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Ram Ke Naam: BJP Faces Tightrope Walk in Citadel Ayodhya

The Ayodhya constituency comprises 3.79 lakh electors, with Dalits accounting for 65,000 of them and Brahmins contributing for 40,000. Around 1 lakh Muslims and Yadavs vote, with the remaining voters coming from the Kurmi, Nishad, Vaishya, Aggarwal, Maurya, Kayasth, Rajbhar, and other communities. 

Updated: February 5, 2022 12:16 AM IST

By Surabhi Shaurya

Ram Ke Naam: BJP Faces Tightrope Walk in Citadel Ayodhya
Ram Ke Naam: BJP Faces Tightrope Walk in Citadel Ayodhya | A Ground Report

New Delhi: Ayodhya, the citadel of Bharatiya Janata Party has become the epicenter of politics with parties leaving no stones unturned to woo their respective vote banks in the city which is scheduled to go to the polls in the fifth phase of Uttar Pradesh elections on February 27. With the under construction Ram Mandir, Ayodhya is the cynosure of the saffron brigade to appeal to the larger Hindu voters. From Bhoomi Pujan of the majestic temple on August 05, 2020, to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s recurrent visit to Ayodhya, the BJP did not let the issue bury under the ground. However, like every other constituency of UP, Ayodhya‘s fate also seems to be decided on caste lines.

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India’s most populous state, home to nearly 24 crore people has five main voting groups — Upper Caste Hindus, Yadavs, non-Yadav OBCs, and Jatavs. The regional parties — Samajwadi Party in 2012 and Bahujan Samaj Party in 2007 had stormed to power in Uttar Pradesh by grabbing votes of two full groups and pinches from the non-Yadav OBCs.

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Yadav-Muslims Vote Share 

To woo the ascendant Kurmi and Nishad communities, BJP has announced an alliance with two local political factions  —Apna Dal and Nishad Party. Remarkably, these two parties enjoy massive support from sections of backward castes. Other than that, in the major reshuffle last year, the Modi government at the Centre also inducted two Kurmis and one Lodh— Anupriya Patel, Pankaj Chaudhary, and BL Verma in the Union Cabinet to take on the Opposition’s attempt to establish a non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalit coalition. Three Dalit leaders — SP Singh Baghel, Kaushal Kishore Pasi, and Bhanu Pratap Verma Kori were also added into the Cabinet as caste equations appear to have played a vital role in the run-up to UP elections 2022.

On top of that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to provide 27 reservations to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and 10 per cent to Economically Weaker Sections under the All India Quota Scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate programs is also being seen as measures to lure OBCs ahead of high-octane political battle.

SP to Give Tough Fight to Saffron Brigade

Tej Narayan Pandey alias Pawan Pandey, a promising youth leader from Lucknow University, is all set to take on BJP’s sitting MLA Ved Prakash Gupta. Earlier, media reports had claimed that BJP would nominate none other than chief minister Yogi Adityanath from Ayodhya. The party, however, later announced that the firebrand leader will fight from his stronghold Gorakhpur Urban assembly constituency.

In 2012 Pandey had registered victory from the high-profile constituency but in 2017 he lost the seat with a margin of 50440 votes. The BSP has also fielded Ravi Prakash Maurya, an OBC, in Ayodhya, but political analysts believe that the contest is likely to be mainly between the BJP and the SP nominees.

Anti-Incumbency Factor

Residents of Ayodhya asserted that there is resentment against the incumbent MLA as he could not fulfill the yearnings of the people. Traders also seemed to be disappointed with Gupta owing to the government’s decision to demolish shops in a bid to widen roads. While talking to a portal, Ayodhya Vyapar Mandal President Nand Kumar Gupta had asserted that it’s a matter of their daily bread and butter as they are putting up here for the past three-four generations. “These shops are on properties of Raja (Ayodhya) or temples. The shopkeepers here will not be getting any compensation”, Gupta added.

From anti-incumbency to complex social equations, the above-mentioned factors would make it interesting to see which party gets the specter of the holy grail in the land of Lord Ram.

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