Priyanka Gandhi’s first acquisition: a ‘vote-cutter’, off-and-on Congress ally in Uttar Pradeshhttps://indianexpress.com/elections/priyanka-gandhi-first-acquisition-a-vote-cutter-off-and-on-congress-ally-in-uttar-pradesh-5584712/

Priyanka Gandhi’s first acquisition: a ‘vote-cutter’, off-and-on Congress ally in Uttar Pradesh

In 2012, the Mahan Dal contested the Assembly elections alone, fielding candidates in 74 seats and getting 6.83 lakh or 0.90 per cent of the total votes polled in the state.

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Priyanka Gandhi with Jyotiraditya Scindia and Keshav Dev Maurya. (Express photo)

ONE of the first major decisions of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh was alliance with the Mahan Dal — a party that the Congress has kept turning to in the past few Lok Sabha polls in the state, despite its poor electoral performance.

Since it was conceived in 2008, the party that claims influence among “non-Yadav” OBC voters in over a dozen Lok Sabha constituencies in western UP has not won a single Lok Sabha or Assembly seat. It has the capacity to play the spoiler though — a fact that the Congress, kept out of the SP-BSP alliance, seems to be banking on. The support of non-Yadav OBCs was believed to have been key to the BJP’s win in the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 Assembly polls in UP.

The Mahan Dal was formed by Keshav Dev Maurya, who was earlier associated with the SP and BSP, and lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections as an Apna Dal candidate from Jaunpur.

In 2009, the Mahan Dal contested its first Lok Sabha polls, in tie-up with the Congress, fighting from Aonla and Mainpuri seats. In Aonla, it got 56,233 votes while the difference of votes between the winner BJP and the runner-up SP was just 7,861 votes. In SP bastion Manipuri though, the Mahan Dal had a dismal show, getting only 1,187 votes.

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In 2012, the Mahan Dal contested the Assembly elections alone, fielding candidates in 74 seats and getting 6.83 lakh or 0.90 per cent of the total votes polled in the state.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress again had an alliance with the Mahan Dal, along with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). While eight seats were given to the RLD, three seats were given to the Mahan Dal, including Etah, Nagina and Badaun. The party ended up getting about 22,774 votes on these west UP seats.

In the 2017 Assembly polls, the Mahan Dal contested on 14 seats alone, getting 96,087 or 0.11 per cent of the total votes polled in the state. All its 14 candidates lost their deposits. The Congress fought in alliance with the SP.

The party had contested on two seats in the recent Assembly polls in MP too, and was runner-up in Jatara and at fourth place in Jaura.

Maurya’s son and the state president of the party’s youth wing, Kishan Maurya, said the party has support among non-Yadav OBCs such as Kushwahas, Shakyas, Sainis and Mauryas, in Amroha, Hathras, Aonla, Badaun, Etah, Bijnor, Bareilly and Lakhimpur seats.

“The Mahan Dal could not win any seats but the Congress benefited from our alliance in 2009. The situation in 2014 was different,” said Kishan, hinting at the Modi wave.

On the alliance for the coming Lok Sabha polls, he said, “We will accept whatever the Congress offers.” He said the alliance would also be on for the 2022 Assembly polls.

Maurya added that it was the Mahan Dal’s support that had helped the SP win the Noorpur Assembly by-election last year. “Earlier our maximum impact was on the BSP. Later, most of these sections (the non-Yadav OBCs) came out in support of the BJP, so the Mahan Dal will now cause damage to the BJP.”

About how it can damage any party, Maurya was candid. “If larger alliances like the BJP’s or SP-BSP’s take us in, we are strong. Otherwise we cut votes… If we can’t cut votes, who will give us a share?”