Once the capital of the Mughals, Agra seems to be struggling for its lost glory. This Lok Sabha constituency has a long list of unfulfilled promises and the poll issues remain unchanged election after election, be it the demand for a separate bench of the high court in west UP, international airport, Agra barrage, or international sports stadium. The city has small scale footwear manufacturing units but many of them are closing down year after year.
Unexploited tourism potential
During elections, the common slogan in Agra is ‘Jo paryatan ki baat karenga, woh Agra par raj karega’ (One who talks about tourism will rule Agra)’.
However, despite having about 200 protected heritage sites, tourism is focused around Taj Mahal. Besides Taj Mahal, tourists visit Agra Fort or Fatehpur Sikri and return by evening hours.
Otherwise a boon to Agra, the fasttrack connectivity with Delhi and Lucknow through two expressways turns to be a bane when it comes to average stay of tourists in Agra.
Normally, most of the tourists do not even stop for a day in Agra.
The lesser known sites including the tomb of Itimad-ud-daula, Sikandra, Chini Ka Roza, Jaswant Ki Chhatri, Dayalbagh and Mariam Tomb rarely figure on the list of sites visited by tourists.
Poor traffic management and encroachments add to the problems hated by tourists.
The hoteliers complain about unoccupied rooms for large part of the year. Three fast trains, Gatiman Express, Shatabdi Express and Taj Express, come from Delhi during morning hours and return to Delhi taking back majority of tourists.
Though Agra is known as ‘Dalit capital’, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which champions the cause of Dalits is yet to score a victory in the city of Taj.
In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BSP candidate Kunwar Chand Vakil was close to victory but finally lost to Ram Shankar Katheria of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by about 9,715 votes.
BSP proved its hold during the 2012 assembly elections when it won 6 out of total 9 assembly seats falling under Agra district. However, it failed to win even a single seat in 2017 assembly election.
Jatavs constitute a major share in dalit population who remain loyal to the BSP but non-Jatavs support other parties too. According to political experts, BSP stands a chance this time as Muslim votes are unlikely to split which can prove to be a game changer in combination with loyal Jatav votes of the BSP.
Agra was a citadel of the Congress as it won 1951, 1957, 1962, 1967 and 1971 Lok Sabha elections. The constituency drifted away from the Congress after the JP movement when the Bharatiya Lok Dal won Agra for the Janata Party government.
Riding on sympathy wave after the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, Congress won the seat comfortably. But that was the last time when the Congress won from Agra.
With the Temple wave sweeping the state in the ‘90s, BJP scored a hat-trick in 1991, 1996 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections till Raj Babbar came to scene to ensure a surprise victory for the Samajwadi Party in 1999 and 2004. Once Agra seat became reserved, BJP won 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Stage set for 2019 polls
Nine candidates are in fray for Agra reserved seat. The BJP has replaced its sitting MP Ram Shankar Katheria with UP minister SP Singh Baghel.
Having alliance partners Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal by its side, BSP is optimistic of scoring first victory in Agra by fielding Manoj Soni.
Congress is also trying to make it a triangular contest by fielding Preeta Harit, who is testing political waters after leaving her job in the income tax department. The party is banking on the Agra connect of Raj Babbar who is contesting from nearby Fatehpur Sikri seat.
Plight of the Yamuna
With the long pending demand of Agra Barrage still unfulfilled, the condition of river Yamuna continues to be grim. With Gokul barrage coming up near Mathura, the road for Agra Barrage became tougher. After the BJP came to power in UP, the three-decade old Agra Barrage project was renamed by the irrigation department as ‘Taj Barrage Project’ would come up at 1.5 kilometres downstream of Yamuna.
First Published: Apr 15, 2019 15:40 IST