EC's diktats have demoralised Dalits and the downtrodden: BSP

As the election process in Uttar Pradesh to elect the next government got underway, with the issuance on Thursday of the notification for the first phase of Assembly polls on February 8, the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party will face a determined bid from the Samajwadi Party and a ‘rejuvenated' Congress to upset its applecart and prevent it from repeating its performance of 2007.

At the outset, the BSP seemingly faces an uphill task to wrest the initiative what with the Mayawati government's fortunes taking a beating in the last 12 months. The NRHM (National Rural Health Mission ) scam, rape incidents involving the police and ruling party functionaries, the alleged corruption charges against several Ministers, followed by their dismissal have all added to the BSP's woes.

Two independents filed their papers on the first day of nominations.

The first phase is not going to be a litmus test for Ms. Mayawati alone. The reputation of Union Steel Minister and Gonda MP Beni Prasad Verma and chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Barabanki MP P.L. Punia is also at stake. Through them, the Congress is trying to win over the Kurmi and Dalit voters.

Polling in the first phase will be held in 55 constituencies in 10 districts — Sitapur, Barabanki, Faizabad, Ambedkarnagar, Bahraich, Shrawasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Siddhartnagar and Basti.

In 2007, the BSP won 30 of these 55 seats, with the SP coming a distant second with 18 seats. The BJP and the Congress won four and three seats respectively. That year the BSP was not in power and Ms. Mayawati used the ‘goonda raj' and the law and order problems in the Mulayam Singh regime as well as the anti-SP votes to her advantage to storm to power with a clear majority.

Now, the political scenario has changed. It is now the turn of Mr. Mulayam Singh and the Congress — with its energy boosted by Rahul Gandhi's forays into Sitapur, Bahraich, Shrawasti, Balrampur and Gonda districts — to take the fight to the BSP camp. The BJP is yet to set its house in order as the candidates for seven of 55 seats have not been declared yet.

In fact, the BSP has tried to encash the Election Commission's directives on draping the statues of Ms. Mayawati and party symbol elephant by playing the Dalit card. While the BSP supremo had kept mum, party general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra fired a missive to Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi on Thursday, protesting against the “one-sided order.” Describing Ms. Mayawati as Dalit ki beti (daughter of a Dalit), Mr. Mishra wrote that the EC's diktats had demoralised the Dalits and downtrodden sections.

Three BSP Ministers — Lalji Verma, Sangram Singh and Ram Prasad Chaudhary — and 15 former Ministers were given ticket in the first phase.

The Steel Minister's influence extends to around seven constituencies in Barabanki, Bahraich and Gonda districts. Mr. Verma's son, Rakesh Verma, has been fielded by the Congress from Daryabad. He lost in 2007 to Rajiv Kumar Singh of the SP. Abhishek Pal, son of Congress MP from Domariaganj Jagdambika Pal, has been given the ticket from Basti Sadar.

SP fields Abhay Singh

In Faizabad district, the SP has fielded alleged mafia don Abhay Singh from Milkipur, and in Bikapur, it has fielded Mitrasen Yadav. The former BSP Minister, Daddan Mishra, who quit the party after being denied ticket, will try his luck on the BJP ticket from Bhinga.