The contest in fourth phase of UP elections 2022 is down to the Awadh belt of Uttar Pradesh (UP). In this phase, 624 candidates will fight on 60 Assembly seats spread across 9 districts. The nine districts are:
This phase includes 7 districts of the Awadh belt, which are considered strong seats of the BJP: Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Pilibhit, Hardoi, Lucknow, Unnao and Rae Bareli.
In 2017, the BJP had a clean sweep in 90 per cent of the seats. It won 51 of the 59 seats, while its ally Apna Dal won one seat. Samajwadi Party (SP) got 4 seats while Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had to settle with 2 seats each.
The fight in the Awadh region also has a tinge of anti-farmer sentiment this time. Plus, the stray bulls menace has become a bone in the throat for the BJP. As the state government banned illegal abattoirs in 2017 and strong laws were imposed on cow slaughter, the stray bulls started destroying crops.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav and BSP leader Mayawati. Photo: PTI
The issue has taken the spotlight in this phase. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav has called for giving compensation to the farmers who lost their lives after being hit by bulls while protecting their fields. PM Modi in his rally also spoke of unfolding a new scheme to deal with the bull menace in UP.
In 2022, BJP is contesting on 57 seats while its ally Apna Dal is contesting on 3. SP is contesting on 58 while its ally Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) is contesting on two. BSP and Congress are contesting on 60 seats each.
The phase will also see a high-volt contest on some seats. It will be a contest between Congress turncoat Aditi Singh and SP’s Naresh Agarwal, while the Lakhimpur Kheri’s eight seats will also reveal what’s in their heart. The Lucknow region which BJP pulled off comprehensively in 2017, winning 8 out of 9 will also see a tight contest this time.
Here are 7 contests to watch out for in the fourth phase.
1. LAKHIMPUR KHERI DISTRICT
In 2017, the BJP had swept all the 8 seats of Lakhimpur Kheri district. But in 2022, the dynamics for the saffron party have turned upside down. The October 3, 2021 incident when an SUV owned by Union MoS Home Ajay Misra Teni’s son Ashish Misra allegedly mowed down the 4 protesting farmers, made the district the centre of attention. In the melee that followed, 4 other people including the driver of the vehicle were lynched.
It was said that the BJP high command went slow against the Tenis to keep the Brahmin vote safe ahead of UP elections 2022. In the caste-driven UP politics, Brahmin votes matter a lot. Out of the 403 seats in UP Assembly, BJP has 36 Brahmin MLAs.
Moreover, in all of these, the winning margin was less than 10,000.
Protests in Lakhimpur Kheri after the incident. Photo: PTI
The party high command refrained from attracting the wrath of the Brahmin community, which holds considerable influence in UP politics. In every constituency in UP, there are around 25,000 Brahmin votes, which voted purely for the BJP in 2017.
In 2022, the BJP is banking on the Brahmin vote to secure a second term in office.
But the opposition parties especially Akhilesh Yadav, SP leader and former UP Chief Minister kept the issue fresh in public memory. Akhilesh is banking on the support of farm leaders who have taken strong resentment against the BJP over how it treated them. The SP supremo was also seen in a press conference in Lucknow with farm leader Tejinder Singh Virk. The SP-RLD alliance is hoping to squeeze any political benefit out of the farmer issue in the 2022 elections.
Moreover, Ashish Misra Teni, who was convicted by the SIT in its charge sheet, got bail on February 15, 2022 by the Allahabad High Court. Many farmers have expressed their anger over this. Some families have also approached the Supreme Court against the bail.
While the BJP might get a chunk of Brahmin votes ahead of the fourth phase as Ashish gets out on bail; it might also further the angst of farmers against the party.
2. RAE BARELI SADAR
The decade-old strong Congress bastion is out for a high-pitched battle as its MLA Aditi Singh, who won the seat in 2017 for the Congress, switched to the BJP in 2020. In 2017, Aditi defeated BSP’s Shahbaj Khan by more than 90,000 votes.
She has been fielded by the BJP this time from the seat. Statistics say that the Congress can falter in this seat as the seat is strong for Aditi Singh. Her father Akhilesh Pratap Singh has been winning the seat since 1993. Thrice as a Congress candidate, once as an independent, and in 2012 as a Peace Party Candidate. In 2017, Congress won 2 out of the 6 seats in the Rae Bareli district. But both its MLAs; Aditi Singh and Rakesh Pratap Singh, switched to the BJP.
In 2022, Aditi is up against SP’s Ram Pratap Yadav, BSP’s Mohammad Ashraf and Congress's Manish Chauhan.
But will the Congress be able to secure its home turf?
The party in 2019 won only 1 seat and that is Rae Bareli. Sonia Gandhi won the seat comprehensively. She has held the seat since 2004. In fact, the voters of Rae Bareli sing praises for the grand old party. They say they don’t care who forms the government but the people will support Sonia Gandhi. Though Gandhi didn’t come out to campaign for the 2022 UP Assembly elections, she released a video where she attacked the BJP over rising prices, inflation, bull menace in UP.
3. SAROJINI NAGAR SEAT
Rajeshwar Singh. Photo: Rajeshwar Singh
The contest in Sarojini Nagar seat, an assembly seat in Lucknow district, is out to watch as the BJP has pitched former police officer Rajeshwar Singh, an encounter specialist, also popularly referred to as Singham. Rajeshwar was the Joint Director of Enforcement Directorrate (ED) who opted for voluntary retirement on January 31, 2022. His request was approved and he was given the ticket from Sarojini Nagar on February 1, 2022.
BJP’s Swati Singh won the seat in 2017 from Sarojini Nagar. But the party shelved Swati’s ticket this time and instead, has deposed its faith in Rajeshwar Singh.
But why did the BJP ignore Swati in 2022 from Sarojini Nagar?
It was said that Swati and her husband Dayashankar Singh both wanted the ticket from the Sarojini Nagar seat. There was a clash between the couple over the seat. Plus, Swati’s term in these five years was partly controversial, where she was in negative news a number of times. Thereby, the party chucked both the husband and the wife, and fielded Rajeshwar Singh instead.
Against Rajeshwar Singh is SP’s Abhishesk Mishra who is another strong Brahmin face in the region. The Sarojini Nagar seat, which falls under Mohanlalganj Lok Sabha constituency, has around 1,10,000 Brahmin voters, 90,000 Kshatriya voters, 50,000 Yadav voters, 30,000 OBC voters and 30,000 Muslim votes.
As Mishra holds influence on the Brahmin vote, Shivpal Singh Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle holds influence over the Yadav vote. Plus, the SP commands strong influence on the Muslim vote. On the other hand, Rajeshwar Singh enjoys the support of the local people who consider him a great officer. It will be interesting to see who wins this Brahmin battle in Sarojini Nagar.
4. LUCKNOW CENTRAL
Akhilesh Yadav. Photo: PTI
The Lucknow Central seat has been a strong seat for the BJP since 1989. But in 2012, SP’s Ravidas Mehrotra won the seat. In 2017, however, Ravidas lost to BJP’s Brajesh Pathak by a thin margin of 5,000 votes. Pathak had switched from the BSP to BJP in 2016.
The contest in Lucknow Central will be also be a close one for the SP because the region has a large number of Muslims (around 90,000) and Vaishyas (80,000). In 2017, the Muslim vote got heavily split between the SP and Congress, because of which Mehrotra lost. Congress’s Maroof Khan got around 12,000 votes which dented Mehrotra’s prospects.
In 2022, the minority vote seems consolidated towards the SP. Though Congress has fielded Sadaf Jafar from the seat, there is not much the Congress worker will reap from this seat. Against Mehrotra, BJP has fielded Rajnish Gupta, who is a four-time corporator from the Yahiyaganj seat in Lucknow.
Brajesh Pathak on the other hand has gone to Lucknow Cantt seat, which is another strong seat for the BJP.
5. LUCKNOW CANTT
The Lucknow Cantonment seat is one to watch out for because both SP and BJP were in a perplexing situation over their candidates from the seat. While SP’s Aparna Yadav who was a runner-up against Rita Bahuguna Joshi in 2017 was denied the ticket by SP this time, BJP’s law minister Brajesh Pathak came to the Cantt seat to fight the 2022 elections. He left the Lucknow Central seat in 2022, facing minute chances of winning.
In the Lucknow Cantt contest this time, BJP’s Pathak is against SP’s Raju Gandhi, Congress’s Dilpreet Singh Virk and BSP’s Anil Pandey.
But Rita Bahuguna Joshi wanted this seat for her son Mayank Joshi from the BJP. Mayank was denied the ticket. There was also high speculation of SP fielding Mayank Joshi from the Lucknow Cantt seat, though it had declared Surendra Singh Gandhi alias Raju Gandhi from the seat. But, the SP candidate had started campaigning in the constituency and the party also didn't go for any last-minute changes. Hence, Mayank was not fielded by SP from this seat.
6. HARDOI SADAR SEAT
Former Rajya Sabha MP, Naresh Agarwal. Photo: Naresh Agarwal
SP’s former political heavyweight Naresh Agarwal who defected to the BJP in 2018 is campaigning for his son Nitin Agarwal from this seat. The seat has been represented seven times by the former Rajya Sabha MP. In 2017 also, his son won the seat on an SP ticket. This time however, Nitin is contesting on the BJP ticket. The father-son duo are on their toes to retain the seat for the third time in a row.
SP has fielded Anil Verma, while the BSP has pitched Shobhit Pathak from this seat. But in Hardoi, Naresh Agarwal’s charm speaks volumes among the people. It will be an uphill task for the SP and BSP to wrest this seat from the Agarwal family’s fold.
7. UNNAO SADAR
Asha Devi. Photo: Asha Devi
From this seat, Congress has fielded Unnao rape victim’s mother Asha Devi. Asha Devi, mother of a son and four daughters, said she herself asked for a ticket from the Congress in the Assembly elections. She was provided the ticket by the Congress under the party's Ladki Hun Lad Sakti Hoon campaign in UP elections 2022. She is fielded against SP’s Abhinav Kumar and BJP’s Pankaj Gupta. Gupta had also won the seat in 2017 on a BJP ticket.
60 seats go to polls on Februrary 23, 2022. In UP's three-decade political history, no party has been able to retain the government for a straight five years. The BJP, which had a massive win in 2017, is trying hard to create history.
On the other hand, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav has said that SP has struck century in the first three phases and on March 10, the party is coming to power in the state.