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For years, Etawah and Mainpuri has been known as twin family bastions of the Samajwadi Party. Now with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav saying he is confident about one but unsure about the other, voters are reading it as an acknowledgment of a divide between the bastions too. Chand Singh Yadav, 76, is in the audience in Karhal when Akhilesh makes the speech. “This belt was a strong bastion of the SP under Mulayam Singh Yadav. Over the years it has also become the bastion of Mulayam’s brother Shivpal, who nurtured the region and built his hold on the party,” the old-timer says. “But now Akhilesh is the king of the Samajwadi Party and this king has too many fights to win, including against his own relatives. I may vote for the cycle this time, too, but I am doubtful about the party’s future.”
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At Barthana in Etawah, Akhilesh says, “I know the matter is different in Etawah. Here the Samajwadis’ fight is against the Samajwadis themselves.” “It was disappointing to hear that the Mukhyamantri lacks faith in Etawah but has it in Mainpuri,” says Balwant Shakya of Bharthana, who says he heard the speech on television. He says he might have voted for the SP but, after that speech, he has decided to go with the BJP. Mainpuri has three assembly seats, Etawah three.The two districts vote Sunday.
Mainpuri and Etawah are part of central UP, which has the largest presence of OBCs in the state. There is also a sizeable Dalit population, and certain pockets of upper-caste dominance. Dominant among the backward classes are Yadavs, followed by Lodhis and Shakyas. In 2012, the Samajwadi Party has won 55 of the 69 seats that are this time voting in the third phase. In the twin bastions, the BJP has been trying to ensure the family feud remains in the public spotlight. It has created slogans such as “Jo beta baap ka na hua, wo tumhara kya hoga”, using these to address OBCs. The BSP too has been raking up the SP family feud, describing it as “Mahabharata” and criticising Akhilesh for alleged “injustice” to Shivpal and Mulayam. Mayawati had inducted key Shivpal aides such as Narad Rai and Ambika Chowdhry.
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“The family feud is definitely at play,” says Sanjay Singh Shakya of Mainpuri Sadar. “The resentment among a section of Yadavs is not only about the perceived insult to Mulayam, but also about Akhilesh denying tickets to big leaders such as Raghuraj Shakya of Etawah, and Pramod Gupta of Bidhuna. Those who missed out will obviously take revenge.” Mulayam has chosen to campaign only for Shivpal in this belt, while Akhilesh covered six of the seven seats Thursday, excluding only Shivpal’s Jaswantnagar. Even there, though, Akhilesh has supporters. “I will vote for Akhilesh Yadav,” says Kuwari, who is in her 50s. She laughs at the reminder that Akhilesh is not the candidate. “Are, woi to chunav lad rahe.”
“Dadi,” her grandson says, “it’s Shivpal who is contesting. Kuwari rebukes him with a pat on the head: “Pagla ho gaye ho kya. Shivpal to Mulayam k bhai hain. Chunav to Akhilesh lad rahe hain.” At Bhogaon, Bhajan Singh Rajpute sees no future for the SP and will vote for the BJP instead. “Don’t forget, the Congress got decimated after ruling the country for decades. These days, no party can take anything for granted,” he says.