Defeated by Vajpayee in 2004, SP leader remembers the dignified contest

File photo of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at his residence in New Delhi | PTI photo
At the height of the 'India Shining' campaign by the then ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre and in the run-up to the 2004 Lok Sabha election, incumbent Prime Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) mascot Atal Bihari Vajpayee was vying for his fifth straight parliamentary victory from Lucknow. 

Pitted against him was Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate and an established city-based gynaecologist Dr Madhu Gupta. Gupta had in the past contested the 2000 Lucknow mayoral election, which was later won by BJP nominee Dr S C Rai, a veteran medical practitioner himself.

As was expected, Vajpayee went on to score a massive win over Gupta by a victory margin of over 218,000 votes, polling over 55 per cent votes vis-à-vis 18 per cent by the SP candidate. While he polled 324,714 votes, Gupta garnered 106,339. 

In 2004, Lucknow had witnessed a low polling of 35 per cent, with roughly 587,000 voters out of an electorate of 1.6 million deciding to exercise their franchise.  

Interestingly, eminent Supreme Court lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who was backed by Congress and some other parties, had also fought the Lok Sabha election as an independent. He came third after polling less than 10 per cent of votes and losing his deposit. 

Related to Mulayam Singh Yadav from his second wife Sadhna Gupta's side, Gupta is currently an SP Member of Legislative Council (MLC) in the Uttar Pradesh legislature. 

Talking to Business Standard, Gupta said that 2004 was one of the least acrimonious elections, one in which she did not hear anything disrespectful uttered against her during electioneering by her rivals.   

"In fact, I started my poll campaign by saying Atalji was the 'Bhishma pitamah' of Indian politics and that I would continue to respect him regardless of the fact that I was pitched against him in the Lok Sabha election by my party," she recalled.  

Gupta said the prelude to her poll speech was spoofed by actor Shekhar Suman in his popular comic-satirical TV series 'Movers and Shakers'. 

"His passing away is a big loss to our country. He was a multifaceted personality who was respected across party lines. Atalji shared a great equation with all political leaders, including our leader Mulayam Singh Yadav ji," said Gupta, adding that Vajpayee represented the inclusive culture and ethos of Lucknow. 

Vajpayee represented Lucknow in the Lok Sabha consecutively from 1991 to 2009. During his tenure as a parliamentarian, leader of the opposition and even prime ministership, Vajpayee was allotted flat number 302 in the posh La Place Colony on Shahnajaf Road, Hazratganj, as a local Member of Parliament (MP). 

He was listed as a local voter at the Bishan Narayan Inter College polling centre on Nawal Kishore Road. Vajpayee had last cast his vote in 2004 and in later years, poor health had prevented him from coming to Lucknow.  

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel