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Third phase of UP polls: SP reunion, Akhilesh outreach for non-Yadav OBC voters will be on test

The reunion of the SP family will be on test in at least 22 of the 59 Assembly constituencies going to the polls in the third phase of the UP elections scheduled for February 20.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Lucknow |
Updated: January 17, 2022 3:57:21 pm
SP president Akhilesh Yadav in Mainpuri during a 'Vijay Yatra'. (Express photo)

Nearly five years after their family feud for control of the Samajwadi Party (SP) split the party, SP president Akhilesh Yadav and his estranged uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav decided last month to patch up and join hands for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in what was a clear move to consolidate their Yadav vote base.

The reunion of the SP family will be on test in at least 22 of the 59 Assembly constituencies going to the polls in the third phase of the UP elections scheduled for February 20.

This phase, which involves the SP’s traditional Yadav bastions, will also test Akhilesh’s outreach for non-Yadav OBC voters. In the run-up to the elections, Akhilesh has forged alliances with a number of smaller non-Yadav OBCs’ parties including the Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Mahan Dal and Janwadi Socialist Party.

The ruling BJP had swept the 2017 Assembly polls in the region, winning 49 of 59 seats. The SP had then managed to win just 8, with the BSP and the Congress getting one seat each. The SP had given some semblance of a fight to the BJP thanks to its core support base Yadavs’ significant population in the region. Among the eight SP winners here, four belong to the Yadav community. The party had ended up runners in 32 constituencies.

In the 2012 Assembly elections, the SP had won 37 seats in the region and virtually swept its strongholds in Etah, Mainpuri, Kannauj and Etawah districts. This had led to the party storming to power in the state.

In the 2019 general elections, of the 12 Lok Sabha constituencies in the region, the BJP had bagged 11 seats. The SP’s

seniormost leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was the only Opposition leader who had managed to win his seat

as a joint candidate of the then SP-BSP alliance from Mainpuri.

The feud started within the SP family in 2016 with the tussle between Akhilesh and Shivpal dealing a severe blow to the party’s prospects in the 2017 polls, with the party even losing many seats in its bastions like Etawah, Kannauj, Mainpuri and Firozabad. The BJP had then won three seats in the Etawah district, the SP family’s home turf, two seats in Kannauj and one in Mainpuri district.

Shivpal had won the 2017 polls on the SP symbol from Jaswantnagar in Etawah district but subsequently floated his outfit, Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia, which fielded about 30 candidates in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Shivpal himself contested as a PSP(L) candidate in Firozabad and got 91,869 votes, while the margin between the winner, BJP nominee Chandra Sen Jadon, and the runner-up, SP candidate Akshay Yadav, was only 28,781 votes.

The dent made in the SP’s Yadav vote bank by Shivpal’s breakaway outfit was also perceived to be a factor in the defeat of Akshay, son of senior SP leader Ramgopal Yadav who had sided with Akhilesh when their family feud was raging during 2016-17.

Akhilesh’s wife Dimple Yadav too had lost Kannauj to the BJP with a narrow margin of 12,353 votes after getting 5.5 lakh votes. Akhilesh has also been a Kannauj MP. The district’s perfume industry has been in the spotlight in recent days following tax authorities’ raids at the premises of local perfume manufacturers, which included SP MLC Pushpraj Jain who had launched “Samajwadi itra” earlier.

For the 2022 polls, the SP has tied up with the PSP(L) which is likely to get six seats. Shivpal’s son Aditya is likely to contest from Jaswantnagar in Etawah this time.

There are over a dozen constituencies of the backward Bundelkhand belt that is part of the region bound for polls in the third phase. The Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government’s performance will be on test in this belt.

In November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Mahoba of the Bundelkhand region to inaugurate various irrigation and water projects worth Rs 3,250 crore in order to boost irrigation in Mahoba, Hamirpur, Banda and Lalitpur. PM Modi had also visited Jhansi. Recently, he had flagged off a metro rail project in Kanpur.

The BJP’s five-term MP from Jalaun in Bundelkhand, Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma, was inducted into the Union Cabinet as Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) as part of PM Modi’s rejig of his ministry in July 2021.

Veteran BJP leader and ex-CM Kalyan Singh, who passed away last year, had a strong following in this region. He had won the Lok Sabha election from Etah even as an Independent in 2009. His son Rajveer Singh is currently a second term BJP MP from Etah. During the saffron party’s recent Jan Vishwas Yatra across the region, the BJP leaders invoked Kalyan Singh by saying they were missing his leadership. They also targeted the SP president for allegedly not paying tribute to him after his demise.

Key seats (2017 Assembly polls results / winners & runners-up):

Firozabad: BJP’s Manish Asija, votes- 1.02 lakh (runner-up SP’s Azim Bhai, votes- 60927)

Sirsaganj: SP’s Hariom Yadav, votes- 90193 (BJP’s Jaiveer Singh, votes- 79605)

Sadabad: BSP’s Ramveer Upadhyay, votes- 91365 (RLD’s Anil Chaudhary, votes- 64775)

Jaswantnagar: SP’s Shivpal Singh Yadav, votes- 1.26 lakh (BJP’s Manish Yadav Patre, votes- 74218)

Maharajpur: BJP’s Satish Mahana, votes- 1.32 lakh (BSP’s Manoj Kumar Shukla, votes- 40568)

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