The third phase of the Uttar Pradesh elections covering 16 districts and 59 constituencies spread across Bundelkhand, Awadh and western UP encompasses regions which both BJP and SP count among their strongholds. BJP had swept Bundelkhand in 2017 and SP had done exceedingly well in the Yadav belt around Mainpuri and surrounding districts in 2012. SP’s rich haul of 37 from 59 constituencies in this region in 2012 was bettered by BJP’s 49 in 2017.
This is where Akhilesh Yadav’s decision to enter the poll fray from Mainpuri this time could benefit SP. His alliance with uncle Shivpal could also prevent division of the Yadav vote. But Akhilesh’s presence has propelled BJP to also aim its firepower with top leaders starting from Amit Shah to Yogi Adityanath and Keshav Maurya campaigning in Mainpuri in an attempt to pin the SP supremo down to his seat.
For BJP the main worry in Bundelkhand is that it could not complete work on the Bundelkhand expressway, which is expected to spur development and industry in the perpetually drought torn region that has made agriculture difficult for farmers. But the ruling party is banking on schemes like Har Ghar Nal to bring tap water to homes, which could be a novelty for many households in the water starved region, and pilgrimage tourism.
The social engineering done by the two parties in wooing various OBC groups will also be keenly watched. Hitherto, Akhilesh had the support of RLD and BKU in the first two phases but will now have to pull his weight individually until the campaign reaches eastern UP where other OBC leaders like SP Maurya and OP Rajbhar will lend him a helping hand. But if the BJP repeats its stupendous performance from 2017, there is little hope for SP to revive its prospects in the rest of the Awadh belt.
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