With the Lok Sabha elections entering their third phase in Uttar Pradesh, the battleground now is in the Yadav heartland with the stature of the Mulayam Singh Yadav clan on test.
The Samajwadi Party has a major task ahead as it contested in only three out of 16 seats in the first two phases in the state. In the third phase, however, the party is contesting in nine out of ten seats going to the polls on April 23.
Given the caste equations, the SP-BSP-RLD alliance looks rather formidable in this phase. The BJP is likely to face an uphill task in many of these seats since a majority of them include Samajwadi Party strongholds like Badaun, Sambhal, Mainpuri, Ferozabad, and Rampur as well as Aonla, Bareilly, Pilibhit, Etah and Moradabad.
Mainpuri is one of the safest seats for the SP, where Mulayam Singh, after burying a two and a half decade old enmity, shared a stage with BSP supremo Mayawati.
The phase will also decide the course that the Yadav family battle will take in the future.
Third Phase key points:
Total candidates: 120
Total seats: 10
Total electorate: 1.76 crore
While the BJP had won in seven seats in 2014 (Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Eta, Aonla, Bareilly & Pilibhit), Samajwadi Party had won in three --- Badaun, Manipuri, Firozabad
Advantage NDA: Factors favouring the NDA include triangular fights, the divided first family of the Samajwadi Party, overriding sentiment of nationalism post-airstrikes, issue of national security, Modi factor, impact of central welfare schemes like PM housing scheme, Ujjawala, rural electrification, Ayushman Bharat and PM-KISAN, toilets, Lodh factor in a number of seats due to Kalyan Singh, Shivpal factor.
Advantage Opposition: It will be an acid test for the SP, contesting in nine of 10 seats. BSP is contesting in Aonla only. SP-BSP-RLD alliance and the Muslim-Yadav factor will play a role in almost all seats, and Yadav-OBC factor in at least five seats—Firozabad, Badaun, Manipuri, Etah and Aonla. Uniform presence of Dalits, especially Jatavs, consolidating hope of total alliance vote transfer, anti-incumbency, farmers’ distress are other factors in their favour.
Five big fights to look out for:
1. Varun Gandhi of BJP vs Hemraj Verma of SP in Pilibhit
2. Santosh Gangwar of BJP vs Pravin Singh Aron of Cong vs Bhagwat Sharan Gangwar in Bareilly
3. Jaya Prada of BJP vs Azam Khan of SP in Rampur
4. Dharmendra Yadav of SP vs Salim Iqbal Sherwani of Cong vs Sanghmitra Maurya of BJP in Badaun
5. Shivpal Yadav of PSP-L vs Akshay Yadav of SP vs Chandrasen Jadon in Firozabad
Modi factor, nationalism and national security, unemployment, farmers’ distress, cane dues and caste arithmetic, and development are the major factors.
Around 207 companies of paramilitary forces and 75 companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) along with the state police force will be deployed for the third phase.