Akhilesh contesting from the home turf has charged up SP supporters across the region. Although top BJP leaders — Union home minister Amit Shah, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, deputy CM Kesh-av Maurya — have all trooped in to enable BJP’s Karhal candidate SP Singh Baghel to raise a formidable challenge, Arjun Yadav, a Jaswant Nagar-based SP functionary, says: “There is just one question being asked in Etawah and Mainpuri — who will have a bigger victory? Akhilesh ji or Shivpal ji.”
Yadavs, who form 25-35% of voters base in at least 20 districts, are unapologetically vocal about their choice and their wish. Tillu Yadav, in his mid 20s, is a typical SP supporter. “I can vouch and say that all the votes from our village will go to only Akhilesh Yadav. It’s time to unite behind our local leader.”
However, there are voters who are quite open about remaining silent. “A large number of people will not tell you about their choice. They have to live here after all, even after the elections, in the same neighbourhood,” says a businessman in Auraiya market. “A lot of people ask us not to visit their localities worried about the backlash from SP supporters and have assured us of pressing the BJP button on the day of polls,” says Rupendra Baghel, a BJP worker.
Sarvesh Kumar, 35, is a PG in English. A Jatav, he runs a poultry farm after having failed to get a suitable job. “I have two other educated brothers who are younger than me. Unable to find jobs we decided to enter the poultry business. We all had a lot of hopes from the Yogi government but have been left disappointed,” said Kumar, who is going to back BSP. He scoffs when asked why he was backing a party which doesn’t seem to be fighting well. “BSP will prove pundits wrong.”
Shakyas, Kurmis and Lodhs make up a large chunk of OBC voters. A large number of Shakyas voted for SP along with Yadavs before 2017. But last time, BJP to-ok away a lion’s share of their votes. This time with Yadavs and Muslims backing SP and upper castes behind BJP, they are going to be the deciding factor.
Improved law and order in people’s perception is definitely a plus for BJP and also the distribution of freebies and food grains. The menace of stray cattle is a minus. Both the issues were found to be equally pervading across the expanse. Free LPG cylinders and costly refills both echo simultaneously.