New Delhi

The Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) tacit support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became quite apparent in the Jaunpur seat, where mafia-politician Dhananjay Singh’s wife Shrikala Reddy was denied the Dalit party’s ticket on Monday. Till last week, BJP cadre and leaders were convinced that because of Dhananjay Singh’s clout in Jaunpur, the BSP was going to certainly clinch this seat. Now that Singh’s wife has been denied the ticket, the BJP has a better chance in Jaunpur.

Instead of Shrikala Reddy, the BSP has fielded Shyam Singh Yadav, who will be contesting against BJP’s Kripa Shankar Singh and INDIA bloc candidate from Samajwadi Party (SP), Babu Singh Kushwaha.

Being a Yadav on a BSP ticket, it will cut into the SP’s vote bank among the Yadavs and facilitate the BJP’s victory. Jaunpur goes to polls on May 25, in the sixth phase of elections.

Earlier, the main contender for the BSP ticket was Dhananjay Singh himself. He has once been elected to the Jaunpur seat. But he could not contest owing to his last-minute conviction in a criminal case.

Subsequently, he managed a ticket for his wife, Shrikala, a panchayat member from Sikrara ward in Jaunpur, from the BSP. Shrikala herself has BJP links. She was a member of the BJP in Hyderabad, her native place.

After Shrikala was denied the BSP ticket, Dhananjay, who is out on bail, told reporters: “I’m not surprised since the BSP did this to me on earlier occasions too. The BSP coordinators are new and they should refrain from foisting false charges against me”.

Now that Dhananjay Singh’s wife is no longer in the fray, local political observers say it brightens the chances of the BJP not just in Jaunpur but in the adjoining Machhlishahar constituency as well. The BJP’s candidate from Jaunpur is Kripa Shankar Singh, who has been living in Mumbai for a long time. He was earlier in the Congress and switched over to the BJP only in 2021. He was a Congress MLA, MLC, and minister in the Congress-ruled Maharastra government in 2004. However, Kripa Shankar Singh is a native of Jaunpur.

SP candidate Babu Singh Kushwaha, an OBC by caste, was earlier in the BSP and remained twice a cabinet minister in the former UP Chief Minister Mayawati’s regime.

The BSP, which has earned the dubious distinction of being “BJP’s B team” in UP, also withdrew its candidate from the Basti constituency on Monday.

Elsewhere in the state, the Dalit party has fielded a large number of Muslim candidates in western UP and in Sant Kabir Nagar, where SP’s Kushal Tiwari, a son of a former mafia don from Gorakhpur, Harishankar Tiwari, is putting up a good fight against BJP’s sitting MP Praveen Nishad.

Elsewhere, too, the BSP seems to be vacating ground in favour of the BJP. Mayawati has hand-picked candidates who are splitting and cutting votes, mostly in order to help the BJP. In Ghaziabad, for instance, the BSP fielded Nand Kishor Pundhir to tap into the Rajput anger which is threatening the BJP. The BJP has won from Ghaziabad by massive margins in consecutive elections. In this election, Rajputs are holding community gatherings across this constituency to challenge the BJP. To ensure that this vote does not get transferred to the INDIA bloc, which has fielded Congress candidate Dolly Sharma, the BSP is promoting a Rajput. BSP is similarly damaging the SP in constituencies like Moradabad, Rampur, Amroha, Nagina, and Saharanpur by fielding candidates who are mostly cutting into the SP’s support base.