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|September 7, 1999||
Vajpayee files nomination as Lucknow exults
Suhasini Haidar in Lucknow
Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee filed his nomination today from the Lucknow parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh. Vajpayee, the sitting Member of Parliament from the area is seeking re-election from Lucknow for the fourth time.
Addressing a public gathering outside the District collectorate where he filed his nomination, the prime minister attacked Congress president Sonia Gandhi for "lowering" the tone of electoral politics in her speeches.
"Sonia Gandhi is speaking in a tone of voice which I am not in the habit of using," he said. The prime minister was referring to an allegation made by the Congress leader, which accused him of working as a police informer against the freedom movement during the Quit India agitation in 1942.
"This is a rotten allegation, which is false as well as mischievous. It is made by a desperate party that thinks it will lose the election. I am willing to prove my patriotism at any cost."
The prime minister said that he was confident of returning to power with the National Democratic Alliance. He said that they would then be able to prove that coalitions in government could work for a full five-year term.
Vajpayee arrived in Lucknow this morning by a special plane. In what seems to have become an Indian electoral tradition, he kicked off his campaign with a havan organised at the city election office of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Accompanying the prime minister from Delhi were BJP general secretary K N Govindacharya and party spokesman Arun Jaitley. The havan was also attended by state party leaders including Chief Minister Kalyan Singh.
A procession had been organised after that for the prime minister, who waved at the crowds lining the streets to see him go by. The cavalcade of about 40 vehicles then wound its way through the city area of Hazrat Ganj to the district collectorate. Party workers threw rose petals at Vajpayee all along the route.
Looking extremely pleased at the turnout on the roads and confident of his chances of a re-election, the prime minister filed his nominations at exactly 12:30 in the afternoon. His nomination was proposed by Lucknow mayor S C Roy, and seconded by state minister Lalji Tandon, BJP leader H K Awasthi, as well as the state party president Rajnath Singh.
The Lucknow parliamentary constituency has an electorate of 18,00,000 voters, of which around 2,00,000 voters belong to the minorities. Traditionally a large section of the minorities have always voted for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as he is seen as the minority-friendly face in the BJP. However, this time, it is expected that the minority vote will turn away from the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
Notwithstanding that electoral prediction, Vajpayee's win from Lucknow is almost a certainty. "This time we are only interested in increasing the margin of his win," says local worker Aadesh Tiwari, adding, "last time it was around 3,00,000. This time we hope it will reach 4,00,000."
What sets the Lucknow constituency apart from all others is the perception in the city that they will not be voting for a mere MP but a prime minister. "In that sense," says state Health Minister Rama Pati Shastri , "there is only one issue in this election, and that is Atal Bihari Vajpayee."
More evidence for that comes from the fact that the posters printed by the BJP contain no slogans, just a photograph of the prime minister. And he is smiling.
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