Mulayam’s prestige at stake in fifth phase of UP pollFebruary 22nd, 2012 - 9:00 pm ICT by IANS
Lucknow, Feb 22 (IANS) The prestige of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Uma Bharti will be at stake during the fifth phase of the Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections on Thursday.
As many as 829 candidates are in the fray for 49 seats spread across 13 districts where 1.56 crore electors are expected to cast their vote at 17,267 polling centres.
Apart from a large presence of Yadavs, the region also has a substantial population of Lodhs.
Even as Mulayam Singh is considered a prominent leaders of his Yadav community here, Uma Bharti faces a tough task of weaning away the Lodh community, who had so far rallied behind former chief minister and ousted BJP leader Kalyan Singh, who has formed his own Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP).
The only other prominent leader, whose prestige would be at test in this phase is Coal Minister Shri Prakash Jaiswal, who is the sitting Congress MP from Kanpur city.
Even though Samajwadi Party had bagged only 14 seats as against Bahujan Samaj Party’s 27, BJP’s six and Congress’ four in 2007, large parts of the areas going to poll on Feb 23 are known as strongholds of Mulayam Singh.
Besides Mulayam’s home district of Etawah, the neighbouring districts of Mainpuri, Auraiya, Etah and Firozabad were known for dominance of Yadavs, who have traditionally been his unflinching supporters.
If Mayawati was able to penetrate into this Yadav bastion, it was largely because a chunk of the community chose to boycott voting as a mark of protest against denial of jobs during the Mulayam Singh regime.
“A large number of Yadavs did not go to vote at all in 2007 because they were angry over Mulayam’s failure to honour his commitment to give them jobs, which were openly up for sale,” a prominent Yadav citizen from Mainpuri told IANS over telephone.
“But surely we did not want Mulayam to lose…. therefore we will now compensate that by making it a point to ensure that every Yadav casts his vote for SP,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Among the remaining districts of Hamirpur, Kanshiram Nagar, Rama Bai Nagar, Kanpur, Jhansi, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Mahoba, the other dominant castes are the Lodhs, whom Uma Bharti was desperately trying to wean away from Kalyan Singh.
Trying his best to keep his support base intact, Kalyan Singh had even gone to the extent of throwing a challenge to Uma Bharti by fielding a rival member of the caste against her from Charkheri, from where she filed her nomination after shifting base to the state from Madhya Pradesh.
To counter Kalyan Singh, BJP has also pushed two other saffron clad leaders into the campaign in this region. These were Sakshi Maharaj, once known for his proximity to Kalyan Singh and Sadhvi Niranjan, who was known for her hardline Hindutva appeals.
Notorious for large scale poll violence, this region has put the election commission on a virtual red alert.
Heavy police deployment has been made in and around the violence-prone districts of Etawah, Mainpuri, Etah and Auraiya in particular, but poll panel officials declined to divulge the number of security personnel detailed for the job.
“Adequate security is in place to ensure a violence-free, and fair poll in the fifth phase,” chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha said.