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Poll Pit

The comeback bahu

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The political sea has parted quietly so that Dimple Yadav can coast to victory in Kannauj. Husband and media manager Akhilesh Yadav has ensured revenge for her 2009 defeat.

The ghosts of Firozabad have been exorcised. Dimple Yadav will now join the Famous Forty Four who made it into the hallowed halls of the Indian Parliament unopposed. On June 5, when the Yadav bahu arrived in Kannauj to file her nomination papers, surprisingly, she was a picture of calm. But anticipatory celebrations had already begun within the Samajwadi Party camp.

There is more than one reason for Dimple's somewhat muted reaction. Memories of the 2009 poll drubbing in Firozabad, though buried, must continue to haunt her. For a fleeting moment on June 5, it came back too clearly, both for Dimple and Akhilesh, when a party member unwittingly, and perhaps, insensitively, alluded to the poll drubbing while introducing her to the crowds at Kannauj. Akhilesh dismissed the comment with a wave of his hand. The message was clear, though. Despite the near certainty of the poll results, this time, the champagne bottles will have to wait till 3 pm on June 9, when the Election Commission's deadline for withdrawal of candidature draws to a close.

Once it's announced, Dimple's historic victory will make her the first woman MP from UP to be elected unopposed and the first MP since 1989.

The only two candidates in the fray, an independent Sanju Katiyar and one Dashrath Shankhwar of Sanyukt Samajwadi Dal, withdrew from the contest on Friday, making elections to the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat redundant. Though Kannauj district election officer Selva Kumari J confirmed the two withdrawals, the formal declaration of the Samajwadi bahu's victory will only be made on Saturday. "We were confident of her victory, " party loyalist Anand Bhadauria, also the president of SP's youth brigade, the Lohia Vahini, said.

For the historic feat, Dimple will largely have father-in-law Mulayam and husband Akhilesh to thank. Three-time MP from Kannauj, Akhilesh has maintained it was 'the people's wish' to see someone from his family contest after he vacated the seat to take over as Uttar Pradesh's chief minister. Who better, then, than his better half? Mulayam's contribution to the Yadav bahu's slow steps towards Parliament has been just as critical. After the SP's unprecedented win in the state assembly elections, Mulayam has also broken bread - and traditions - by sharing the dinner table with UPA chief Sonia Gandhi at the alliance's third anniversary dinner party. This implies an unstated quid pro quo - that Congress can use Mulayam to bait Mamata Banerjee. In turn, the patriarch gets a berth in the government and an assurance that Dimple's entry into the lower house will be smooth.

The second of three daughters of retired Indian Army Col SC Rawat, Dimple is en route to making her political debut. It was never on the agenda as she grew up, constantly adjusting to new places, situations and environments, moving with her family to Andaman and Nicobar, Bhatinda, Bareilly and Lucknow. She learnt horse-riding in her cantonment school, finished her graduation, and hoped, one day, to join a big "company".

It is over 13 years since she married Akhilesh and Dimple is now comfortable in her skin as the socialist bahu. For a young woman whose first task after she wedded Akhilesh was to learn how to drape a saree, the quiet, unassuming housewife and committed mother who rarely made a public appearance was a natural when she boarded the Samajwadi Kranti Rath to campaign in 2009. In her crisp cotton sarees, her head covered, she drank tea in 'kulhars', embraced little children and mingled easily with the locals.

After the loss of Firozabad, though, Dimple took a three-year break. Akhilesh, meanwhile, got busy planning her comeback. Says a source close to the family: "No one thought that Dimple would lose in 2009. It was clear to us even then that Akhilesh would ensure her return, with dignity. With Kannauj, he is keeping his promise. As a chief minister and as an SP leader with clout at the Centre, things have been planned to perfection this time. "

Dimple's re-entry into the public domain has been gentle. Her first public appearance since 2009 was at Akhilesh's swearing-in ceremony in March, where she came in and left, nearly unnoticed. On June 5, at the public rally in Kannauj, when she shared the stage with Akhilesh for the first time after taking over as UP's First Lady, Dimple struck an emotional chord with people. She was herself - simple, unassuming, and charming. The mother of three, Aditi and twins Tina and Arjun, she still flies economy class and is ferried around town minus the 'lal batti'.

She settled for a no-frills, well-rehearsed speech over the straight-from-the-heart, impromptu oratory she had mastered in Firozabad. She said: "I am here to seek your blessings so that I can speak on behalf of UP in Parliament. People have placed their faith in netaji and given UP its youngest chief minister. Now, I need your support again. "

With victory nearly certain, the Samajwadi bahu, party sources confirmed, is unlikely to campaign. Even bitter rival, the Bahujan Samaj Party, has chosen to stay out of the poll fray in Kannauj, indicating, political observers say, the growing influence of the Yadav clan. As for Dimple, she's making electoral history. And husband-cum-media manager Akhilesh Yadav is standing by, waiting to hand-hold her to the victory podium.

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