The first phase of polls in Uttar Pradesh will decide the fate of nine ministers in the Yogi Adityanath government.
This phase of polling is extremely crucial since it includes districts in western UP where candidates in several constituencies are facing hostile voters, mainly due to the farmers’ agitation.
The first minister contesting in this phase is Suresh Rana, minister for cane, from the Thana Bhawan Assembly seat in Shamli district.
Rana is known as a firebrand Hindu leader and was an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots. He won from this seat in 2012 and then in 2017.
In 2012, he had won the seat with a razor thin margin of 265 votes but in 2017, his margin increased to over 16,000 votes.
The Yogi Adityanath government has withdrawn cases against him, but the minister faces resistance in his constituency on the issue of insufficient increase in cane MSP and pending arrears.
The second minister contesting in this phase is Atul Garg from Ghaziabad. He had defeated the BSP candidate with a margin of over 70,000 votes in 2017 and now faces the challenge of retaining his seat.
Shrikant Sharma, UP Power Minister, is also facing a crucial test in his constituency Mathura. In 2017, Sharma had defeated Pradeep Mathur of Congress with a margin of over 1.43 lakh votes.
Mathur is a three-term MLA from this seat and has been working overtime to regain his seat this time.
With Mathura now moving on to the BJP’s political agenda, the contest in this constituency is bound to be interesting.
The fourth minister in the fray in the first phase is Sandeep Singh, grandson of late Kalyan Singh.
Sandeep has been one of the few low-profile ministers in the Yogi Adityanath government and has steered clear of controversy in his tenure.
He is seeking re-election from Atrauli in Aligarh, which is considered a stronghold of the Kalyan Singh family. Kalyan Singh had won from this seat eleven times, which is a record in itself.
Anil Sharma, minister of state for environment, is seeking re-election from Shikarpur seat in Bulandshahr district. The seat is considered to be a BJP bastion and the party has won from here in the past five elections. This is Anil Sharma’s second election.
The sixth minister in the first phase of polls is Kapil Dev Agarwal from Muzaffarnagar Sadar seat. The seat has been the epicentre of farmers’ agitation and Agarwal faces a tough challenge this time.
Dinesh Khatik, who holds the flood control portfolio, was appointed minister four months ago in September 2021. He represents the Hastinapur constituency in the UP Assembly.
Hastinapur has a history of not repeating its representatives and this factor plays heavily on the minds of voters here. Khatik comes from an RSS background and owns brick kilns in the area.
Dr G.S. Dharmesh, social welfare minister, is seeking re-election from his Agra Cantt seat which is in the reserved category. Dr Dharmesh runs his clinic on the Agra-Gwalior highway. His main contender on this seat has been the BSP.
Another minister in the first phase is Chaudhary Laxmi Narain, minister for dairy development.
He is contesting from the Chhata Assembly seat in Mathura. He first won the election in 1996 on a Congress ricket and then went on to become minister in the Kalyan Singh government after the split in the Congress.
In 2007, he won on a BSP and then in 2017, he won on a BJP ticket. It remains to be seen whether he can break his own record and win the seat twice from the same party.