Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is relying on social engineering and the influence of gangsters-turned-politicians in a bid to upstage the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Gorakhpur-Azamgarh region of east UP that goes to poll in the sixth phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election on March 4.
Analysts see this as a make or break election for the BSP that lost power in the 2012 assembly election and drew a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Already, Mayawati has mobilised her resources to take on the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the assembly constituencies of Azamagarh, the Lok Sabha seat of SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav. She is also challenging the BJP in Gorakhpur, considered the stronghold of BJP MP Yogi Adityanath.
Mayawati worked on the Dalit-Muslim formula in five phases of the election held in west UP, Rohilkhand, Terai region, central UP and Bundelkhand. In the sixth phase, she has redrawn her strategy, giving a large number tickets to upper castes and other backward caste candidates.
The BSP has fielded only seven Muslims in 49 assembly constituencies in the Gorakhpur-Azamagarh region.
The influence of gangster-turned-politicians Mukhtar Ansari and Hari Shankar Tiwari will be on test during the March 4 poll. The BSP has fielded Mukhtar, his son Abbas and brother Sigbatullah in Mau district. Hari Shankar Tiwari’s son Vinay Shankar Tiwari and the senior Tiwari’s nephew Ganesh Shankar Pandey are in the fray in Gorakhpur and Maharajganj districts.
With Mukhtar’s clout, the BSP hopes to make a dent in the SP Muslim vote bank in Mau, Ballia and Azamagrah districts. Hari Shankar Tiwari’s influence is being used to win over the Brahmin voters.
The BSP is also depending on two former SP ministers Ambika Chaudhary and Narad Rai who are contesting from Phephana and Ballia respectively.
Absence of SP top guns Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav from the election campaign has come as a boon for BSP.
A senior BSP leader said Shivpal Yadav, known for muscle power, showed his capability in the 2014 Lok Sabha election when he campaigned hard to check the Modi wave and won the seat for his elder brother.
At her public meetings, Mayawati has called upon voters not to waste their votes on the SP that was rocked by a bitter family feud last year.
Mayawati, who has addressed rallies in Gorakhpur, Azamagarh, Deoria, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Ballia, Mau and Ghazipur districts, has played the separate Purvanchal state card too.
“The BSP government (in 2011) passed a proposal for formation of a separate Purvanchal state, comprising the districts of east UP, and sent to the central government for approval,” she said.
A senior BSP leader said, “Mayawati has fielded Muslim candidates on those seats where they have a sizable population and can influence the outcome of the poll (in west UP). The upper castes, Brahmins and Thakurs, are influential in a large number of constituencies in Gorakhpur, Balllia, Deoria, Kushinagar and Azamgarh districts,” he said.
In 2012, the BSP won nine of the 49 seats in the Gorakhpur-Azamgarh region, the SP bagged 27, the BJP seven, the Congress four and the NCP and the QED one seat each. In 2007, the BSP won 22 seats in the region and formed the state’s first majority government in 18 years.
This time, Mayawati has denied the party ticket 33 candidates who contested the previous assembly election.
Senior BSP leaders SC Mishra and Naseemuddin Siddiqui have campaigned extensively in the area to win over upper castes and Muslims.