Campaigning for the last phase of polling in 59 constituencies ended on Sunday. The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements in the caste-ridden eastern UP which would be facing the polls on May 8.
The last phase is going to be extremely crucial for the main power contenders - SP, BSP, BJP and Congress - in the state. The region, known for communal flare-ups, which gave birth to "Mafiosi-turned-politicians" also provided heady cocktail of "religion and Mafiosi" for UP politics.
"With Election Commission tightening noose around booth capturers and other criminals, these Mafiosi are in tight spot," remarked Gorakhpur-based businessman Rajesh Singh on Sunday. "They have been forced to move door-to-door for vote," Singh observed.
Prominent Mafiosi-turned politicians in the fray are murder accused SP candidate Amar Mani Tripathi, Independent Mukhtar Ansari, minister Harishankar Tiwari, Markandey Chand and others. Singh said "both BJP MP Yogi Adityanath and Mafiosi are facing rough weather".
"Caste arithmetic continues to occupy the centre-stage. There is no other issue except caste-combination," says president teachers association of Gorakhpur Chitranjan Mishra. He said "for the first time the electorates are highly divided on caste line. Even large number of deaths due to encephalitis in the region is not a political issue." Mishra lamented. "Encephalitis did not suit any party," quipped Rajesh Singh.
"Caste phenomenon even has pushed SP’s developmental plank under the carpet," pointed out former BSP MLA from Dhuriapar Dr Mohsin Khan. Thus polling "is going to be tightrope walk for all the parties," said Khan.
Amid rising "Yogi mania" while the BJP has been desperately trying to revive its Hindutva card, the region is reverberating with slogan “Poorvanchal mein rahna hai to yogi yogi kahna hai (to live with Poorvanchal one has to chant Yogi..Yogi).
"Yogi factor is at play in Gorakhpur and Maharajganj," Chitranjan Mishra said and also pointed out "there is a strong resentment brewing against the Yogi."
However Rajesh Singh pointed out "this factor is unlikely play dominant role in electoral victory". Muslim population in nine districts is between three and five lakhs. "The community is divided between the SP and the BSP," said Khan. The BJP’s Hindutva card has been virtually put to test in this phase. But "dissension within the BJP has taken away its sheen," Mishra said.
The district going to polls are Ambedkar Nagar, Faizabad, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria, Mau, Azamgarh and Balia. In the last election of the total 59 seats the SP had won 21, BSP 17, BJP 10, Congress four and LCP, Hindu Mahasabha, SJP, NLP one each and three independents.