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UP polls phase 5: Acid test for Mulayam, Uma Bharti

Last updated on: February 22, 2012 19:43 IST

UP polls phase 5: Acid test for Mulayam, Uma Bharti

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow

The prestige of Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and that of Bhartiya Janata Party star campaigner Uma Bharti will be at stake during the fifth round of the seven-phased Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections on Thursday. Sharat Pradhan reports.

As many as 741 candidates are in the fray for 49 seats spread across 13 districts where 1.56 crore electors are expected to cast their vote at 17,267 polling centres.

Apart from a large presence of Yadavs, the region also has a substantial population of Lodhis. And while Mulayam was widely known as the pied piper of his community, this phase would also mean an acid test for Uma Bharti whose sole aim was to wean away the Lodhi community, who had so far rallied behind the former UP chief minister and ousted BJP leader Kalyan Singh who formed the Rashtriya Kranti Party.

The only other prominent leader, whose prestige would be at test in this phase is Union Coal minister Shree Prakash Jaiswal , who is the sitting Congress member of Parliament from Kanpur city.

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Image: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav


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UP polls phase 5: Acid test for Mulayam, Uma Bharti

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Even though Mulayam's Samajwadi Party had bagged only 14 seats as against Bahujan Samaj Party's 27, BJP's 6 and Congress party's 4, besides two independents at the last state assembly poll in 2007, large parts of the areas going to poll on February 23 are known as strongholds of Mulayam.

The biggest challenge that Mulayam faces here is from the ruling BSP, who has moved heaven and earth to retain bulk of its seats, which is clearly no mean task.

Besides Mulayam's home Etawah, the neighbouring districts of Mainpuri, Auraiya, Etah and Firozabad were known for numerical, economic as well as muscle-power dominance of Yadavs, who have traditionally been his unflinching supporters.

And if Mayawati was able to penetrate into this Yadav bastion, it was largely because a chunk of the community chose to boycott voting as a mark of protest against denial of jobs during the Mulayam regime.

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Image: Bhartiya Janata Party star campaigner Uma Bharti


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UP polls phase 5: Acid test for Mulayam, Uma Bharti

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"A large number of Yadavs did not go to vote at all in 2007 because they were angry over Mulayam's failure to honour his commitment to give them jobs, which were openly up for sale," a prominent Yadav citizen from Mainpuri told this scribe over telephone.

"But surely we did not want Mulayam to lose; therefore we will now compensate that by making it a point to ensure that every Yadav casts his vote for the SP," he added on the condition of anonymity.

Among the remaining districts of Hamirpur, Kanshiram Nagar, Rama Bai Nagar, Kanpur Nagar, Jhansi, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Mahoba, the next dominant caste was Lodhi, whom Bharti was desperately trying to wean away from Kalyan Singh who was struggling to keep his own stock of Lodhis together under the banner of his RKP.

He had even gone to the extent of throwing a challenge to Bharti by fielding a rival member of the caste against her from Charkheri that has turned into a VIP constituency ever since Bharti filed her nomination from there after she shifted base from her home state Madhya Pradesh to UP.

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Image: BJP leader Kalyan Singh


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UP polls phase 5: Acid test for Mulayam, Uma Bharti

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To counter Kalyan, the BJP has also pushed two other saffron-clad leaders into the campaign in this region. These were Sakshi Maharaj, once known for his proximity to Kalyan and Sadhvi Niranjan, who was known for her hardline Hindutva appeals.

Notorious for large-scale poll violence, this region has put the Election Commission on a virtual red alert. A heavy police deployment was made in and around the violence-prone districts of Etawah, Mainpuri, Etah and Auraiya in particular, but EC officials declined to divulge the number of security personnel detailed for the job.

"Adequate security is in place to ensure a violence free, and fair poll in the fifth phase," chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha said.


Image: Mulayam Singh's son Akhilesh, centre, on a bicycle yatra with supporters


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