“The Muslim votes will go to the BSP. The QED, which has always been sensitive of the poor, has increased the goodwill of ‘Behenji’ (BSP supremo Mayawati) among the Muslims,” said Md. Ali, a fruit-vendor at Adras Bazar, Ghazipur. But most Hindus in the market, cutting across their backgrounds, said they will vote for the BJP. “Akhilesh’s (Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav) work has been good, but change is needed. We will vote for the BJP,” said Amarjeet, a youth, giving a hint of the undercurrent that is building up in favour of the national party.
In neighbouring Manikpur Kote village, a young man, Sanjay, said the whole hamlet will go the BSP way. “We will all vote for Behenji. Santosh Singh Yadav (BSP candidate, Ghazipur) is very visible. He will make a dent in the SP’s Yadav votes,” he said.
Ravish Kumar of Brahmanpur Chetti village said: “Pura gaaon hathi ke sath. The entire village is with the ‘elephant’.”
The SP has replaced incumbent Vijay Mishra with Rajesh Kushwaha. The change seems to have worked in Parmeth village where most people said they would vote for the SP because of the personal good-will of Rajesh Kushwaha, who had opened the MGRP Public School in the village.
In Pratappur village in Karanda, however, villagers interviewed by this reporter said the SP’s “kaam bolta hai” catch-phrase is misleading. “Public transport is a problem. Schools and colleges are in bad shape. There’s electricity scarcity. The government hospital initiated by the BSP regime is yet to start,” said most people, who pledged their support for either the BJP or the BSP.
Dalits were more scathing of CM Akhilesh. “Harijan colonies are discriminated against. There are no basic amenities. We haven’t got our ration cards and BPL cards,” rued Prabhu Nath, a Dalit, who followed this reporter to his car and requested him to highlight the discriminatory attitude of the SP government.
In the BJP’s war-room in Gosandepur village, Ghazipur candidate Sangeeta Bind’s staff are working overnight to ensure “Hindu consolidation”. “We have fielded a Bind candidate to attract the non-Yadav OBCs. We are confident we will win,” said Ashutosh Singh, BJP office bearer in Ghazipur.
In Ghazipur, there are 49,000 Binds, 28,000 Baniya, 10,000 Bhumihar, 26,000 Kshatriya, 16,000 Brahmin, 14,000 Nishad, 4000 Chowhan, 3,000 Jaiswal and 17,500 Kushwahas, as per records provided by BJP’s Gosandepur war-room. “Bind, Baniya, Bhumihar, Kshatriya, Chowhan and Jaiswal will vote en bloc for us. We will get more than 50% of the Brahmin and Kushwaha votes. We also hope to get some Nishad votes since we have given ticket to a Nishad candidate in neighbouring constituency,” BJP war-room experts said, flipping through their notes like assiduous students.
The mood was in favour of the BJP in Zahoorabad and Mohammadabad, where more upper-caste and non-Yadav OBC Hindus seem to be rooting for the BJP than the regional players. “In Mohammadabad, the BJP’s victory has become a prestige issue for the Hindus,” said a BJP insider. It is a direct face off between Alka Rai of the BJP and the BSP’s Sibakatullah Ansari, brother of Mukhtar Ansari. Alka Rai is the widow of the slain BJP leader and former Mohammadabad MLA, Krishnanad Rai, whom Ansari allegedly got killed. The Bhumihars and Brahmins will strongly back Rai, most people of Mohammadabad said. The BJP office-bearers added that in the absence of an SP-Congress candidate, whose nomination was rejected, “maximum SP voters will move to BJP as polarisation is evident here”.
Not far away, in Saidpur, people said the BJP will benefit from its wise selection of candidate. “The BJP has fielded Vidyasagar Sonkar who will attract non-Yadav OBC votes, besides the upper caste votes,” said Satish Yadav, a fruit seller in Saidpur, adding that he would vote for the BJP. In the main town, the Hindu votes seem to be gravitating towards the national party. In rural areas, however, Nizamuddin and Bholanath Yadav, cigarette stall owners, claimed the “contest is between Rajiv Kiran of the BSP and Subhash Pasi of the SP”.