Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Despite BJP Giving Tough Fight, Afzal Ansari Eyes a Hat-trick; Will Elephant be Able to Stop Cycle?

Despite the fact that Mayawati has fielded Ghazipur native Umesh Singh as the BSP candidate, if locals are to be believed, a sizable chunk of her party cadres too are supporting Ansari.
For Ansari, the consolidation of Yadav-Muslim-Dalit voters meant an easy contest in 2019.
For Ansari, the consolidation of Yadav-Muslim-Dalit voters meant an easy contest in 2019.Photo: Instagram

New Delhi: As the ongoing Lok Sabha elections enter the last leg, with polling for the final phase to be held on June 1, Ghazipur has emerged as the second hottest seat in Purvanchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh) after Varanasi. Samajwadi Party (SP)'s Afzal Ansari is taking on Paras Nath Rai of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Umesh Singh of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The SP and the BSP had contested the 2019 general elections in an alliance in Uttar Pradesh. But the ties no longer exists in this election. The Congress has taken BSP's place in the coalition.

Then a BSP nominee, Ansari defeated incumbent MP and senior BJP leader Manoj Sinha, who was later appointed as the lieutenant governor of Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, by more than 1.19 lakh votes. 

For Ansari, now an SP nominee, the consolidation of Yadav-Muslim-Dalit voters meant an easy contest in last election. The social engineering is largely intact as not much has changed in the past five years in terms of the caste arithmetic, making it difficult for the BJP to overcome.

Yadavs, who number around 4 lakh make up the majority of voters in this constituency, are SP’s faithful. In addition, there are roughly 2 lakh Muslims in the parliamentary segment. This combination alone gives the SP a strong support base of around 6 lakh voters.

Furthermore, it would not be an exaggeration to describe Ansari as an influential leader of sorts. In addition, he is the elder brother of Mukhtar Ansari, whose death in the Banda prison in mysterious circumstances has created ripples in the politics of the region.

Despite the fact that Mayawati has fielded Ghazipur native Umesh Singh as the BSP candidate, if locals are to be believed, a sizable chunk of her party cadres too are supporting Ansari, even though the latter has the whole SP apparatus here working nonstop in his favour.

With young voters disgruntled with the Modi government's dismal performance in creating employment opportunities and the BJP governments' failure to stop frequent paper leaks of various competitive examinations, the SP is anticipated to receive a sizable portion of the youth votes.

In addition to counting on the Muslim-Yadav voters combination, whose support to the SP is seemingly guaranteed, the Akhilesh Yadav-led party is also attempting to garner Dalit votes — which is estimated to be around 3.8 lakh.

The party has also made efforts to win over significant votes of Bhumihars, Binds, Rajputs and other lesser castes and communities.

It is anticipated that the SP will also benefit from voters' growing weariness. Several local problems that were not noticeable in the 2019 elections are showing signs of impending trouble. These include frustration with the local government and rage over inadequate services for the populace.

While neither Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath nor Prime Minister Narendra Modi are the direct target of this ire, the BJP may suffer some consequences. This is due to the lack of a defined line separating the government from the administration in general.

So in a nutshell, the SP seems to have an edge in this constituency. However, the road ahead is not so smooth for both the SP and the BJP. In 2019, the SP and the BSP have shown themselves to be a powerful coalition. This time, the SP and the Congress are running together. The Congress is not a powerful political force here. As a result, sensing difficulties at hand, Ansari is using every resource at his disposal to win the election.

There is a doubt on his candidacy as the Supreme Court has mandated the Allahabad High Court render a decision by June 30 in a petition challenging his four-year imprisonment for his involvement in Gangster Act.

Ansari decided to contest the election on SP's symbol after making his daughter, Nusrat Ansari, his political heir as a back up plan in case an unfavorable decision, her nomination as an alternate candidate was cancelled.

BJP Candidate — Though Weaker, Yet Not Out of Race

Even if the SP appears to be ahead, it does not mean that the BJP is not a strong competitor in Ghazipur. The saffron party has a devoted following of roughly 4 lakh voters in this constituency, as demonstrated by 2014 and 2019 general election results. The BJP secured 3.06 lakh votes and triumphed in 2014; however, in 2019, despite receiving 4.46 lakh votes, the SP-BSP combination prevailed.

The BJP hopes that its traditional support base of Baniyas, Rajputs, Bhumihars and Binds will continue to back its candidate, Paras Nath Rai, and it will successfully be able to counter the Yadav-Muslim equation.

Rai is relatively unknown in Ghazipur and has stepped into uncharted territory. Ansari defeated a leader of Manoj Sinha's stature in 2019. It is safe to conclude that Rai has an incredibly difficult battle as well. The Modi and Yogi factor is being over-utilized by the BJP, as has become customary.

The biggest problem the BJP seems to be facing is that it lacks credible local leaders who mobilize their own support base. In addition, the party does not have a single MLA in any of Ghazipur's five assembly segments.

While Zamania, Jangipur, Ghazipur Sadar and Saidpur Assembly constituencies have SP MLAs, Jakhanian is represented by the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (a BJP ally) in the UP Assembly.

On the other hand, all the four SP MLAs have actively campaigned for Ansari.

Though the BJP's canvassing visibly gained steam following Modi's rally here on May 25, the prime minister had held a mega show in 2019, but Ansari ended up winning the seat.

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