LS polls: Caste looms over temple in Ayodhya

Sitting BJP MP Lallu Singh is fighting anti-incumbency and a formidable SP candidate, who has the support of the Congress in Faizabad constituency.
Awadhesh Prasad (left) and Lallu Singh.
Awadhesh Prasad (left) and Lallu Singh.Illustration: Mandar Pardikar

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad constituency, comprising Ayodhya, could be easily mistaken for the nerve centre of temple politics but if past Lok Sabha elections are anything to go by, the poll outcome in this temple town has mostly been tied to the caste factor. And the 2024 LS poll is no different. Sitting BJP MP Lallu Singh, also a five-time MLA from Ayodhya, is pitted against the Samajwadi Party’s Awadhesh Prasad, a nine-time MLA and a former minister in the Akhilesh cabinet.

Lallu Singh, who is a contractor by profession, is seeking a third term riding on the back of the general goodwill for the BJP after the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya and the resultant development in the district. In 2014, he had polled an impressive winning margin of 2.8 lakh votes, which however came down drastically to just 65,000 in 2019. This time, he is fighting anti-incumbency and a formidable SP candidate, who has the support of the Congress.

The SP-Congress combine hopes their joint candidate can defeat the BJP this time. However, votes tell a different story. In 2019, the BJP had bagged 5,29,021 votes, while the SP got 4,63,544 and the Congress 53,386. This time, a third factor could influence poll calculations as the CPI has fielded former IPS officer Arvind Sen as its candidate. Sen is the son of veteran politician late Mitrasen Yadav, who had represented the constituency thrice in Parliament. Sen is expected to poll a considerable number of votes from the same electorate pool that the SP hopes to tap into.

All this boils down to the constituency’s caste dynamics, which can swing results. The BJP has retained Singh, a Thakur by caste, for the battle in the land of Lord Ram, who himself was a Rajput. The saffron party has the support of Thakurs and other upper castes as well as a section of non-Yadav OBCs. SP candidate Prasad comes from the Dalit Kori community and is trying to mobilise Dalits, who constitute a sizeable population of 5.5 lakh in the constituency. He can also expect help from the SP’s traditional Muslim-Yadav vote bank. Meanwhile, CPI’s Sen, an OBC, is getting traction among his caste group on the ground. The BSP has also fielded Sachidanand Pandey, a Brahmin, as its candidate for Faizabad but the community is not strong enough to create a ripple.

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