Virender Singh Pradhan of Bhojipura (left). Hamid Mewati, Prashant of Abhaypur (right). Photos: Nalin Verma.

Mainpuri (Uttar Pradesh): For Samajwadi Party’s Bhojipura MLA Shahzil Islam it is imperative that reporters visit Mainpuri to see the situation at hand.

“I am at the Bareilly railway station to catch the train for Lucknow and from there I will go to Mainpuri. It is best you meet the people in my constituency,” Shahzil tells this writer.

Dimple Yadav, wife of SP president Akhilesh, is contesting the December 5 Lok Sabha by-election for SP from Mainpuri.

The Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after Dimple’s father-in-law and the founder of Samajwadi Party, Mulayam Singh Yadav passed away recently. Mainpuri is considered the pocket borough of Mulayam’s family, and the Samajwadi Party’s citadel.

The SP’s prestige is at the stake here and the Bharatiya Janata Party is making all efforts to grab this seat. BJP has already taken two other SP bastions, Azamgarh and Rampur, in the last by-polls.

Like Shahzil and Suraj Yadav – an influential Yadav leader accompanied him – many Muslim and Yadav SP leaders from Rohilkhand of western Uttar Pradesh have made it a point to arrive at Mainpuri – nearly 160 kilometres from Bhojipura – to “save” their party’s prestige.

In Mainpuri’s Abhaypur, Bhoripura and Dohana villages, which are all part of the Bhojipura assembly constituency and mostly populated by Muslims, conversations with a cross-section of people brought to the fore a scenario of persecution of minorities quite unprecedented for the region.

On April 3 this year, enthused by his electoral success Shahzil had allegedly said that SP would “fire bullets for each hate-filled word of [UP chief minister] Adityanath”. He denied having made those remarks later, but police booked him for making an allegedly “provocative” speech, and on April 7, a bulldozer ran over his petrol pump on the Bhojipura-Bareilly road.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here