MP Ramakant Yadav, whose wife, son and nephew are contesting polls this time, has made the BJP a force to reckon with in Azamgarh.
The party was weak in the district until the one-time close associate of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav joined the BJP and won the Lok
Sabha seat in the 2009 elections.
Since then he has kept the BJP's flag flying in an area that's known for hot political spats over terrorism, use of bahubalis (muscle men) and cut-throat tactics among rivals.
This time, for the UP assembly polls, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari has turned to Ramakant Yadav, who is seen as a key Yadav chieftain, to deliver the maximum number of seats in eastern UP, which is also known as Poorvanchal.
Hitherto, the BJP has never seen the Yadavs as their main supporters like the Brahmins or Rajputs. Known as a tough leader, Ramakant Yadav, who was in the BSP also, is helping to change that impression, say BJP leaders.
Gadkari has let Ramakant Yadav have his way in getting the ticket for his family members first - his wife Ranjana Yadav, a college principal, is contesting from Nizamabad, son Arun Yadav from Jalalpur, and his nephew Birendra Yadav from Phulpur.
Yogendra Yadav, who has been given the ticket for Gopalpur, is another relative of Ramakant Yadav. BJP officials said the candidate from Didarganj - Shyam Sunder Chauhan, a Bhojpuri singer - is a close aide of Ramakant Yadav.
The BJP MP could have managed more but for opposition from senior BJP leader Kalraj Mishra, who too hails from the same area and resents his influence.
A confident Yadav, however, told HT, "We are going to get good results. Our campaign is beginning to break new ground as the Congress's promise of 9% quota for Muslims is snowballing and has angered the OBCs in a serious way. Apart from other issues like lack of governance and price rise, reservation on religious lines is going to boomerang on the Congress."
Ramakant Yadav's aides Rakesh Rai and Ram Surat Yadav said their leader had earned the nickname "second yogi", the first being fiery BJP Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath.
At stake are 10 seats in Azamgarh, four in Mau, and seven each in Ghazipur,
Ballia and Jaunpur. As for the demographic profile, the Yadavs and Rajputs are said to matter in rural areas while the Muslims hold the key in urban centres.
The Azamgarh region is also a bone of contention for Mayawati's close aides - UP assembly speaker Sukhdev Rajbar and Dr Baliram - and SP leader Balram Yadav.
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