UP by-elections: BJP may face united opposition in Gorakhpur, Phulpur in March

Political observers believe the bypoll results may be a yardstick for the work done by the BJP government, which completes a year in March.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2018 23:18 IST
Rajesh Kumar Singh
Rajesh Kumar Singh
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh by elections,UP by elections,Gorakhpur by-election
The Gorakhpur seat has been lying vacant since September, when CM Yogi Adityanath was elected to the Uttar Pradesh legislative council.(PTI File Photo)

Elections to the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats — vacated by chief minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath and deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya respectively — will be held on March 11 for what will be crucial bypoll for the BJP after the defeats in Rajasthan earlier this month.

The seats have been lying vacant since September, when Adityanath and Maurya were elected to the Uttar Pradesh legislative council. While the BJP is mobilising its resources to retain them, the opposition parties — including the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RJD) — are working on a united front to prevent the ruling party from retaining the seats.

The bypolls have become a prestige issue for the BJP, which won both the seats with a huge margin in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. With the mahants of Gorakhnath Mutt dominating politics in the region since the 1980s, Adityanath won the Gorakhpur seat five times in a row from 1998 to 2014. The seat was earlier represented by his guru, Mahant Avaidyanath, who won in 1989, 1991 and 1996.

Political observer AK Singh said the bypoll results will be seen as a yardstick for the work done by the BJP government, which completes a year in March. “If the BJP wins, the party will be able to say that it continues to enjoy the support of the masses. But a defeat will galvanise the opposition, which has been lying low since its rout in the assembly elections.”

The BJP is understandably worried by SP national president Akhilesh Yadav’s willingness to form an alliance with arch-rival BSP. Such a move, experts say, could set the stage for the formation of a united opposition in the run-up to the 2019 LS polls.

In an attempt to woo the BSP, anti-NDA parties have even offered party leader Mayawati an opportunity to be their candidate in Phulpur (where her mentor, Kanshi Ram, had contested unsuccessfully in 1996). However, the BSP supremo had announced that she would not contest Parliament or assembly polls after quitting the Ambedkar Nagar Lok Sabha seat in 2006.

In Gorakhpur, the opposition is banking on the support of the backward Nishad, Dalit and Muslim communities. The BJP, on its part, has tried to consolidate its hold on the constituency’s Brahmin voters by inducting a local leader, Shiv Pratap Shukla, into the Union council of ministers.

Though the party is yet to finalise its candidates, Adityanath and Maurya are visiting the constituencies regularly.

The Janata Dal, SP and the BSP held sway over Phulpur in the late 1980s and 1990s due to the large concentration of backward, Dalit and Muslim voters there. The BJP, however, won the seat for the first time in 2014 with the support of the Maurya and Kurmi communities.

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 23:16 IST