UP panchayat polls: SP extends lead, parties try to woo independents
The Samajwadi Party (SP) extended its lead over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections on Wednesday as parties attempted to woo independent candidates, who won the largest chunk of rural body seats.
Trends and results available for 3,050 district panchayat wards on Wednesday evening showed the SP winning or leading in 779 wards, the BJP in 579, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 361 and the Congress in 76. Independents and smaller parties won or led in 1,272 wards.
The BJP, which secured a landslide victory in the UP assembly election by bagging 312 out of 403 seats in the state assembly, suffered setbacks in its bastions of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur in the panchayat elections and the SP maintained its grip on strongholds of Etawah (western UP), Kannauj (central UP), Mainpuri (western UP), Azamgarh (eastern UP), Etah (western UP), Kasganj (western UP) and Farrukhabad (western UP).
The panchayat elections are not contested on party symbols, but all parties officially released the names of the candidates backed by them. The State Election Commission (SEC) has said results won’t be declared on party lines.
Independent candidates, a majority of them rebels from various political parties, are likely to play a crucial role in the election of the district panchayat chairpersons to be held later this month. The BJP has already opened communication channels with independents to try and win district panchayat chair and block chief positions. The indirect elections are to be held for 75 posts of district panchayat chiefs and 826 block chiefs, likely by the end of May, according to a SEC officer.
The victory of SP and other Opposition candidates is likely to set the ground for fresh political realignment and alliances before the assembly election in 2022. Smaller political parties, including the Suheldev Bhartyiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Aam Admi Party (AAP), Apna Dal, Azad Samaj Party (Bhim Army) and Pragtisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia also bagged wards in the areas of their influence.
The Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha launched by the smaller parties has called for a united alliance against the NDA in the 2022 assembly election, said SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar.
The farmers’ agitation against three central agrarian laws dented the BJP’s fortunes in west UP where it had won maximum seats in the 2017 assembly elections. The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which won only one seat in the 2017 assembly polls and was wiped out in its stronghold in west UP, made a comeback in the panchayat polls, winning seats in Meerut, Shamli, Bulandshahr, Baghpat, Hapur and Bijnor.