It’s Rajnath Singh vs. Poonam Sinha in Lucknow
Poonam Sinha, the wife of actor and former BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha, joined the Samajwadi Party in the presence of Dimple Yadav, SP MP from Kannauj and wife of ex-CM Akhilesh Yadav, in Lucknow today.
Lucknow is the seat of political power in UP and plays a critical role in politics at the centre. Present Home Minister and former UP CM Rajnath Singh won the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat in 2014 with a 55.7 percent vote share, and hopes for a consecutive win this year.
Since 1991 to 2009 former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee held the Lucknow seat and has since his retirement for active politics, the seat continued to remain with the BJP. The constituency shall vote on 6 May.
Speculation was rife on who the SP-BSP alliance and the Congress, respectively pits to take on Rajnath Singh in his home turf. The suspense has been put to rest today with Poonam Sinha expected to file her nomination papers from Lucknow on 18 April with support for SP-BSP.
The Congress is yet to announce their candidate for Lucknow.
In 2014, Rita Bahuguna, then contesting on a Congress ticket, garnered the second largest votes after Rajnath Singh and was followed by the BSP and SP, respectively. It remains to be seen if Poonam Sinha can make a dent in the well-entrenched BJP bastion.
Shiv Sena riders on post-election NDA
Shiv Sena continues to blow hot blow cold with the BJP. After having kept pushing the pressure envelope over the past five years, Shiv Sena finally took the plunge in joining the NDA.
In its latest editorial in Saamana, Sena’s publication, the party sought the PM’s assurance the post-election NDA not include the National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or the NCP, as all were supporting separatist elements.
The publication praised the PM taking a hard line against those seeking separation of J&K from the country. The paper recalled former CM and NC leader Farooq Abdullah’s threat for a separate PM for J&K and his opposition to abolishing Article 370 and Article 35(A) which gave the state a special status.
Shiv Sena supports abolishing the two contentious Articles of the constitution and opposes any political understanding with the two parties post-elections. Sena opposes NCP and views it a major threat in Maharashtra.
PM Campaigns in Odisha; Rahul in Kerala
PM Modi has been tirelessly campaigning in the state after state. He reached Sambalpur in Odisha today where he focused his political address on farmer distress and how the BJD had ignored the needs of the farmers in the state.
The PM spoke of how his government planned to double farmer income by 2022, make available interest-free loans against farmer credit cards and pension for small and marginal farmers.
He also spoke of his party’s plan of setting up the Jal Shakti ministry to focus on agriculture irrigation and water management as measures to alleviate farmer distress.
Not to be outdone, Congress president has been aggressively campaigning across India. He spent the day addressing rallies in constituencies in Kerala where he hopes to cultivate a second base for himself.
EC cash, gold, and liquor seizures beat 2014
The opposition is hating it while the ruling party watches with glee. IT department seizures during these elections have already broken the 2014 record. With just the first of seven phases complete, the total value of seizures has crossed Rs 2,500 crore ($361 million) including cash, gold, and liquor. In 2014, the total value of illegal cash and contraband was around Rs 1,200 crore.
The opposition parties have accused the IT department of bias of conducting raids on sources linked to their party functionaries but leaving out those of BJP, during the same period.