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UP: SP chief vs SP rebel in Baharaich
Sanjay Pandey in Baharaich | April 22, 2007 16:20 IST
Old friends-turned-foes Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and rebel leader Beni Prasad Verma are locked in a bitter battle in this region dominated by Kurmis and Muslims, who hold the key to success in most of the 43 seats going to the polls in the fourth phase of the assembly elections on Monday.
Verma, a Kurmi who recently formed the Samajwadi Kranti Dal (SKD) after breaking away from Yadav, has fielded candidates in almost all seats in the area and appears set to corner a large chunk of votes from his community.
The Samajwadi Party won 27 seats in this region in the last polls mainly with the help of Kurmi and Muslim voters, but this time the Kurmis are likely to back Verma, who has been projecting himself as a 'victim' and appealing them to 'teach Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav a lesson.'
Verma, to ensure the defeat of Samajwadi Party strongman and minister Waqar Ahmed Shah in Baharaich town, persuaded former Union minister Arif Mohammand Khan to field his wife Reshma Arif on a SKD ticket to woo the large number of Muslim voters.
The 40,000 Kurmi voters and a division among Muslims, who constitute 35 per cent of the 3.5 lakh voters in Baharaich, could tilt the balance in SKD's favour.
At many places, SKD candidates are likely to cut into the Samajwadi Party's traditional vote bank.
Vinay Verma, a medical practioner at Ramnagar, also in Barabanki district, held the same view.
In the last assembly polls, the Samajwadi Party bagged 27 seats, mainly in Barabanki, Balrampur, Gonda, Sitapur and Lakhimpurkheri districts. A majority of these seats had a sizeable population of Kurmi and Muslim voters.
The BJP won nine seats and the BSP seven while the Congress failed to open its accounts in the region. The situation this time, however, has undergone a sea change mainly due to Verma's revolt, a shift in Kurmi voters and the likelihood of a division in Muslim votes.
The Congress and BSP, wherever they have fielded Muslim candidates, are likely to cut into Muslim votes.
For the Bharatiya Janata Party, senior leaders L K Advani, Kalyan Singh, and Rajnath Singh held a series of rallies. Mulayam Singh Yadav too toured the area and sought to assure Kurmis that their interests would be taken care of.