The Ghazipur test for Samajwadi Party

The result here will determine if the party repeats its 2012 performance

March 08, 2017 12:44 am | Updated 02:18 am IST - Ghazipur

In the melting pot: SP cadres on a door-to-door campaign  at Wadib Saraiya in Jangipur on Tuesday.

In the melting pot: SP cadres on a door-to-door campaign at Wadib Saraiya in Jangipur on Tuesday.

Wadib Saraiya is a typical village in the Jangipur constituency on the eastern fringes of Uttar Pradesh in Ghazipur district, known for its opium factory, martyrs and proximity to the Ganga. It has terrible roads, unreliable power supply, high levels of unemployment and poverty. The area is also among the top locations in the entire State with dense Yadav populations, making the SP’s traditional Yadav-Muslim combine an alluring prospect.

A dozen workers of the Samajwadi Party have gathered in the village for a door-to-door campaign. They start by visiting some Yadav homes, where they are treated to fresh jaggery and water. “You didn’t need to campaign here. Go to the other castes,” says a Yadav patriarch, pledging his support.

After moving past the relatively prosperous Yadav corners, rich with buffaloes and pucca houses, the workers enter the poverty-stricken busties of Dalits and most backward castes.

Verbal duel

The SP cadre then discover a couple of donkeys tied outside a Prajapati house. With the verbal duel over the animal between Akhilesh Yadav and Narendra Modi fresh in their mind, they cannot resist clicking selfies with the donkeys.

Some of them even post the pictures on social media, mocking Mr. Modi with their captions.

So far so good. They soon come to a Bind house. Binds are a most backward caste associated with riverine life.

The Bind couple do not look too interested and the husband conveys to the workers that he prefers a Mayawati government.

Not wasting much time, the SP workers move on to another house where a Bind woman is busy with her daily chores. A ration bag with Akhilesh’s face marked on its hangs over her head. “Didi, aapka aashirwad Akhilesh Yadav ke saath hi hona chaiye,” an SP worker shouts cheerfully. The woman nods back with a smile.

After the SP workers pass, I ask the woman if she would vote for Akhilesh and if she had benefited under his rule. “I will vote for BJP. Modi speaks for the poor and has provided women with cooking gas,” she says, complaining of the ‘free rein’ given to Yadavs under the SP. What about the Akhilesh Yadav bag hanging over her head? “Oh, that I purchased from the market,” she replies.

Muslim response

The boys then enter the Muslim pocket of the village, indicated by the minaret of the mosque. The Muslims, too, give a positive response. However, when I approach them later individually, they change their tone. “They humiliated Mukhtar, denied ticket to Shadab Fatima [former SP Minister from neighbouring Zahoorabad]. We are with the Ansaris, they have supported us during our tough times, it is our farz to stand by them today. Even if the Ansaris go to the BJP we will support them,” says Ehsan, a worker.

Thumping mandate

In 2012, the SP registered a thumping mandate across Ghazipur, winning six out of its seven seats. It secured the Jangipur seat by over 9,000 votes and in the by-poll last year secured an even larger win. However, due to a number of factors, this time the party is having to sweat it out in almost all seats of Ghazipur. With the district among those going to the polls on Wednesday, it provides us an insight into the larger battle that was fought in Purvanchal.

Be it testing the BJP alliance partners, the Yadav family feud, infighting within the SP, change in caste calculus, the importance of the non-Yadav backward vote, Akhilesh Yadav’s appeal, the BSP’s outreach among Muslims, or the revival of a traditional rivalry of the kin of musclemen, Ghazipur has it all.

In Jangipur, a survey of Kushwaha-Maurya respondents revealed their overwhelming preference for the BJP due to the promotion of Keshav Maurya as the party State president.

Results in its bastions like Ghazipur would to a big extent determine if the SP repeats its 2012 performance.

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