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Firozabad's 'star wars' hots up

By Sharat Pradhan
November 04, 2009 02:23 IST
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The electoral battle for the Firozabad parliamentary seat, has got a glamorous twist– thanks to the increasing involvement of Bollywood personalities, who left no stone unturned to woo the electorate.

If popular favourite Salman Khan threw his weight behind Congress nominee Raj Babbar, the Samajwadi Party tried to woo voters by pushing in its permanent fixtures - Sanjay Dutt, Jaya Prada and Jaya Bachchan. The bypoll is a matter of prestige for the SP since supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav had fielded his daughter-in-law Dimple in the fray.

The election was necessitated following resignation by Mulayam's son Akhilesh Yadav, who had won two Lok Sabha seats – Kannauj and Firozabad - in the last general elections in May. Akhilesh cajoled his his wife into taking a plunge into electoral politics.

The bypoll for this Lok Ssbha seat was scheduled for November 7, when UP's 12 state assembly constituencies would also simultaneously go to the polls.

Actor and former Congress MP Govinda campaigned for Babbar on Wednesday. As if that was not enough, Babbar had wangled the support of a  number of popular TV artists who kept pouring in one after the other over the past two weeks .

However , what had given SP the jitters was the presence of Salman Khan in the day-long campaign on Monday. Instead of addressing any meeting, Salman chose to go on a road-show, that began in Shikohabad and moved via Firozabad city to culminate at the other end of the constituency in Tundla.

Even as SP could boast of beating the Congress where the numerical support of Bollywood personalities was concerned , Salman's charismatic appeal was what they could not match. The Khan was simply a rage, wherever he went. Perched atop an open jeep, as he moved from locality to locality waving out at the crowds, there was a scramble to get a closer glimpse of their favourite hero. Accompanying him was Babbar's daughter Juhi, who has been closely involved with her father's campaign.

Glamour apart, politically, Firozabad was seen as a SP pocket borough until Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi walked in on October 30, to virtually turn the tide. The Congress had put up an extremely low tally of about 5,300 votes in the last general elections when the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party polled 2,19,710 votes.

However, the ruling party leaders in Firozabad looked quite demoralized following Chief Minister Mayawati's refusal to campaign. Instead, she had detailed half a dozen of her ministers to move heaven and earth to dilute the impact of Rahul's visit.

The SP leadership too had got down to mobilising support from every corner, the latest being from the most unexpected quarters of Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, who had specially sent his son, Jayant, the newly elected Lok Sabha MP from Mathura to canvass for the SP. Estranged Bharatiya Janata Party veteran and former UP CM Kalyan Singh had also pumped in his energies in favour of Mulayam's daughter-in-law Dimple.
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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow