Stakes are high for Samajwadi Party in the third phase of voting in Uttar Pradesh as the battle moves to areas covering a large of part of the ‘Yadav belt’ and Rohilkhand. SP is contesting nine seats and BSP one in this phase.
SP had won three of the 10 seats here in 2014 despite the Modi wave. In 2009, it won 4 seats and in 2004 seven.
But SP is in an unfamiliar situation this time. Founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and three of his family members are contesting but Mulayam’s younger brother Shivpal is up against the family as a rival in Firozabad where Akshay Yadav, the MP and son of Mulayam’s nephew Ram Gopal Yadav, is the SP candidate.
While Mulayam is contesting from Mainpuri, his brother Abhay Ram Yadav’s son Dharmendra is in the fray from Badaun. Dharmendra had won comfortably in 2009 and 2014. This time, he is locked in a triangular contest against Congress’ Salim Sherwani, who won the seat five times in the past, and BJP’s Sanghmitra Maurya, the daughter of UP minister and former Mayawati aide Swami Prasad Maurya.
For the SP-BSP-RLD gathbandhan, if success in the second phase hinged on the Muslim-Dalit consolidation, it would be Muslim-Yadav formula this time. BJP is looking for support from non-Yadav OBCs — which it got in the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 assembly elections — and its traditional upper caste voters. This phase will also see several candidates battling for family honour — Gandhi scion Varun Gandhi from Pilibhit and former CM Kalyan Singh’s son Rajveer Singh from Etah. Also in the fray are Jaya Prada in Rampur, Union minister Santosh Gangwar in Bareilly and former Union minister Shafiqur Rahman Barq in Sambhal.
Aonla is the only constituency where BSP has fielded its candidate. A majority of the 10 seats going to polls has a sizeable Muslim presence. In constituencies like Rampur, Moradabad and Sambhal, Muslims comprise between 45% and 50% of the population. The third phase almost completes elections in west UP.