As the penultimate 6th phase of 2019 Lok Sabha elections inches closer, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in direct clash with the SP-BSP-RLD mahagathbandhan in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, has another chance to get its math straight for repeating its government at the Centre.

Of the 59 Lok Sabha seats that would go under the button in the 6th phase on May 12 spread across UP, Delhi, Bihar and MP, the BJP had won 44 in 2014 and the NDA 46. Of these 59, 14 are in UP and the saffron party had captured 12 of these in the last elections, one each going to Samajwadi Party and BJP’s own ally Apna Dal.

Let us have a look at the top 5 contests 

1. Sultanpur: The seat, having gone to the BSP under different candidates in 1999 and 2004 and Congress’s Sanjay Singh in 2009, was captured in 2014 by BJP’s own Gandhi, Varun. Varun has wooed the sizeable population of Dalits in Sultanpur by his welfare schemes, especially providing pukka houses. this time around he has exchanged seats with his mother, who would be contesting from Sultanpur. She is expected to retain the support of the majority of the 15% Thakurs and some 9% Brahmins of the constituency.

On the other hand, Muslims constitute 17 per cent of the population.

2. Phulpur: This is a high-stakes contest for the BJP. Having lost the seat from which BJP bigwig OBC leader and one of the deputy chief ministers of UP, Keshav Prasad Maurya, had won in the by-elections after assembly polls in 2017, the saffron outfit would be looking to reverse that. In fact, it was one of the seats, apart from Yogi Adityanath’s backyard Gorakhpur, that SP-BSP-RLD mahagathbandhan used as a test case against the BJP. SP’s own OBC face Nagandra Pratap Singh Patel routed the BJP in by-polls.

A battle of turncoats, BJP has fielded strong Patel leader former Zila panchayat chief Keshri Devi Patel who was earlier in BSP. Pankaj Niranjan contesting from the Congress is from Apna Dal and the son-in-law of party founder Sonelal Patel. Pandhari Yadav is representing the grand alliance.  

The Phulpur seat was represented thrice by former PM Jawaharlal Nehru.

3. Allahabad: Of all things, the near-perfect execution of Kumbh Mela by the BJP’s Yogi government, which was lauded by one and all, this contest seems tilted towards the BJP.

This too is a high-profile contest also among turncoats. Former chief of UP Congress Rita Bahuguna Joshi is contesting on BJP ticket, while ex-BJP leader Yogesh Shukla is trying his luck from the Congress. BJP has a favourable history in Allahabad as BJP stalwart MM Joshi was a three-time MP from here. Rita Bahuguna had contested unsuccessfully against MM Joshi in 1999, Yogesh Shukla lost as BJP candidate in 2009. BJP’s Shyama Charan Gupta is the sitting BJP MP. 

The seat has been represented in the past by such heavyweights as ex PMs Lal Bahadur Shastri and VP Singh, apart from Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna and Janeshwar Mishra.

4. Pratapgarh: This seat is a throwback to the princely days of India. This is said to be the only seat in the 14 that go to polls in UP where the demographic arithmetic is not entirely against the BJP vis-à-vis the mahagathbandhan. In 2014 Apna Dal candidate Kuwar Harivansh had polled 3,75,789 votes in 2014, which was more than the combined polled votes of the SP and BSP.

Also Read: Election 2019 in Uttar Pradesh: A constituency-wise ground report

This time despite several claims from the BJP, the party yet again fielded Apna Dal MLA Sangam Lal Gupta. This OBC leader is pitted against upper caste Ashok Kumar Tripathi of the grand alliance and another upper caste Ratna Singh of the Congress. Ratna Singh has been fielded by the Congress a seventh time. 

One of the staunchest strongmen of UP politics, Raghuraj Pratap Singh or Raja Bhaiya is, on the other hand, playing the spoil-sport in this contest. Having floated his own outfit, Janasatta Dal, he has fielded former MP and sitting MLC Akshay Pratap Singh Goplaji. He seems to be sapping the votes of all the parties.  

5.  Azamgarh: This is the only seat outside the NDA ambit in the 14 seats that will go to polls in the 6th phase. It is held by SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav. It was also once held by close Gandhi Sanjay Gandhi’s close friend Akbar Ahmad ‘Dumpy’. Dominated by Dalit, Yadav and Muslim voters, this seems to be a hard nut for the BJP to crack.

This time, Yadav senior has been replaced by Yadav junior and former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav as the grand alliance candidate. But, he seems to be challenged well by BJP’s own Yadav candidate and extremely popular Bhojpuri singer Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’. The BJP’s underdog could spring up a surprise.  

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The 14 seats that will go to polls on May 12 in UP are Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Allahabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Shrawasti, Domariyaganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Lalganj, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Machhlishahr and Bhadohi.