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 leader of his Yadav
community, 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 party.
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 February 23 are known as strongholds of Mulayam
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
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.