BJP-backed candidates suffered heavy losses in Uttar Pradesh’s panchayat elections on Monday with a near-rout in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, raising concerns for the party amid crucial assembly polls in neighbouring Bihar.
Contestants supported by Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) bagged most of the seats for which votes were counted, while Congress-endorsed hopefuls fared poorly even in areas represented by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in Parliament.
The results came as a huge jolt for the BJP which swept the state while taking power at the Centre last year on the back of Modi’s popularity, with the panchayat polls assuming significance ahead of the 2017 assembly election in UP.
The rural polls are not fought on party symbols but most candidates are backed by political leaders.
Aspirants supported by the BJP lost 40 of the 48 seats in Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, including in Jayapur, the village he adopted as an MP. They won around 20 of 58 wards in home minister Rajnath Singh’s constituency Lucknow and just about a dozen of 56 seats in Deoria represented by central minister Kalraj Mishra.
As a stream of discouraging results poured in, BJP leaders conceded the outcome indicated the party had a lot of ground to cover to have a shot at power in the state in two years.
BJP state in-charge Om Mathur called for a meeting in Lucknow on November 3 to discuss the results. But the party accused the SP of misusing official machinery to influence the polls.
Claiming victory in the elections, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said the panchayat poll results had given broad indications about the outcome of the 2017 assembly elections.
He said the victory of SP-supported candidates in BJP and Congress strongholds proved people had full faith in chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his government’s policies.
The panchayat elections were not contested on party lines but political parties backed a large number of about four lakh candidates who contested for 3,112 zila panchayat and 77,576 kshetra panchayat members’ posts.
“At least 60% of the results of the zila panchayat ward elections are yet to be declared,” a state election commission official said.