LUCKNOW: Election process for the second phase of polling for 59 Assembly constituencies in three divisions - Varanasi, Azamgarh and Gorakhpur - in the eastern Uttar Pradesh started on Monday.
Voting will be held in this region on February 11. BSP’s Swami Prasad Maurya and Sukhdev Rajbhar, BJP state president Surya Pratap Shahi and Ramapati Ram Tripathi, SP’s Ambika Chaudhary and Peace Party chief Ayub Khan are the prominent candidates who are in the fray from this region, which has been politically very sensitive as compared to other areas. Azamgarh has attained infamy in the past five years for being described as ‘atankgarh’ (sanctuary of terror) after a number of suspected terrorists were picked up by the police of different states. The arrests of the alleged local terrorists for their involvement in terror activities in Mumbai and Delhi and repeated raids and search operations by sleuths of the ATS and other police organisations have charged up the Muslim community in this region, which took to the streets many times to protest against ‘a deliberate bid to defame Muslim youths’ by the police.
In order to encash the sulking mood of Muslims, Ulema Council - an organisation of the conservative Muslims - got a foothold. Last week, when Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi was visiting the city to address public meetings, the local people protested against him and burnt him in effigies. The Ulema Council has become a face and voice of the Muslim conservatives in and around Azamgarh and the February elections to the state Assembly will be its first test. Voting pattern may see polarisation of votes on religious lines. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when imprisoned mafia don Abu Salem hinted at contesting elections from Azamgarh, the Mir Sarai town, where Salem was born and raised, was plastered with his posters supporting him in elections.
Gorakhpur has been the epicentre of bloody mafia war in Uttar Pradesh since long. Scores of people have been killed in the underworld rivalry between Virendra Pratap Shahi, who died a few years ago, and Hari Shankar Tewari, who is contesting election on a BSP ticket.
BJP MP Yogi Adityanath dominates in Gorakhpur’s socio-political life. However, he is much annoyed with his party that he has refused to campaign for the BJP candidates in Gorakhpur-Azamgarh belt. He is unhappy with the party for not allowing him to have a free hand in the distribution of tickets in 12 districts in UP. His hostility towards his party leadership could impact the BJP in the coming elections.