UP battle shifts from Jat land to Yadav stronghold

The 10 UP seats set to vote in Phase-III fall in the Yadav belt, the ruling BJP has performed exceptionally well since 2014.
UP battle shifts from Jat land to Yadav stronghold

LUCKNOW: The focus of Uttar Pradesh’s political landscape is set to shift from the Jat belt to the Braj and Rohilkhand region, popularly called the ‘Yadav land,’ where the fate of 10 key seats having an admixture of the Yadav-Muslim votes will be decided. At stake in Phase-III of the parliamentary polls on May 7 is he prestige of the Samajwadi Party (SP).

In the first two phases, 16 western UP constituencies voted on April 19 and 26.

In 2019, of the 10 seats of phase-III, the ruling BJP won eight and the main opposition SP, despite being in a formidable alliance with the BSP, could win just two.

The 10 UP seats set to vote in Phase-III include Sambhal, Hathras, Etah, Aonla, Bareilly, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Mainpuri, Badaun and Firozabad. Three members of the Yadav clan are in the fray in the phase. While SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple is contesting from Mainpuri, his two cousins Aditya Yadav is from Badaun and Akshay Yadav from Firozabad.

Although the 10 seats fall in the Yadav belt, the ruling BJP has performed exceptionally well since 2014. The BJP won seven of 10 seats restricting the SP to just three – Mainpuri (Mulayam Singh Yadav), Badaun (Dharmendra Yadav) and Firozabad (Akshay Yadav). In 2019, the BJP clinched an added seat and won total eight of the 10 seats in this phase. SP won only in Mainpuri and Sambhal.

The constituencies going to the polls in the third phase also have the Muslim-OBC combination that can influence the outcome.

Patriarch’s pocket borough Sambhal

The constituency sent SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav to Lok Sabha twice in 1998 and 1999 and SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav in 2004. The BJP wrested it in 2014. While the BSP won the seat twice in 1996 and 2009, Congress last won it in 1984. This time, SP has reposed faith in veteran MP Shafiqur Rehman Barq who won the seat in 2019. However, even before the commencement of poll process, Barq, 92, assed away. Consequently, SP fielded his grandson Zia-ur-Rahman Barq, the party MLA from Kundarki in Moradabad. The BJP has reposed faith in an OBC Parmeshwar Lal Saini. The BSP makes the contest triangular, fielding Shaulat Ali.

Saffron citadel named Hathras

A reserved seat, Hathras is considered a BJP bastion since 1991. In 2009, the RLD won it as a pre-poll BJP ally. The Congress last won it in 1971. In 2019, despite the infamous gangrape and murder case that created widespread uproar, BJP’s Rajvir Singh Diler defeated SP’s Ramji Lal Suman. This time, BJP has replaced the MP with Anoop Valmiki, party’s MLA, while SP and BSP have given ticket to Jasveer Valmiki and Hembabu Dhangar, respectively. Diler died of heart attack last week. Caste lines are sharp in rural areas. Over 3 years after a Dalit woman was allegedly gangraped, and died 11 days later in 2020, voters in her village are divided.

Mostly, Mulayam’s Mainpuri

A Yadav stronghold, the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat has been with the family of Mulayam Singh Yadav since 1996. Mulayam represented it five times in Lok Sabha. The SP has won the seat since 1996. The Congress last won here in 1984. In 2019, Mulayam Singh Yadav won by defeating BJP’s Prem Singh Shakya. In 2024, BJP’s Jaiveer Singh is challenging SP’s Dimple Yadav. Dr Gulshan Dev Shakya is BSP candidate.

A debut in Budaun; will it matter?

After flip-flops, the Samajwadi party finally fielded Aditya Yadav, son of SP lead Shivpal Yadav. It is Adtiya’s electoral debut. Initially SP had named Dharmendra Yadav from the seat but replaced him with Shivpal who wanted the ticket for his son and the party finally succumbed to his demand. Budaun seat has been with SP continuously from 1996 to 2014. The BJP wrested it in 2019.

Firozabad’s fragile loyalty

The city of glass, Firozabad is another SP citadel which the party lost to the BJP in 2019. This seat elected SP chief Akhilesh Yadav in 2009 and his cousin Akshay Yadav in 2014. The Congress’s Raj Babbar defeated SP’s Dimple Yadav in a by-poll in 2009. For 2024, the BJP has announced Vishwadeep Singh as its candidate while the SP has repeated Akshay Yadav, son of SP veteran Ram Gopal Yadav.

It’s Etah, hub of Hindutva

The BJP has been winning here since 1989 representing it in Lok Sabah for six times. In between, the SP won this seat twice. In 2009, Kalyan Singh won as an independent supported by the SP. BJP’s Rajveer Singh, son of Kalyan Singh, won this seat in 2014 and 2019. The party has made him its candidate again in 2024. Davesh Shakya is SP candidate.

Advantage none in Aonla

The BJP has won Aonla seat six times since 1989 and three times since 2009. The SP has won twice. The Congress won last in 1984. Dharmendra Kashyap (BJP), Neeraj Maurya (SP) and Abid Ali (BSP) and main contestants. The third phase is also crucial for the SP because three of the five members from the Yadav family are candidates in this phase. They are Dimple Yadav from Mainpuri, Akshay Yadav from Firozabad and Aditya Yadav from Budaun.

The fate of Fatehpur Sikri

A perennial water shortage and turmoil in the country’s northwest is thought to have been the key reason for the city’s abandonment. After Akbar moved the imperial capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Lahore, and then to Agra, the city was abandoned by 1610. Fast-forward to 2024, the BJP won this seat twice in 2014 and 2019. Before that in 2009, the seat was with the BSP. In 2019, the BJP’s Raj Kumar Chahar won it, defeating Congress’ Raj Babbar. Chahar polled 64.23% votes. The BJP has retained Chahar and the Congress has fielded Ramnath Sikarwar as the INDIA candidate while the BSP has fielded a Brahmin candidate Ram Niwas Sharma.

Dalits take centre stage in Agra

Known as the Dalit capital of UP with Dalits comprising 21% of the electorate, the BJP has won this reserved seat for five terms since 1991 and thrice in a row since 2009. This time, BJP MP Prof SP Singh Baghel, who won it in 2019, seeks another term. The SP has fielded Suresh Chandra Kardan while the BSP has fielded Pooja Amrohi. Politics and history intertwine with Dalit influence here. Recent events amplified the pivotal role of Dalit voters. Pooja Amrohi’s candidacy challenges the grassroots engagement. There are 20.57 lakh voters, with nearly three-fourths of them Jatav Dalits, who appear to be with the BSP, despite despair over its declining performance.

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