The fourth phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh, which covers 53 assembly seats in 12 districts, is being seen as a direct clash between the BJP and the BSP. With alliance partners Samajwadi Party and Congress fighting their own battles within, the BJP is looking at this phase as a platform for making inroads into territories as well as vote banks traditionally associated with the BSP.
For the SP-Congress alliance, it is the toughest test yet in Rae Bareli as well as Bundelkhand. Candidates of the two parties are up against each other in as many as seven of the 53 constituencies, at a time when even a transfer of votes to each other is a challenge in many seats.
WATCH VIDEO | Assembly Elections 2017: How Has UP Voted In The Past Explained
In Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the two allies have put up candidates against each other in two seats. Rae Bareli district has six assembly seats, five of these in Sonia’s Lok Sabha constituency and the sixth part of Amethi Lok Sabha seat. The Congress has fielded candidates in all six.
In Bundelkhand, the SP-Congress face the task of combining their strengths in the absence of a substantial Muslim population.
Here, the historically strong BSP and the resurgent BJP are seen as contesting one-on-one. Both rivals are vying for the votes of non-Yadav OBCs to add to their respective bases. The BSP also faces a challenge from the BJP’s OBC and non-Jatav Dalit outreach in Fatehpur and Kaushambi districts.
In Bundelkhand and Fatehpur, on test is the influence of two BJP Union ministers — Jhansi MP Uma Bharti and Fatehpur MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti.
To consolidate the non-Yadav OBC vote, the BJP is banking on Uma, who has been campaigning to woo mainly the backward Lodh caste that has a substantial population here. For Niranjan Jyoti, the challenge is getting Nishad community vote in over a dozen seats on the banks of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Betwa.
WATCH VIDEO | UP Assembly Elections: Akhilesh Yadav Takes On Demonetisation, Says ‘Where Is the Black Money Recovered’
Also on test is the experiment under which the SP-Congress alliance divided SC-reserved seats. Of the 13 reserved seats among these 53, the Congress is contesting nine and the SP seven, including face-offs between themselves. Under the experiment, the Congress was given more of these seats in the hope that the party would bag much of the upper-caste votes while the candidates would bag the Dalit votes.
In Allahabad, SP is facing the challenge of matching its 2012 performance when it had won eight of 12 seats in the district. The Congress is contesting only four seats. Even among these four seats, however, three have SP candidates too. The exception is Allahabad North, where Congress candidate Anugrah Narayan Singh is the sitting MLA.
The BJP has fielded candidates in 10 seats, leaving two for Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal faction and banking on its Kurmi support base. The BJP’s Allahabad candidates include Harshvardhan Bajpai who was earlier with the BSP and the SP, and Nand Gopal Gupta “Nandi” who was a minister in the BSP government.
Among the prominent candidates are minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh a.k.a. Raja Bhaiya, independent candidate with the SP’s support, from Kunda. Gaya Charan Dinkar, Leader of Opposition in the assembly, is the BSP candidate from Naraini of Banda district.
Siddharth Nath Singh, BJP national secretary, is contesting in Allahabad West against the SP’s Richa Singh, a former student leader of Allahabad University, and sitting BSP MLA Pooja Pal.