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For voters in Atrauli, it's Kalyan all the way
Harmeet Shah Singh in Atrauli | April 09, 2007 14:07 IST
When Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Premlata Verma, daughter-in-law of party veteran Kalyan Singh, visits villages in Atrauli her message is loud and clear -- support one of your own to retain the assembly seat for yet another time.
Politics of Atrauli has, over the past four decades, been determined by the powerful saffron-OBC figure. Singh has captured the seat ten times, losing it once in the 1980 elections.
His daughter-in-law retained the constituency in a by-election after he resigned as a legislator from here after becoming a Parliamentarian from Bulandshahar.
Voting in Atrauli is largely along Singh's support base among the Lodhs, who come first in order of their numerical strength here. This has played well into the hands of his family. Other communities and castes are Muslims, Brahmins, Vaishanvis, Jatavs, and Thakurs.
Despite the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress banking on an anti-incumbency plank against him, the former chief minister, his supporters say, is no pushover because of his shrewd grassroots organisation involving the Sangh as well as disadvantaged groups.
"Premlata is symbolic. People here vote for Kalyan," admitted Santosh Kumar, a BJP official.
Under ordinary circumstances, Verma could rest easy with the confidence that Atrauli is safely in the bag, but her rivals are seeking to capitalise on what they allege is a family reign in the Aligarh district borough.
"It is a one family rule in Atrauli; a sort of fiefdom," said Samajwadi Party candidate Rachpal Singh.
A college teacher, Rachpal is courting Thakurs and Muslims, his party's main vote-block, which has high concentration in a number of Atrauli pockets.
Party loyalties aside, the main issues in Atrauli include power supply, roads and higher education. Residents of this constituency grapple with inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene and movement to and from Ataruli is frequently interrupted because of poor traffic management and roads.
BJP's rivals, trying to break into Singh's citadel, are challenging incumbent Premlata Verma on the development plank.
"Roads are shabby and so is power supply. There are no institutions of higher education and you can see sanitation and hygiene standards yourself," said a supporter of BSP candidate Harish Sharma.
Both the BSP and the Congress have fielded Brahmins in a bid to eat into the saffron party's upper-caste constituency.
Nevertheless, Singh does not appear to be taking his opponent lightly. He and his daughter-in-law have kept Hindutva high on their campaign agenda as they reach out to their OBC vote-bank in Atrauli.