The seats are spread over the Rohilkhand region of the state where the BJP had won seven out of 10 seats in 2014.
Bracing a sudden rise in the mercury level, an estimated 12 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise during the first two hours of voting in Uttar Pradesh in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Tuesday. Polling was underway in 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state to decide the electoral fate of four members of SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav’s clan, besides that of senior party leader Azam Khan and film actor and BJP candidate Jaya Prada. The seats are spread over the Rohilkhand region of the state where the BJP had won seven out of 10 seats in 2014.
The areas where the voting is taking place is considered SP strongholds as three of the total five members of the Yadav family had won from this region despite a Modi wave in the last elections. The three Yadav family members seeking re-election from Mainpuri, Badaun and Firozabad in this phase are Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and his two nephews, Dharmendra Yadav and Akshay Yadav respectively.
Pitted against Akshay Yadav, son of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, is another brother of the party patriarch, Shivpal Yadav, who has fallen out with SP president Akhilesh Yadav and fighting from Firozabad after floating a new political outfit, the Pragateesheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia). In 2014, Mulayam Singh had won both the Mainpuri and Azamgarh seats, but had vacated the first one, which was won by another family member Tej Pratap Singh in the subsequent bye-election. The electoral fortunes of senior SP leader Azam Khan will also be decided in this phase from Rampur, which witnessed a new low in campaigning this time. Known for his controversial statements, Azam Khan made an “indecent” remark targeting his BJP opponent Jaya Prada in Rampur and attracted the saffron party wrath, besides that of the National Commission for Women.
The other political heavyweights facing Tuesday’s test include Union Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar, who is fighting from Bareilly and the BJP’s Varun Gandhi from Pilibhit. With a large area of Rohilkhand considered as a stronghold of the Samajwadi Party, the state’s trilateral alliance of the SP, BSP and the RLD has left no stone unturned during campaigning in this region. The campaigning for this phase also saw an unprecedented spectacle of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati sharing a dais in Mainpuri, burying their hatchet after 24 years of the Lucknow state guest house episode involving an attack by SP workers on Mayawati in 1995.
The BSP supremo sought vote for the SP founder, sending a strong signal of a new bonhomie between the two allies which threatens to upset the BJP’s poll cart in Uttar Pradesh. Resuming her poll campaign after an Election Commission’s 48-hour embargo on her political activities, Mayawati also addressed several rallies, including the one in Rampur for Azam Khan. Congress president Rahul Gandhi also marked his presence in the poll arena in the region, addressing a meeting in Badaun in support of his party candidate Salem Sherwani.
The BJP’s poll campaign was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed rallies in Etah and Bareilly on Saturday along with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The 10 constituencies going to polls in this phase are Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Budaun, Aonla, Bareilly and Pilibhit. Though the BJP is pitted in most of these constituencies directly against the SP-BSP-RLD combine, the presence of the Congress and Shivpal Yadav’s PSLP has made the contest triangular in some constituencies. A total of 1.76 crore voters — 95.5 lakh men and 80.9 lakh women — are eligible to exercise their franchise in this phase at 20,116 polling booths to decide the fate of 120 candidates in the fray. There are 2,98,619 first-time voters in the age group of 18-19 years and 2,99,871 voters who are about 80 years of age. PTI SAB SMI IJT 04231006