Phase 3 of UP elections: Litmus test for SP-BSP Alliance

Written by Sushmita | Published on: April 23, 2019
As ten constituencies of Uttar Pradesh (UP) vote on April 23, in the third phase of Lok Sabha polls of 2019, political observers see this round as another litmus test for the Gathbandhan (Samajwadi and Bahujan saj Party), seen as the major challengers this election.

Image Courtesy: PTI

The question being debated is whether the Samajwadi Party (SP) will be able to hold on to its core Yadav-Muslim vote bank or will it get impacted by the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) presence and, as some are saying, a strong “Shivpal factor”.  An equally strong factor is how the other OBCs will vote this election.

The ten constituencies voting in the third phase are Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Badaun, Aonla, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Pilibhit and Barelly. The first five seats have a large presence of the backward Yadav vote bank, and the area is often also described as the Yadav land of UP politics. The other five, meanwhile, have a strong presence of Muslims.

In Badaun, Yadav voters are estimated to be 20% and the total OBC voters 35%. The Yadav/Ahir vote base is around 26% in Aonla, 21% each in Firozabad and Mainpuri, and 14% in Etah. The maximum base of Muslim voters – 45% — is in Moradabad. This estimate is 44% in Rampur, 38% in Sambhal, 31% in Bareilly, and 25% in Pilibhit.

Of the core Yadav-dominated seats, Aonla has the maximum  — 17.5 % — of Muslim voters as well. The Dalit vote is uniformly distributed across these constituencies, ranging from 11% to 18%.

While in first and second phases, the Jat and Gurjar vote was a significant factor, in the phase due on April 23, the Dalit-Muslim voters will play the major role. Caste equations are always the major factors, especially in a non-wave election.  While the Yadav OBCs are predictably going to the SP, a large section of Dalits would largely like to stick to Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP).

It is mainly in the light of this Yadav vote base that arch rivals Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have come together. Mayawati even made a statement to the extent that while Modi was a “fake OBC”, Mulayam Singh is the “real leader of the OBCs”. Mayawati has also emphasised that the “country is in danger” and hence they have come together even in the background of a historic rivalry. Mayawati has also shown a commitment to breaching the decades old rivalry and Mulayalam too, by mentioning Mayawati seven times in a speech and welcoming her to the Yadav heartland Mainpuri. With the symbolic gesture of Mayawati seated between the father-son duo in the Mainpuri rally, the messaging was clear, to ensure no division of votes and to emphasise the strength of the alliance.

Shivpal the Spoiler
However, Mulayam Singh’s younger brother Shivpal Yadav is contesting the election independently on his Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP) ticket. He has fielded his nephew and SP candidate from Firozabad, Akshay Yadav. Shivpal Yadav has made no secret about his plans to “dent the SP-BSP alliance” even at the cost of BJP benefitting from the splitting of votes. Shivpal's "closeness" to the BJP is no secret in political and public circles.

Not that the ruling BJP isn’t aware of these dynamics. The UP Chief Minister Adityanath, riding "high" on his rabid brand of hate speech,  has largely adopted polarisation and hate speech as his campaign weapons. After a 72 hour ban imposed on him, he rekindled his fascination for extreme speech. He said recently in a Badaun rally, “The previous governments prohibited KanwarYatras while we lifted the ban on them. Similarly, while previous governments gave funds to ‘kabrastans’ and ignored 'samshanghat', we have ended that discrimination.” He also referred to the SP candidate from Sambhal as 'Babur ki Aulad'. In the 2017 state election, it was Narendra Modi, the prime minister who had "pioneered" the use of the phrases 'samshanghat' or 'kabrastan'.

The election in Moradabad is of special consequence to both the Gathbandhan (SP) and Congress as both have fielded a Muslim candidate. While SP has given the ticket to a popular doctor, Congress has given it to a popular Urdu poet Imran Pratapgarhi.

In Pilibhit, union minister Maneka Gandhi was replaced with son Varun Gandhi. Maneka Gandhi's campaign has been laced with aggressive and controversial statements ( bordering on hate speech). She has been even pulled up by the Election Commission when she stated that she will categorise villages depending on how they vote for BJP, merely a few days after she made a statement saying she won’t do anything for Muslims who don’t vote for BJP.

Phase three campaign also saw the banning of various political figures from the region banned for several hours. The Election Commission barred SP leader Azam Khan for 72 hours for making an indecent remark on BJP’s Jaya Prada, Yogi Adityanath (72 hours), BSP supremo Mayawati (48 hours), and BJP’s Maneka Gandhi (48 hours), for making “provocative” speeches.

Key contest/s:
Mainpuri – SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav versus Prem Singh Shakya of BJP
Rampur – Jaya Prada of BJP versus Azam Khan of SP
Pilibhit – BJP’s Varun Gandhi versus SP’s Hemraj Verma
Firozabad – Samajwadi Party Lohia (SBSP)’s Shivpal Singh Yadav versus ChandrasenJadun of BJP versus SP’s Akshay Yadav

Key constituencies and demography
Moradabad Lok Sabha Constituencyhas a total number of 17,72,046electors.
Chandra Vijay Singh of Akhil Bharatiya Loktantrik Congress won the seat in 1999. In the 2004 elections, Shafiqur Rahman Barq of the Samajwadi Party won the seat. In 2009, former India cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin won the seat on a Congress ticket. In 2014, KunwarSarvesh Kumar of the BJP won the seat defeating his nearest Samajwadi Party rival.

Moradabad Lok Sabha is a Muslim dominated Lok Sabha constituency, with Kanth, Moradabad Nagar, Moradabad Rural having plurality of Muslim voters. According to one report, Moradabad has over 40 percent voters who belong to the Muslim community.

Rampur Lok Sabha Constituency has 16,16,984 electors.
In the 1999 elections, Begum Noor Bano of the Congress party won the seat. Yesteryear actress Jaya Prada won the seat in the 2004 and 2009 elections as a Samajwadi Party candidate. In 2014, the seat was won by Nepal Singh of BJP.Rampur is notably a Muslim-majority constituency. This can be gauged by the fact that all elections except four have seen Muslim candidates returning to the Lok Sabha. According to the 2011 Census, Muslims constitute a little over 50 percent of the population of the Rampur district, in which the seat falls.

Sambhal Lok Sabha Constituency has 16,93,245 electors.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party patriarch won the seat in the 1999 elections. In 2004, Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party won the seat. In the 2009 elections, Shafiqur Rahman Barq won as a candidate of the BSP. However, he lost to Satyapal Singh Saini of the BJP in the 2014 elections.The constituency is dominated by Muslims and Dalits. Muslims constitute 44 percent of the electorate, while the Dalits constitute 16 percent of the electorate. According to a report, the consolidation of the 60 percent of the voters is key for the victory of any candidate.

Firozabad Lok Sabha Constituency has 16,36,738 (2014 estimates) electors
Ram Ji Lal Suman of the Samajwadi Party represented the Firozabad Lok Sabha seat between 999 and 2004. In 2009 elections, Akhilesh Yadav won the seat but decided to retain his other seat: Kannauj. In the ensuing bypoll, yesteryear actor and Congress leader Raj Babbar won the seat. In the 2014 elections, Akshay Yadav, a scion of Yadav family, won the seat.Considered a pet constituency of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Firozabad is part of the Yadav belt in Uttar Pradesh. As per a report, Firzobad has over 16 lakh voters. The population of Yadav and Muslim voters are estimated at 3 lakh and 1.8 lakh respectively.

Mainpuri Lok Sabha Constituency has around16,53,065 electors.
This is a Yadav stronghold if not only of the Samajwadi Party. The constituency has sent 13 Yadavs to the Parliament since 1952. Mulayam Singh Yadav, the founder of Samajwadi Party, has won this seat in 2004, 2009 and 2014. In 1999, Balram Singh Yadav won the seat on a Samajwadi Party ticket. In the 2014 bypoll, Tej Pratap Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party won the seat. The Yadavs are the most dominant caste in this constituency. According to reports, 35 percent of the voters are Yadavs. The second most dominant caste in the constituency is that of the Rajputs, who constitute 20 percent of the electorate. The other dominant castes are the Shakya, Brahmins, SCs and Muslims.

Badaun Lok Sabha Constituency has around17,69,145 (2014 estimates) electors
This seat has been a Samajwadi Party stronghold since 1996. In the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Saleen Iqbal Sherwani won the seat while Dharmendra Yadav won the seat in the 2009 and 2014 elections. The Muslims and Yadavs are the predominant communities in the constituency with each having 15 percent of the votes share in the electorate.

Aonla Lok Sabha Constituency has a total electors: 16,53,577 (2014 estimates)
 In the 1999 and 2004 elections, KunwarSavraj Singh won the seat, first as a Samajwadi Party candidate and then as a JD(U) candidate. Union Minister Maneka Gandhi won the seat in 2009 elections while Dharmendra Kashyap of the BJP won the seat in the 2014 elections.
The seat has been won by Thakur candidates eight times. This highlights the dominance of the community in the electoral landscape of the constituency. Muslim, Dalit, Brahmin, Kashyap and Kurmi communities are also found in large numbers in this constituency.

Pilibhit Lok Sabha Constituency has total electors: 16,71,151 (2014 estimate)
Pilibhit is a stronghold of Maneka Gandhi, who has been winning this seat continuously between 1989 and 2014, except for losing once in 1991 elections. In 2009, she vacated the seat for his son Varun Gandhi, who went on to represent the constituency till 2014.
The Muslim (3.5 lakh) and the Dalit community account for about a third of the Pilibhit’s electorate (16 lakh). The Kurmi (3.5 lakh) and the Lodh-Rajput (2 lakh) have traditionally backed the BJP.