and it is believed that Sanjay’s new and scheming wife Manyata is directing his actions. Sanjay Dutt also happens to be a convicted jailbird, implicated in the infamous Bombay bomb blasts in the early 1990’s. That he may not be eligible for contesting the elctions has added to the unfolding drama. It is reported that if the courts disallow Sanjay’s candidature, his wife, in the finest traditions of Lalu-Rabri India will contest these elections on his behalf.
And then there are the BJP guys. Lalji Tandon, a Lucknow Chikan garments merchant and local poltician is also eyeing a ticket from the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). The present MP, the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is generally believed to be too old and infirm to contest. Reports are also flying thick and fast about BJP sending Sushma Swaraj a diminutive, firebrand leader from Delhi as its surprise candidate. Sushma Swaraj has in the past taken on Sonia Gandhi, the all powerful Congress president and had predictably lost. She is a maverick politician and would be happy to contest a high decibel election.
The Congress Party, which is at the helm of affairs in New Delhi is of course dithering. They it seems do not have any candidate and will probably back Sanjay Dutt.
Lucknow is all agog. The political buzz on the streets is a clear sign of the interesting electoral battle in the offing. It is early days as yet, but elections in India always have an air of a great carnival. Surprisingly, some of it is already visible in Lucknow today.