All Attention on Mainpuri
Today Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav is all over Mainpuri, a city in the north east of Agra, about 300 km from New Delhi. He is on his feet and visiting as many homes of voters as possible in the hope of winning the by-election to be held on December 5.
The Lok Sabha constituency was vacated by SP strongman Mulayam Singh Yadav who passed away recently. Mainpuri has always been a SP bastion. Mulayam Singh was first elected to the Lok Sabha from here in1996 and went on to win the same seat three more times.
This area of Braj in western Uttar Pradesh (UP) is believed to be the home of Lord Krishna whose childhood was spent in the agriculturally rich landscape in the midst of cows and other cattle. The Yadav community traces its ancestry to the dynasty of Yadu rulers who were based here in ancient times. However the Yadavs fall into the category of backward castes today and the community continues to struggle for economic, political and social recognition in modern India.
Present day Yadav political leaders have enjoyed power with the traditional support given to them by the Yadav and Muslim voters. In its three decade old history, the socialist politics of the Yadavs failed to attract Dalit voters into its fold.
This is perhaps due to the practice of ancient prejudices. Besides, the Dalits had leaders of their own like Kanshi Ram, founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the formidable Mayawati to look up to and to back. With the passing away of Kanshi Ram, and the near political self-exile of Mayawati, the Dalit is reduced to a floating population of voters, wooed by different political parties.
On His Feet
Akhilesh Yadav is seen to be working overtime to impress a cross section of voters. The SP chief has not been as busy as he is today as he is seen making every effort to assure the victory of wife Dimple Yadav in Mainpuri. Dimple is the chosen one who will take forward the political legacy of her later father-in-law Mulayam Singh for the SP.
The last time that Akhilesh was seen on his feet the way he is today was perhaps in 2012.
He had won tremendous goodwill as a smart generation-next politician. His image of criss-crossing UP in rain and sunshine, and on a bicycle, wearing a red cap, made him a darling of the media, especially photographers. During that state election in the state, Akhilesh had made sure that his party swept the polls.
At that time Akhilesh had appeared on the political landscape of UP like a breath of fresh air. He was seen as an educated, modern and techno-savvy politician. His political victory in 2012 was historic, when the SP under the leadership of Akhilesh had enjoyed an easy win over the ruling BSP and the Congress Party.
Akhilesh was 38 years old when he took oath as the youngest Chief Minister in the history of the state. However, once in office he was seldom seen on the field. He was rumoured to be addicted to his many electronic gadgets and his life seemed restricted to the air conditioned walls of his living room.
Dalit Voters Matter
Akhilesh is back in political form as he canvasses tirelessly for Dimple in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency. In an obvious reach out to female, and Dalit voters, Rajkumari Rawal was invited by the SP to inaugurate the election office of Dimple in Karhal another stronghold of the Yadav.
Rawal is a woman belonging to the Scheduled Caste. Traditionally the Yadavs and Dalits find it difficult to get along with each other. Akhilesh is trying to thaw the ice between the two communities. There are nearly 17 lakh voters in Mainpuri out of which around 4.30 lakh are Yadavs and 1.80 lakh are Dalits. Muslim voters total about 80,000.
The contest in Manipuri is between Dimple and the ruling party's Raghunath Shakya. The Shakyas are the second largest community after the Yadavs with 2.80 voters.
Today Akhilesh wants the vote for the SP of other castes, besides Yadav and Muslim, especially Dalits. There are over a lakh Jatav voters, the largest community amongst the Dalit. Most upwardly mobile Jatavs prefer to vote for the BJP now to make their age-old dream of being accepted by the larger Hindu community come true.
The poorer Dalits are attracted to the ruling party because they were given free rations and money in their respective bank accounts. The Jatav vote will perhaps decide who the winner will be in Mainpuri now where election results will be announced on December 8 after polling concludes on December 5.
With the BSP's Mayawati out of the electoral fray, contestants are eyeing her vote bank. The BJP has fielded Raghuraj Singh Shakya, the largest community of backward castes after the Yadavs in an attempt to try and break the hold of the SP in Mainpuri.
What About the Other Two By-polls ?
Akhilesh is giving his all to win Mainpuri. He travelled to the Lok Sabha constituency weeks before the announcement of Dimple's nomination. He has been holding meetings and spending time with local SP workers.
He is joined by Dimple and uncle Shivpal Yadav in campaigning for votes. To the relief of Akhilesh, his once estranged uncle Shivpal has already made a promise at a public rally that he will work for the SP to win the elections and not disappoint Akhilesh.
Akhilesh visited Swami Hariharanand Saraswati and stayed on for a free meal at the ashram. Dimple has chaired multiple sit-ins in rural areas, especially of SP's female workers. The surprising part of the election campaign of the SP is that it seems to have perhaps forgotten that there are two other by-polls in the same state on the same day besides Mainpuri.