Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was running unopposed from Lucknow till yesterday, has scored two challengers in one day. The Congress has picked self-styled spiritual guru Acharya Pramod Krishnam as the candidate from Lucknow to face the senior BJP leader who is running for a fifth term in parliament. Earlier in the day, Poonam Sinha, the wife of actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha, who joined the Samajwadi Party today, was announced as the candidate of the opposition “grand alliance” from the Uttar Pradesh capital.
Born on July 2, 1962, in Uttar Pradesh, Aachrya Pramod Krishnam runs an ashram in Sambhal. He was the Congress’s candidate from the area in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but came fifth. He made headlines in 2015 when he equated Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Indian Mujahideen and blamed him for “growing intolerance” in the country. Before he was nominated by the Congress in 2014, Mr Krishnam had launched a party called the Hindustan United Movement.
Mr Krishnam’s candidature was announced by the Congress along with two other names for the ongoing Lok Sabha polls that began on April 11 and go on till May 19. Results are due on May 23.
The Congress announced Mr Krishnam’s candidature on the same day that the opposition alliance of Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party said they will field Poonam Sinha against Rajnath Singh. The move appeared to echo Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s stand of “fighting on front-foot” despite being left out of the opposition coalition.
Poonam Sinha was welcomed into the Samajwadi Party by Dimple Yadav, the wife of party chief Akhilesh Yadav, with just two more days before nominations close for Lucknow. “She will be our nominee for Lucknow,” senior Samajwadi leader Ravidas Mehrotra said.
Lucknow is a prestigious seat that has been with the BJP since 1991. The party’s iconic leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee held it from 1991 to 2009. Rajnath Singh, who the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from western Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, took over the Lucknow seat in 2014.
Asked about Poonam Sinha as a rival, Rajnath Singh had said earlier in the day: “Yes somebody must contest, that is the beauty of democracy. We will fight elections with full dignity, tehzeeb jo Lucknow ki bohot badi dharohar hai usko bhi hum kayam rakhenge (we will maintain the decorum that is the legacy of Lucknow).”
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