Ahead of 2022 assembly polls, parties begin electoral activity from eastern UP
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has held over 40 meetings in Varanasi and other eastern Uttar Pradesh districts in the last 50 days even as the party has asked its workers to apprise the people about the Centre and state government’s welfare schemes. Samajwadi Party (SP), which is hoping to return to power in Uttar Pradesh, has organised around 20 meetings in Varanasi and adjoining areas alone as political parties have kicked off their electoral activities from the state’s eastern region ahead of the assembly elections early next year.
The BJP won 34 seats, Apna Dal (S) four, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) three, SP 12 seats, and Bahujan Samaj Party seven of the 61 assembly seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh in 2017. With 312 seats in the 403-member House, the BJP swept to power in the state over four years back. The Congress managed to win just seven seats, BSP 19, SP 47 in the 2017 polls.
SP leader Ashutosh Sinha said he has held meetings with party workers in Varanasi, Jaunpur, Sonbhadra, Ghazipur, and Chandauli to mobilise them for the 2022 election. He added he has also met Zilla Parishad heads in these districts. “Several meetings have also been held in Ballia, Azamgarh, Bhadohi, and Mirzapur.”
Leaders of BJP, Apna Dal, SBSP, and others smaller parties too said they have been holding meetings in the region, where Other Backward Class (OBC) and Scheduled Caste (SC) voters play a decisive role in over 50 of the seats across 10 districts. Political experts say OBCs and Dalits account for around 60% of the population in the region and every political party is trying to win their support.
Satish Kumar, a political analyst, said political parties are trying to expand their base and focussing on OBCs and SCs. He added the social coalition that the BJP was able to form before the 2017 assembly election has not remained intact. Kumar said the SP, which enjoys strong support in the region, will certainly take advantage of this. He added anti-incumbency and differences between parties such as SBSP and the BJP will also benefit SP.
Banaras Hindu University faculty of social sciences dean Kaushal Kishore Mishra said eastern Uttar Pradesh has always been politically crucial, but its significance has increased since Varanasi has been Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency since 2014. He added smaller parties are focussing on eastern Uttar Pradesh to increase their bargaining power even though the elections are over seven months away. Mishra said some of these smaller parties have influence in five to 10 seats due to the support from their castes. “Others have influence in 10 to 20 seats. Though these political parties cannot win elections on their own, they could spoil the chances of candidates of major political parties.”