Battle for UP: Third phase crucial for SP, BJP

Lucknow, Feb 18 (IANS) As elections in Uttar Pradesh move into the third phase, the battle becomes increasingly crucial for the BJP as well as Samajwadi Party.
Polling in the third phase will be held on February 20 on 59 seats spread across 16 districts.
These include five districts from western UP — Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Kasganj and Hathras. Six districts of the Avadh region, namely Kanpur, Kanpur Dehat, Aurraiya, Kannauj, Etawah and Farrukhabad, will go to polls along with five districts from Bundelkhand region-Jhansi, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Hamirpur and Mahoba.
The region, known as Yadav belt, was once a stronghold of the Samajwadi Party but majority of the Yadav votes went with BJP in 2017.
The BJP won 49 out of 59 seats while SP only had to settle with 9. Congress got one while BSP drew a blank from here.
Even the Yadav stronghold, which includes Firozabad, Kasganj, Etah, Mainpuri, Farrukhabad, Kannauj and Aurraiya did not vote for SP which got only six seats in these districts.
Political observers feel that the family feud between Akhilesh and Shivpal was a major factor for this shift.
The biggest came from Kannauj in 2019 when Akhilesh’s wife and sitting MP Dimple Yadav lost the Lok Sabha contest to the BJP even though SP was in alliance with BSP.
However, now Akhilesh has mended fences with his uncle Shivpal and is contesting the Karhal Assembly seat in Mainpuri to reassure his Yadav voters.
Karhal has been a SP stronghold and was retained by the party even in 2017.
The BJP has fielded Union Minister Satya Pal Singh Baghel. who is also an OBC face in the party.
This is being pitched as one of the big battles of this year’s election.
The third phase is also crucial for the BJP, which is seeking to retain the 49 seats it won in 2017.
This phase has the Hathras constituency where a gang-rape tore UP apart in September 2020.
Akhilesh Yadav has kept the Hathras issue alive in his campaign. He has been observing ‘Hathras ki Beti Smriti Divas’ every month.
Then there is Kasganj where the custodial death of one Altaf in November last year had become a major embarrassment for the Yogi Adityanath government. The police claimed that Altaf has been called for questioning in a case and he ended his life by hanging from a water tap. The matter is now in court.
Kanpur is also going to polls in this phase and the murder of a city businessman Manish Gupta during a police raid in Gorakhpur last year, is being raised at every opposition meeting.
The phase also has five districts Bundelkhand that was once a stronghold of the BSP but it was swept by the BJP in 2017.
While the BJP is claiming massive development in this region while seeking votes, the Samajwadi Party is exposing areas that have remained untouched by development.

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