Rivals BJP and Bahujan Samajwadi Party are looking to make serious dent in this Samajwadi Party bastion by sewing up strong social alliances to trump the formidable Muslim-Yadav coalition. The Mayawati-led BSP is receiving traction among a section of Muslims with the backing of Rashtriya Ulama Council, which was formed to rally Muslims against the Batla House encounter, and the merger of the party of history-sheeter Mukhtar Ansari with it.
If the BSP hopes to upstage the SP by garnering a big chunk of traditional Samajwadi supporters, the BJP expects to walk with non-Yadav backward castes votes besides its core upper castes to emerge victorious.
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In 2012, the SP had bagged 11 of the 14 seats in Mau and Azamgarh leaving the BSP and the BJP with two and none respectively.
“Elephants (BSP poll symbol) will tear down this SP fort this time,” Akal Sahu, a BSP leader, at the party office says, claiming that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s ‘kaam bolta hai’ slogan has no resonance here due to lack of development here.
SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav is the Lok Sabha MP from Azamgarh, which stood by the SP while the BJP swept Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 elections.
However, it is the BJP, which has risen from nowhere in this Samajwadi stronghold, that is sensing an opportunity with the split in Muslim votes and its rainbow coalition of various Hindu castes.
The saffron BJP flag flutters in the small vegetable shop of Hari Sonkar, who belongs to the Khatik community, a Dalit caste.
Though a majority of Dalits are seen to be backing the BSP, Sonkar says only Chamars (Jatav), the dominant Dalit caste numbering more than 50 per cent of the grouping, benefit from its rule and he supports the BJP this time.
“Last time it was the SP, this time it is the BJP for me. Let’s give them a chance,” he said.
In this Mehnagar constituency, the BJP is supporting its ally Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party’s candidate. The saffron party’s alliance with Om Prakash Rajbhar-headed party has helped it win over an important chunk of Rajbhars, an OBC community.
If the Samajwadi Party appears to be losing the battle arithmetic what is helping its cause is the goodwill Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav enjoys across the identity divides. It is common to find even avowed BJP and BSP supporters praise him.
Ashfaq Ahmad, a teacher, accused the media of deliberately playing up the BSP’s pull among the Muslims to undermine the SP, insisting that the community members are solidly behind the youthful Chief Minister, who is a “much better administrator” than his father.
“Muslims are a politically aware community. It will not do anything that helps the BJP. The SP will do well,” he said. The region is going to the polls tomorrow in the sixth phase of the UP assembly elections.