In the current Assembly elections the Uttar Pradesh battlefield has seen a slew of contenders from various parties switching sides in bids to boost their prospects. Despite the defection, however, it does not appear to be a cakewalk for such “dal-badlus (turncoats)” in their seats, where they are banking on their personal popularity besides the political heft of their new parties.
Many residents of these constituencies say these turncoats have made things “complicated” for them, although some also feel that electing a probable ministerial candidate might bring something better for their “chetra” (area). “Jite ya na jite, par yeh dal badalu public ko confuse kar dete hain (whether they win or not, these turncoats confuse the public) ,” says Krishna Pal Singh, a pan shop owner in Rae Bareli’s Harchandpur area.
The Indian Express has tracked some of the key contests involving such turncoats and the issues and factors that might determine their fate.
Swami Prasad Maurya, Fazilnagar seat
Prominent OBC leader and former BJP minister, Swami Prasad Maurya, jumped ship and switched to the Samajwadi Party (SP) days before the seven-phase UP Assembly polls got underway last month. The SP has fielded Maurya from
Fazilnagar seat in Kushinagar, from where BJP leader Ganga Singh Kushwaha has been winning since 2012. Once a BSP heavyweight close to its chief Mayawati, Maurya had defected to the BJP before the 2017 polls.
He might have fought the SP most of his political career, but there are now life-size posters of party chief Akhilesh Yadav as well as its founder Mulayam Singh Yadav outside Maurya’s election office. While he campaigned as a “non-Yadav OBC face” of Purvanchal, Maurya, who had earlier represented Kushinagar’s Padrauna and Rae Bareli’s Unchahar, chose Fazilnagar seat which has sizeable OBC and Muslim voters.
Both the BJP and the BSP candidates are making Maurya’s Fazilnagar foray difficult, which he might have initially considered a smooth sailing. While the BSP has given ticket to a turncoat Ilias Ansari, a local SP leader and a ticket aspirant until Maurya’s switch to the party. The BJP has fielded Ganga Singh Kushwaha’s son Surendra Kushwaha.
The constituency has not seen much development work, even as a section of locals say that the only silverlining in this election is that given his stature Maurya, if elected, would become a minister if the SP manages to form its government.
Dara Singh Chauhan, Ghosi seat
Like Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan is a veteran OBC leader and ex-BJP minister, who had also been a senior BSP leader in the past. After he left the BSP and joined the BJP in 2015, he was appointed the UP BJP’s OBC wing head. He won on the BJP ticket from Mau’s Madhuban and became a minister in the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government. However, just before the current polls, he shifted to the SP, which has fielded him from Ghosi. Given that it is not an SP stronghold, he is banking on his personal standing in the seat. The BJP has fielded sitting MLA Vijay Bahadur, who won the seat in the 2019 by-election after it was vacated by Fagu Chauhan, who became the Bihar governor. Fagu had won from Madhuban six times, including thrice on the BJP ticket, and Dara is hoping to capture the former’s influence over the seat now.
Lalji Verma, Katehri seat
A five-time MLA and ex-BSP leader, Lalji Verma had won Ambedkarnagar’s Katehri on the BSP ticket in 2017, but decided to switch his loyalties this time, contesting as a SP nominee from the seat.
The BJP allotted this constituency to its alliance partner NISHAD party, which has fielded Awadhesh Dwivedi, who had lost against Verma in 2017 while contesting as a BJP candidate. The BSP has fielded Prateek Pandey, the son of ex-MLA Pawan Pandey. The SP is using ex-BSP leader Rakesh Pandey, the father of BSP MP Ritesh Pandey, to campaign in Verma’s favour. While Ritesh is still in the BSP, Rakesh recently switched to the SP and is even contesting as its candidate from neighbouring Jalalpur.
Thus the turncoats have made this fight interesting, albeit confusing, for voters. Having seen Verma wearing a blue stole round his neck for many years, the locals are now seeing him in red SP cap and jacket while seeking their votes across the constituency.
Ram Achal Rajbhar, Akbarpur seat
Five-time MLA from Akbarpur, Ram Achal Rajbhar, who had been with the BSP for four decades, is contesting from the seat this time on the SP ticket. His campaign has essentially projected his own connection with the belt, while eyeing the SP’s OBC-Muslim vote bank.
In a bid to give a tough fight to Rajbhar, the BSP has also given ticket to a turncoat candidate Chandra Prakash Verma, who had contested in 2017 as BJP candidate, who despite his defeat had secured 28 per cent of the votes polled. By nominating him, the BSP is hoping to combine his “personal” votes along with that of the party’s against Rajbhar. Having NISHAD party on its side this time, the BJP fielded Dharma Raj Nishad, hoping to make a dent on Rajbhar’s OBC votes.
Aditi Singh, Rae Bareli Sadar seat
For Aditi Singh, Rae Bareli Sadar is a family pocket borough, represented by her father Akhilesh Singh five times until he decided to transfer his legacy to Aditi in 2017. Akhilesh had won this seat five times, including thrice as Congress candidate, although following his differences with the party he even won the seat in 2007 and 2012 as an Independent and a Peace Party nominee, respectively.
For her electoral debut in 2017, Aditi decided to contest as a Congress candidate, winning the seat while garnering 62 per cent votes. Besides her father’s hold over the constituency, her candidature had also capitalised on the Congress’s then alliance with the SP.
However, Aditi has preferred to contest this election on the BJP ticket. She, however, faces a tough challenge from SP candidate RP Tripathi. The Congress has fielded a doctor-turned-politician Manish Singh Chauhan, a known local face who runs a nursing home, whose entry into the fray seems to have made the contest triangular in the constituency.
Vinay Shankar Tiwari, Chillupar seat
Vinay Shankar Tiwari, who won on the BSP ticket in 2017 from Gorakhpur’s Chillupar parted ways with the party last year and joined the SP. Vinay’s father Hari Shankar Tiwari, a six-term MLA from the seat, was known to be a muscleman with his conflict with the Gorakshnath Mutt and its heads widely known in the region. Hari had significant influence over the region’s Brahmin votes. However, in 2007 and 2012 polls, BSP candidate Rajesh Tripathi defeated him. In 2017, Rajesh fought the election as a BJP candidate and was defeated by Vinay, who got the BSP ticket.
In this election Vinay is however contesting Chillupar seat on the SP ticket, while the BJP has again nominated Rajesh, with the BSP fielding a lesser-known candidate Rajendra Sehi. Many locals say that switching sides might have made things difficult for Vinay in his traditional family seat.