In an altered matrix, the UP battle of the ballot has moved to ‘the Yadav-belt’ in the third phase. A total of 59 assembly constituencies in 16 districts, spreading from Bundelkhand to the Yadav belt, will vote on February 20 in this round.
The presence of former chief minister and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who is contesting from Karhal in Mainpuri district, can act as a force multiplier in the third phase. Interestingly, in 2017, the BJP not only swept all the 19 seats of Bundelkhand region but also managed to make a big dent in the Yadav stronghold.
Of the 59 seats, the BJP secured 49 in 2017, the Samajwadi Party 9, while the Congress got just one seat (Kanpur Cantt). Experts believe the tally won’t shrink much in Bundelkhand region in 2022, too. The real test of Akhilesh, however, will be in the Yadav belt. It would be a litmus test for the BJP, too, whether it can hold on to most of what it had secured.
Constituencies of both Akhilesh Yadav (Karhal) and his uncle Shivpal Yadav (Jaswantnagar) will go to the polls in this phase.
Even when Samajwadi Party’s tally diminished to 47 in 2017, Karhal was one of the few seats which the Samajwadi Party won with a big margin (of 38405 votes). The Congress and the BJP each could taste victory on this seat just once. The seat has remained with the Samajwadi Party for three consecutive terms. It has a sizeable chunk of Yadav voters -- roughly 1.25 lakhs. The BJP has fielded Union minister SP Singh Baghel to woo the 30,000 Baghel voters on the seat, apart from the Shakyas and Kshatriyas who are considerable in numbers; the BJP considers them as it core voters.
It would be interesting to see how this constituency, which will vote for a chief ministerial nominee for the first time, chooses to vote.
The party would not be banking only on 35% Yadav voters and roughly 8% Muslim voters, but would also be hoping to woo other voters by fielding its Chief Ministerial candidate.
Jaswant Nagar, another Samajwadi Party stronghold seat, which elected Mulayam Singh Yadav from 1985 to 1993 for four consecutive terms (a total of 7 terms from this seat) and his younger brother Shivpal Yadav from 1996 to 2017 for 5 consecutive terms, would again see its five-term MLA Shivpal Yadav contesting on the symbol of his native Samajwadi Party.
The BJP has fielded Vivek Shakya to challenge Shivpal Yadav in his pocket borough. Vivek’s father Manoj Shakya is a well known social worker in Jaswantnagar. Experts, however, believe that it would be a huge challenge for him to unseat Shivpal Yadav.
Both the seats fall in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency, a segment held by Samajwadi party since 1996. The five assembly segments here are - Mainpuri, Bhongaon, Kishni, Karhal and Jaswantnagar. Samajwadi Party won 4 out of these 5 seats in 2017 while the BJP managed to win just Bhongaon segment. Now, with the presence of both Akhilesh as well as Shivpal on two different seats of the district, the SP would be looking to not just sweep Mainpuri, but the adjacent districts -- Kannauj, Etawah, Firozabad -- too.
Also, this would be the first chief ministerial candidate’s seat to go to polls thus far.