Gonda: Union minister Beni Prasad Verma, known for his barbs not only against his political opponents but also against his own party, is eyeing a second consecutive term from this seat, where caste affiliations are likely to play a crucial role.
Polling in the constituency, which has over 17 lakh voters, will be held Wednesday.
Beni, a Kurmi, won Lok Sabha elections in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 from Kaiserganj Lok Sabha seat as a Samajwadi Party nominee and was elected in 2009 from here as a Congress candidate.
Gonda has 22 per cent Muslims, 20 per cent Brahmins, 15 per cent Kurmi, 13 per cent Dalits, eight per cent each Kshatriya and Yadavs and 14 per cent electorates of other caste.
Beni had defeated Kirtivardhan Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya, who then contested on BSP ticket, by a margin of nearly 23,000 votes in 2009.
Kirtivardhan, son of SP MLA Anand Kumar Singh of Mankapur royal family, has shifted his loyalty and is in the fray from BJP.
In a bid to attract Brahmin votes, SP has put its stake on sitting MLA Nandita Shukla while BSP has changed its candidate thrice in the past one year.
First, it named former MP Rizwan Zaheer as its nominee, who was replaced by Masood Alam Khan, and finally it fielded former MP Akbar Ahmad Dumpy from the seat. Agitated by refusal of ticket, Masood quit the party and jumped into the fray as a Peace Party candidate.
In the last election, Beni faced the challenge from three Thakur candidates. This time a Brahmin, a Thakur and a Muslim candidates among others are against him.
SP`s Nandita, contesting Lok Sabha election for the first time, is banking on Brahmin voters along with traditional MY (Muslim-Yadav) combination of SP.
Though Kirtivardhan lost the last election, he is eyeing support of Kshatiryas as well as harping on the `Modi wave` to turn the tables on Beni.
Locals said the area is still one of the most backward areas of the state.
"The condition of roads is very poor. Barring a few sugar mills, there is no other industry in the area. Condition of cane farmers is very poor," said a local Subodh Chandra Mishra.