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Rajnath chants Atal 11 times

Lucknow, March 26: Rajnath Singh today sought to woo rebels in his party by taking along former aides of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and assuring voters that he would “carry forward” the former Prime Minister’s vision of development.

The BJP chief, who kicked off his campaign in the Uttar Pradesh capital, is pitted against the Congress’s Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the Samajwadi Party’s Ashoke Vajpayee and the BSP’s Nakul Dube.

All three are Brahmins, who account for 15 per cent of the voters, while Muslims make up over 30 per cent.

Rajnath took Vajpayee’s name 11 times to pacify the party’s powerful Brahmin lobby that has been feeling alienated since Murli Manohar Joshi was shifted out of Varanasi to Kanpur and Kalraj Mishra from Kanpur to Deoria near Varanasi.

From the airport, Rajnath was accompanied all the way to the party office, a distance of 30km, by two former Vajpayee associates, Lalji Tandon and Shiv Kumar Sharma.

Tandon, the sitting MP who has been denied a ticket this time, appeared to have agreed to work for Rajnath. Apparently, an offer of a Rajya Sabha seat helped bring him round. “Till 2014, this constituency has been represented by Lalji Tandon. But he told me recently he was unable to contest from here in 2014,” Rajnath told a media conference.

“I am here today as the BJP candidate from Lucknow and I want to assure voters that I would carry forward the vision of development of both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and our sitting MP Lalji Tandon,” Rajnath said, adding that he would “revive” the former Prime Minister’s plan to develop Lucknow as a biotech city.

He admitted there was discontent within the party because there were “too many aspiring” candidates.

Rajnath also appealed to Muslims to “come closer” to the party. “We are ready to offer equal opportunities to them to work with us,” he said.