692 candidates in the fray across 12 districts in crucial fifth phase of U.P. polls

The BJP’s Hindutva experiment will be tested as Ayodhya, Prayagraj and Chitrakoot vote on Sunday

Updated - September 27, 2023 11:15 am IST

Published - February 26, 2022 10:09 pm IST - Ghaziabad

Paramilitary force personnel conducting a flag march at Trivediganj Chauraha, Barabanki, on the eve of the fifth phase on Saturday.

Paramilitary force personnel conducting a flag march at Trivediganj Chauraha, Barabanki, on the eve of the fifth phase on Saturday. | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

Sixty-one constituencies spread over 12 districts of Awadh and Purvanchal will vote for the crucial fifth phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections on Sunday. With 692 candidates in fray, the phase will test the temperature of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Hindutva wave as its three laboratories — Ayodhya, Prayagraj, and Chitrakoot — will vote in this phase.

Simultaneously, the phase will decide the impact of the alliances that the Samajwadi Party (SP) stitched up ahead of the elections by bringing together a string of local satraps who are said to command influence in pockets across the region.

The round will also see the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic’s management as Baharaich, Barabanki and Gonda are some of the districts that saw migrants return during the first and second waves.

In 2017, the BJP overwhelmed the Opposition in Ayodhya and Chitrakoot, and the party won eight out of 12 seats in the then Allahabad (now Prayagraj). In this phase, the BJP is flaunting its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) face as its allies, the Apna Dal (Sonelal) and the Nishad Party, can influence 60-70 seats in the region.

Overall, in 2017, the BJP had won 47 of the 61 constituencies that will vote on Sunday; its ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) had bagged three seats. The SP had won five. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress had taken three seats and one seat, respectively. Two seats were won by independent candidates.

Those independents are six-time MLA Raguvendra Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya from Kunda, and his protégé Vinod Saroj from the neighbouring Babaganj constituency in Pratapgarh district. The SP has fielded Gulshan Yadav against Mr. Singh, who has been a Minister in SP governments in the past, before he had a fallout with the party’s chief Akhilesh Yadav in 2018 and formed the Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) party. According to observers, the two are ahead in the competition this time as well, and their support could be decisive in case U.P. votes for a hung Assembly.

Among the other important candidates who will have their fate decided in this phase is Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad, who is contesting from Sirathu constituency in Kaushambi. He is facing Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) candidate Pallavi Patel, sister of Apna Dal (Sonelal) head Anupriya Patel, who is contesting on the SP symbol. On Friday, Dimple Yadav and Jaya Bachchan addressed a rally in support of Ms. Patel.

Ms. Pallavi and Ms. Anupriya’s mother, Krishna Patel, who heads the Kamerawadi faction of the party, is contesting from Pratapgarh. In 2017, the seat was won by the Sonelal faction, but this time, Ms. Anupriya Patel pulled out her candidate after her mother’s name was announced and left the seat for the BJP.

Other BJP Ministers in the fray are Siddharth Nath Singh from Prayagraj West; Nand Gopal Gupta Nandi from Prayagraj South; Rajendra Singh from Patti in Pratapgarh; and Ramapati Shastri from Manakpur in Gonda.

In Ayodhya, both the BJP and the SP have repeated their candidates. In 2017, the BJP’s Ved Prakash Gupta had defeated the SP’s prominent Brahmin face, Tej Narayan Pandey.

Once Congress bastions, Amethi, Pratapgarh, and one seat of Rae Bareli, will also vote on Sunday. The performance of Aradhana Mishra, daughter of senior Congress leader Pramod Tiwari, who bagged the Rampur Khas seat in 2017, will be keenly watched.

Meanwhile, the focus of convassing has shifted to eastern Uttar Pradesh, with top leaders of the BJP, the SP and the BSP addressing rallies in Gorakhpur. Star campaigners looked a little relaxed as they took on each other in a lighter tone. Referring to a popular song that questioned the BJP’s development narrative, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, addressing a public meeting in Hansupur, enumerated the development projects that came up in the region and said, “If someone asks ‘U.P. main kaba (what is there in U.P.)‘, you should respond, ‘U.P. main Baba aur bulldozer’.” The SP’s supporters usually address the CM as “Baba”.

Meanwhile, responding to the charge of nepotism, SP president Akhilesh Yadav said they were indeed parivarvadi. “We know the pain of the family. Those who don’t have families work for corporate interests. I would advise the CM that when he returns to Gorakhpur, he should take biscuits for Gullu.” Gullu is said to be Mr. Adityanath’s pet dog.

BSP supremo Mayawati said the elephant (her party’s symbol) was giving sleepless nights to the CM. During the BJP’s rule, she said, inflation and unemployment had peaked, and Muslims felt unsafe.

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