Phones are constantly ringing at his Vikramaditya Marg residence these days. Netaji himself is managing the Uttar Pradesh bypolls this time. For, more than stopping the victory lap of the BJP, it’s his personal prestige that’s at stake.
Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav is personally monitoring reports from the ground. He has to win Mainpuri — which he opted out of, retaining Azamgarh after the last Lok Sabha elections — this time too, if not with a margin of four lakh.
Contesting this time from Mainpuri is Mulayam’s grandnephew, Tej Pratap Singh Yadav, foreign educated son of Ranvir Singh Yadav, the patriarch’s late nephew. Also, Mulayam has put his brother, Shivpal, in charge of the constituency.
The Mainpuri stake is emotionally high since Ranvir was Mulayam’s favourite. He has been holding the annual Saifai Mahotsav since 1997 in Ranvir’s memory at the Yadavs’ native place despite much opposition.
The BJP, on the other hand, also has a very high stake. It wants to have its first win in Mainpuri and retain the 11 assembly seats that it had won in 2012 elections despite the Akhilesh wave.
The seats fell vacant after the MLAs decided to contest in the last Lok Sabha elections.
Another important constituency for the BJP is Lucknow East. It has a complex wiring — it forms part of home minister Rajnath Singh’s LS constituency; it was vacated by now-MP Kalraj Mishra, and it’s being claimed by Gopal Tandon, son of Lalji Tandon — who reluctantly vacated his LS seat for Rajnath.
The second most important seat for the BJP is Rohania, part of Narendra Modi’s Varanasi constituency. It was held by Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel before she was elected to Parliament.
In its bid to ensure a smooth sail for Modi, the BJP had allied with the Kurmi-dominated Apna Dal. Any reverse here would be a comment on the PM’s personal popularity.
In Bundelkhand, Union minister Uma Bharti has her pride linked to two seats — Charkhari, which she had vacated, and Hamirpur. In western UP, agriculture minister Sanjeev Baliyan will strive to win all the four seats.
Now, both the parties want to face the 2017 assembly elections riding on victories in the bypolls. And for that, they’ll deploy any amount of men and money.