Sensing that it is in close contests in most of the seats in eastern UP, the BSP has campaigned more intensively than ever in the last two phases, one of which was held Wednesday.
BSP chief Mayawati, who held only 16 rallies in western UP and 15 in central UP and Bundelkhand, has already addressed 21 in eastern UP. Her main focus remains the 18 seats going for polls Monday and she will visit each of these, sometimes holding two rallies in one district. In western and central UP, she held only one meeting for every district of two seats. At that stage, she also visited other states; this time, she has kept herself to eastern UP, barring two rallies in neighbouring Utarakhand on May 2.
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Mayawati is slated to address a rally in Varanasi Friday, a day before campaigning ends for the last phase.
Party sources agree the campaign in eastern UP has been different from that in western UP, but not that the contest will be close. They say the BJP is suffering because of the absence of a strong organisational setup, and that the BSP is strong because of its grassroots base and strong candidates.
“There is little religious polarisation here. Our candidates have been campaigning for over a year now. With anti-incumbency working against the SP government, we are likely to get the support of most of the backward castes, especially non-Yadavs,” says a BSP leader.
Last time, the BSP won Deoria, Salempur, Jaunpur, Lalganj and Ghosi. It has new candidates in the first three of these. In Deoria, the party has fielded a Muslim, Niyaz Ahmad Khan, while former PM Chandra Shekhar’s grandson Ravishankar Singh “Pappu” is the candidate from Salempur, and former state minister Subhash Pandey replaces sitting MP Dhananjay Singh. In Lalganj and Ghosi, the sitting MPs will recontest.
Besides these seats, the party is also hopeful about Chandauli, Ghazipur, Domariyaganj, Bansgaon, Machhlishahr, Robertsganj and Mirzapur, where it has fielded candidates who fit well into local caste equations.
Teams of senior BSP leaders such as S C Misra, Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Swami Prasad Maurya and party coordinators have been camping in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Of the 18 seats voting Monday, the BSP finished second in 12 seats apart from winning five. It lost Chandauli, Ghazipur and Machhlishahr by small margins.
Of the 15 seats that went to polls Wednesday, too, the party won five in 2009 and finished second in nine seats. “I don’t know about the earlier phases but there is no Modi factor in eastern UP. The BJP is struggling here and the BSP will put up its best performance in these last two phases. The BSP is very strong in over a dozen seats going to polls on May 12 and will win at least 12 seats,” said Jugul Kishore, Rajya Sabha MP and BSP coordinator.
Kishore, who has been camping in Gorakhpur, said the BSP will win a good number of the 15 seats that went to polls Wednesday, too. He predicts victories in 20 of the 33 seats in these last two phases.