The prolonged poll fever is about to ebb in Uttar Pradesh with 13 seats going for polls on May 19. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has much to defend in this phase. In 2014, the saffron party had won 12 seats from this belt of Western Uttar Pradesh and its ally, Apna Dal, had won one seat here. It suffered a major setback as it lost the Gorakhpur seat in the 2018 bypolls which Yogi Adityanath had vacated to become the Chief Minister.
Apart from the Varanasi constituency, which seems to be a cakewalk for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the remaining 12 seats are of utmost importance to both the BJP and the SP-BSP alliance. But the more prestigious seats for the BJP are Ghazipur, from where Union minister Manoj Sinha, Mirzapur from where another Union minister Anupriya Patel (Apna Dal S) and Chandauli from where Uttar Pradesh BJP president Mahendra Nath Pandey are in fray. These three seats are adjoining constituencies of Varanasi and the BJP is expecting Modi magic to work against the caste-based web created by the SP-BSP combine.
Union minister versus mafia don’s brother
A battle of sorts is being witnessed in Ghazipur where Union minister Manoj Sinha is in the fray. Though he is said to have done a lot for the development of the area, the Opposition feels that its candidate Afzal Ansari, brother of mafia don Mukhtar Ansari, has a better chance. The Opposition is counting the numbers of Muslim, dalit and yadav votes — which are just over 50 per cent of the total electorate. Hence, they feel that their candidate will romp home successfully.
Mother campaigning against daughter
Mirzapur is another keen battle to watch out for. Incumbent Union minister of state for health, Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (S), won as a BJP ally from here during the Modi wave in 2014. However, her relations later soured with the BJP as she accused the party of neglecting her in programs related to her ministry.
This seat’s equations are tricky as Anupriya’s mother Krishna Patel is openly out in support for the Congress candidate — former MLA Lalitesh Pati Tripathi, who is the great-grandson of the late Congress leader Kamla Pati Tripathi. The Alliance has fielded Ram Charitra Nishad, a former Apna Dal leader and BJP’s sitting MP from the neighbouring Machhlishahr (SC) constituency. This three-cornered contest has made things interesting on the ground.
Local versus outsider
Chandauli is another seat to be keenly watched as the BJP’s state president Mahendra Nath Pandey is defending his turf again. Here the alliance has fielded Sanjay Chauhan with the intention of getting two lakh seventy five yadav votes coupled with two lakh sixty thousand dalit votes. The party is also eyeing Muslim and thakur votes. On paper, the arithmetic looks great, but the BJP is banking on PM Modi and party president Amit Shah to break this caste equation.
The curious case of the ‘missing’ candidate
The seat of Ghosi is seeing a different contest. Here, BJP’s Hari Narain Rajbhar is against Atul Rai of the Alliance. Interestingly, Rai is “missing” from the election scene as there is a non-bailable warrant against him in a case of case of rape.
His campaign managers say that the public of the area knows that this is a politically motivated case and hence, there is a huge sympathy wave for Rai. Some even say that it’s a total non-issue that the candidate is not campaigning. They say that late Kalpnath Rai won this seat while in jail as an independent candidate and so did mafia don Mukhtar Ansari. Seems, the case of “missing” candidates is nothing new for the voter of this constituency!
Prestige of Yogi Adityanath at stake
The seat of Gorakhpur is another issue of prestige for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The seat, which is supposed to be the bastion of the Goraksh Peeth or the Gorakh Nath Temple, was earlier won by Yogi Adityanath for five times in a row and before him, his guru, Mahant Avedyanath, won thrice from here. But, in the 2018 bypolls, BJP’s Upendra Shukla lost to Alliance candidate Praveen Nishad.
Nishad recently shifted loyalties to the BJP but the party has fielded actor-turned-politician Ravi Kishan Shukla from here. The BJP and its leaders, including Yogi Adityanath, have come out with all guns blazing to ensure the victory of their candidate. But candidates of the SP-BSP alliance are playing on caste equations. They feel that their candidate Ram Bhuval Nishad has a better chance.
To conclude, it is a straight fight, not between parties, but between Modi magic and the caste cauldron build up by the Samajwadi Party–Bahujan Samajwadi Party alliance.