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Role of Samajwadi Party in politics
In the 2012 elections, Azamgarh district became an SP fortress. Mulayam Singh Yadav's party romped home with nine out of 10 seats in this east UP district.
Only BSP's Richie-Rich businessman Shah Alam (Guddu Jamali) could stop the SP from a perfect 10 result.Even when the Modi cyclone ripped through the opposition in UP in 2014, Azamgarh was Mulayam's refuge.
But this election, the district that evokes divergent images of Kaifi Azmi, Abu Salem and the Batla House encounter, no longer appears to be a near-impregnable SP bastion. BSP's emerged a strong challenger, even frontrunner, in Didarganj, Sagri, Lalganj (SC) and Mehnagar (SC).
In Mubarakpur, where Jamali is fighting to retain his seat, BSP is in with a shout. BJP is well poised at Atraulia, where Amit Shah held a rally on Wednesday . In the remaining seats -Gopalpur, Azamgarh, Nizamabad and Phoolpur Pawai -the SP-Cong combine has the edge.
The roots of change are located in new power alignments. Earlier this month, the Rashtriya Ulama Council, a conservative Muslim party that took up the Batla House issue, withdrew 84 candidates in favour of BSP . “The council has support in Gopalpur, Nizamabad, Didarganj, Phoolpur Pawai and Lalganj,“ says SZ Ali, zoology teacher at Shibli National College. The council apparently hasn't taken kindly to the SP-Congress alliance, since the 2008 Batla House incident happened during UPA rule.
Sarfaraz Nawaz, English teacher at the same college, says a partial shift of Muslim voters towards BSP was noticed after Mukhtar Ansari's Qaumi Ekta Dal merged with Mayawati's par ty. Ali adds: Shia pockets in Mubarak pur and Nizamabad are inclined to wards BSP . Azamgarh district has 15% Muslims and around 25% SCs, Census 2011 says. In seats where BSP has the caste-community-candidate combine right, it looks strong.
Azamgarh has about 300 madras sas, 180 colleges. “Unlike west UP , Muslims here are better educated and better off. Many are businessmen in Mumbai and abroad,“ says teacher Sultan Ahmed.
Yadavs too are numerically sig nificant in several seats. “I met some Yadav teachers who said every community vote will go to Akhilesh,“ says Ali. “In 2012, most Muslims and Yadavs voted SP . Now it needs about 70% Muslim votes to emerge at top,“ he says. To SP's advantage, Nawaz says, most young, educated Muslims have taken to Akhilesh. SP has the support of other communities too.
Most of the 350-odd nai (barber) votes in Hariharpur are likely to go to SP's incumbent MLA Durga Prasad Yadav .
One reason behind BJP's 2014 sweep was that most OBCs, minus the Yadavs, voted saffron. Ali narrates an anecdote. “I was campaigning for Na fees Ahmed, SP's Gopalpur candidate.
Some former students, Vishkarmas and Rajbhars, both OBCs, said they would all vote BJP .“ With Patels and Malis in other seats saying the same, BJP's non-Yadav OBC outreach con tinues to work at some levels.