The Indian Air Force Hercules C130J with Prime Minister Narendra Modi aboard lands at Purvanchal Expressway in Sultanpur district
Eastern Uttar Pradesh also called Purvanchal is like a chameleon. It keeps changing its colour. In 2007, Purvanchal changed to Mayawati's blue, in 2012 to Samajwdi's red and in 2017 it embraced BJP's saffron. " In 2017 of the 164 seats, BJP along with its ally Apna Dal and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) demolished the Opposition by winning 115 seats in the region.
Even as the BJP looks poised to retain its grip in eastern UP, recent exodus of the OBC leaders from the party has somewhat shaken the saffron caste cauldron. A host of OBC leaders including Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chouhan (Nonia) and Dharam Singh Saini and the SBSP joined hands with the Samajwadi Party. The SP also stitched up alliances with smaller backward outfits like Janvadi Party(Socialist) and Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) led by Krishna Patel. The SBSP being viewed as the emerging Dalit brigade holds sway over nearly 18 per cent of the Rajbhar community in eastern UP. With Janvadi Party in its pocket, the SP was looking to gain support of the sizeable Nonia community in the region. By allying with the Apna Dal(Kamerawadi) faction the SP was also trying to split the Kurmi vote bank. The SP's Muslim-Yadav combination added extra muscle to Akhilesh Yadav's outfit.
Aware of the changes, BJP has put in place a two pronged strategy to retain its grip. The BJP has launched a megamega - "Purvanchal Vikas" plan. Led by Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, the party has unfurled mega projects including Purvanchal Expressway, AIIMS at Gorakhpur, Kashi Vishwanath corridor, International Airport at Siddharthnagar among others. The Prime Minister leading the charge along with the chief minister, Yogi Adityanath have toured the region extensively. Reports indicated that the BJP's high-tech IT cell would focus heavily on this region. The party has also swung into action to pacify the Brahimns, who were reportedly upset with the state leadership. Committees have been formed to address the grievances.
The chief minister, Yogi Adityanath's powerful pitches on the construction of Ram Mandir is also expected to cut across the caste barriers in the state, a BJP leader said. Home Minister Amit Shah's recent visit in the state also seemed to have galvanised both the party workers and the voters, the leader claimed.
A senior BJP functionary, meanwhile, indicated that even though cracks in the SP-RLD alliance over ticket distribution would benefit the party, "we cannot take things for granted in western UP." For him, farmers' agitation "remains a major cause of concern."
Therefore, the party "is trying to cover maximum ground by focussing more on the eastern region," the leader maintained. The chief minister, Yogi Adityanath's decision to contest from Gorakhpur in eastern UP would also help the party "immensely." the saffron leader said. By contesting from Gorakhpur, not merely would the chief minister have more time to focus on other areas but would also influence the neighbouring constituencies. Besides development, the chief minister's "efficient" handling of the law and order situation in the region would also benefit the BJP, the leader added.
As elections approach, the battle for eastern UP, which apparently is a "lucky charm" is expected to intensify. Even though its advantage BJP at this juncture, the SP has pressed all its resources to regain its "lost base," a senior SP leader said. With the belief that the party which "wins eastern UP, controls the state", all eyes are on the region known for changing its hue.