“The issue of Muslim reservation and the public outcry against corrupt faces in Samajwadi Party, BSP and Congress is going to favour the chances of BJP,” says Ravi Shukla, a social worker of Yashodanagar area in Kanpur. He added that Congress Party as well as Samajwadi Party are losers, due to their Muslim reservation, because the OBCs are conscious of the fact that their share of reservation is endangered. He believes that Anna movement apparently goes in favour of the BJP.
The declared promise of increase in Muslim reservation might have further strengthened the Muslim support base of ‘Mulla Mulayam’, but the same poll plank diminishes the almost en masse support it had enjoyed from the backward communities of these areas.
The fifth phase of Assembly elections in 49 seats spread over 13 districts of Kanpur, Agra, Aligarh, Jhansi and Chitrakootdham divisions, is going for polls on February 23. The districts going for polls in this phase are Farrukhabad, Kanshiram Nagar, Etah, Mainpuri, Etawah, Auriya, Ramabai Nagar, Kanpur, Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Hamirpur and Mahoba. This will cover the sensitive political areas of Samajwadi Party, and also the regions of Bundelkhand and Central UP.
“In the urban areas like Kanpur city, even though the voters are silent, the BJP apparently has an upper hand, while Congress is lagging far behind and SP as well as BSP are almost out,” says Deepak Tiwari, a social worker of Kidwainagar, falling under Kanpur Cantt constituency. Shri Tiwari added that the issue of Muslim reservation has damaged the prospects of Samajwadi Party more than the Congress.
The first seven districts, namely Firozabad, Etah, Mainpuri, Etawah, Auraiya, Kanpur Dehat and Kanpur, had been the strongholds of the Samajwadi Party, while the Congress expects to gain from Rahul Gandhi’s visits, since 2008, to Bundelkhand’s five districts, namely Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Hamirpur and Mahoba. But the way BJP has been able to expose the dramatics of Rahul, Congress seems to remain stagnant in the region.
“In rural areas the OBCs are not yet fully aware of the loss that they are going to suffer due to Muslim reservation, and therefore this issue is not dominant in Mainpuri district’s rural belt, as it seems elsewhere,” says Subedar Singh, a resident of Bhogaon area of Mainpuri. He says that in the city area the BJP has gained the general Hindu sympathy, while Congress and SP are vying with each other for Muslim support. He says that the removal of large number of Ministers from cabinet at the eleventh hour and inaccessibility of the CM to the common man is a great hurdle for the BSP.
“Samajwadi Party never represented all backward castes; it had always been a Yadav Party supported by Muslims,” says Dharmendra Kumar, belonging to OBC, a resident of Lal Bangla area under Mahrajpur constituency. He says that except Maharajpur seat, BSP is nowhere in the fight. On the other hand, BJP has gained the sympathy of all Hindu castes generally, and backward communities particularly, after its proclaimed opposition to slashing of reservation percentage from OBC share, to benefit Muslims.
The overall public outcry against corruption in governance, witnessed and experienced by the people in Congress-led Union Government, BSP-led present state government and SP-led former state government, has made the common man hostile against the trio. And the BJP is obvious gainer, due to its cleaner image, its alliance with Anna movement and open attack on the corrupt politicians.
In fact, people are growing day-by-day conscious of the fact that all the three other political outfits in the contest are controlled by three political families, while the BJP has retained its glorious identity of a democratic national party. Mustafa, an advocate and a social worker, says, “Muslims have been befooled by the secularists and they have started to realise this, and therefore no political party is going to gain from the Muslim community, except from a few illiterate people.” The Muslim lawyer lives in the Miston Road area of Aryanagar constituency and he believes that the Anna effect has damaged the prospects of Congress badly.
Among the prominent candidates in the fray in this phase are BJP leader and former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Umashri Bharati from Charkhari in Mahoba, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s brother Shiv Pal Singh Yadav, who is leader of Opposition in the Assembly, from Jaswant Nagar in Etawah, state Congress vice- president and former minister Ranjit Singh Judev from Garautha in Jhansi, BSP state president Swami Prasad Maurya’s daughter Sanghamitra Gautam in Aliganj in Etah district and Minister of State for Irrigation Jayveer Singh from Karhal in Mainpuri.
In 2007, the region had 54 seats, of which the BSP had won 27, the SP 14, BJP 7 and the Congress 4. Two Independents had also won. In Bundelkhand, which the ruling BSP considered its favourite polling ground, the party had won 13 of the total 15 in 2007. BSP’s prominent leaders, like Rural Development Minister Daddu Prasad and party’s important coordinators Brij Lal Khabri and Ratanlal Ahirwar come from Bundelkhand.
Firozabad will be important for both the SP and the Congress. It was here that Congress MP Raj Babbar had defeated SP’s state president Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple Yadav in the by-election necessitated by Akhilesh’s resignation after he won from two seats — Kannauj and Firozabad. Later, he decided to retain Kannauj and thus the by-election in Firozabad was held.
Apart from the Firozabad Lok Sabha seat, Kanpur, Jhansi, Akabarpur (Kanpur Dehat) Lok Sabha constituencies are represented by Congress MPs, namely Sriprakash Jaiswal, who is also Union Coal Minister, Pradeep Aditya Jain, who is Union Minister of State for Rural Development, and Rajaram Pal respectively.
The Jhansi Lok Sabha seat, where a by-election was necessitated by the resignation of Pradeep Jain after his election to the Lok Sabha, was won by BSP candidate Kailash Sahu.
Former CM and BJP’s erstwhile leader Kalyan Singh, who has formed his own political outfit, Jan Kranti Party, will test his popularity in Etah from where he is an MP. Kalyan Singh has fielded his party’s candidates on most of the seats, which will go to poll in this phase.
The fifth phase is particularly important for the SP. Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav represents Mainpuri in the Lok Sabha. Besides, his native district Etawah would be going to polls in this phase. After the last Lok Sabha elections, he had failed to get his party’s candidate elected from Etawah’s Bharthana seat, which he had vacated after his victory as MP from Mainpuri. In the byelection from Bharthana in November 2009, BSP candidate Shiv Prasad Yadav had defeated SP candidate Pradeep Yadav by a margin of no less than 16,000 votes.
Mulayam Singh received another setback after his party’s senior leader and former Assembly Speaker Dhaniram Verma resigned as an MLA from Bindhuna seat in Auraiya district. Verma’s son Mahesh Chandra joined the BSP and won the Bidhuna seat as BSP nominee.