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UP Election 2017: Akhilesh Yadav on campaign overdrive in SP bastion Azamgarh as Mulayam stays away

While the national media is focusing on the Ramjas College fracas, election campaigning in the final two phases of the Uttar Pradesh poll is reaching a feverish pitch. The final two phases are to be held on 4 and 8 March respectively in the electorally important Purvanchal. In this region as reports indicate, the BJP is likely to do well this time, while the ruling Samajwadi Party will look to keep its hold where the party won 52 seats in the 2012 elections.

The region, however, holds a place of prominence in SP's political calculations. Its traditional stronghold of Azamgarh is the bastion of party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, who won the seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The Lok Sabha constituency consists of 10 Assembly seats. In the 2012 election, the SP had achieved a near clean sweep here, claiming nine of the 10 seats.

But notwithstanding its political prominence, Azamgarh has not witnessed a single rally by the local strongman Mulayam, reports Economic Times. However, his son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav did hold seven back-to-back rallies in the district and repeatedly invoked his father's name during his speeches, going into a damage control mode.

"Netaji’s orders led to the 302-km long Agra-Lucknow expressway being built in 24 months,” Economic Times quoted Akhilesh as saying in one of his rallies in Azamgarh.

Mulayam had already disapproved of the party's alliance with the Congress and has largely stayed away from campaigning; conducting only two rallies — both in Shivpal Yadav's constituency of Jaswantnagar.

Adding to SP's Azamgarh dilemma is the Rashtriya Ulema Council's decision to lend its support to Bahujan Samaj Party candidates in the 10 seats of the district, as reported by The Indian Express.

Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

Amid the talk of the three-time chief minister's conspicuous absence from Azamgarh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dropped an electoral bombshell, when in a rally in Mau on Monday, he said, "The SP and the BSP, after the third phase of polling, have realised that they have no chance of winning and so they have launched a new game, a new technique...even if we are defeated or our seats decrease, no one should get majority."

Training his guns at the SP and Mayawati-led BSP for conspiring to bring a hung Assembly in Uttar Pradesh, Modi went on to add, "You (SP, BSP) might be thinking that in case of a hung House, you will get a chance to bargain but the people of UP have shown you in the Lok Sabha polls, by ensuring a full majority to BJP, and in these elections, they will ensure that BJP wins with a huge margin."

However, the chief minister was quick to rebuke Modi and also alleged a secret understanding between the BJP and the BSP. “BJP spoke of 300 seats till lately… Yesterday prime minister spoke of the possibility of an alliance being formed to stop BJP. It was a signal by PM of his ‘rakshabandhan’ with BSP," Economic Times reported him as saying during a rally in Mau.

Nevertheless, the possibility of a hung Assembly has been an underlying theme of the election campaign. On 17 February, Akhilesh claimed that the BJP and BSP might come together after the polls. Speaking at a rally in Barabanki, he said, "Buaji (aunt Mayawati) says she will prefer sitting in the opposition (if she did not get a majority)... you all need to remain vigilant. They (BSP and BJP) have earlier too celebrated 'raksha bandhan'. She can again celebrate the festival with the BJP."

According to a report in DNA, hung Assembly, while not very conducive for any party, is a possibility in the electorally gigantic Uttar Pradesh.

The report said that an underwhelming 56 percent voter turnout in the fifth phase along with the possibility of neither an "Akhilesh wave" or a "Modi wave", would increase the chances of a hung Assembly in the state.

However, only the results on 11 March will reveal whether the SP will face a rout in its stronghold of Azamgarh in the absence of Mulayam or will Prime Minister Modi's fear of SP-BSP conspiring a hung Assembly come true.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Mar 01, 2017 19:37 PM

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