A clean sweep for BJP in UP zila panchayat chairperson polls
Amid leaked videos, visuals and claims of misuse of official machinery, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged victorious in the zila panchayat chairpersons’ polls on Saturday with candidates backed by the party winning 67 of the 75 seats.
The party won 21 of these seats unopposed after the Opposition candidates in many cases joined the ruling BJP overnight and withdrew from the contest. Even before the official results were out, deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya declared a win.
“Kaho dil se, 2022 pe bhajapa phir se (say with heart, BJP again in 2022 UP polls),” Maurya tweeted.
The “kaho dil se, Akhilesh phir se” is the Samajwadi Party’s tagline for UP polls. The BJP, having lost the zila panchayat ward members’ poll in April to the Samajwadi Party (SP), was desperate to make amends in the zila panchayat chairpersons’ polls.
Only the SP and its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) put up any resistance from the Opposition ranks. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) boycotted the elections, citing misuse of official machinery while the Congress lost the only seat it contested in Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha bastion of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
The SP, which won its stronghold Etawah unopposed, registered a one-sided victory in Azamgarh, the Lok Sabha constituency of party chief Akhilesh Yadav. It also surprised the BJP in Etah, Sant Kabir Nagar and Ballia, but faced reverses in bastions like Mainpuri, Rampur, Kannauj and Ferozabad. It also lost Farrukhabad where the BJP got top SP leader Dharmendra Yadav’s ex-wife Monica Yadav to contest.
The RLD won the Baghpat seat where the SP-RLD joint candidate had first gone “missing”, then was said to have withdrawn her papers before an official protest by the party ensured a contest.
“The public built moral pressure and didn’t let desperate tactics (by the ruling party) succeed,” said RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary.
The SP put out a video, alleging that a senior district administration official in Auraiya was caught conspiring against opposition voters.
In Chandauli, another video that went viral showed former SP MP Ram Kishan Yadav touching the feet of zila panchayat ward members to secure the party win.
“He is known for dramatics,” said local SP leader Chandrashekhar Yadav and alleged former MP Ram Kishan conspired against the party.
Such conspiracy theories also circulated in Lucknow where the BJP, with just three zila panchayat ward members, defeated the SP candidate who had claimed more zila panchayat members by its side. In these polls, zila panchayat ward members vote.
“The local administration abducted my brother Arun Rawat, a zila panchayat ward member,” Arun’s brother Tarun said in a video put up by the Samajwadi Party.
“The SP has forgotten its own past when 36 of its candidates won unopposed in these elections in 2015 when it was in power,” said UP BJP vice president Daya Shankar Singh.
The BJP also prevailed over rebels. In Unnao, party candidate Shakun Singh defeated rebel candidate Arun Singh. Here, the SP had expelled its official candidate for siding with the BJP. In Muzaffarnagar, Union minister and local MP Sanjeev Balyan, who was tasked with managing the election, ensured the BJP candidate’s win over his cousin who was the joint opposition candidate.
The elections also revealed interesting alliances and withdrawals. In Jaunpur, BJP’s ally Apna Dal withdrew from the race in support of independent candidate Srikala Reddy, wife of former MP Dhananjay Singh, and she won the election.
In Ghazipur, two members who had won on the backing of Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), supported the BJP. Owaisi’s party is planning to contest 100 seats in the 2022 UP assembly polls.
“AIMIM’s nexus with BJP now lies exposed,” said Congress’ Surendra Rajput.
In Amethi, the BJP won against the SP even as the Congress failed to even put up a candidate. The Congress lost Amethi to the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In Pratapgarh, the BJP “tactfully” boycotted the elections in support of former minister and local heavyweight Raghuraj Pratap Singh, aka Raja Bhaiya, whose candidate Madhuri Patel won as a nominee of the Jansatta Dal.