Eastern UP now turns into poll battleground

Eastern UP now turns into poll battleground

Hitherto unimportant and insignificant in any party's scheme of things, the backward eastern region of Uttar Pradesh has suddenly been thrust into the limelight.

The region has emerged as a new electoral battleground, courtesy the candidatures of the BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi from Varanasi and that of Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav from Azamgarh. The presence of these top leaders has turned the attention of the entire country to a region that is considered backward in comparison to the rich and affluent western UP region, and one that has also witnessed demand for the separate state of “Poorvanchal”, consisting of the eastern region districts.

Political observers attribute the attention to the region by major players to the fact that its electorate has the potential to make or mar electoral fortunes. “All the four major parties—the Congress, the SP, the BSP and the BJP—have a presence in the region,” says political analyst B G Verma.

The results of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls bear testimony to the fact. Of the 28 seats in the region, the BSP had won the maximum number of 10 seats, followed by seven each by the Congress and the SP. The BJP could bag only four seats.

Apparently, the eastern region has acquired great importance to the BJP this time as better performance here could substantially increase its tally, and the saffron party feels the candidature of Modi from Varanasi would turn the tide in its favour.

“There is a Modi wave in the state... We stand a very good chance of winning majority of the seats this time,” BJP leader Vijay Bahadur Pathak told Deccan Herald here.

The BJP had narrowly lost the Lalganj, Faizabad, Maharajganj and Deoria seats last time, and the party will leave no stone unturned to win them this time.

The SP had fielded its strongest candidate in the form of its supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav from Azamgarh in the region to apparently not only wrest the seat from the BJP but also to negate the “Modi effect”. “We will like to not only retain our seats but also wrest a few from the BSP and the Congress,” said an SP leader here.

The stakes are quite high for the BSP in the region. Of the 20 seats it had won in 2009, as many as 10 were from this region. BSP supremo Mayawati was expected to contest from one of the seats in the region, but preferred to keep away from the poll fray. The party's hopes of becoming a “king-maker” would largely depend upon its performance in the region.

“There is no Modi wave... The people are fed up with the misrule of the SP, and the BSP is the only alternative,” said the party's state unit president Ram Achal Rajbhar.The Congress would also be looking to retain its seven seats. Two Union ministers—Beni Prasad Verma and RPN Singh—are also in the fray from this region. Senior leader Jagadambika Pal's desertion has weakened the party, and it will look to compensate the loss elsewhere.

The decision of Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal to challenge Modi from Varanasi has added to the focus on the region. It remains to be seen which party finds favour with the region's electorate this time.

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