Represented by socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia in the late 1960s and retained by the Samajwadi Party since 1998, the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat was once considered a safe bastion for Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family. But this time, Mulayam’s daughter-in-law and sitting MP Dimple Yadav appears to have a tough fight in hand.
Local residents talk of the development brought by “Bhaiya” — SP chief Akhilesh Yadav who has represented Kannauj thrice — and regular visits by “Bhabhi”. But at the same time, there is talk about “special privileges” to the Yadav community in the constituency.
Unlike in the past, Akhilesh has been camping in the constituency, which goes to polls on April 29, for the past few days.
“It is not as easy as it was in the past. It is a fight between equals. They (SP) have brought development, travel time to Lucknow and Delhi was reduced due to the expressway, we got degree college, medical college. But not everyone is happy. Otherwise, Bhaiyya would not have to camp here,” says Rinku Kushwaha, a tea stall owner in Tirwa Market of Kannauj.
Kushwaha adds that some OBC groups feel neglected. Among them are the Lodhs, who have a considerable population in the constituency after Yadavs and Muslims, he says. Then he adds, “Jitengi to Bhabhi hi.. Behenji (BSP chief Mayawati) bhi to saath hain (But Bhabhi would win, Behenji is also with them).”
The BSP chief and Akhilesh held a joint rally in Kannauj last week to boost Dimple’s prospects. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also addressed a rally in Kannauj in support of BJP candidate Subrat Pathak.
Dheeraj Singh, who runs an electric equipment shop at Tirwa market, says the SP “got work done” in the area, but there was a “lot of hooliganism”. “Most benefits were given to the Yadavs, machines to spray pesticides in fields came and were given to Yadavs, so were handpumps and other benefits,” he says.
Manoj Singh from Partapur village is sitting outside his shop. “Akhilesh is a good man. He did a lot of work, but his party workers are not disciplined. This is the land of Lohia and you (Akhilesh) should have had faith in yourself. Tell us, if someone is wrongly booked under SC Act [SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act] and approaches you (Akhilesh), what would you do… Bhabhi has touched the feet,” he says.
At the joint rally in Kannauj, Dimple touched Mayawati’s feet on the dais.
He also says that after Dimple touched the BSP supremo’s feet, people from other castes have started “teasing the Yadavs and asking them to touch Dalits’ feet”.
Mohd Murtaza, who works in an Attar factory as a labourer, is sitting at a tailor’s shop in the heart of Kannauj town, which has a dominant Muslim population. Afraid to say “Yadavs” or “Muslims”, he agrees to speak using “Y” and “M”.
“Earlier, we used to get electricity round-the-clock. Today, electricity supply for even 12-13 hours a day is a dream. Kannauj enjoyed special status during the SP regime. Both Akhilesh and Dimple have regularly visited the constituency. Kannauj went 10 years ahead during their regime,” he says.
He then adds, “But a recent incident in Bilochipura changed things. There a ‘Y’ was named accused in the rape of a ‘M’ girl last month. Everyone knew he was guilty and is now in jail. But they did not stand with us. They chose to stand with Y and not M.”
Kannauj was represented by Ram Manohar Lohia as a Samyukta Socialist Party candidate in 1967. In 1984, Congress leader Sheila Dikshit won from the constituency. She later shifted to Delhi. In 1999, SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav won the seat, but vacated it to retain another seat, Mainpuri. In the subsequent by-election, Akhilesh won the seat and retained it in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls. In 2012, when the SP came to power in the state, he vacated the seat to become a member of the state legislature. In 2012, Dimple won from the seat unopposed as no other party fielded any candidate.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Dimple secured 4.89 lakh votes and won from the constituency. BJP candidate Subrat Pathak, who has been fielded again, got 4.69 lakh votes in 2014. BSP candidate Nirmal Tiwari had then got 1.27 lakh votes, which SP hopes to get this time owing to the alliance. The Congress has not fielded any candidate in Kannauj this time.
Kannauj parliamentary seat comprises five assembly segments — Chibbramau, Kannauj, Tirwa, Bidhuna and Rasulabad. Out of these, Kannauj and Bidhuna are reserved segments.