SP-Cong Must Put Up a Big Score Ame­thi, Ay­o­d­hya in Fo­cus; Akhilesh Min­is­ters in Fray

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

New Delhi: The 51 as­sem­bly seg­ments across 11 Ut­tar Pradesh dis­tricts go­ing to the poll in the fifth phase will wit­ness fights in the Lok Sabha con­stituen­cies of Nehru-Gandhi scions Rahul Gandhi and Varun Gandhi apart from the con­tro­ver­sial Ay­o­d­hya seat in neigh­bour­ing Faiz­abad.

In­ci­den­tally, Congress vice-pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi has cam­paigned and avoided step­ping on the toes of al­liance part­ner SP which is is friendly fights in some con­stituen­cies while BJP MP Varun Gandhi has main­tained an arm’s length from the cam­paign al­to­gether. BJP is try­ing to wrest the seat back by fielding a party-hop­per out­sider de­spite reser­va­tion from the party ranks while in­cum­bent SP can­di­date, con­sid­ered close to Akhilesh Ya­dav, hopes to hold on to it de­spite BSP’s Mus­lim can­di­date threat­en­ing to eat into a sec­tion of SP’s sup­port base.

Sev­eral of Akhilesh Ya­dav’s min­is­ters are in fray in this phase — such as Vinod Singh and Yas­sar Shah, who are con­sid­ered the party’s Thakur and Mus­lim face in the re­gion. Singh and Shah are con­test­ing from Tarab­ganj and Mat­era se gments re­spec­tively. Mata Prasad Pandey, UP As­sem­bly Speaker is in con­test from Itwa. For­mer CM Mayawati’s trusted min­is­ter Ram Prasad Chaud­hary is con­test­ing as the BSP can­di­date in Kap­tan­ganj seg­ment. A part of this phase falls in the Awadh re­gion where the SP and the BSP have had their pock­ets of strongholds.

The SP had won 37 seats out of 52 (to­tal seats in this phase in­clud­ing Ala­pur, elec­tions for which has been post­poned be­cause of the death of a can­di­date) in the pre­vi­ous as­sem­bly elec­tion while the BJP and the Congress won five each. The BSP could win only three seats while a fledg­ling Peace Party had won two seats. While Mus­lims are a size­able chunk of the elec­torate in the Terai re­gions — Sid­dharth Na­gar, Sant Kabir Na­gar, Bal­ram­pur, Bahraich and Shrawasti dis­tricts — the re­gion also boasts of a size­able pro­por­tion of up­per caste Brah­min and Thakur com­mu­ni­ties. Among the back­ward castes, the Kurmi com­mu­nity also has a size­able pres­ence in this phase apart from Ya­davs.

While the BJP is bat­tling re­sent­ment in a sec­tion of party cadres for fielding out­siders, the in­cum­bent SP may be fac­ing lo­cal an­ti­in­cum­bency against some of its sit­ting leg­is­la­tors. The friendly fight among SP and Congress in many seats has added to the con­fu­sion for the elec­torate, Mayawati’s BSP was try­ing to eat into SP’s Mus­lim sup­port base by fielding Mus­lim can­di­dates. Un­like the last time, the buzz around the Peace Party, which de­rived its core strength from among Mus­lims, ap­peared di­min­ished this time.

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