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regular-article-logo Thursday, 13 June 2024

Lok Sabha elections Phase 5: Mumbai to Kashmir, Rahul Gandhi to Chirag Paswan, prestige battles in focus

On Monday, 49 constituencies across eight states and Union territories will determine the fate of 695 nominees, including some of the most prominent names in current Indian politics

Arnab Ganguly Calcutta Published 20.05.24, 06:46 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. TTO Graphics.

Rahul Gandhi returns to a family borough in Uttar Pradesh five years after being booted from another pocket, while the Thackeray father-son duo, Uddhav and Aaditya – mocked as “nakli” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi – await the test that could determine their political future in Maharashtra as India votes in Phase V of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections on Monday.

And in Bihar’s Hajipur, voters torn between two successors decide on who gets to bear the family legacy.

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On Monday, 49 constituencies across eight states and Union territories will determine the fate of 695 nominees, including some of the most prominent names in current Indian politics.

BJP leader Gaurav Bhatia told PTI, "Akhilesh Yadav is the 'mungerilal' of modern Indian politics, and no body takes him seriously now. When Akhilesh Yadav was the half CM. Communal politics was at its peak, and he knows that the BJP-led NDA will win all 80 seats (in UP)."

Rae Bareli and Gandhis

After much delay accompanied by drama, Rahul Gandhi, who has also contested from Kerala’s Wayanad, filed his nomination from the Rae Bareli seat. The constituency has only thrice deserted the Gandhis and the Congress: In 1977, 1996 and 1998.

Rahul’s grandfather Feroze had represented the seat twice, in the first general elections held in 1952 and the next one in 1957. Indira Gandhi famously lost from Rae Bareli in 1977 and won back the constituency in 1980, her third term that turned out to be her last. From 2004 to 2019, Sonia Gandhi had an uninterrupted run from Rae Bareli till she decided to switch to the Rajya Sabha early this year.

TTO Graphics.

However feeble be the attempt by the Congress and the Gandhis to make themselves relevant in the Hindutva-dominated heartland, reinforced even more after the consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya (the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat will also vote on Monday), the Gandhis could not afford to skip Raebareli or Amethi.

Leaving Amethi to the longtime loyalist Kishori Lal Sharma to take on incumbent Smriti Irani, Rahul has taken the plunge in Raebareli against a Congress defector and three-time legislative council member, Dinesh Pratap Singh.

Campaigning in Prayagraj (Allahabad) Congress candidate from Raebareli Lok Sabha seat Rahul Gandhi said, "Thousands of our workers are here to support the Congress-Samajwadi Party partnership. I want to ask you to stand against the BJP-RSS workers at the polling booths and make the candidate from here win with 5 lakh votes... Here is our candidate Ujjwal Ramansingh, make him win with a huge majority."

Who will Mumbai choose?

Voters in the seven seats in Mumbai and the Mumbai metropolitan region and six others in north Maharashtra go to polls on Monday, pitched as the semi-final ahead of the state Assembly polls scheduled for later this year.

In 2019, the political landscape in Maharashtra was clearly drawn with the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party on one side and the Shiv Sena-BJP combine on the other. Five years later, the families of Pawar and Thackeray – who have controlled the political narrative in Mumbai and the rest of the state for decades – are a divided lot.

TTO Graphics.

While the NCP name and symbol has been handed over to another Pawar, the Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit, the Thackerays have lost both name and symbol to an “outsider”, the current Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde. The families and the parties are fragmented in the state.

To add insult to injury, the senior Thackeray’s estranged cousin Raj has sided with Modi. He has gone on to organise a “Jahir Sabha” – the prime minister’s 18th public meeting in the state on Friday at Shivaji Park, around the same time when the Opposition had assembled its supporters at another ground in Bandra Kurla complex.

Both Modi and Uddhav Thackeray have accused each other of betraying Maharashtra and its people.

The contest in Maharashtra is no longer about which is the real Shiv Sena but also who gets to carry the Thackeray legacy – Uddhav, the son of Sena founder Bal Thackeray, or the nephew Raj.

The test is for CM Shinde too. His son Shrikant is in the fray from Kalyan, seeking a third term. The first two elections with a Modi wave and the combined strength of the Sena and BJP had helped Shrikant Shinde sail through. The changed political contours and the frosty ties between the local BJP and Shinde’s Sena make Kalyan a seat to be watched. Most of the Sena leaders in the constituency sided with Shinde following the split in the party.

Even if the Shinde-led Sena performs better than the Thackerays, a question will remain: Could he have delivered without the BJP and Modi’s 18 rallies in the state?

Test for Paswan, Omar Abdullah

In Hajipur, Bihar, Chirag Paswan has staked claim on the legacy of his father, the late Ram Vilas, in the seat that the elder Paswan had represented for eight terms. The fight is between Chirag and his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras. They are both allies of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Paras till March this year was a minister in the Narendra Modi government.

TTO Graphics.

Up north, Omar Abdullah shifted his position on not contesting elections till Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood was restored, is in the fray from Baramulla, after staying away from contesting parliamentary elections for ten years.

Baramulla is considered a National Conference stronghold. Abdullah is pitted against Sajad Lone of the People’s Conference. The jailed separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Rashid alias Engineer Rashid is contesting the polls from Tihar jail. He was arrested in 2019 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. In the absence of Engineer Rashid, his son Abrar Rashid is leading his campaign.

TTO Graphics.

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