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