Jaswant Nagar,in which lies Mulayam Singh Yadavs native village of Saifai,saw him addressing an election meeting on February 18,his first in more than a decade.
All these years,Samajwadi Party sources say,Mulayam had felt a leader of his stature need not go seeking votes at home. He has represented Jaswant Nagar for six of his 10 terms as MLA so far,starting with his 1967 debut when he was with the Sanyukta Socialist Party. Jaswant Nagar is a segment of Mulayams Lok Sabha seat of Mainpuri,and its candidate now is his brother Shivpal Singh Yadav,Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.
Yet Mulayam apparently feels he can no longer take Yadavland for granted. Yadavland comprises Auraiya,Etawah,Mainpuri and Etah,which account for 17 seats.
Although Shivpal is not really struggling,it was a symbolic meeting, says Rajesh Yadav,a party supporter in Jaswant Nagar town. Mulayam wanted to send out a clear message,that he is still there for the Yadavs.
The reason is that rival parties too have been experimenting with Yadav candidates,with some success already. In the 2010 panchayat election,Shivpals son Ankur Yadav was defeated by another Yadav,Dushyant,whom Shivpal has now persuaded to work for him.
Two other Yadavs stand in Shivpals way. The Congress has fielded former Union minister Balram Yadavs son Ajay; the BSP has nominated Manish Yadav,a former Shivpal aide.
And across the 17 seats in Yadavland,the Congress has fielded a number of OBC candidates,particularly Yadavs,some of them former SP men,one even related to Mulayam. Its Karhal candidate,for instance,is Urmila Yadav,a former SP MLA and the mother-in-law of one of Mulayams nieces. Delimitation wiped out her old seat,she wanted the SP ticket in Karhal,Mulayam did not want to disturb the sitting MLA there,and the Congress picked up the opportunity.
Karhals count of Yadav voters is the highest among all 17 constituencies,and at least eight of its candidates are Yadavs.
The BJP has fielded Anil Yadav,son of SP veteran Baburam Yadav. The JD(U)s candidate is S P S Yadav,smaller party Mahan Dal has fielded Chandrapal Yadav,and Punit Yadav is an Independent contesting from jail; he is a panchayat member,having won that election by 22,000 votes.
Working to Urmilas advantage is that Karhal today includes much of her old constituency,Ghirore. This is a new situation in Karhal,just 5km from Saifai. Muslim voters now have a choice (between Urmila and the SPs Sobharan Singh Yadav),says Salim Javed,a Congress leader.
The possible split of Yadav votes has left the BSP fancying its chances. Its candidate is Irrigation Minister Jaiveer Singh,who had defeated Urmila in Ghirore in 2007. Eyeing the Shakya votes in Karhal,he has managed a BSP ticket for a member of the community in a neighboring constituency, says a BSP leader.
For Mainpuri Town,the Congress has chosen K C Yadav,an SP veteran who rebelled when the party denied him the ticket. This is Beni Babus doing, an SP leader says; Beni Prasad Verma is close to K C Yadav.
In Etah,the Congress has fielded Basu Yadav,daughter of former SP leader Devendra Prasad Yadav,in Patiyali; and former SP MLA Shishupal Singh Yadav in Etah Sadar.
Adding to the SPs troubles is the fact that it cannot count on the Lodh votes because Mulayam has fallen out with Kalyan Singh.
Many members of Mulayams family have been campaigning in the region: Shivpal,cousin Ram Gopal,nephews Ansul and Ankur,grandson Tej Pratap and sister-in-law Premlata Yadav,chairperson of the Etawah district board.
To woo non-Yadavs,they have been assuring them that they will be safe if the SP returns to power. Some party workers were not under control during the previous government of Mulayam Singhji. We want people to know that the party will seriously deal with such workers, says Chandrapal Singh Yadav,general secretary of the SPs Mainpuri district unit.