The Lok Sabha constituency of Firozabad, which goes to voting during the third phase of the general elections on April 23, is known as the entry point to Uttar Pradesh’s Yadav belt. Identified as a stronghold of Samajwadi Party, even the Modi wave of 2014, that swept other parts of Uttar Pradesh, failed to win the seat for the BJP in the last Lok Sabha elections.
Sans a Modi wave this time around, the re-election of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s nephew Akshay Yadav from the seat was viewed as an all but a foregone conclusion. However, what has complicated matters for the Samajwadi Party to win the seat through its own Yadav-Muslim supporter base is the emergence of Shivpal Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP).
A former cabinet minister in the state and a known face in state politics, Shivpal Yadav has chosen to contest the Lok Sabha election from Firozabad, pitting him against his nephew and making Firozabad as one of the most keenly watched electoral battles in Uttar Pradesh.
The Muslims are coming solidly behind Shivpalji. We recently inducted Azeem Bhai into our fold. He will be able to sway a large number of Muslim voters from the inner city towards our party,” says Pappu Khan, the incharge of Shivpal Yadav’s electoral office in Firozabad. A former Samajwadi Party leader who secured over 60,000 votes in 2017 assembly elections, Azeem Bhai’s induction into Shivpal’s party could split the Muslim vote on the seat this time.
Besides the Muslim voters who form a one of the largest group of voters in Firozabad, Shivpal Yadav is also being actively backed by Sirsaganj MLA from Samajwadi Party, Hari Om Yadav. Locals believe that the Yadav vote in at least three of the five assembly constituencies—Sirsaganj, Jasrana and Shikohabad—that make up the parliamentary seat of Firozabad risks getting split up between the two Yadavs on April 23.
“Definitely, Shivpal Yadav will get a share of the Yadav vote,” says a Samajwadi Party worker at its office on the outskirts of Firozabad city.
The battle for Yadav vote on the seat could have thrown up a surprise and helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from the seat- Dr Chandrasen Jadaun. The BJP has been making inroads into Yadav bastion, securing 4.2 lakh votes in the 2014 election. The BJP has been sending an MLA from the Firozabad for the last two terms, attributed largely to the presence of Baniyas and other Vaishnavs in the city.
However, the consolidation of Bahujan Samaj Party’s vote behind Akshay Yadav is being viewed as a game changer that could ultimately tip the scales in gathbandhan’s favour.
“The BSP has nearly three lakh voters who do as Mayawati says. This time, they are going to vote for Akshay Yadav. He will win with a margin of over one lakh votes,” says RR Singh Yadav, a former police officer in Tundla.
Yadav says that the turnout among Mayawati’s voter, which was considerably lower in 2014, will go up due to the joint rally she held with Akhilesh Yadav on April 20, three days ahead of the voting date.
It’s not difficult to ascertain the cause of Yadav’s confidence, as a roadshow led by Akshay Yadav in Tundla on Sunday, the last day of campaigning, witnesses participation in large numbers from the political workers donning blue caps.
A day before their rally in Firozabad, the coming together of Mayawati and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav at a political meeting in Mainpuri, has sent a clear message to the cadre of two parties.
“Now, netaji has appealed to us to respect behenji. She is our leader as well now,” says Ram Babu Yadav, a resident of Makhanpur village.