Maya's 'social engineering' to be tested on old ground
Nestled between Faizabad and Azamgarh, the Ambedkar Nagar Lok Sabha constituency had elected BSP supremo Mayawati thrice in the past and though she is not in the fray this time, the results of the polls here would be an indicator of the success of her ‘social engineering’ formula that had enabled her party to reap rich electoral dividends in Uttar Pradesh in the past.
Mayawati had won the seat in 1998, 1999 and 2004. She had vacated the seat in 2007 after becoming the chief minister necessitating a bypoll in which the BSP nominee again emerged victorious.
“The seat is a prestige fight for Mayawati as she considers it as her home turf...the constituency has been a bastion of BSP,” says Ravindra Singh, a teacher by profession.
With the Dalits numbering around three lakh in the constituency, their support has seen BSP nominees having a smooth sailing here in the past.
Although the constituency boasts of an agriculture engineering college, a sports stadium, a government medical college and a polytechnic, it still lacks basic facilities.
The condition of the roads is pathetic and prolonged power cuts are the order of the day. “It is next to impossible to travel on the roads connecting the district headquarters with Tanda, Dostpur and Baskhari...there is also an acute shortage of drinking water in many villages in the constituency,” Singh told Deccan Herald.
Development, however, does not appear to be an issue in the polls. Singh says that the caste combination favours the Samajwadi Party (SP) nominee Ram Murti Verma, who is a minister in the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet. “Verma, a kurmi, will get a majority of the votes of his castemen, who are around three 2.5 lakh,” Singh said.
While the Dalits seemed to be sticking with Mayawati, the Muslims, who are also around three lakh here, appear to back Mulayam Singh Yadav. “A majority of Muslims will support SP,” said Irfan Ahmed, a resident of Tanda.
The BSP has fielded Rakesh Pandey, sitting MP in the hope that he will again garner the support of the Brahmin community. The BJP nominee Hari Om Pandey, also a Brahmin, however, could play spoilsport and make a dent into the same. “Brahmin votes will be divided between BSP and BJP,” said Bidhan Chandra Chaudhary, a resident of Bariyawan in the constituency. “Modi wave is barely visible here. A section of the upper caste and some among the backward castes may support Modi but by and large the victory will be decided by the caste equations,” said Chandrika Yadav, a resident of Ahariya.
The BJP had not been able to win this seat even when the Ram temple movement was at its peak in 1992, Singh pointed out. Besides, he said, that the BJP nominee was “weak”. “The BJP candidate is not widely known,” he said.
The SP had been aggressively trying to woo the backward communities, especially the ‘nishads’ (boatmen), who are in sizable numbers here. BSP supremo Mayawati had addressed an election rally here a few days back and appealed to the Dalits and Brahmins to support the party nominee.