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These leaders will be missed in UP elections

By Amita Verma
Lucknow, Jan 6 (IANS) The absence of four top political leaders will be sorely felt in the upcoming UP assembly elections this year.

These leaders were not only crowd-pullers for their parties but also represented vote banks that have the capacity of making and marring fortunes.

The biggest loss in these elections will be for the BJP. The party's best-known face in state politics - Kalyan Singh - is no more.

The former chief minister, who passed away in August last year, was the OBC face of the BJP and commanded respect among the people. He was also a torchbearer of the Ayodhya movement and one of the first faces of Hindutva.

His appeal extended beyond caste lines and his rapport with opposition leaders helped the party in times of crisis.

Though Kalyan Singh did not campaign in the 2017 assembly and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections since he was holding a gubernatorial assignment at that time, his presence was palpable in the polls as candidates and leaders rushed to him for advice.

Another stalwart who is already being missed in this election season is Lalji Tandon who passed away after prolonged illness in July 2020.

Tandon was one of the few leaders in the BJP who rose beyond caste lines and was known for his election management and excellent administrative qualities. He was also the party's crisis manager who handled the BJP's turbulent relationship with the BSP.

"He was one leader in the party to whom one could pour out his or her 'mann ki baat' in the true sense of the term, and he would listen patiently. Today, the leaders have no time to hear the workers' problems," said a minister who requested anonymity.

Despite being a close associate of former Prime Minister, late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lalji Tandon was a people's leader and known to keep an open house where one could walk in without an appointment - a phenomenon no longer seen in state politics.

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh, who died in May last year, was the tallest political leader in western UP.

Though his Rashtriya Lok Dal is poised for a revival after the farmers' agitation, Ajit Singh's absence is being deeply felt by his party workers.

"He knew all party workers by name and heard every point of view before taking a decision. He was one leader with whom we could even voice dissent on issues and he would listen. This is an extremely crucial election for the party and also for Jayant Chaudhary and we are all missing 'Chaudhary saheb', as he was affectionately called," said a party leader.

The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, will find it difficult to find an orator as powerful as Mohd Azam Khan, who was also among the party's star campaigners.

Azam Khan has been lodged in jail since February 2020 on charges that range from statue theft, buffalo theft, goat theft, books theft, land grabbing, encroachment and forgery.

With Azam Khan missing in action, the SP does not have a Muslim face in the upcoming elections and the entire burden of campaigning now rests on the shoulders of Akhilesh Yadav.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Samajwadi patriarch, will also remain away from the campaign though he may make one or two appearances.

The veteran leader is facing health issues and has been advised to keep away from crowds, especially at a time when Covid cases are surging.

"Netaji (Mulayam Singh) may issue a video appeal for all constituencies and may even address a rally or two if the situation eases during campaigning," said a source.