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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

BJP and Oppn locked in a psychological battle in UP assembly bypolls

This is the first independent electoral test of each of the mainstream political parties. The contest is spiced up due to the BSP’s participation, their first in these mini-polls since 2012.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 21, 2019 08:23 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. (Hindustan Times)
         

Voting in bypolls to 11 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh is being held on Monday. However, the results of these elections would have no bearing on the ruling BJP’s numerical dominance in the state assembly.

But the buzz around these polls isn’t without reason.

Ahead of the 2022 UP assembly polls, the BJP looks to retain eight of the 11 seats it held in 2017 UP polls while the opposition faces the twin task of holding its citadels and then challenging the BJP in other seats.

The bypolls to these 11 seats were required because the sitting lawmakers, who got elected in 2017 UP polls (when Congress and Samajwadi Party had inked pact) were subsequently elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019 Lok Sabha polls (when the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party inked pacts in the state).

This is the first independent electoral test of each of the mainstream political parties. The contest is spiced up due to the BSP’s participation, their first in these mini-polls since 2012.

“The dynamics are different in each seat as the opposition looks to salvage its pride after successive electoral drubbings. While the BJP will aim to expand its already dominant position,” said Athar Siddiqui of the Centre for Objective Research and Development.

In Jalalpur and Rampur, the BSP and SP are desperate to thwart the BJP’s bid to wrest their citadels.

Jalalpur, a BSP bastion, is witnessing a triangular contest with the BJP banking on the son of a leader who had won the seat for the party in 1996 – the only time it ever won there while the BSP is relying on the daughter of an old party hand.

In Rampur, the BJP is desperate to breach a bastion, where Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan, also the local MP, has emerged victorious consistently since 1989 (barring a stray upset in 1996). Khan’s wife Tazeen Fatima, a Rajya Sabha candidate, is the contestant from Rampur. Her RS tenure is till November 2020.

Political experts point to the Hamirpur bypoll held last month, to state how the SP-BSP should have waited beyond 2019 LS polls to test if their alliance was clicking.

“After the 2019 LS polls, the SP-BSP pact fell apart but Hamirpur bypoll result could have been different if SP-BSP fought together for their candidates jointly polled more than the BJP in that bypoll. A divided opposition now is advantage BJP,” said Irshad Ilmi, a veteran journalist.

Interestingly, win in Hamirpur bypoll helped BJP break the bypoll jinx that had haunted it since 2018.

Aware of the challenge, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav chose Rampur exclusively for campaign even as BJP lined up political rallies by chief minister Yogi Adityanath and got former OBC face of BSP Swami Prasad Maurya, now a minister in BJP government, to take care of the organisational plan in SP’s bastion where local MP Azam Khan has cases, ranging from cattle and goat theft to stealing library books slapped on him.

The SP claims the cases have been slapped to “unsettle Khan” ahead of bypolls.

BSP chief Mayawati didn’t even campaign in Jalalpur but her zonal coordinators have been active, silently preparing the people to come out and vote in a seat where the Samajwadi Party too feels it’s in contention.

Political experts said in Pratapgarh seat it’s “upper caste vs backwards” as the BJP has (in an obvious please-all formulae) fielded its candidate on ally Apna Dal symbol.

Local leadership of both parties appears none too happy with the arrangement though the BJP has sought to boost its campaign by engineering defections in opposition camps in most seats, most notably getting three-time Congress MP Rajkumari Ratna Singh to switch loyalties in the middle of the bypoll campaign.

In Gangoh assembly seat, the Congress, in the midst of a revamp and contesting the by-poll under its new chief Ajay Kumar Lallu, is also in contention having fielded brother of firebrand Congress leader Imran Masood’s brother Nauman.

In Aligarh’s Iglas seat, SP-RLD candidate’s papers were rejected after which an upset Rashtriya Lok Dal urged people to vote for a non-BJP party.

In Barabanki, Congress veteran PL Punia’s son Tanuj Punia is up against not just BJP but BSP too, which has also got a new state chief (Munqad Ali). In Lucknow, BJP’s Suresh Tiwari is confident of an easy sail in the party’s bastion.

In Ghosi assembly seat, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, whose arrangement with the BJP fell apart after 2019 LS polls, is desperate to spoil the saffron party’s applecart.

“The Modi-Yogi mix has proved to be a great hit. We hope to win Jalalpur and Rampur as well, the seats that somehow opposition had won in 2017. This time it would be a clean sweep,” said UP BJP leader Harish Srivastava.

Asked to comment on BJP’s charge that opposition parties appeared to have given up the challenge, even before the actual contest, Samajwadi Party leader IP Singh said the results would be an eye- opener for BJP and others.

“Wait and watch. October 24, when the votes would be counted, isn’t far,” he said.