Uttar Pradesh polls: Heavyweights in the campaign fray

Updated: January 10, 2012 23:23 IST

Campaigning has reached fever pitch as Uttar Pradesh readies to go to polls in February. The state, which is known to hold the key to New Delhi, not surprisingly is witnessing a pitched political battle. And it's a four-cornered contest as top leaders from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are slugging it out in the heat of the electoral campaign. Here's a look at some of the heavyweights who could prove to be clinchers in this crucial game.

Uttar Pradesh polls: Heavyweights in the campaign fray
Campaigning has reached fever pitch as Uttar Pradesh readies to go to polls in February. The state, which is known to hold the key to New Delhi, not surprisingly is witnessing a pitched political battle. And it's a four-cornered contest as top leaders from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are slugging it out in the heat of the electoral campaign. Here's a look at some of the heavyweights who could prove to be clinchers in this crucial game.
Uttar Pradesh polls: Heavyweights in the campaign fray
Mayawati: With corruption and incumbency seriously threatening her aim at a hat-trick of consecutive terms as Chief Minister, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati knew she had to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat for her party to retain power. So, division of the state into four new ones was what she put before the people - a move that could well earn Behenji major political points as the separate statehood has been a long-standing demand.

The Dalit czarina, who has been under intense attack by a resurgent Congress led by Rahul Gandhi over the issue of graft, has also embarked upon a clean-up drive by shunting out tainted leaders.

But, after all, it's her core votebank - the Dalits - that she is banking upon again to ensure the elephant continues to rule in the state.
Uttar Pradesh polls: Heavyweights in the campaign fray
Rahul Gandhi: He's probably the Congress' best chance in the state in the longest time. After ensuring a decent turn at the hustings for the Grand Old Party in the parliamentary polls in 2009, Rahul Gandhi has been quietly and assiduosly working to revive the party's old charm in the state. Criss-crossing the state, he has taken Chief Minister Mayawati head on over issues of corruption and land acquisition, the latter being a highly emotive issue with the farmers.

The 40-year-old Gandhi scion has also strategically struck an alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal which is a force to reckon with in western UP.

But, it's his quota-for-Muslims move that well prove to be the Congress' trump card in the state. With the community constituting a sizeable section of the electorate at 18%, Congress' decision to grant 4.5% quota to backward Muslims out of the existing 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) could spring a sweet surprise for the party.
Uttar Pradesh polls: Heavyweights in the campaign fray
Akhilesh Yadav: With it running the real risk of being relegated to the third position in the power equations in the state, Samajawadi Party is banking upon its Gen Next to take it forward. Akhilesh Yadav, son of party chief and former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, seems to have taken on the baton of powering the party's campaign this time around. The younger Yadav has, at several rallies and meetings, stressed that his party will not tolerate corruption and corrupt leaders. He is also his party's answer to the young, educated and suave leader culture brought about by Rahul Gandhi.
Uttar Pradesh polls: Heavyweights in the campaign fray
Atal Behari Vajpayee: Desperate for a return to power, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has turned to its old horse to recreate the magic in a state that it once boasted of as its bastion a few years ago. After being out of the political glare for a long time due to illness, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will be back, campaigning for the lotus. Unarguably the most popular saffron leader till date, Vajpayee could just add that much-needed lift to the party's sagging fortunes.
Uttar Pradesh polls: Heavyweights in the campaign fray
Ajit Singh: Even though his influence is limited to the western part of the state, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh is the ubiquitous satrap that could swing fortunes in this high-stakes political game. After having tested several alliances in the past, the RLD boss stitched up a pre-poll alliance with the Congress in lieu of a Cabinet berth at the Centre. His presence is certain to provide a huge impetus to the Congress in his stronghold of western UP.

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