In Ballia’s Phephna Seat, It’s Now Akhilesh vs Ambika
Phephna (Ballia): Once considered to be the “face” of SP’s patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav in east UP’s major parts, former minister a n d B S P n o mi n e e Ambika Choudhary is fighting a different battle against his old political rival Sangram Yadav this time. Sangram, who had challenged Ambika as BSP nominee in early 1990s and as Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party-Quami Ekta Dal candidate in 2012, is perhaps deliberately selected by CM Akhilesh Yadav as SP’s nominee to counter Ambika’s local influence over the OBCs, particularly Yadavs, apart f rom Muslims.
Sangram’s presence in the fray in Phephna in 2012 was one reason which had stopped Ambika from entering the state assembly for the fifth consecutive term. The political rivalry between Ambika and Sangram apparently then led to the victory of BJP nominee Upendra Tiwari in 2012 despite a wave in favour of SP.
Ambika’s exit from SP has much to do with his proximity with CM Akhilesh’ uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav. Despite losing the election in 2012, Ambika was inducted into the Akhilesh ministry. Later, Akhilesh dropped him.
“While in SP, Ambikaji never ignored strengthening roots of his party at the ground level here. Since he was very close to SP patriarch Mulayam Singhji, he had independently formed ground-level commit- tees within SP in this assembly seat. So, he got easily motivated all such cadres to work for him as BSP nominee in this election,” Sudarhsan Choudhari, who is former pradhan of Baleji village, explained the problems which Sangram faces in this seat after former CM Mayawati’s decision to field Ambika from this seat in January this year.
Ambika’s desperation to retain his old local base clearly reflects his strategies to extend the BSP’s existing social base in his assembly constituency in order to place himself in a comfort zone. “Old caste equations are fast breaking in this election. Ambika has perhaps inkling about the BJP’s growing support base among the MBC voters. So, he concentrates mainly on his old support base while BSP functionaries are on job to ensure smooth transfer of their party’s base votes to him,” said Shyam Narain Singh, a retired school teacher in Phephna town.
While Ambika is spending sleep- less nights to touch the villages dominated by OBC, Ansari brothers’ fresh association with the BSP has created problem for the SP to keep its Muslim votes intact in this constituency. “SP nominee Sangram had got third position in 2012 assembly polls only because of the support of Ansari brothers. So, Ambika has reasons to hope for a division in the Muslim votes in view of Ansari brothers’ fresh association with the BSP in this election,” said Chhote Lal Pal, who runs a tea stall at Narhi on Ghazipur-Ballia road.
Early indications suggest about unity among upper castes to go with the BJP in this election. Earlier, a section of upper castes used to support the SP under the influence of RS member Neeraj Shekhar, who is sonforformerMPChandrashekhar.