Khurshid faces stiff challenge from 'Modi factor', UP gathbandhan in Farrukhabad
Farrukhabad (UP): Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid is locked in a three-way electoral contest from his traditional constituency of Farrukhabad where he is facing the challenge of overcoming the "Modi factor" and outsmarting the SP-BSP-RLD coalition in capturing the anti-BJP vote.
The opponents of Khurshid, a former Union minister who has held portfolios of external affairs, law and minorities, may not be political heavyweights, but BJP's sitting MP Mukesh Rajput and BSP's Manoj Agarwal are tough opponents on a seat which is not dominated by a single caste, religion or social group.
Muslims, though a little over 14 per cent in this constituency, could still decide the fate of this Lok Sabha seat along with the Yadavs.
Muslims are facing the same dilemma here that they have been confronted with in several seats in Uttar Pradesh -- whether to go for a Muslim face fielded by the Congress or go for the UP's 'gathbandhan' candidate.
They seem to be weighing options for the strongest candidate to take on the BJP. A division of Muslim votes will benefit the BJP big time, while a united vote for Khurshid or Agarwal could put them in pole position.
Lodhs and Dalits are also in substantial numbers and are in a position to make a deep impact on the result.
Khurshid's campaign saw him taking on the BJP and the gathbandhan aggressively, even borrowing a few lines from a blockbuster Hindi movie.
While campaigning, Khurshid used the dialogue from Amitabh Bachchan-starter Shehenshah to call himself UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's "baap" and challenged him to a debate on the 2008 Batla House encounter.
He also lashed out at the UP gathbandhan, reportedly saying anyone who gets in the way of his fight with the BJP or tries to stop him, "whether they're from the gathbandhan (alliance) or the BSP, I will smash them to bits".
How much his aggressive posturing has helped him win votes, will be known on May 23, the day of the Lok Sabha results.
The constituency votes on Monday.
The Congress and gathbandhan has been duelling over the support of Muslims and Yadavs in this constituency, while the BJP is relying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity.
"Muslims aren't in a dominant number, but can make an impact if they vote together. The Congress in the general election seems to be a better option. But let's see, a split in votes would be really bad for us as the BJP will win comfortably," Mohmmad Ataullah, a battery-operated rickshaw driver said.
Shaukeen Khan, an auto driver, was more clear that his vote would go to the gathbandhan as he asserted that there was a wave for the alliance in the state.
Mujeeb Khan, a security guard, said the Congress could be a good option, but his friends and family will take a decision on the basis of which candidate can garner more support from other communities.
Another key factor in the election is which way will the Yadavs go.
Khurshid has been trying hard to garner their support as their preference for the gathbandhan seems to be in doubt with a BSP candidate in fray here.
Many of them also seem to be headed the BJP's way, citing Modi as the reason.
However, Anirudh Yadav, a small trader, said he would vote for the BSP as "no development work" has been done in the last five years in the constituency.
Ram Chandra Yadav, a paint-shop owner, immediately countered him saying no one had done anything for the constituency, but he would go for Modi at the Centre for another five years.
"I suffered big time due to GST, but Modi is good for the country," he said.
Narendra Singh, sitting at Yadav's shop, said, "Modi was responsible for demonetisation. We suffered hardships. Gathbandhan seems to be a good option."
At a mobile shop in Kaimganj, one of the assembly segments in the Farrukhabad constituency, three youngsters said "the Modi factor" is what clicked for them and they would vote not for the candidate, but the prime minister.
Interestingly, most people rued the lack of development and neglect, but gave reasons other than development for their support to various candidates.
Issues that do strike a chord with the common people in this constituency are potato production, zardozi work and education.
Talking about the issue of potato processing, Khurshid said a breakthrough was needed by getting one company and bringing in major investment to this industry.
Education, high incidence of cancer, and modern facility for zardozi and printing are also high on the agenda here, he told PTI.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Mukesh Rajput bagged over 4 lakh votes and defeated SP candidate Rameshwar Singh Yadav by over 1.5 lakh votes. The BSP was third, while Khurshid finished fourth.
Khurshid last won the seat in 2009 and before that in 1991, while his father Khurshid Alam Khan had been victorious from the seat in 1984.
The campaign ended Saturday on a high note for Khurshid as Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu held a roadshow in his support.