The by-elections in Uttar Pradesh after the March 2022 state assembly polls have given a fresh opportunity to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to not only expand its outreach among the Other Backward Classes but also the Muslims, particularly the Pasmanda or backward caste Muslims.
The BJP is aggressively pursuing the caste outreach in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency and has spared no effort in honouring Mulayam Singh Yadav after his death. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, while addressing an election meeting at Karhal recently, recalled the blessing of Mulayam Singh Yadav to the BJP.
The BJP, since the 2014 Lok Sabha election, has aggressively pursued the outreach programme to woo the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits castes in the state. The outreach programme has paid rich dividends to the BJP, enabling it to win the 2017 UP assembly election and grab 65 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls despite Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal joining hands to take on the BJP. Despite non-Yadav OBC leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya and a few others abandoning the party ahead of this year’s UP assembly election, the BJP retained its support base among the Scheduled Castes and OBCs.
Samajwadi Party, rattled by the BJP’s attempt to make inroads in Mainpuri by invoking the memories of Mulayam Singh Yadav, is focusing its campaign almost entirely on the persona of Mulayam Singh Yadav. SP president Akhilesh Yadav and his wife Dimple Yadav, the candidate from Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat, are telling the voters of Mainpuri to pick the SP on December 5 as “a real tribute to Netaji”.
“Yeh samvedna ka chunav hai (this is a sympathy election),” said a local SP leader.
Dimple Yadav almost daily starts her campaign from OBC dominated villages in the five assembly segments which constitute the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency.
Akhilesh was elected as MLA from Karhal in the March 2022 UP assembly election. Shakyas are the second-largest group among the OBCs in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency after the Yadavs, and the BJP has fielded Raghuraj Singh Shakya against Dimple Yadav.
SP supporters welcome Dimple with slogans of “Dimple bhabhi zindabad”, “Akhilesh bhaiya zindabad” and “Netaji amar rahen”. Women and workers greet her on the stage with flowers, as youths touch her feet.
During the campaign, Dimple starts addressing the crowd in villages without losing time. In her short speeches she mentions “Netaji” over a dozen times. She reminds the voters that “`this is the first election when “Netaji is not with us”…, Netaji always followed ideals and principles, Netaji touched your life and you all held him in high regard…, I am the daughter-in-law of Netaji but I am also a sister and daughter to all of you… I am sure you will honour Netaji on December 5.”
In her attack on the BJP government, she focuses on lack of jobs and says that Netaji and SP governments had brought development to Mainpuri.
Calling Mainpuri a “samajwadi garh (SP bastion)”, Dimple repeats that every “samajwadi garh” can be assured of development. Dubbing the new Agniveer scheme for army recruitments “painful”, she says past SP governments, in contrast, had ensured laptops for youths.
Dimple Yadav is telling the voters that the Mainpuri bypoll result will give “a direction to the country”. Dimple has also issued a written appeal to the voters of Mainpuri, which is being distributed across the constituency in the form of pamphlets. These say Dimple will follow in the footsteps of Netaji and is committed to fulfilling his dreams of development in Mainpuri.
If Mulayam Singh Yadav is a constant presence in the SP campaign, as is Akhilesh, one notable absentee at Dimple’s meetings, in slogans and material, is Shivpal Singh Yadav. Mulayam’s brother, who recently buried the hatchet with Akhilesh, has for now announced his support to Dimple. However, to put an end to uncertainties on his role, Shivpal Yadav on Wednesday campaigned along with Akhilesh Yadav and addressed several meetings.