Muslim-Yadav Factor at Work, SP-BSP Alliance to Face Acid Test in Phase 3 in Uttar Pradesh
The 10 constituencies voting in the third phase are dominated by either the backward Yadav vote bank or Muslims, with the SP-BSP alliance coming together to keep at bay the BJP's polarising politics.
Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son and party President Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati wave at the crowd during their joint election campaign rally in Mainpuri. (Image: PTI
Lucknow: With polling over for 16 seats of western Uttar Pradesh, phase three of the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh will be an acid test for the Samajwadi Party (SP) and its chief Akhilesh Yadav. Ten constituencies will vote in this phase on April 23. This will be the region where the Muslim-Yadav factor will be the most dominant one.
But the question is – can the SP preserve its core Yadav-OBC vote bank or will it be dented by both the BJP and the strong “Shivpal factor”, especially in five constituencies where Yadav voters dominate the electoral demography? Can the traditional Muslim-Yadav support base work as per the expectation of the alliances or will it be significantly breached?
The 10 constituencies voting in the third phase are Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Badaun, Aonla, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Pilibhit and Barelly. The first five seats have a large presence of the backward Yadav vote bank, and the area is often also described as the Yadav land of UP politics. The other five, meanwhile, have a strong presence of Muslims.
In Badaun, Yadav voters are estimated to be 20% and the total OBC voters 35%. The Yadav/Ahir vote base is around 26% in Aonla, 21% each in Firozabad and Mainpuri, and 14% in Etah. The maximum base of Muslim voters – 45% — is in Moradabad. This estimate is 44% in Rampur, 38% in Sambhal, 31% in Bareilly, and 25% in Pilibhit.
Of the core Yadav-dominated seats, Aonla has the maximum — 17.5 % — of Muslim voters as well. The Dalit vote is uniformly distributed across these constituencies, ranging from 11% to 18%.
It is this demography that makes the region unique. In phases one and two, the Jat and Gurjar OBC vote was the defining aspect. In the upcoming phase, the strong presence of Dalit and Muslim voters and the caste arithmetic will be mostly defined by the voting choices of the Yadav OBC given the fact that Dalits (comprising mostly members of the Chamar community) are expected to be loyal to the alliance due to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). For Muslims as well, the choice is more or less clear, barring a few seats such as Bareilly, Moradabad and Aonla where the Congress is also said to be in the electoral race. Apart from these three seats, the possibility of any split in the Muslim vote is remote.
The importance of the Yadav factor can be gauged from the fact that the two biggest arch-rivals, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati, came together for the first time in 25 years. Both addressed a joint “gathbandhan” rally in Mainpuri on April 19.
Keeping an eye on the core Yadav-OBC votes, Mayawati took the moment to praise Mulayam Singh. “While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a fake OBC, Mulayam Singh ji is the real leader of the OBCs,” she had said at the rally. “He is the one who had united not just the backwards but even other deprived sections of the society.”
Despite the memories of the infamous state guest-house attack in 1995, Mayawati said she had come together with the SP “as the country is in danger”.
Mulayam, too, did not lag behind in cementing the new comradeship. In his brief speech, he mentioned Mayawati seven times and welcomed her to Mainpuri, the epicentre of the Yadav heartland. The veteran Politician, known for his “charkha dawon” (a wrestling style), took everyone by surprise by claiming, “Mayawati ji had often stood by us in times of crises.”
The political game plan was easy to decipher, with Mayawati seated between father Mulayam Singh and his son Akhilesh, overlooking the massive crowd at the rally. In the region where the BJP is expecting relying to continue its 2014 success march via the Shivpal Yadav factor, the Mainpuri rally was aimed at sending a clear message to Yadavs about the strength of the alliance and to ensure no division of votes.
In an interesting turn of events, Shivpal Yadav, Mulayam’s younger brother and a long-time SP leader, is fighting the electoral race independently via his Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP). Shivpal Yadav is contesting against his other nephew, SP candidate Akshay Yadav, in Firozabad. He has also fielded candidates in other constituencies, barring Mainpuri, where he has declared support for Mulayam Singh.
Shivpal Yadav does not hesitate in accepting that his primary agenda is denting the SP-BSP alliance. “The SP-BSP alliance is a ‘thagbandhan’. We will ensure that people are not mislead by the alliance. I am not concerned if the BJP gains out of any split of votes,” he had earlier told News18.
But can the historic Mainpuri rally ensure that Yadav voters unite behind the alliance? Interestingly, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well as the 2017 Assembly polls, a significant section of the OBC voters, especially Yadavs in central and eastern UP, had shifted to the BJP.
Professor Prashant Trivedi of Lucknow-based Giri Institute of Development Studies explained why the OBCs have generally depicted varying political preferences. “They had been influenced by both the core caste dynamics as well as the larger Hindutva and nationalistic politics,” he said. “So while for the dominant Jats in west UP, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) might be the traditional party, a movement towards the BJP had also been significant due to communal polarisation like in 2014 and 2017. It’s a similar story for Yadavs in central and eastern UP.”
The BJP, too, fully realises the significance of the Yadav-Muslim dynamics that will define the polls here and is eyeing a saffron push to override the caste alignment. Maybe, that was why UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, at his first rally in Badaun after the 72-hour ban period ended, went back to the agenda of polarisation.
Adityanath reignited the debate around “shamshan” (crematorium used by Hindus) and “kabristan” (burial ground of Muslims). “The previous governments prohibited Kanwar Yatras while we lifted the ban on them. Similarly, while previous governments gave funds to ‘kabristans’ and ignored ‘shamshans’, we have ended that discrimination,” he had said.
Adityanath did not stop there. Igniting a new controversy, he described Shafiq-ur-Rehman Burq, SP candidate from Sambhal, as “Babur ki Aulad” or “Babur's child”. The BJP has also been vociferous against senior SP leader Azam Khan, who is contesting from Rampur constituency.
While Azam Khan ignited a major controversy by directing sexist remarks at rival BJP candidate Jaya Prada, efforts have been made to give it a communal twist as well since the former is seen as a polarising figure.
Barring Firozabad, Mainpuri and Badaun won by the SP, the BJP had emerged triumphant in the other seven seats in 2014. Badaun was won by Akhilesh’s cousin, Dharmendra, who is again contesting from here. The fact that the SP was able to win the three seats despite a strong Modi wave is evidence of the party’s strength in the region.
In the 2009 general elections, the SP had won all these three seats but then lost Firozabad to the Congress party’s Raj Babbar in the bypolls. The Congress had also won Bareilly and Moradabad. The BSP had won Sambhal constituency while the BJP was victorious from Etah, Pilibhit and Aonla.
This time around from Pilibhit, the BJP has replaced Union minister Maneka Gandhi with her son, Varun. The election in Moradabad will be of special interest as both the alliance and the Congress have fielded Muslim candidates. A popular doctor by profession, ST Hassan is the SP candidate while the Congress has given a ticket to famous Urdu poet Imran Pratapgarhi.
In Bareilly, Congress candidate Praveen Eron is up against BJP MP and Union minister Santosh Gangwar and former MLA Bhagwat Sharan Gangwar fighting on an SP ticket.
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