All Eyes On Non Yadav OBCs, The X-Factor In Phase 3 of Uttar Pradesh Polls

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The caste calculus gets trickier when a mix of three regions—parts of western UP, Awadh and Bundelkhand—vote in the third phase of the assembly elections on Sunday.

Almost 50% of the 59 seats across 16 districts fall in the so-called ‘Yadav belt’, but non-Yadav OBCs such as Shakyas, Lodhs, Kurmis and Dalits play an equally decisive role.

As in the rest of the state, BJP swept this section in 2017, winning 49 seats. Samajwadi Party could win eight and BSP just one in a reversal of 2012 when SP took 37, including 25 in the Yadav belt of eight districts where it has been dominating since 1992.

Shakyas, Lodhs, Kurmis and Sainis mostly went with the popular sentiment: for SP or BSP before 2017 and BJP in the previous polls.

How much the party is able to hold on to this support base will have a bearing on the outcome on March 10. Jatavs among Dalits have been backing BSP.

They did so even in 2017. The key to success would be winning the other 45% none-Jatav Dalit voters’ support.

Beyond the caste moorings, the phase has high-profile battlefronts like Karhal, with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav as its main contender.

It’s his home seat in the true sense with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s clan village Saifai just 4km away.

SP has a solid vote base of over 45% in this Yadav pocketborough that also has a sizeable minority community electorate.

In no mood to give him a walkover, BJP has fielded Union minister SP Singh Baghel, who is trying to exploit the local caste dynamics and ‘anti-Yadav sentiments’ among other OBCs and upper castes to do what Smriti Irani did in Amethi.

Union minister Amit Shah and CM Yogi Adityanath had led a high-spirited BJP campaign in the constituency.

A day before canvassing ended, Akhilesh had his father Mulayam pitching in Karhal on his behalf.

In neighbouring Jaswantnagar, Akhilesh’s once-estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav is seeking a sixth term — having buried the hatchet over a clan fight for supremacy.

SP had lost two seats in Etawah in 2017. This time, retaining all three is on the radar.

The industrial city of Kanpur has had its share of a high-decibel campaign too.

In Kannauj Sadar, BJP is banking on former IPS officer Asim Arun to breach the SP stronghold. BJP last won the seat in 1996.


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