Caste acquires centre stage in Nehru land

Caste acquires centre stage in Nehru land

With the absence of any wave, caste equations have acquired centre stage in  the Lok Sabha constituency which was once represented by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The BJP, which had won the seat for the first time in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls riding the Modi wave, faces an uphill task of retaining the seat in the by-poll slated for March 11.

The seat had become vacant when Keshav Prasad Maurya  had to resign to join the state cabinet under Yogi Adityanath, where he was offered the position of deputy chief minister.

Maurya has been wooing agressively to ensure the victory of the BJP nominee  Kaushalendra Singh Patel.

Fielding a 'Patel' was part of the party's strategic move, but one that would stood a better chance had Samajwadi  Party (SP) decided  not to field its own Patel.

With the BSP  deciding not to field any candidates in the by-polls and instead support the SP with the  larger motive of bringing down the saffron party, the BJP has one more thing to worry about.

"Kurmi votes are certain to split this time," says Awadhesh Patel, a resident of Phulpur town, which lies to close to Allahabad.

The BJP is banking heavily on the popular appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Adityanath has addressed around half a dozen election meetings in the constituency. Almost a dozen other ministers of the  state cabinet have also been campaigning in the constituency.

One  factor that may work against  Kaushalendra is that he has been pegged an "outsider" as he hails he hails from Varanasi. Varanasi is about 100 km away from  Phulpur.

The SP is banking not only on the split in the Kurmi  votes but also on the 2.5 lakh Muslims and around  2 lakh Yadavs  in the constituency. The BSP's support has come as a blessing for the party in this regard.

Though Maurya had secured over 52% votes in the 2014 polls, the combined vote share of the SP  and BSP was much more than that of the BJP in four of the five Assembly segments in Phulpur in the 2017 assembly polls.

Mafia don Ateeq Ahmed jumping into the fray has been both delight and consolation for the BJP as it feels this would split the Muslim votes.

Ateeq, who had represented the seat in Lok Sabha as the SP nominee once, wields considerable influence over the Muslims in some pockets.

"While the Muslims will by-and-large support the SP, Ateeq may corner some votes in his areas of influence," says Meraj Ahmed, a resident of Phulpur.

SP nominee Nagendra Singh Patel, while speaking to DH,  said,  "Muslims will rally around SP... they know that a split in their ranks will only harm them."

Congress candidate Manish Mishra's seems to be making a case in vain. The party has not been able to win here in 1984, with the Congress candidate and cricketer  Mohammed Kaif losing his security deposit in the 2014 polls.

Nehru may have won the seat in 1952, 1957 and 1962, but, according to one BJP leader, the Congress is here only to cut into the votes now.

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