Breaching the saffron citadel: How SP shocked BJP in seat where Ayodhya falls

The Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency has five assembly segments of which BJP candidate Lallu Singh got a lead only in Ayodhya.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav with Awadhesh Prasad with Ayodhya in the backdrop.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav with Awadhesh Prasad with Ayodhya in the backdrop.(Photos| ANI)

While the BJP suffered setbacks across Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha polls, it's the defeat in Faizabad, under which Ayodhya falls, that has come as the biggest shock. The Samajwadi Party's Awadhesh Prasad, a nine-time MLA, wrested the nerve centre of the BJP’s political ethos from its hands trouncing two-time lawmaker Lallu Singh by a margin of 54,567 votes.

A prominent Dalit leader, the septuagenarian newly-elected MP challenged the saffron might in the non-reserved seat of Faizabad as part of the SP's new caste calculus which led to its phoenix-like resurrection from the ashes winning 37 of the 80 seats and breaking the ‘jinx of five’ in UP. The SP had been stuck on just five seats since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Na Mathura, na Kashi, abki baar Awadhesh Pasi’ (Neither Mathura, nor Kashi, this time it's Awadhesh Pasi) – the slogan coined by the Samajwadi Party worked in the temple town to breach the saffron citadel.

The experiment of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav to field a Dalit from a general seat worked to the party's advantage. Significantly, for the first time since Independence, a scheduled caste member contested on a general seat and won it.

For Awadhesh Prasad, a founding member of the SP along with Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh is the reflection of the dreams of great socialist leaders like Lohia, Madhu Limaye, Raj Narain, Jai Prakash Narayan and Chandra Shekhar. “He (Akhilesh Yadav) is the only leader in India today who can run a democratic and secular government in UP and in the country,” says the newly elected lawmaker while talking to TNIE.

Prasad derides the saffron forces for trying to cash in on the temple which, he says, is not to the credit of PM Modi or UP CM Yogi Adityanath. “The Supreme Court paved the way for the temple in Ayodhya and the BJP made its narrative around it ignoring the day-to-day real issues hitting the people of Ayodhya on the ground,” he says. He adds that instead of addressing the issues like unemployment, price rise, farmers’ distress and stray cattle menace, they were claiming that they had brought Lord Ram to Ayodhya. “It was not me but the people of Ayodhya who have been fighting against the saffron might in Faizabad,” he asserts.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav with Awadhesh Prasad with Ayodhya in the backdrop.
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(Graphic| Immayabharati K)

In fact, Faizabad parliamentary constituency has five assembly segments including Ayodhya, Milkipur (SC), Bikapur, Rudauli and Dariyabad. Awadhesh Prasad is an MLA from Milkipur assembly seat.

The four assembly constituencies except Milkipur are in the BJP’s kitty. However, the four BJP MLAs failed to help Lallu Singh sail through for a hat-trick.

Lallu Singh got a lead only in the Ayodhya assembly constituency which is the seat of the Ram temple. In all other assembly segments, he trailed as Awadhesh Prasad got immense support from his own Dalit community besides the consolidation of OBC and Muslim votes in his favour.

“We had a strong support base among the Dalits, OBCs and minorities. We also got full support from farmers suffering from the stray cattle menace,” says Awadhesh Prasad on the secret of his success.

Anti-incumbency against the two-time BJP MP Lallu Singh was also evident in the rural pockets where rising above Ram temple politics, voters decided to back Awadhesh Prasad.

Moreover, permanent barricades, heavy police bandobast, traffic diversions, VIP culture, dominant bureaucracy, inadequate compensation for property owners are some other issues which had been pinching local residents and traders in the city. In the rural pockets, insecurity over land acquisition for development projects had gripped villagers.

Notably, the BJP dispensation has pushed major infra projects worth over Rs 35,000 crore in Ayodhya for which the process of land acquisition is on.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav with Awadhesh Prasad with Ayodhya in the backdrop.
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On how he strategized his course in a general seat despite being a Dalit, Awadhesh Prasad attributes the victory to Lord Ram saying, "My grandfather, father, father-in-law and many elders in the family had ‘Ram’ as a common factor in their names. I had no strategy, it is the charisma of Lord Ram, Lord Hanuman and the people of Ayodhya.”

On the other hand, the BJP’s Ayodhya city chief Kamlesh Srivastava feels that the party failed to capture the mood of the voters and were unable to get their issues resolved on time. “Booth level review and detailed evaluation is yet to take place to ascertain the reasons for defeat,” he says.

“People of Ayodhya preferred caste to the biggest cultural event of many centuries and development. INDI alliance fielded a Dalit candidate to influence 21 per cent of Dalit, 18% Muslims and 22% OBCs vote base to clinch the seat prestigious to BJP,” says JP Shukla, a prominent political commentator.

Moreover, people of the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat also attribute the BJP's defeat to other factors including alleged corruption by officers at the helm in the rehabilitation of local residents who had to sacrifice their dwellings for the rebuilding of the temple.

They also have a grudge against the BJP candidate Lallu Singh, a contractor by profession, who most of the time remained unresponsive to their issues. His arrogance is the talk of the town in Ayodhya.

This factor proved to be the BJP’s nemesis as the party high command turned a blind eye to the cadre’s feedback about strong anti-incumbency against the sitting MP.

Further, Lallu Singh was caught on camera claiming that Modi had set the ‘400 paar’ target so that the Constitution could be changed to take some tough decisions in the next term. This gave enough ammo to the opposition to peddle a narrative claiming that the BJP intended to do away with reservations for SC/ST and OBC by altering the Constitution -- a charge that the BJP struggled to counter till the end.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav with Awadhesh Prasad with Ayodhya in the backdrop.
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