Barely two hours after Home Minister Rajnath Singh filed his nomination papers with almost no rival in sight, Poonam Sinha, wife of actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, arrived in Lucknow yesterday to take him on as a Samajwadi Party candidate.
Poonam reached Lucknow earlier and headed straight to the Samajwadi Party office to formally become a member of the party.
SP MP Dimple Yadav, the wife of Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav, was present at the party office and gave the membership card to Poonam. Later, party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav also arrived at the party office and had a meeting with Poonam.
Samajwadi Party sources said that Poonam would file her nomination papers tomorrow and she would be the candidate of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal party alliance from Lucknow. The Congress is likely to support her.
The Congress decision not to field any candidate from the Uttar Pradesh capital paves the way for a one-on-one face-off between Rajnath Singh and Poonam Sinha.
There are 400,000 Kayastha voters and 130,000 Sindhi voters in Lucknow, apart from 350,000 Muslims. Poonam is a Sindhi while her husband Shatrughan Sinha is a Kayastha.
Last week, Shatrughan Sinha joined the Congress after quitting the Bharatiya Janata Party, his party of almost three decades.
Lucknow is a prestigious state that has been with the BJP since 1991. The party’s iconic leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee held it from 1991 to 2009. Since then, Rajnath Singh has been winning the seat.
Asked about Poonam as a rival, Rajnath Singh said: “Yes somebody must contest, that is the beauty of democracy. We will fight elections with full dignity. We will maintain the decorum that is the legacy of Lucknow.”
In other developments, former Rashtriya Janata Dal MP and former minister Ali Ashraf Fatmi resigned from all posts of the party and announced he will contest as an independent from Madhubani in Bihar.
Addressing a press conference, Fatmi, a four-time RJD MP from Darbganga, said he will, however, remain with the RJD.
Fatmi said the RJD had earlier assured him a ticket to contest from Madhubani after the party fielded senior leader Abdul Bari Suddiqui from Darbhanga.
“Now it is for the party to give me the symbol to contest from Madhubani. I will wait till April 18.” Congress leader and former minister Shakeel Ahmad on Monday said he will contest the Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate from Madhubani.
Ahmad was unhappy after his traditional seat of Madhubani went to ally VIP under a seat sharing formula of the Grand Alliance.
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