There is fierce contest between the Samajwadi Party and BSP in the 25 districts of Poorvanchal, with BJP and Congress vying to consolidate their presence in the region. BJP is particularly strong in pilgrim centres of Varanasi and Gorakhpur while Congress stunned political observers by bagging seven of the 28 parliamentary constituencies in the region in 2009 polls.
In the 2007 assembly elections, BSP chief Mayawati's carefully-crafted rainbow social coalition comprising Dalits, a sprinkling of upper castes, MBCs and Muslims paid huge electoral dividends, as the party emerged victorious in as many as 79 of the 150 assembly seats. It did particularly well in Bahraich, Basti, Gorakhpur, Ballia, Mau, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Mirzapur, Bhadohi, Allahabad and Fatehpur. SP, on the other hand, performed satisfactorily in Gonda, Siddharthnagar, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria and Azamgarh.
A churning within the region's electorate saw the tables being turned in the Lok Sabha elections held two years later. While SP won 10 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats falling in Poorvanchal, BSP and Congress shared seven seats each. BJP had to be contented with four seats. Congress performed with aplomb in Devipatan and Gorakhpur divisions, which have a significant presence of Kurmis and Muslims.
SP, which sees itself as best-positioned to capitalise on the growing disillusionment among upper castes and Muslims with BSP, has launched an aggressive campaign to strengthen its hold in the region. While the Yadavs comprise 10% of the electorate, Kurmis and MBCs such as Mauryas or Kushwahas, Nishads, Rajbhars and Noniyas have their pockets of influence.
Compared to western Uttar Pradesh, Muslims do not have a strong presence but can swing the verdict in several assembly segments in Mau, Azamgarh, Ghazipur, Gonda, Bahraich and Balrampur.
BSP's core constituency of Dalits constitute over a fifth of the electorate, and it was this factor that catapulted the party to the front-rank in Poorvanchal in 2007. But Mayawati's leap was also made possible by the support extended by Brahmins, who comprise a little over 11 % of the voter-base in the region, followed closely by Rajputs.
With upper castes and MBCs showing signs of disenchantment with BSP, a bitter three-way tussle has broken out among SP, BJP and Congress to fill the vacuum. Sensing that her party's prospects had taken a beating, Mayawati sought to fan chauvinism by getting the assembly to pass a resolution seeking the creation of Poorvanchal late last year. But the move was dismissed by her political opponents as too little, too late.
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