Two old rivals, both of whom have represented various parties, are set to revive their battle in Gunnaur constituency of Sambhal district. It has been a Samajwadi Party stronghold for most elections since 1993, but the BJP is optimistic about wresting the seat this time; it has fielded the SP’s old opponent.
The only two assembly elections the SP did not win here were first in 1996, when the SP ceded the seat to alliance partner Janata Dal, and then in 2002. The second break was brief; the seat fell vacant in 2004 and Malayam Singh Yadav won with a record margin of over 1.9 lakh votes.
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Gunnaur is a segment of Budaun Lok Sabha constituency, which has been won by SP every time since 1996, with Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin Dharmendra Yadav representing it since 2009.
This time, the BJP has fielded Ajeet Kumar, also known as Raju Yadav, who is the only leader in its current ranks to have defeated an SP candidate here in the last 24 years. Kumar, then with the JD(U), was the candidate who won in 2012, defeating the SP’s Ramkhiladi Singh Yadav with the narrow margin of 5,181. In 2012, the SP fielded Ramkhiladi again and he defeated Ajeet Kumar, who by then was with the Congress.
Ramkhiladi had first won from Gannaur in 1991, then for the Janata Dal. In 1996, during the SP-Janata Dal were in alliance, it was Ramkhiladi who won and his opponent was again Kumar, this time as a BSP candidate. Now Ramkhiladi is again the SP candidate.
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Locals say Gunnaur has over 60 per cent Yadavs. What may still go against the SP, they say, is anti-incumbency, a possible divide in the Yadav vote, and possible consolidation of the non-Yadav Hindu vote towards the BJP. “Is baar toh Hindu, Mussalman ka vote hai,” says a villager in Chaupur Danda said. The BSP candidate is Mohd Islam Khan. Besides, allegations of illegal sand mining might work against the SP, they say.
Harsh Yadav alleges that sand illegally mined around the Ganga is being sold in Delhi. Standing next to the bridge to Anupshahar, Harsh tells The Indian Express that he is the son of Ramesh Yadav, who had won as the SP candidate here in 1993. But Harsh and his family are voting for the BJP this time, he says, and that is because of alleged illegal mining. At Narora, some policemen agree that till last year sand was mined, possibly illegally.
Harsh says that while SP men are able to move tonnes of sand, earning lakhs every day, local villagers are not allowed sand even to build their homes, and are harassed by the cops if they are caught taking any sand away.
Villagers at Chaupur Danda say that though Yadavs dominate local politic, Gunnaur has a small Muslim population that will vote for the SP. They say they want to give another candidate and party a chance, and see Kumar as a strong candidate to uproot the SP from its bastion.