Giving a walkover to the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in the zila panchayat chairman polls for the three-tier panchayat elections has exposed the chink in the Opposition’s armor in the state ahead of the 2017 assembly elections.
In 33 out of the 74 districts, SP candidates have been elected unopposed and the number is expected to cross the 40-mark on January 4, the last date for the withdrawal of nomination papers. Polling for zila panchayat chairpersons is scheduled on January 8.
The fact that opposition parties like the BJP, the BSP and the Congress could not even manage to field their candidates in the 33 districts, allowing the SP candidates to get elected unopposed to the posts of the zila panchayat chairpersons before the crucial assembly elections, has raised several questions.
The parties had shown a lot of interest in the zila panchayat member elections and had even claimed victory in most seats.
“The BJP and the BSP must explain why they did not field any candidates in the 33 districts, including Lucknow, despite their tall claims earlier,” said RLD state president, Munna Singh Chauhan.
He alleged that the SP had “managed” opposition candidates by bribing them. Most of the SP candidates elected unopposed were close relatives or family members of ruling party leaders, including state ministers, MLAs and MPs, he said.
“The BJP, which is trying to come back to power in the state, “gave a walkover to the SP in the 33 districts.”
Ship Pratap Shukla, a senior BJP leader and in-charge of panchayat polls denied the allegation, saying that the ruling party did not allow opposition candidates to contest the elections.
“Right from cooking up criminal cases against opposition candidates to trying to purchase them, the SP is doing everything to capture the zila panchayat chairman seat,” he said.
“We had decided to contest only in 18 districts…Our candidates did purchase nomination papers in some districts… and other refused to contest.”
The opposition parties’ inability to field a single candidate in many districts reflected poorly on their political skills, said Chauhan.
“Purchasing voters (zila panchayat members in this case) to vote for a particular candidate is one thing but the rival parties not fielding the candidates at all is quite a different thing.” The SP has refuted the allegations of misusing powers to win zila panchayat chairman elections.
“The fact is that the people have rejected all these parties while having faith in our government and its policies and this is why they could not gather courage to fight in at least 33 districts,” SP spokesman, Rajendhara Chaudhary said.