The contest in Noida is being seen as a battle of prestige for BJP which has fielded Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh who is making his electoral debut in this crucial Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh. Pankaj (38), an MBA from Amity University, has been active in politics since 2002 and had been in ticket contention since 2007 Assembly election when he was almost set to make his debut from Chandauli, the home town of Rajnath.
BJP decided to field Pankaj this time in place of sitting MLA Vimla Batham, who had won the 2014 bypolls. The election in this seat is also important for Union Minister and local MP Mahesh Sharma who has considerable influence the area with his chain of hospitals and NGOs.
In the 2012 Assembly election, Sharma had won the seat polling 77,319 votes and defeated the BSP candidate by a margin of 27,676 votes. SP’s Sunil Choudhary got 42,031 while Congress’ V S Chauhan had polled 25,482 votes and came fourth.
When Sharma vacated the seat, Batham won the by-election by polling 1,00,433 votes, defeating the SP candidate by 58,952 votes. Rajinder Awana of Congress had polled just 17,212 votes. The BSP did not contest. The victory was credited to Sharma at that time. But it may not be such a smooth going for BJP this time following Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance and the high-pitch campaign by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav with his slogan of ‘kaam bolta he’ as a leader who delivers.
The SP has again fielded Sunil Choudhary, who had lost in 2012, and is hoping to wrest the seat by citing the development works in the area, including flyovers and Metro. Several Union ministers have come to campaign for Pankaj, who is also going door-to-door with his wife to reach out to voters.
A section of BJP unit feels that Noida was considered a safe seat and that is why the ticket was given to Pankaj, who is also state party general secretary. It has, however, given fodder to BJP’s detractors who have alleged that the party which had been vocal against dynastic politics has been forced to give tickets to kin of its prominent leaders.
Visiting the residential welfare associations, Pankaj is seen handing out his cards and promising to resolve all their problems even as he takes pains to dismiss the ‘outsider’ tag. He also claims that Akhilesh government has been taking credit for the works facilitated by the Centre and promises that a BJP government in the state will punish the corrupt.
Noida, which is contiguous to Delhi, has an electorate of 4,28,259. In 2012 the voting percentage was 49.98 per cent. Observers say that while the SP-Congress alliance may change the equation, it has to be seen if Congress votes will go in the kitty of SP. Also, BSP has been stronger than these two parties in the area. There are over a dozen candidates in the fray including Brijesh of RLD and Jayaram Bansal of Shiv Sena.