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National - Elections 2004 Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

CANDIDATE WATCH: Karuna Shukla (BJP)

Karuna Shukla, BJP candidate, Janjgir, Chhattisgarh


When Karuna Shukla, the Bharatiya Janata Party's national vice-president, was given the ticket to contest from the Janjgir Lok Sabha constituency in Chhattisgarh, several eyebrows were raised. There were allegations that her claim to fame was kinship to the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. She became a much-talked-about candidate because she is Mr. Vajpayee's niece and some alleged that she had done nothing constructive to deserve the ticket.

"Let me tell my critics once and for all that I have been Mr. Vajpayee's niece since August 1, 1950 — the day I was born as his elder brother, Awadh Bihari Vajpayee's daughter. My father was 14 years elder to the Prime Minister," she told The Hindu. By now, Ms. Shukla is, perhaps, familiar with these kinds of allegations levelled against her off and on. "I did not even meet Mr. Vajpayee after I was chosen as the party candidate. I just spoke to him and other senior party leaders over the phone to thank them and seek their blessings."

It was in November last year that Mr. Vajpayee announced at a rally in Bastar district that if the BJP was voted to power in the State, a woman would be made Chief Minister as is now the case in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Obviously all fingers pointed towards Ms. Shukla and Mr. Vajpayee was accused of trying to promote his niece though she was not even a member of the Legislative Assembly. The Prime Minister had to issue another statement to clarify that he had not named his niece at the rally.

Ms. Shukla joined the BJP in 1980 and rose to become its national vice-president, a post she continues to hold. "I was elected to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly in 1993 from Baloda Bazar constituency and have even received `Best Parliamentarian' Award in 1997-98 and have been the member of the State Working Committee since 1994 besides heading the women's wing of Chhattisgarh," she said.

Now based at Jangjir where she is pitted against an old Congress stalwart and sitting M.P., Charandas Mahant, Ms. Shukla dismisses the charge levelled by her opponent that she is an "outsider." "I have been settled at Raipur after my marriage and know the place quite well. My in-laws are from Mungeli, close to the former Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi's constituency."

"If I am being called an outsider, then how can the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, be an Indian. It is unfortunate that the `fair-skinned' people who were driven out from the country are being asked to rule the nation once again," she said adding that Indians will never want to be ruled by a foreigner. "Importantly, this election is being fought under the leadership of Mr. Vajpayee and the work done by the National Democratic Alliance Government in the past six year," she adds.

Mr. Mahant had won this seat in 1998 and 1999 by defeating Manharanlal Pandey by a margin of 44,586 votes and Banshilal Mahto by a margin of 14,863 votes respectively. Again, the Congress' performance had been better in this region in the Assembly elections as it had won five of the nine Assembly seats while the remaining went to the BJP. However, the BJP is banking on some of the Nationalist Congress Party votes this time as a former NCP member, V.C. Shukla, has joined the BJP.

Aarti Dhar

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