The government schemes that have benefitted a large number of people in these constituencies are also a factor, more so among the smaller backward castes.
Although caste remains a big factor like in the previous elections, the major parties–BJP, SP and BSP–are experimenting with different social combinations for the seats in this region in the seventh phase of polling in the state.
The battle in most of the constituencies is between the BJP and the SP, but the BSP with its core votebank intact is also a player to watch out for. While the BSP is impacting the BJP in some seats, it is troubling the SP in some others.
With a good presence in the region, the Kushwahas (known as Maurya and Koiri also) are primarily siding with the BJP. “Although Kushwahas are traditional supporters of the BJP, they are a divided house this time because of local factors,” said Ravidra Kushwaha at Tulsipur village under the Ghazipur Sadar seat. He said there is a problem of leadership among the Kushwahas and thus, they get divided. “A section of them may vote for SP and BSP,” he said. Tulsipur is a part of the Chhawani Line Gram Sabha, accommodating around 12 Kushwaha-dominated villages. They remain a deciding factor in most of the eight assembly seats of Ghazipur district. The BJP has built its new office in this area. The Kushwahas are present in several seats of Azamgarh, Mau and Mirzapur districts, too.
“Stray cattle damage our crops, prompting us to maintain night vigil. Fencing of the field increases the cost of production,” said Narendra Kushwaha, owner of the Samrat Dhaba, in Ghazipur.
Showing a soft corner for the BJP, Bhagwat Kushwaha said, “We have let our cattle stray and we should be blamed for it, not the Yogi government.”
The BJP has fielded Ram Naresh Kushwaha from Jangipur seat, neighbouring Ghazipur Sadar. “Neither the SP nor the BSP has given a ticket to Kushwaha in Ghazipur,” said Kedar Kushwaha, a supporter of the BJP.
The smaller backward castes like Bind, Nishad, Chaurasia, Badhai, Nonia, Prajapati and Pal, which benefitted from the government’s free food grains and welfare schemes, are tilting towards the BJP, which is wooing them aggressively.
“Our booth workers are in constant touch with the beneficiaries of government schemes. We are getting good response, particularly from the smaller backward castes,” said Dilip Pandey, in-charge of the BJP’s election office at Makhdumpur in Ghazipur’s Saidpur (SC) seat, which shares boundaries with Varanasi district.
BSP’s core vote-bank of SCs, particularly non-Jatavs like Pasi and Banvasi, is also being targeted by the BJP and SP in this region. The BJP has fielded Subhash Pasi and Ramraj Banvasi from Saipur and Jakhania seats, respectively. “Only a section of Pasi voters is with the SP. Most of the voters of SC community side with the BSP,” said Virendra Pasi of Hetimpur village, which has a considerable population of SC voters, in Ghazipur Sadar seat, which shares boundaries with Saipur (SC) assembly seat. Pasi said the major issues are unemployment and inflation. “A section of Pasi voters, who go to different states for jobs, are unhappy with the BJP government. They want to change this government and their obvious choice is SP,” he told ET.