The Times Of India
Shailvee Sharda

From the ever happening Hazratganj, to the nostalgic old city and the up market Gomtinagar area, boundaries of Lucknow central assembly segment envelope the heart of Lucknow. The evenings in this constituency get sprightly with gen-x and y hitting the streets in ganj or gomtinagar. But the middle and well-to-do voters in this assembly constituency have however been relaxing during last Vidhan Sabha election's poll day. Figures show that only three out of ten voters exercised franchise.

So will the cream of Lucknow pass the poll test on Sunday when Lucknow goes to poll? Officials at the district administration are hopeful for a better turnout. "Over 53% of the voters in this constituency are young and first time voters," said OP Arya, additional district electoral officer. Government officer, Lalita Pradeep who used valentine day into voter day, is also charged with optimism. "The same middle class resorted to streets when team Anna raised a voice against corruption," she said suggesting that February 19 will also be a litmus test for the hyped 'Anna factor' and the under-current movement against corruption besides the battling candidates.

The main fight on this seat is between Vidya Sagar Gupta, sitting MLA from Lucknow east and his old antagonist Fakir Siddiqui who is contesting on a congress ticket this time. Siddiqui lost to Gupta in 2007 vidhan Sabha with just 631 votes. As the two consider the other their biggest opponent, they offer an explanation for the same. "Delimitation has lead to an increase in the number of Muslim voters in the constituency who can play a crucial role," said Gupta.

Siddiqui on the other hand takes into account the large presence of upper caste voters (Brahmin, Vaishya and Kayastha) on the seat. "Most of the localities in this seat are a BJP stronghold not only at the party level but also at the level of RSS," Siddiqui stated. Ravidas Mehrotra, the Samajwadi Party candidate - who also considers Gupta as his chief opponent - has made the contest triangular. A former MLA (in 1988) and corporator who lost last elections to another BJP candidate Suresh Srivastava with 5,000 votes is banking on his strong people connect to win the seat. "Unlike most candidates, I have been to jail for 240 times (a record acclaimed by Limca and Guiness book of world records) only for the cause of people in my area. They will reward me this time," Mehrotra said.

Ruling BSP has fielded Mohd Naseem Siddiqui, owner of an ice-cream factory having an inclination for social work. Barring the party's name, Siddiqui offers little to his electorate during electioneering. Asked to comment what he would do for his people when voted to power, he said, "I have been a social worker and would continue to work for them." The businessman however could not talk about specifics. Thus, his presence appears to be just 'representational'. In fact it may not be wrong to say that he is just one of the 19 other candidates contesting elections from here.

The jargon of caste may not help these candidates. "The young mind is not affected by traditional factors of caste and religion. They have compelled political parties to change their profile and the focus has shifted to candidates. A time is not far when only work will be the deciding factor," hoped Sanjay Singh, of Association for Democratic Reforms. A random view taken by these voters proves Singh right. "Caste is the last thing that comes to my mind for anything," said Parth Arora, a young engineering student.

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