An industrialist-turned-party-hopping politician has been fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Allahabad South assembly segment with the hope that the man who had ended its winning streak in the constituency a decade ago as a Bahujan Samaj Party candidate, might now wrest the seat from the Samajwadi Party.
On February 23, when voters of the constituency will exercise their franchise, 43-year-old Nand Gopal Gupta ‘Nandi’ shall be looking forward to avenging the defeat of 2012 at the hands of sitting Samajwadi Party MLA Haji Parvez, to whom he had lost by a slender margin of less than 400 votes.
While Nandi is the BJP candidate this time, the BSP -- which expelled him three years ago -- has fielded Mashooq Khan as part of a strategy to give a substantial number of tickets to those belonging to minority community.
The Congress, which Nandi had joined upon his expulsion from the BSP and quit only last month, will end up supporting Parvez, owing to its alliance with the SP.
Nandi’s electoral debut in 2007 had caused the BJP to lose its grip over the assembly segment which it had never lost since 1989.
Nandi had defeated, by a margin of more than 14,000 votes, Keshri Nath Tripathi who was a five-time MLA, and had served thrice as the Uttar Pradesh assembly speaker and was the BJP’s state unit president at that time.
Emerging as the proverbial dark horse in an electoral contest that was being viewed as a ‘clash of titans’, Nandi had humbled Tripathi and relegated Rita Bahuguna Joshi, then the Congress woman's wing president and its future state unit chief, to the position of a distant third.
Interestingly, Joshi, too, is contesting the current elections on a BJP ticket, from the Lucknow Cantt seat.
The BJP could not recover from the upset it suffered in 2007 as Tripathi finished third in the electoral contest five years later.
He has now moved out of the state on a gubernatorial assignment.
The party, meanwhile, has high hopes from the ongoing elections which come against the backdrop of its stunning performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when it won 71 out of 78 seats.
Nandi, who was expelled from the BSP just ahead of the general elections, had contested the Allahabad Lok Sabha seat as a Congress candidate.
His induction into the BJP last month, followed by a party ticket, has miffed many, most notably the Allahabad MP Shyama Charan Gupta.
A businessman-turned-politician like Nandi, 72-year-old Gupta had unsuccessfully lobbied for party tickets for his son and wife.
Incidentally, Gupta too had been with the Samajwadi Party until he joined the BJP just a few days before he was announced as the party candidate for Allahabad Lok Sabha seat.
Known as an entrepreneur adept at marshalling resources, Nandi is said to have made a favourable impression on the party’s leadership last month when, while still with the Congress, he had organised a huge traders’ conclave here in which businessmen with diverse political leanings -- including Essel Group Chairman and Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra -- had taken part.
His dynamism will be put to a bigger test in the electoral fight wherein he may be helped by the presence of two prominent Muslim candidates, but troubled by the pre-poll tie-up between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party which is likely to consolidate some communities in favour of the SP candidate.
IMAGE: Boys wear mask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the campaign for the UP elections in Allahabad. Photograph: PTI Photo