Glamour tadka in Akbar’s erstwhile capital

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Fatehpur Sikri (Agra rural), April 2  Though actor Raj Babbar is a popular figure in his home town Agra, he looks set to face a formidable opposition in Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Raj Kumar Chahar in the Fatehpur Sikri constituency.

The seat is presently held by the BJP’s Choudhary Babu Lal, who has been denied a ticket by the party this time. In 2014, Babu Lal had defeated Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Seema Upadhyaya who this time wanted to shift to Aligarh, but party supremo Mayawati refused to entertain her request.

After a lot of uncertainty and confusion, the BSP at the last minute fielded Bhagwan Sharma, popularly known as Guddu Pandit, who has twice been an MLA from Debai in Bulandshahr district, once on Samajwadi Party (SP) ticket and the second time as a BSP candidate.

In 2009, Raj Babbar was defeated in Fatehpur Sikri by Seema Upadhyaya by a slender margin of 9,936 votes. This time at stake is the reputation of the Congress party because Raj Babbar is the state unit president.

BJP’s Chahar is young and dynamic and is seen as a fighter for farmers’ rights.

The contest will be tight and triangular, say local poll pundits. The constituency has a high concentration of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Jats and Lodhi Nishads. Of the around 16,92,898 voters, Muslims account for around 75,000 and Jatavs for 1.40 lakh.

Sources in the Congress said that in the coming days, a couple of film stars are likely to come to campaign for Raj Babbar who was earlier planning to contest from Moradabad. But a last minute call from the Congress high command made him enter the fray from a familiar terrain.

Raj Babbar’s plus point is his personal equation with leaders of different parties and groups in Agra. “The Congress will not get votes but Raj Babbar will definitely be in the contest and could even snatch victory from the BJP,” said Shravan Kumar Singh, a social activist.

“In terms of individual popularity, Raj Babbar is way ahead of the others. But the BJP has entrenched itself and consolidated its support base in recent years, plus the Modi wave is always there. It will not be easy for Raj Babbar,” said Nandan Shrotriya.

The constituency’s high points are the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti, a Sufi saint, which is visited by the celebrities, and the 101 Shiva temples of Bateshwar where former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spent his early years when he participated in the Quit India movement. The area borders the dreaded Chambal ravines, the haven of dacoits till the 1980s.

Fatehpur Sikri daily attracts hundreds of tourists who provide sustenance to a large number of people in this small town, 35 km from Agra.

Back in history, Fatehpur Sikri was the power hub of the Sikarwars and Jains. That was before the Mughals came. On the advice of Sufi saint Chisti, Mughal emperor Akbar shifted his capital for some years to Fatehpur Sikri from Agra, but had to return due to shortage of water, which continues to be a problem area till today.

Some villages bordering Rajasthan have no water, while others suffer from brackish or fluoride excess.

Bateshwar has now become a major tourist centre, attracting Jains to the Shoripur temples and the Chambal safari for adventure tourists.

The BJP’s chief headache is the dissident leader Babu Lal, who has been denied the ticket this time. Babu Lal has held several rounds of mahapanchayats of his supporters and has even threatened to upset the BJP’s applecart.

“But Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has had a meeting with him and he now appears to have been pacified or neutralised,” claimed local BJP leader Premendra.

Water and road connectivity remain the constituency’s chief problems. The power situation has improved and the villages have been assured of adequate electricity.

In recent years, there has been a demand for making Bah teshil a new district, as economic backwardness and absence of job opportunities have hit the people hard. – IANS

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