LUCKNOW: The fight for Ambedkar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh is intense this time because the constituency has the potential to turn into a high-profile seat, if all goes BSP chief Mayawati’s way.
Driven by her prime ministerial ambitions, the BSP supremo is eyeing this Lok Sabha seat to reach the Lower House if she manages to attain the coveted post after May 23.
For now, however, the caste factor is playing out in the reverse here. The BJP has fielded Mukut Bihari Verma, a backward, while the BSP has tried to counter the Saffron challenge by pitting Ritesh Pandey, a Brahmin, as the Mahagathbandhan candidate. Though 11 candidates are in the fray, the fight is between these two parties. In 2014, BJP’s Hari Om Pandey had won by over 1.4 lakh votes defeating Rakesh Pandey of BSP. The BJP candidate had secured 41.77% votes, though the combined SP-BSP vote share was 50.96%.
The BJP denied ticket to its sitting MP after a video of Pandey hitting out at the party leadership went viral. On the contrary, BSP has fielded a Brahmin to woo upper castes by highlighting the ire of Pandey against the BJP. As a damage control exercise, Pandey shared the dais with PM Narendra Modi during his May 1 rally.
The BSP candidate is also banking on its Yadav-Muslim-Dalit vote bank to romp home.
BJP candidate Mukut Bihari, a minister in the UP government, is trying to counter the outsider tag by highlighting development projects launched in the constituency under the BJP government. He also hopes to get the support of Kurmis, Thakurs, Brahmins, Nishads, Kumhars and extremely backward castes.
The Saffron party is highlighting its development works like providing 24-hour power supply in the town, famous for textile cottage industry, ongoing construction of a highway connecting the town with the district headquarters and communal harmony.
Congress plays spoiler in Sant Kabir Nagar
The electoral stage in Sant Kabir Nagar is set for an interesting triangular fight among BJP candidate Praveen Kumar Nishad, BSP’s Bheeshma Shankar as gathbandhan candidate and Congress’s Bhalchandra Yadav, who contested on a Samajwadi Party ticket in 2014.
In 2014, the seat was won by BJP’s Sharad Tripathi who had defeated Bheeshma Shankar alias Kushal Tiwari. However, here, too, the combined SP-BSP vote share was 48.52%, higher than the BJP’s 34.47%, giving the Saffron party some shivers.
The BJP has fielded NISHAD party’s Praveen Nishad, who had wrested the prestigious Gorakhpur seat from the BJP as SP candidate in March 2018. He switched sides recently and joined the BJP which fielded him from Sant Kabir Nagar eyeing the votes of Nishad, upper caste, backward and extremely backward castes.
Alliance candidate Bheeshma Shankar is banking on the support of Brahmins, Muslims, Dalits and Yadavs. Congress’s Bhalchandra Yadav is relying on Yadav-Muslim votes to sail through. Yadav is proving to be a ‘vote splitter’ for the alliance and is raising the ‘outsider’ issue to gain traction on the ground. Both his rivals are from adjoining Gorakhpur.
‘Shoe bite’ for BJP MP
Sant Kabir Nagar hit the headlines ahead of polls for ‘shoegate’ episode when BJP’s sitting MP Sharad Tripathi hit a party MLA with a shoe. He ended up losing the party ticket.