Ayodhya: One of the major upsets for the BJP in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls came in UP’s Faizabad constituency, in which the temple city of Ayodhya falls, with SP veteran Awadhesh Prasad wresting the seat from the ruling party.

Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate from Faizabad constituency Awadhesh Prasad shows his certificate after winning the Lok Sabha elections, at Government Inter College, in Ayodhya, Tuesday, June 4, 2024.(PTI)

Prasad, a nine-time legislator, defeated two-time BJP lawmaker Lallu Singh by a margin of 54,567 votes on Tuesday. A prominent Dalit leader, the 78-year-old was fielded from this non-reserved seat as part of the Akhilesh Yadav-led party’s new caste calculus, something that has been largely credited for the SP’s stellar performance in the general elections, winning 37 of the 80 LS seats in the state. The SP leader speaks to HT on the shift in the political dynamics of the region. Excerpts:

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After the inauguration of Ram temple, the BJP seemed unbeatable…how was the saffron party defeated in this Hindutva epicentre of Ayodhya?

The BJP tried to take credit for Ram temple, which was built on the order of the Supreme Court. They unsuccessfully tried to derive political mileage from the temple issue to divert people’s attention from fundamental issues like unemployment, poverty, inflation, farmers’ issues and stray cattle menace. I was not contesting against the BJP…it was the people who were fighting against the BJP. During the poll campaign over the last two months, I never saw such support and affection from people.

Also Read | Setback for BJP in Faizabad seat despite Ram Temple momentum

In the previous parliamentary election, the SP was defeated by around 65,000 votes. How did you manage to cover this gap and add 55,000 more votes in a constituency where BJP was riding on Ram temple chariot?

We got maximum support from our Dalit brothers who were the real sufferers of BJP’s policies that gave birth to inflation, unemployment and poverty. These people had voted for the BJP in the last elections. Along with the Dalit community, we had a strong support base among the backward class, OBCs and minorities. We also got full support from farmers, irrespective of caste and religion, as they were fed up with the problem of stray cattle.

You challenged the BJP in the saffron bastion…despite being a Dalit you contested from the general seat…what was your strategy?

My grandfather Ram Nawal, my father Dukhi Ram, brother Ram Awadh, maternal uncle Parshuram, and father-in-law Ram Sevak – all have ‘Ram’ in their name. The name of Shri Ram was closely associated with my family and ancestors. We consider ourselves fortunate to have been born in Ayodhya. I had no strategy…this (victory) became possible only due to the blessings of Lord Ram and Hanumanji and the support of people. I was that confident these three powers will help me secure victory.

Also Read | The three states that dealt the biggest blow to BJP

The NDA aimed for 400-plus seats in the Lok Sabha elections, but it was defeated in Uttar Pradesh. How did this happen?

Due to the insensitivity of the BJP government, seven crore unemployed people crossed the age limit for jobs. At least 60 lakh candidates prepared for the police recruitment exam and their future is uncertain after the paper leak. People sought revenge from the BJP.

You are a leader of the time of great socialist leaders like Lohia, Madhu Limaye, Raj Narain, Jai Prakash Narayan and Chandra Shekhar. How do you compare Akhilesh Yadav with these leaders?

Un mahaan Samajwadi netaon ke khwabon ki tabeer hain Akhilesh Yadav (Akhilesh Yadav is the living reality of the dreams of great socialist leaders). He’s the only one who can provide a democratic and secular government in the state and the country.

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