Large posters in Mathuras Mant constituency show Mamata Banerjee flashing the victory sign. And for once,it is more than symbolism,for the Trinamool Congress believes it can win here.
The fight is between Jayant and Shyam Sunder, says one voter,and most others agree that Jayant Chaudhary,son of Ajit Singh,faces his toughest challenge in Mamatas candidate Shyam Sunder Sharma.
Though both are popular,Jayant is sometimes seen as inaccessible while Shyam Sunder could face some anti-incumbency. Though his party is a new entrant,he has been Mants MLA six straight times since 1989.
The two had faced off in the Lok Sabha polls too,with Jayant beating the then BSP leader. In this Assembly segment,Jayant led by 34,000 votes. Only in one segment was his lead higher 50,000 in Baldev,which is now a reserved seat.
The RLD is being extra cautious with its core support base,the peasant Jat community,for fear of possible ripples from Mamatas movement against land acquisition. With her party having given it an iconic status nationally,the RLD is wary; voters here are already upset with acquisition for the Yamuna Expressway.
Ram Babu Kathelia,who led the agitation that forced Mayawati twice to raise the compensation for land acquired,had been planning to contest as an Independent,but RLD supporters prevailed on him to withdraw at the very last moment.
I was with RLD supporters from across 20 villages who persuaded Kathelia to withdraw. Thankfully he agreed,otherwise he would have snatched 20,000 votes from Jayant, says Virendra Chaudhary,a Jat from Kaulana village,now running a farm inputs shop at Bajna,where police had once fired on farmers.
For Jayant,another challenge is retaining the support he got from across castes in 2009 to win by 1.70 lakh votes. The perceived inaccessibility seems to have caused a dip in the enthusiasm of Meo Muslims,Gujjars,Gaderias,Koeris and Brahmins in many localities.
In Janghavali,Meo Muslim villagers say they have not made up their mind between Jayant and Shyam Sunder,despite having sat in panchayat for three days. Jayant did not show his face for two-and-a-half years after winning, says Juhru.
For young voters across castes,however,Jayants appeal still holds. Shyam Sunder has been here too long. I will vote for Jayant,my parents will not, says Virender,20,a Gujjar who sells vegetables at Shergarh.
The young may be bothered by Shyam Sunders six-term stretch but his fellow Brahmins play it up as a virtue. Isnt it true that by now,Shyam Sunder knows almost everyone by name? He always comes to help anyone,anytime. says one. Another says,Whom among us does Jayant know? Anyway,who will go to Delhi to seek his help when Shyam Sunder is only a call away?
The BSP candidate,Rampal Singh,is trying to consolidate his own base among his fellow Thakurs alongside his partys base among Dalits. Some voters occasionally discuss the BJP,but no one mentions the Samjawadi Party.