A former minister in chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet, Swami Prasad Maurya was among the prominent faces to exit the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh and take along several other backward class (OBC) faces to the Samajwadi Party (SP), leaving the BJP smarting and embarrassed.
As the sitting three-time MLA from Padrauna, Maurya has influence, primarily in Purvanchal, which goes to polls in the final two phases on March 3 and 7. However, his future is far from certain in Fazilnagar, from where he is contesting.
He is up against the BJP’s Surendra Kushwaha, the son of the current two-time MLA. His father Ganga Singh Kushwaha won the 2017 assembly polls by a whopping 48% vote share.
The other contestant is Ilyas Ansari, a former SP member, who was denied a ticket due to Maurya’s candidature and is now a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate, which will make it tough for Maurya to get the OBC and Muslim votes.
Moreover, local residents look at him as a “paratrooper” dropped into Fazil Nagar. Muslims in the area are upset with the SP for ignoring Ilyasi, who has worked in the area for three decades.
Speaking to CNN-News18 on the last day of the campaigning, Maurya, however, seemed confident. “The SP is in a position to get votes. It has become the power centre of UP politics. A big magnet attracts smaller magnets. We are forming the government, which is why people are leaving other parties and joining us,” he said.
Ilyasi was critical of Maurya. He said, “I’m up against a mafia. I’m fighting a person who changes his party every day. Someone who tries to use money power to buy votes. But the people, who don’t take anything from me, are supporting me fully. In Gorakhpur and Basti area, we will hurt the SP.”
Whether the BSP will merely be a tool to hurt the SP or is it a contender?
This question will make the seat among the ones to watch out for on March 10.