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|February 13, 1998|
Yadavs, Muslims may see Mulayam through
The defence minister and a veteran of many electoral battles, Mulayam Singh Yadav, appears convinced that the Lok Sabha election in Sambhal will be a walkover for him. However, his friend-turned-foe, D P Yadav, supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party, is determined to upset his applecart in the February 22 poll.
The Samajwadi Party supremo is likely to face a keenly contested election. His rival, the sitting MP from Sambhal, is burning midnight oil to tilt the balance in his favour by wooing traditional BJP voters besides slicing away at Muslim and Yadav votes.
Despite the high stakes for Mulayam Singh, he has little time to spare for his constituency. As the lone star campaigner for his party, he has to divide his time between the other 80 Lok Sabha seats the party is contesting in Uttar Pradesh, besides other states like Bihar, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. In contrast, D P Yadav is personally spearheading his campaign, going from village to village and holding nukkad (street corner) meetings.
Poll managers of the SP leader claim the voter profile and his political stature will ensure defeat for D P Yadav, a Loktantrik Bahujan Samaj Party candidate who is being supported by the BJP following a poll understanding between the two parties.
A determined D P Yadav, whose posters have sprung up in the entire agrarian constituency, declares that the Sambhal result would be one of the major reverses of this election. ''This constituency will teach Mulayam a lesson for frequently changing constituencies," he says.
A visibly tired Mulayam Singh, during his maiden visit to the area last weekend, said his victory alone would have no meaning, and that other SP nominees from the adjoining constituencies of Amroha, Aonla Moradabad and Rampur should also be sent to the 12th Lok Sabha.
The seat is dominated by Yadavs and Muslims who constitute 50 per cent of the electorate.
''For us, the poll is quite significant as a simple victory for Mulayam Singh would have no meaning. We need to ensure a thumping success,'' say SP campaigners.
D P Yadav pins his hopes on the remaining 50 per cent voters besides making a concerted bid to woo voters from his caste.
Though other candidates, including the Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress are also in the fray, they appear of little consequence. The Congress has fielded a debutant, Nasimul Hasan, while the BSP has nominated another greenhorn, Budh Sen Tyagi.
Apparently, no constituency other than Sambhal has more than 300,000 Yadavs. Besides, Sambhal has about 50,000 Jats, 70,000 Kharagvanshis, 80,000 Dalits, 80,000 Thakurs, 30,000 Gujjars, besides Brahmins, Sainies, Valmikis Tyagis and Vaishyas.
Though no major incident has been reported so far in the constituency, fear of violence loomed large from day one when D P Yadav, soon after filing his nomination, expressed fear of an attack on his life.
SP insiders say Mulayam Singh's rivals would certainly make attempts to get the election countermanded to prevent him from entering the Lok Sabha. The party has sent a communication to the Election Commission, requesting elaborate security arrangements to foil any such conspiracy.
Sparks flew recently when some miscreants, allegedly belonging to the SP camp, opened fire in the air to dissuade D P Yadav's supporters from entering the central area in the main town.
The local administration had put in place special security during Mulayam Singh's visit and public meeting, during which his supporters spilled out on to the streets and perched on top of trees and dilapidated buildings to see him.
Companies of the Rapid Action Force and Provincial Armed Constabulary have been deployed in the constituency to pre-empt poll violence.
D P Yadav's supporters are hopeful that the BSP may ask its candidate to retire from the contest, which will make things tougher for Mulayam Singh. But chances of such a rapprochement appear bleak given the differences between BSP leader Mayawati and D P Yadav. The latter quit the BSP only a few weeks ago.
D P Yadav is also being criticised for his failure to prevail upon then chief minister Mayawati to create a separate Sambhal district during his tenure as MP.
SP managers harp on the premise that Mulayam Singh is likely to become prime minister if a coalition government is formed in Delhi again.
Mohammed Usman, a labourer says, ''Bhai sahib, Mulayamji pradhan mantri bane to bahut achha hai, agar nahi bhi huay to upa pradhan mantri honge,'' (If Mulayam becomes the PM, good; otherwise, he will be the deputy PM).
The Sambhal assembly segment, besides the Behjoi, Bisauli and Gunnaur assembly segments are held by the SP, while Gangeshwari is with the BJP.
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