New Delhi: Om Prakash Rajbhar, president of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and a key ally of the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, is leading from the Zahoorabad constituency in Ghazipur district, and has got over 93,192 votes till around 9 pm with a voteshare of over 46.6 per cent, according to the Election Commission of India website.
Rajbhar, the sitting MLA from Zahoorabad, faced a tough challenge this time from BJP candidate Kalicharan Rajbhar, who has polled over 54,305 votes with a voteshare of over 27 per cent.
Kalicharan, a former BSP leader who defected in December and belongs to the same community, is no stranger to Zahoorabad — he won the seat twice, in 2002 and 2007, on a BSP ticket.
The BSP, meanwhile, had fielded Shadab Fatima, who won from the constituency in 2012 on an SP ticket. Fatima has got 16,806 votes, with 21.73 per cent of the voteshare, according to the ECI website.
Fatima targeted of Dalit votes in the constituency, and aimed to draw much of the Muslim votes too — votes on which the SP and its allies, O.P. Rajbhar in this case, had also relied.
This, and a division of the Rajbhar votes between Kalicharan and O.P. Rajbhar means that the BJP, with its own core voters intact, hoped to benefit from the expected split voting along community and caste lines.
O.P. Rajbhar’s SBSP, in alliance with the BJP, contested eight seats in the 2017 assembly polls and won four. Rajbhar became a cabinet minister, but his ties with the BJP soured when he demanded a Lok Sabha ticket in the 2019 parliamentary polls.
After their break-up in 2019, Rajbhar joined hands with the SP and fought on 17 seats in alliance with SP in the 2022 assembly polls. It was leading in four of them till 2.40 pm.
Caste/community divisions in Zahoorabad
Kalicharan, who won from Zahoorabad in 2002 and 2007 on a BSP ticket, lost the contest in 2012 to Shadab Fatima and in 2017 to O.P. Rajbhar.
The BJP’s poll mathematics in Zahoorabad, like elsewhere, hinged on the caste/community divisions in the electorate.
In Zahoorabad, Dalits and Rajbhars number around 70,000 each, according to party estimates, that peg the number of Muslim and Yadav voters at 30,000 and 45,000, respectively.
Then, there are 30,000 Chouhan voters and 30,000 Rajput voters, with Brahmin and Vaishya voters, respectively, totalling an estimated 25,000 and 20,000, respectively.
The BJP hoped that due to Kalicharan’s old BSP connection, he would get some Dalit votes, plus a fair share of his Rajbhar community votes. The Chouhan, Brahmin, Rajput and Vaishya votes comprise the core BJP votebank.
Lastly, the BJP also banked on a division of Muslim votes due to the presence of Shadab Fatima. All this, it hoped, would make it very difficult for O.P. Rajbhar to win.
The BJP has only won Zahoorabad once, in 1996. Since then, the contest here has largely been between the BSP and the SP.
Fatima, a relative of the Hindi/Urdu poet, novelist and scriptwriter Rahi Masoom Raza (who also wrote the script of TV serial Mahabharat), was close to SP leader Shivpal Yadav. After the Akhilesh Yadav-Shivpal Yadav split in 2017, she was denied a ticket from the party. She had earlier served in the Akhilesh Yadav government as minister.
She won in the 2007 UP assembly polls from the Ghazipur Sadar seat on an SP ticket.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)