Riding on the support extended to it by Muslims, Kurmis and large sections of upper castes, and the pull of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Congress did exceptionally well in the region in 2009 elections. As many as eight of the 20 constituencies that it won from the state came from Avadh.
They included Kanpur, Akbarpur, Barabanki, Farukkhabad, Unnao Kheri, besides the Gandhi family bastions of Rae Bareli and Amethi. Avadh region also houses the state capital, Lucknow. If the Mayawati government-sponsored resolution splitting Uttar Pradesh into four parts is anything to go by, Avadh would contain Lakhimpur Kheri, Sitapur, Farukkhabad, Kanpur Dehat, Kanpur Nagar, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Barabanki, Hardoi and Etawah distrcits, besides Lucknow.
The caste and religious profile of the 13 districts do not display any uniformity, and, hence, exhibit a differential voting pattern. While Kannauj, Etawah, Auraiya and Barabanki have a substantial Yadav population, Kurmis comprise a big chunk in Kheri, Kanpur Dehat and Barabanki. Muslims are present in large numbers in Lucknow, Barabanki and Kheri. Pasis, a Dalit sub-caste, are numerically significant in Sitapur and Hardoi.
Farukkhabad has large pockets of Lodhs, Brahmins, Kurmis and Kushwahas/Sakyas, while Nishads, another MBC, wield a lot of clout in Unnao. Kanpur Nagar, Lucknow and Rae Bareli are a veritable pot-pourri of castes. Brahmins have the potential to tilt the scales in a few assembly segments in Etawah and Kanpur Dehat.
In terms of caste configuration, upper castes account for a little over a quarter of the electorate in Avadh Pradesh, with Brahmins alone adding up to 11% and Rajputs another 7.8%. OBCs constitute 32% of the total voter-base in the region and within this bracket MBCs comprise 12.3%. Among the more affluent among Backwards, Yadavs count for 12.1%, Kurmis 4.1% and Lodhs 3.2%.
MBCs are a disparate lot, with the Mauryas/Kushwahas/Shakyas, Nishads, Saini, Kahar, Lohar, Sonar, Nai, Kalwar, Mali, Nonia and Pals present in pockets across the region. Muslims comprise 15% of the electorate, Dalits add up to 13.6%. The two biggest components among them are Jatavs (10.1%) and Pasis (8%).
In the 2007 assembly polls, BSP walked away with 34 seats from the region, while the Samajwadi Party cornered 28 seats. BJP and Congress could win nine and eight seats, respectively. Congress scripted the biggest turnaround of 2009 general election by bagging as many as eight seats from the Avadh region. Its success formula was built around the support offered by Kurmis, Muslims and large chunks of the upper castes, primarily Brahmins.
Angry with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for his decision to warm up to former chief minister Kalyan Singh, the Hindutva poster-boy of the 1990s, Muslims backed Congress candidates in several constituencies. The upper castes which gravitated towards BSP in the assembly polls in 2007, disillusioned with SP, they shifted their allegiance to Congress in large parts of Avadh in 2009.
But with SP making a determined bid to reclaim the support of Muslims, and BJP locked in a tight contest with its opponents to woo upper castes and non-Yadav OBCs, particularly MBCs, it remains to be seen whether Congress can come up with a repeat performance.
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