LUCKNOW: Temperatures are rising all around and as Uttar Pradesh prepares to vote in the sixth phase of the general election, the stakes are getting higher for all political parties and alliances. The sixth phase in Uttar Pradesh, polling for which will be held on May 12, is a major challenge for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which had won 13 of the 14 seats in this phase in 2014.
The BJP had won all seats except Azamgarh which was won by Mulayam Singh Yadav of Samajwadi Party. BJP's ally Om Prakash Rajbhar, who recently walked out of the alliance, is vigorously campaigning against the BJP in constituencies where he holds sway. BJP's hopes now rest on the intensive campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This phase is also crucial for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is contesting 10 of the 14 seats. The Samajwadi Party is contesting on four seats in this phase. The caste arithmetic on most seats in this phase favours the SP-BSP alliance.
The 14 seats that will go to polls in the sixth phase are Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Allahabad, Phulpur, Ambedkar Nagar, Shravasti, Dumariaganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Lalganj, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Machhlishahr and Bhadohi. The alliance of SP and BSP now poses a major challenge to the BJP which is grappling with disgruntled leaders at the grassroots level in this phase.
The party has put up its Ministers in Ambedkar Nagar and Allahabad. Uttar Pradesh Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi is contesting the Allahabad seat while the outgoing BJP MP Shyama Charan Gupta has migrated to SP and is contesting from another seat.
Allahabad is the home of Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Maurya and two Ministers, Siddhartha Nath Singh and Nand Gopal Nandi, and winning this seat is a matter of prestige for the BJP.
Another UP Minister, Mukut Bihari Varma, is contesting the Ambedkar Nagar seat. The outgoing BJP MP from Machhlishahr, Ram Charitra Nishad, has also joined the SP. Local BJP leaders on these seats were clamouring for tickets and are said to be sulking after being denied the same.
Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is contesting the Sultanpur seat while her son Varun Gandhi has shifted to Pilibhit. Maneka Gandhi is pitted against Sanjay Sinh of Congress. Sanjay Sinh was a close associate of the late Sanjay Gandhi. Turning this battle into a triangular contest is Sonu Singh of BSP.
The prestige of SP President Akhilesh Yadav is at stake in Azamgarh where he is pitted against BJP's star candidate Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirahua. This is the first time that Akhilesh Yadav is contesting from Azamgarh and the BJP campaign is focusing on the fact that he is an 'outsider'.
In Pratapgarh, known to be a Congress stronghold, it is Raghuraj Pratap Singh a.k.a. Raja Bhaiyya, an independent legislator, who has queered the pitch. Raja Bhaiyya wields considerable clout in the district and has fielded his candidate in Pratapgarh on his newly formed Jansatta Party.