The stage is set for a battle royale in UP’s Kaiserganj constituency with the BJP almost certain to field recent entrant Arif Mohammad Khan against Samajwadi Party’s Kurmi strongman Beni Prasad Varma.
Arif was reportedly given a choice between Kanpur and Kaiserganj, and he is believed to have opted for the latter. The logic: the demographic profile of Kaiserganj is similar to the nearby Bahraich, from where he has won thrice between 1984-1998.
Besides a 23-24 per centMuslim electorate, Kaiserganj, which has been Varma’s stronghold since 1996, has Kurmis (11 per cent), Brahmins (11-12 per cent) and Rajputs (10 per cent).
Another factor that might have influenced Arif is that the pro-Mayawati Jatavs are only a third of the Dalit electorate in Kaiserganj. The non-Jatav Dalits — Koeris and Passis — aren’t as committed to the BSP, the party which Arif represented in the 12th Lok Sabha in 1998.
Rumour has it that Varma, the Communications Minister in the United Front Government, tried to dissuade Arif from entering the fray in Kaiserganj. Clearly, his efforts haven’t paid dividends.
Arif’s candidature, despite his initial claims of not joining the BJP in search of a seat, is another example of the saffron party’s efforts to augment its numbers in the 14th House by cherry-picking leaders from across the political spectrum — be it Congress rebels like V.C. Shukla (Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh) and Laxman Singh (Rajgarh in Madhya Pradesh) or ministerial discards like Maneka Gandhi (Pilibhit, Uttaranchal).