First phase

No of assembly constituencies: 55

General seats: 43

Maholi, Sitapur, Laharpur, Biswan, Sevata, Mehmoodabad, Kursi, Ramnagar, Barabanki, Dariyabad, Rudauli, Tanda, Bikapur, Ayodhya, Gosaiganj, Katehri, Jalalpur, Akbarpur, Nanpara, Matera, Mahasi, Bahraich, Pyagpur, Kaisarganj, Bhingna, Shravasti, Tulsipur, Gaisdi, Utraula, Mehnaun, Gonda, Katra Bazar, Karnalganj, Gaura, Tarabganj, Shohratgarh, Basi, Etwa, Domariyaganj, Harraiya, Kaptanganj, Basti Sadar, Rudhauli.

Reserve seats: 12

Hargaon, Sindhauli, Mishrikh, Jaitpur, Haidargarh, Malkipur, Alapur, Balha, Balrampur, Mankapur, Kapilvastu and Mahadeva.

Tally of parties in 2007 elections

BSP- 30

SP- 18

BJP- 04

Congress- 03

Voters- 1,70,44,561
Polling stations- 17621
Total no of EVMs- 19,383

The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had won 30 seats in the last assembly elections out of the 55 assembly constituencies which are due to go for the first phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh. Naturally the prestige of the ruling party will be at stake during this phase. Main opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) had emerged as the strongest among all stake holders in 2002 elections by winning the maximum number of seats that time. SP is making an all out efforts to retain its position that it had got in 2002. Wining Ayodhya seat which goes for polls in the first phase is a prestige issue for BJP, the party which changed the political course of the national politics by championing the Ram temple issue. Congress party is also under tremendous pressure to rewrite the history of 2009 general elections when it had won six Lok Sabha seats in this region.

On the basis of previous election records, one can say that the area which is due to witness polls in the first phase is the bastion of the ruling BSP. Ambedkarnagar has been the political stronghold of the Chief Minister Mayawati. She represented the area in the Lok Sabha thrice in past. Heavyweight ministers Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar also hail from the district. By registering stunning victory in the last elections by the means of its social-engineering formula, the ruling BSP this time counts on support of other castes besides its traditional Dalit vote bank.

BSP leaders are relentlessly making hype of the initiatives taken by the state government for the development of weavers. It is mainly a part of their social engineering strategy to rewrite the history of their last victory.  Weavers are in decisive position on many of the seats in the region which is mainly dominated by backward castes especially by Kurmis but Muslims, Yadavs and Brahmans are in the sizable numbers. Last time Ramkumar Verma, a strong local Kurmi leader, was in BSP which helped it to get wide support among Kurmis. But this time, things are not that easy as Verma has returned back to BJP fold.

In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, current Union Minister of Steel, Beni Prasad Verma helped Congress to emerge as a strong stake holder in this region and this time again, the grand old party counts on him for even bigger victory. During ticket distribution for the seats in this region, Verma had a major say and now Congress high command’s expectations are pining on him to get the party candidates elected from here. Moreover, Verma has to counter the heartburn of other local Congress leaders who are feeling marginalized due to the former’s rising influence in the party.

Amid raging rumour of conflict between him and Steel Minister Verma, Congress MP from Barabanki, PL Punia, has also got a big responsibility to get the party candidates elected from the assembly constituencies falling under his Parliamentary constituency to prove such rumours baseless. The SP has to deal with the adverse impact on its poll prospects after Verma’s ouster from the party and will have to retain its ground which it had in 2002. The SP pins its hope on former ministers Dr. Waqar Ahmad Shah and Ahmed Hasan, the leader of opposition in the Upper House of the state legislature for Muslim votes. Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav joined a public meeting with another strong Muslim leader of the party Azam Khan to shine his party’s fortune. Mulayam knows it very well that no other Kurmi leader in his party can fill the vacuum created after ouster of Verma especially in mobilizing Kurmi votes in SP’s favour. Given this, Mulayam has himself taken up the responsibility to woo Kurmi votes.

The BJP is under great pressure to win Ayodhya and its adjacent seats to maintain the relevance of its Hindutva poll plank. The significance of wining these seats for BJP gets reflected when statewide chariot march of two senior party leaders Rajnath Singh and Kalraj Mishra ends in Ayodhya. Party leaders like Vinay Katiyar and Ramkumar Verma have got the responsibility to muster the votes of their community, Kurmi, for ensuring victory of the party candidates.
Burning issues

Besides caste quotient, there are some local issues which will be predominant in the first phase of polls. Flood caused by Sharda, Saryu and Ghaghara rivers, triggers havoc among people of this area every year. The water released by rivers in Nepal causes devastating flood every year in this region and the problem remains the same for the last many decades. Accusing the parties in power in state and the centre is a part of poll campaign of their opponents for persisting problem of flood in this area. Moreover, Ram Janmabhoomi has been a major issue in Ayodhya and its adjoining constituencies. Industrial backwardness and unemployment have been other prominent poll issues used by parties to counter their opponents.

LITMUS TEST FOR CONGRESS-RLD ALLIANCE

Bikapur seat which goes for polls in the first phase will prove the relevance of Congress-RLD alliance. The co-ordination between the workers of the two parties will decide the fate of RLD candidate and former minister Munna Singh Chauhan. Chauhan’s victory will be a booster dose for the RLD as it will open the account of the party in Awadh region.
Testing time for Beni Verma and PL Punia

The first phase of poll will also decide the relevance of two local Congress stalwarts- Beni Prasad Verma and PL Punia, Chairman, National Commission for Scheduled Castes. Both the leaders are being presented as a backward face and a Dalit face of the party respectively. Both the leaders played a significant role in ticket distribution for the candidates. Former minister Rakesh Kumar Verma, the son of Beni Prasad Verma is contesting from Dariyabad seat. The success of mission 2012 of Congress largely depends on the party’s performance on these seats. Though just three Congress candidates won from this area in 2007 assembly elections but in 2009 Lok Sabha elections the party’s performance stunned many political pundits.

Challenge to woo voters over Ram Janmabhoomi issue


Though onset of elections from Ayodhya region in the first phase is being termed as an auspicious sign by BJP leader but at the same time they have even bigger challenge to woo voters over Ram Janmabhoomi issue. The discontent among local party workers at the time of ticket distribution is still alive. Lallu Singh kept his party’s prestige intact by winning Ayodhya seat and he is again in fray on BJP ticket, but state BJYM chief Harish Dwivedi will have to prove his worth who is contesting from Basti seat. After parting his ways from ruling BSP, former minister Dadan Mishra is contesting from Bhinga seat on BJP ticket. BJP head of Awadh region, Subhash Tripathi, is contesting from Pyagpur seat where he has got the responsibility to save the face of his party.

JNN