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High-voltage campaign ends in Rae Bareilly
May 06, 2006 18:04 IST
The din and bustle of the high-voltage campaign in the May 8 Lok Sabha bypoll came to an end on Saturday with Congress president Sonia Gandhi said to be sitting pretty in the race involving Bharatiya Janata Party's Vinay Katiyar and others, who were trailing her.
Despite her hold in the constituency, Gandhi, who campaigned only for two days, left nothing to chance by appointing her son Rahul Gandhi as her campaign manager and daughter Priyanka as her election agent in the 16-cornered contest in which the Samajwadi Party, BJP and the Apna Dal appeared to be the only serious candidates.
Rahul, in compliance with the Election Commission order for VIP campaigners with security to leave the constituency by 1700 hours, left Rae Bareilly before the deadline, cancelling two meetings.
The SP, which had emerged second in the 2004 elections, has put up Raj Kumar Chaudhary, son-in-law of senior party leader Beni Prasad Verma. Expelled BJP leader Uma Bharati is seeking to create embarrassment for the BJP chief Rajnath Singh by vigorously backing the Apna Dal candidate Prabha Singh Lodhi.
This is the first Lok Sabha by-election from Uttar Pradesh since Rajnath Singh, who hails from the state, has taken over the party mantle from L K Advani. The Bahujan Samaj Party has come out in support of Sonia in this bypoll, which shows warming up of ties between the Mayawati-led party and the Congress ahead of next year's assembly polls.
Sonia had won the 2004 elections by about 2.5 lakh votes despite the SP trying to make it a fight and refusing to withdraw its nominee despite pleas to avoid division of secular votes. However, she resigned in March following the controversy over the office of profit issue when she was facing a disqualification petition.
The by and large peaceful campaign, which was on a low key initially, gained momentum towards the fag end of electioneering despite the scorching heat. Rahul criss-crossed the entire length and breadth of the constituency, addressing roadside meetings and holding padyatras to woo the voters.
Taking the voters down the memory lane, Congress leaders reminded them of the five-generation-old ties of Nehru-Gandhi family with Rae Bareilly and made a sensational appeal to them to vote for Sonia so that she can win by a record margin this time.
The main issue raised by Congress during the campaign was 'non cooperation' by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh because of which development in the constituency was getting affected. The Congress campaign, however, was marred by a controversy as a dance performance by some local girls ahead of Sonia's election speech at a rally in Mahrajganj caused a flutter.
Katiyar is virtually ploughing a lonely furrow in the absence of senior party leaders, who were busy in two rath yatras and the death of Pramod Mahajan. In course of its campaign, Samajwadi Party accused the Gandhi family of having done little of the constituency's development. The Samajwadi Party took out cycle yatras to match Rahul Gandhi's padyatras to woo the voters.
At some places Rahul was accompained by brother-in-law Robert. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav deployed a number of his ministers and party parliamentarians to garner votes for the SP candidate.