In Mainpuri, the family bastion of Mulayam Singh Yadav and a tobacco producing centre, voters seem less bothered about the Lok Sabha election result than about a bypoll that they see as inevitable. Though Mulayam has announced he will not trade Mainpuri for Azamgarh if he wins both, his supporters are certain he will vacate the former seat for his nephew’s son Tej Pratap Singh, who has been managing the campaign since 2009 when the SP chief won by 1.72 lakh votes.
“After Mulayam vacates it, Tej will contest from here. In the 2004 bypoll, Mulayam vacated it for nephew Dharmendra,” predicts local resident Shadab Ali.
No one is questioning if Mulayam will win, and his supporters have apparently assured Tej too of victory. That does not mean Mulayam has left anything to chance. He has addressed three rallies while his brother Shivpal has attended half-a-dozen. Akhilesh too has held several meetings while Tej has been touring the constituency. The SP is taking extra care of Telis, the backward caste to which Narendra Modi reportedly belongs, with Dharmendra holding regular meetings.
Mulayam’s concern is apparently based on two reasons. The BJP, whose candidate Shatrughna Singh Chauhan, a former Army officer, was once close to Shivpal Yadav, is riding an apparent Modi wave. And the BSP has a strong candidate in Dr Sanghamitra Maurya, daughter of MLA Swami Prasad Maurya.
Mainpuri’s 16 lakh voters include hardly 50,000 Muslims, the SP’s vote bank, and the party is banking on Yadav-dominated Jaswant Nagar. Part of Etawah district; this assembly segment had given him a lead of 82,000 last time.
Mainpuri has 1.75 lakh Thakurs, mostly Chauhans, second only to Yadavs. The Thakurs seem to be rallying behind the BJP. Adding to the BJP’s advantage is a recent, emotional appeal by Kalyan Singh to his 1.5 lakh “Lodh brothers”: “The Saifai dynasty wants to finish your brother Rajveer Singh, please unite”. Kalyan’s son Rajveer is contesting Etah.
“The Lodhs are with us and Mulayam cannot stop the Modi wave,” says Jaichandra Bhadauria, a BJP leader.
Candidate Chauhan claims to be a descendant of Raja Tej Chauhan, whose fort stands dilapidated in Mainpuri, and says Kshatriyas will see this as an opportunity to defeat Mulayam. He faces opposition from the BJP’s local unit, which burnt an effigy of Chauhan, who workers say was “airfdropped” to the constituency.
The SP is trying to woo Brahmins too. “But Brahmins will keep both the SP and the BJP guessing,” says Anil Mishra, president of Brahmin Samaj. A split in these votes will work to Sanghamitra’s advantage. “Mauryas, Shakyas, Kambhojs and Sainis will vote for her,” says Nagendra Shakya of Bhogaon area.
Besides caste, the other major issue is development, or lack of it. Sixty rice mills have closed down in the past few years. Work on an engineering college hasn’t moved beyond the foundation stone. Only one train runs between Kanpur and Delhi via Mainpuri. Another, from Anand Vihar to Kanpur, is Sundays only. A line connecting Mainpuri to Guna has been under construction since 1997.
Though the government has ensured 24-hour power supply, locals allege all contracts are being bagged by SP workers. Resentment against local SP MLA Raju Yadav was primarily due to his involvement in road projects. Mulayam replaced him with Tej as election-in-charge.
The AAP candidate is Baba Hardev Singh, little known beyond Mainpuri city. Last time, he had contested from Agra as an RLD candidate.
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