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Gunnaur voters feel Mulayam may not retain seat

Like his other constituency Bharthana, this assembly seat where Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav is trying his electoral fortunes is also pampered, but there is a feeling among several voters that he may not retain the seat.

Gunnaur, April 09: Like his other constituency Bharthana, this assembly seat where Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav is trying his electoral fortunes is also pampered, but there is a feeling among several voters that he may not retain the seat.

Here lies the battle between him and the rest in the constituency that goes to polls on April 13 in the second of the seven-phased elections in Uttar Pradesh.

As one enters the limits of this high profile assembly constituency in Budaon district, the ambience suddenly changes.

High quality wide roads, electric poles dotting the villages and boys and girls inter and degree colleges make one realise that the area is a VIP constituency unlike some other parts of the district which continue to lie in a state of neglect.

Gunnaur is pre-dominantly Yadav dominated constituency with the community accounting for almost half of the total electorate of over 2.57 lakh.

Their dominance is also reflected in the fact that only Yadav candidates had been elected from here in successive assembly polls since 1962. While there are 1.17 lakh Yadavs, the upper caste are around 42,000 and Muslims about 28,000.

The Samajwadi Party president had been elected from here in a by-election soon after he assumed the reigns of the state in 2003 with a record margin of over 1.75 lakh votes. He had secured over 1.95 lakh or roughly 94 per cent of the 2.13 lakh votes polled.

Despite winning the seat with a record margin, Yadav this time around has chosen to contest from Bharthana assembly seat in his native Etawah district much to the surprise of the people here.

Though Yadav had claimed that he is contesting from two places as he apprehended a conspiracy against him, there are few takers of the argument here.

"His (Yadav's) victory from here is a foregone conclusion," claims Ram Briksha Yadav, a tea stall owner in Dhanari, a part of the constituency.

In fact, the Chief Minister's decision to contest from some other seat and more so from a seat in his native village has created an element of doubt among his supporters who feel that Yadav might retain Bharthana and resign from here if he wins from both places.

"Bharthana is in Etawah...Its near Saifai, which is Yadav's native village...It is doubtful if he will resign from there if he wins from both seats," says Mahipal Yadav of Rajpura. His opponents are going all out to make it an issue in this elections.

"Mulayam Singh will opt for Lok Sabha and resign from both Bharthana and Gunnaur if his party is voted out of power which appears to be certain," claims JD (U) candidate from here Bhupendra Singh.

"People now know that in any case Yadav is not going to keep this seat," he said.

Interestingly, Ajit Kumar Singh alias Raju, a JD(U) candidate had won from here in 2002 assembly polls. Raju later vacated the seat for the Chief Minister after he was allegedly promised a berth in the ministry. He was made a minister of state later.

Congress candidate Piyush Ranjan Yadav rubbishes the claims that the constituency has witnessed rapid development. "The villages still lack basic facilities like dry lavatories," he claims.

Both Singh and Yadav as also the BSP candidate Arif Ali Gunnauri also alleged that the law and order situation in the area and the whole of the state would be a crucial factor in the polls this time.

"Besides there is the Election Commission which is now keeping a strict vigil on the mafia and goonda elements...The Samajwadi Party goons will find it very difficult to rig the polls," they said.

Interestingly, re-polls had been held at a record 110 polling centres when the Chief Minister had contested from here in 2003 after complaints of large-scale rigging by the SP.

Some polling centres had witnessed 99 per cent polling then, they alleged.

Given the low polling percentage in the first phase of elections on 62 assembly seats, the three opponents feel that the bogus voters would not be able to cast their votes this time. "This will sharply bring down the polling percentage," they said.

Raghubeer Singh, a small farmer near Jarifnagar also airs similar views.

"The law and order situation has taken a severe beating during the SP rule," he says. Another factor which is likely to weigh heavily on the mind of Yadav will be the fact that the SP was not able to win even a single nagar palika parishad and nagar panchayat seat in the district during the last year's civic elections.

Even the post of chairman of the Gunnaur nagar palika parishad was won by the BSP's Arif Ali Gunnauri, who is now contesting against Yadav on a BSP ticket.

Bureau Report