Assembly elections: Non-Yadav OBCs to play X-factor in UP’s heartland | Lucknow News – Times of India

LUCKNOW: The caste calculous gets trickier as a curious mix of three regions — west UP, Awadh region and part of Bundelkhand — goes to the polls in the third phase on Sunday. Although almost 50% of the 59 seats across 16 districts falling in the phase are part of the Yadav Belt with a heavy concentration of the influential caste, non-Yadav OBCs like Shakyas, Lodhs, Kurmis and Dalits play an equally important role in deciding the outcome.
Like the rest of the state, BJP swept this part as well, winning 49 out of 59 seats in 2017. SP could win just eight, including six in its bastion and BSP just one. It was a total reversal of 2012 scenario when SP had clinched 37 seats, including 25 in the Yadav Belt comprising eight districts where it has been dominating since 1992.
Shakayas, Lodhs, Kurmis and Sainis among OBCs, who mostly voted along with the popular sentiments — for SP or BSP — before 2017, backed BJP in the previous elections. How much the party is able to hold on to this support base will have a strong bearing on results. Jatavs among Dalits, as ususal, have been backing BSP. They did so even in 2017. So, the key to the successes here would be who among the main contenders walks away with the support of other 45% none-Jatav Dalit voters.
Beyond the caste moorings, the phase offers some interesting battles led by Karhal, where SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has jumped into the fray for the first time. It’s his home seat in true sense with the native village Saifai just 4 km away. It’s also a Yadav-strong seat and along with Muslims SP has a solid vote base of over 45%.
In no mood to give him a walkover, BJP has sprung its Union minister SPS Baghelwho is trying to exploit the local caste dynamics and ‘anti-Yadav sentiments’ among other OBCs and upper castes to do what Smriti Irani did in Amethi. BJP top leadership, led by Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath, has already run a high-spirited campaign in the constituency to charge up their voters. A day before the campaigning ended, Akhilesh, too, brought in ‘netaji’ Mulayam Singh Yadav to make an appeal to voters on his behalf.
In neighboring Jaswantnagar, Akhilesh’s uncle Shival Yadav, who is back in the SP alliance after two years of estrangement, is seeking a sixth term. SP had lost two other seats in Etawah in 2017. This time, retaining all three is a big prestige issue for the party.
UP’s industrial city, Kanpur, too has seen a high-decibel campaign. From Shah to Yogi and Akhilesh to Priyanka Gandhi,they have all done roadshows in the city where UP’s industries minister Satish Mahana is eyeing an eighth term in the assembly. Kanpur has maximum ten seats.
Another veteran in the fray is former minister Ramveer Upadhyay, who has moved after spending a lifetime in BSP to BJP and is now seeking a sixth term. In Kannauj Sadar, former IPS officer Asim Arun is the BJP man to breech the SP fort. BJP last won the seat in 1996.
Some turncoats, like Hariom Yadav (BJP), Bhagwati Sagar (SP) and Sitaram Kushwaha (SP) will also their luck with new outfits.
Also, Bikru, the village of slain gangster Vikas Yadav in Kanpur’s Bilhaur, will voter freely for the first time. It’s said that when he was alive, the entire village had to vote for the party whose flag he would hoist on his rooftop.