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Shekhar son joins battle for Ballia

Lucknow, Dec. 25: When he was alive, Chandra Shekhar never wanted his children to join politics, friends of the former Prime Minister say.

Now, his younger son Neeraj Shekhar is hoping his father’s charisma will see him through to the Lok Sabha from Ballia, the late socialist leader’s pocket borough.

Huge cutouts of Chandra Shekhar stare down at visitors at street corners as 52-year-old Neeraj moves around, asking for votes in his father’s name.

The bypoll campaign for the seat, that fell vacant after Chandra Shekhar’s death this July, is being spearheaded by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, which has offered Neeraj a ticket.

Most have forgotten that Mulayam had four years ago turned down Chandra Shekhar’s request to back one of his candidates.

Neeraj, however, says he is contesting the December 29 bypoll because he wants to “carry forward” his father’s legacy and the “good work” he has done.

But no one in Ballia is sure if the late leader had left a legacy. “Chandra Shekhar was too independent-minded. He followed his heart and instinct even at the cost of contradicting his own policies,” says Vishal Pandey, a Ballia-based socialist friend of the man called “Adhyakshji” in this eastern Uttar Pradesh district.

One example of the “contradictions” is his ascent to the throne in Delhi in 1990 with the support of the Congress, though anti-Congressism was the hallmark of his politics.

Still, the “illusive legacy” of the former Prime Minister, who threw a “farewell” party for friends two months before he died at the age of 80, is up for grabs now. And the fight is turning increasingly bitter.

Pankaj Shekhar, Chandra Shekhar’s elder son, has stayed away from the campaign. The 55-year-old isn’t pleased that his younger brother is being projected as their father’s successor when he himself wanted to contest the poll.

The cold war between the brothers has become a campaign theme for other parties like the BSP, whose nominee, Vinay Tiwari, is highlighting the sibling rivalry.

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