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|February 17, 1998|
Beni Prasad Verma faces tough fight against BJP, BSP
Though new telephone exchange buildings dot the constituency in the twin districts of Bahraich and Barabanki and bear testimony to the work done by Communication Minister Beni Prasad Verma in this area, he faces a tough triangular contest in the 12th Lok Sabha poll.
Verma, who till recently held the number two position in the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav, is leaving no stone unturned as he works hard to ward off the challenge from Bharatiya Janata Party and Bahujan Samaj Party opponents.
The BSP's Fareed Mahfooz Kidwai, a descendant of the late Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, had defeated Beni Prasad's son Rakesh Kumar Verma in the last assembly election by over 7,000 votes to snatch the Masauli assembly seat.
And now the BSP leader has pitted himself against Beni Prasad Verma in the Kaiserganj Lok Sabha constituency, which the minister had won for the first time in 1996, beating his nearest Bharatiya Janata Party rival by 24,000 votes.
Three of Kaiserganj's three assembly segments are in Bahraich district while two are in Barabanki. The constituency had earlier been represented by the Jan Sangh and BJP twice each. BJP nominee Ghanshyam Shukla is well prepared to give a tough challenge.
The Congress has not fielded a candidate in the constituency, but the arena is crowded with 13 Independents. Polling is to be held on Sunday, February 22.
Verma has a reputation of contesting elections on a lavish scale, but today, few such signs are visible in Kaiserganj. One reason could be the presence of Jagdeo of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, whom the Election Commission has appointed expenditure observer for the constituency.
Two Election Commission observers -- Ramanand Tewari and S N Sahai -- are also monitoring the area to prevent irregularities. The only apparent signs of the election, noticeable in Kaiserganj town, are the big cloth banners and shamianas of the respective political parties.
Verma's supporters consider the BJP and not the BSP their main threat, and the communications minister loses no opportunity to criticise the BJP.
He is banking heavily on his four party legislators, who represent the assembly segments of Fakharpur, Kaiserganj, Mahsi and Ramnagar, all of which come under his constituency. He also expects his reputation of contributing to the area's development to aid his re-election.
Shalini Prasad, the district magistrate of Bahraich, is the returning officer for the constituency. Out of 1,310 polling stations, 122 have been declared as hypersensitive and another 310 as sensitive in the constituency.
There are 1,109,316 voters, of whom women are 496,348. The constituency, consisting mainly of rural areas, had a turnout of around 50 per cent in the previous general election.
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