After his father Mulayam Singh Yadav filed his nomination papers from the party stronghold of Mainpuri last month, an excited Akhilesh Yadav had exhorted party workers: “Netaji should win with the highest victory margin in the country.”
The Samajwadi Party (SP) national president was beaming as Mulayam stood next to him, putting to rest all speculation on who he (Mulayam) would choose — son (Akhilesh) or brother (Shivpal) — if he had to side with one ( The two were locked in a bitter fight for control of the party in 2017 that eventually led to Shivpal’s exit). A senior SP leader had earlier said, “He will remain with the Samajwadi Party that he had founded in 1992.”
With no opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is a cakewalk for him. But it’s the victory margin that is the key.
Interestingly, 563 kilometres away in Varanasi, the campaign managers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have given a similar call, fixing 700,000 as his victory margin. BJP spokesperson, Navratan Rathi, said, “We are striving hard to ensure PM wins by the highest margin in the country.”
After his show of strength before filing his nomination papers in Varanasi on April 26, Modi had given a subtle message to his party workers to ensure his victory at every booth.
In 2014, General VK Singh had the highest victory margin in the state when he won from Ghaziabad by 567,000 votes, followed by Bhola Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bulandshahr, who managed a margin of 421,000 votes. Third on the list was Sanjiv Baliyan of the BJP, who won Muzaffarnagar by over 400,000 votes.
Modi’s winning margin from Varanasi was around 371,000 (Aam Aadmi Party chief, Arvind Kejriwal, polled more than 200,000 votes, thereby reducing the margin).
Mulayam won from Mainpuri by 364,000 votes. From his second seat of Azamgarh, Mulayam’s margin was much lower: 62,304. In Modi’s second seat, Vadodara in Gujarat, the margin of victory was 570,000.
Going by the emotional connect of the voters with their candidates in both the constituencies, it is hard to guess who will win the battle of margins in 2019. While Varanasi takes pride in sending the country’s prime minister to the Centre, Mulayam too has a personal bond with this Yadav-Muslim dominated constituency of Mainpuri.
Now, Azamgarh is also vying with neighbouring Varanasi in the battle of margins. The supporters of Akhilesh Yadav, who is fighting from the seat, are eyeing a huge victory margin in this Dalit-Muslim-Yadav dominated constituency.
Their confidence stems from several reasons. For one, the local muscle power of Ramakant Yadav, who has won the seat on SP,BSP and BJP tickets in the past, has now moved to the neighbouring Bhadohi constituency on a Congress ticket. Also, the BJP fielded Bhojpuri actor, Dinesh Lal Yadav alias Nirahua, a political novice.
Though Yadavs have voted for the BJP in the past, they are unlikely to ditch Akhilesh, son of the tallest Yadav leader in the state, now that Ramakant Yadav is not in the fray in Azamgarh.
Moreover, Mayawati has urged Jatavs, a Dalit sub-caste, to support Akhilesh as they would have supported her. This appeal, the opposition alliance hopes, is going to consolidate the Yadav-Muslim-Jatav votes.
Others tall leaders who are expected to retain their seats with large majorities are United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, in Rae Bareli and Union home minister, Rajnath Singh, in Lucknow.
In 2009, the five biggest margins in the state were Sonia Gandhi of the Congress (Rae Bareli, 372,000), Rahul Gandhi of the Congress (Amethi, 370,000), Annu Tandon of the Congress (Unnao,302,000), Varun Gandhi of the BJP (Pilibhit, 281,000) and Yogi Adityanath of the BJP (Gorakhpur, 220,000).
Prof DK Dwivedi of Lucknow University said, ‘Notwithstanding the claims and counterclaims of political parties, victory margins are most unpredictable.
However, they are important too as they determine the popularity of the leader.”
On the claim by Modi and Mulayam camps, he said, “Both are popular. Mainpuri is Mulayam’s traditional seat while Kashi (Varanasi) elects the prime minister.”