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Thursday, July 07, 2022

In Mathura’s Mant, BSP MLA aims to be nine times lucky

In Mant, one of the five Assembly constituencies that make up Mathura district, the Sangh’s temple agenda is not central to any conversation on the election.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar | Mathura |
Updated: February 2, 2022 7:25:48 am
Shyam Sundar won his first MLA election in 1989 from Mant and has represented the seat ever since. (Photo: Facebook@SSSmant)

In December last year, in the run-up to the UP elections, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya had shared a tweet suggesting that a temple would come up in Mathura on the lines of Ayodhya and Varanasi. Weeks later, CM Yogi Adityanath spoke on the same lines, effectively setting the tone for the BJP’s campaign in Mathura.

Yet, in Mant, one of the five Assembly constituencies that make up Mathura district, the Sangh’s temple agenda is not central to any conversation on the election. Instead, it’s the candidate who gets a lot of attention — Shyam Sundar Sharma, 72, an eight-time winner from Mant, who is considered to be above caste equations. Locals say Sharma, the BSP’s candidate, wins purely on popular sentiment.

“There is a reason why Shyam Sundar has won so many times. First, he never refuses anyone’s calls. He spends all his time on the ground. From providing handpumps to fixing roads, he has touched several lives. At this point, Shyam Sundar can stand as an Independent ticket and still win,” says Ompal Singh, 50, as he sits huddled with his other Jat friends on a wooden bench in Mant’s Jasoli Kala.

Shyam Sundar won his first MLA election in 1989 from Mant and has represented the seat ever since. While he fought his first few elections as a Congress candidate, in 2016, he joined the BSP.

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The only election he lost was in 2012, when RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary defeated Shyam Sundar by nearly 16,000 votes. But as Chaudhary decided to resign as MLA and keep his MP seat (Mathura), Shyam Sundar won from the same seat in a bypoll which he fought on a TMC ticket for the sake of a symbol.

“The BJP is trying to rake up many issues but it won’t work here. People here need someone who can listen to them,” Sharma told The Indian Express.

This time, he is up against Rajesh Chaudhary of the BJP and Sanjay Lathar of SP-RLD combine.

A seat with a predominant Jat presence, Mant also has a sizeable Bhramin, Thakur and Dalit population.

Both BJP and SP have given tickets to Jat candidates, given the majority population, but Sanjay Lathar, the SP candidate, is on a sticky wicket since he got the ticket in place of Yogesh Chaudhary, an RLD leader who a local favourite.

Residents recall the 2012 bypolls when the SP, in a massive show of strength, sent several ministers to campaign for Lathar. Yet, Lathar lost to Shyam Sundar.

As one travels from Mant to Mathura, a city that revolves around its temples, the crowds get denser. The city is part of Mathura Assembly seat that is represented by Cabinet Minister Shrikant Sharma. In the previous election, Sharma won by a margin of nearly 1 lakh votes against Pradeep Mathur of the Congress.

While residents express their anger at “the lack of development in the last five years” and blame the party and the candidate, Yogi remains a big draw.

“Shrikant majboori hai kyunki Yogi zaruri hai (We have no option but to back Shrikant because it’s important that Yogi stays). There is no denying that the MLA could have done more. But we believe in Yogi Adityanath because he has given us a sense of security,” says Rakesh Agarwal, a trader in Mathura’s Holi Gate market.

Shrikant Sharma is up against BSP’s S K Sharma, who recently left the BJP after he was denied a ticket from Mant. The BSP candidate is banking on his Brahmin community’s nearly four lakh votes, besides the support of Jatavs, to dent the BJP’s chances.

Away from the city, the highway towards Delhi is lined on either side with factories, warehouses and godowns. Adjacent to the railway line, a group of people begin their walk home as the sun is about to set. Most of them are daily-wage labourers who turn up every morning to seek work in the factories nearby. Some days they are lucky.

“As Covid hit, we suffered a lot because our work became irregular. The situation has not improved. Most days we come here and sit in the park, waiting for work and go back empty-handed. I have a 3-year-old son and every day seems more difficult than the last,” says an agitated Ashok, 32, resident of Azizpur village, which comes under Chaata constituency in Mathura.

Animal Husbandry and Dairy Minister Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, the sitting MLA, has won four times from Chaata while RLD candidate Tejpal Singh has been the winner thrice. Laxmi Narayan was previously in the BSP and served as Cabinet minister during Mayawati’s regime.

Here, too, the MLA and the BJP are held responsible for problems of unemployment and stray cattle, yet Adityanath gets praised for “keeping goons in check”.

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