Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Is BSP 'Tacitly Aiding' BJP in Yadav-dominated Jaunpur?

Many observers find it puzzling that Mayawati abruptly changed Shrikala Reddy, the wife of convicted former MP Dhananjay Singh, to sitting BSP MP Shyam Singh Yadav. They believe the only thing that can be inferred from the development is that the BSP is subtly supporting the BJP on the seat.
Sitting BSP MP Shyam Singh Yadav (left) and Srikala Reddy (right).
Sitting BSP MP Shyam Singh Yadav (left) and Srikala Reddy (right). Photo: Facebook

Jaunpur (Uttar Pradesh): Observers are perplexed by Mayawati’s decision to abruptly change the Jaunpur Lok Sabha constituency’s candidate, with many believing that the only possible explanation is that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is subtly aiding the the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the seat.

The wife of convicted former MP Dhananjay Singh, Shrikala Reddy, has been replaced with sitting BSP parliamentarian Shyam Singh Yadav to run for the seat. Yadav, if wins, would be the first MP to be re-elected in a straight year since 1971.

He won the 2019 general elections on a BSP ticket with a margin of 60,351 votes and 50.08% vote share. Back then, the BSP and the Samajwadi Party (SP) had fought the election together. First runner-up was Krishna Pratap Singh of the BJP, followed by Deo Vrat Mishra of the Congress.

The saffron party this time has fielded Kripashankar Singh as its candidate.

The fact that Dhananjay was found guilty in a 2020 case, involving the kidnapping and extortion of a Namami Gange project manager, was a major setback for the BJP because it precluded him from running in the polls.

He has been sentenced to seven-year rigorous imprisonment. Though the Allahabad High Court granted him bail on April 27, his request to have the sentence suspended or stayed was denied.

If the BSP had fielded Dhananjay’s wife, Mayawati’s party would have been guaranteed the seat, thanks to his influence in Jaunpur. Following his conviction, it was almost a given that his wife Shrikala would receive the ticket and be able to win under her husband’s name.

Being Dhananjay’s spouse, she is popular in the constituency as her husband is viewed as a cross-caste Robin Hood figure known for his daring and “selfless” charity.

However, the BSP’s decision to exclude anyone connected to Dhananjay from the race seems to have shifted the playing field in BJP’s favor. Following the BSP’s 11th hour decision, unhappy Singh has openly supported the BJP’s nominee — confidently claiming his victory.

Rumors that his wife had returned the ticket were also refuted by him.

As a nominee of the SP, Babu Singh Kushwaha, a former leader of the BSP who is also an accused in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh NRHM scam case, is challenging Shyam and Kripashankar.

A cabinet minister in the Mayawati government in the state, Babu Singh belongs to the OBC community. After being fired by the party on allegations of corruption, he joined the BJP before switching to the SP.

In April, Babu Singh’s candidacy faced significant resistance, and party workers chanted anti-Kushwaha slogans — sparking a brawl.

Kripashankar, the saffron party’s unexpected pick, is a native of Uttar Pradesh who is more well-liked and involved in Maharashtra politics. Prior to joining the Congress, he had worked for Vilasrao Deshmukh, the then Maharashtra chief minister, as the Minister of State for Home.

An experienced lawmaker, who is originally from Jaunpur, he stepped down as the minister in 2021 after being accused of corruption and joined the BJP. Shortly after, he was appointed vice-president of the party’s Maharashtra unit.

His primary responsibility in the BJP, as it was in the Congress, has been to unite the sizable number of North Indian migrant voters.

Given the fact that he is contesting from Jaunpur, there is conjecture that his daughter Sunita Singh might receive a BJP ticket for the Maharashtra Assembly elections later this year.

Kripashankar claims that his decades-long absence from Jaunpur will impact his prospect in this election. He insists he never lost contact with people from the constituency. He is banking on Uttar Pradesh’s reputation for electing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP with a landslide victory.

Caste Arithmetic

Jaunpur is a seat that is dominated by Yadavs — the traditional support base of the SP. Yadavs united behind SP-BSP candidate Shyam Singh Yadav in 2019 to secure his win.

However, the two parties are contesting the elections independently this time. Currently, the SP is a member of the Opposition INDIA bloc.

The BJP stands to gain from the potential splitting of the approximately 3.5 lakh Yadav votes between the SP and the BSP.

Meanwhile, the Thakurs account for 2 lakh voters. After Dhananjay’s wife was removed from the race, the community is reportedly angry with the BSP and may vote for the BJP, which has also fielded a Thakur candidate. It is anticipated that over 2.5 lakh Brahmin voters will support the BJP as well.

Jaunpur Lok Sabha Constituency at a Glance

Jaunpur is one among the 80 parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. It is a general category seat, which comprises a portion of the district of Jaunpur.

The Lok Sabha seat has five Assembly segments — two (Badlapur and Jaunpur) are held by the BJP, two (Malhani and Mungra Badshahpur) by the SP and the remaining one (Shahganj) by the NISHAD party.

Jaunpur hasn’t granted a successive mandate to a party in 44 years, and it hasn’t repeated an MP in 53 years. The Janata Party won Jaunpur elections in 1977 and 1980, the last time a party achieved back-to-back victories there. Congress’ Rajdeo Singh had won two consecutive elections in 1963, 1967 and 1971.


There has long been a call for the creation of a distinct state in the Bhojpuri region of eastern Uttar Pradesh. Advocates of statehood want Bhojpuri to be the official language and Varanasi as the state capital.

Periodically, calls are made to divide Uttar Pradesh into four regions: Bundelkhand, Awadh, Poorvanchal (eastern UP), Harit Pradesh (western UP), and others. These calls pick up steam when elections approach.

When the SP was in power, the BSP was a steadfast advocate for the demand on matters of law and order and development, arguing that smaller states could be administered more effectively.

Mayawati brought up the topic for the first time in 2007 while serving as chief minister, and her government even passed a resolution in the Assembly calling for the state to be divided into four parts.

Mayawati's resolution was supported by the Congress and the BJP in the 403-member House.

However, the demand waned when she lost in 2012, having won only 80 seats as opposed to 206 in 2007. Although it might not be a hot topic in Jaunpur during the 2024 elections, there are certain areas where it is.

It is nearly impossible to enter Jaunpur without passing through railway crossings, which causes traffic jams — clogging the main thoroughfares that lead to the region.

Although the locals have been demanding over-bridges to avoid the railroad crossings for years, not much has changed in that regard.

The dearth of bypass options is most noticeable on the routes that connect Lucknow, Varanasi, Azamgarh and Prayagraj with Jaunpur.

One of the main electoral concerns this time is the dearth of job opportunities for youth. Locals lament that youngsters are forced to migrate in search of employment.

Although the central government’s welfare programs, such as the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), the Jal Shakti Mission, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, are tackling issues like housing, water scarcity and cleanliness to an extent, there are gaps in the oversight of the rate of implementation on the ground.

Local sources claim that implementation is being delayed, especially with the PMAY, due to a lack of last-mile coordination.

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