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It's advantage Akhilesh in fight against Bhojpuri star in Azamgarh

Press Trust of India  |  Azamgarh (UP) 

In this eastern UP Lok Sabha constituency that conjures up contrasting images of Batla House protests and Kaifi Azmi's poetry, Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav appears to be sitting pretty.

Bhojpuri star Dinesh Lal Yadav, also known as Nirahua, is drawing huge crowds at his roadshows and meetings after he entered the contest as the BJP candidate.

But in the SP bastion, once held by party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son Akhilesh Yadav has a clear advantage.

"I had been getting requests from leaders to contest from here. As I had to contest from somewhere and the party decided to field me from this seat, I agreed, Yadav tells PTI.

Some local people say that after filing his nomination, the SP president did not reach out to them, unlike the BJP candidate.

However, the former Uttar Pradesh CM says, "I am expected at all 80 seats in the state. I am campaigning regularly and trying to cover all seats. As far as Azamgarh is concerned, the party cadre is there and is connecting with the people, who know the reality of the BJP.

"When 'Netaji' (Mulayam Singh Yadav) was MP, I, as chief minister, ensured the overall development of the city, he said. Purvanchal Expressway, which the BJP is talking about now, is my brainchild and I would have made it operational had I got a chance in 2017. I have given an ITI, a medical college and power sub-stations to this constituency.

In 2016, Akhilesh Yadav had conferred the state's prestigious Yash Bharti award on Nirahua.

"I honoured him during my regime. Now, he is contesting for those who withdrew the monthly amount given with this award. I have no problem with anyone contesting against me, he says.

Nirahua too says he is getting a good response from the people in the constituency.

"I had been in the film industry for 12 years and won numerous awards. Akhilesh ji gave me Yash Bharti, but it doesn't mean that I should support him, he says.

The SP uses Yadavs only as a vote bank and does nothing for them. It's time for change, he says.

Some political pundits believe the BJP's decision to field him against Akhilesh Yadav was a masterstroke as the Bhojpuri singer enjoys support among the youth and the middle-income group in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

But others believe that it will be difficult for him to stand before the SP chief in the battle of the ballot.

Mohammad Mushtaq, a local tea vendor blames Nirahua's Bharatiya Janata Party for the terror tag attached to Azamgarh.

"There are no big issues here. People here are backing the alliance candidate Akhilesh Yadav as the BJP has spared no effort to label the city, once known for poets and educationists, as a hub of terrorism, he says.

Poet Kaifi Azmi is from Azamgarh but so were the two alleged terrorist killed in the Batla House encounter in Delhi's Jamia Nagar over a decade ago. A police officer too died.

"Election is all about the caste arithmetic and it is in favour of Akhilesh. When a stalwart like Ramakant Yadav could not win during the Modi wave, I don't see any possibility of Nirahua giving a tough fight to Akhilesh, says Mubarkpur's Masood Akhtar.

Also, with the BSP by the SP's side, the results here are obvious, he adds.

A BJP supporter disagrees.

"The SP is overconfident. I don't think all Dalit votes will get transferred to Akhilesh. There is a Modi wave in the country and irrespective of the candidate, the BJP will give a good fight here, says Suresh Gupta, a vendor,

The SP president's decision to contest from his father's bastion is also being touted as a move to consolidate the Yadav, Dalit and Muslim voters in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh.

The constituency has a substantial population of Yadavs, Jatavs and Muslims -- the three communities which form the crux of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in the politically crucial state.

Since 1996, only Muslims and Yadavs have won the Azamgarh Lok Sabha seat.

Ramakant Yadav won the seat as an SP candidate in 1996 and 1999. He won again as a BSP candidate in 2004 and on a BJP ticket in 2009.

Akbar Ahmed Dumpy won it as a BSP candidate in 1998 and in a 2008 by-election.

In the 2014 general election, despite the "Modi wave", Mulayam Singh Yadav succeeded in winning the seat and defeated BJP's Ramakant Yadav by 63,000 votes.

The senior Yadav scored 35.43 per cent votes, Ramakant Yadav got 28.85 per cent and BSP candidate Shah Alam got 27.75 per cent.

Thus, the combined vote share of the SP and the BSP in Azamgarh in the last election was over 63 per cent, a factor that weighs in favour of Akhilesh Yadav, now the opposition alliance candidate.

Azamgarh, which will go to polls on May 12 in the sixth phase, has over 17 lakh voters. Estimates say that about four lakh of them are Yadavs, three lakh Muslims and around 2.75 lakh Dalits.

The Lok Sabha constituency has five Assembly segments -- Gopalpur, Sagri, Mubarakpur, Azamgarh and Mehnagar.

Of these, three were bagged by the SP and two by the BSP in the 2017 assembly polls -- another reason for Akhilesh Yadav to feel pleased about picking Azamgarh.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, May 08 2019. 18:15 IST