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Uttar Pradesh bypolls: In failure, Congress sees a silver lining

Playing spoilsport, the Congress refused to withdraw its candidates in Phulpur and Gorakhpur even after the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) declared its support to one-time arch-rival SP.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2018 23:06 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Uttar Pradesh bypolls,Gorakhpur bypolls,Congress
Congress President Rahul Gandhi with Sonia Gandhi and other leaders arrives to preside the party's ‘Steering Committee' meeting in New Delhi.(PTI File Photo)

Both Congress candidates fighting the Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh forfeited their deposits on Wednesday, but the party is upbeat over the Samajwadi Party (SP)’s unexpected victories over the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Playing spoilsport, the Congress refused to withdraw its candidates in Phulpur and Gorakhpur even after the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) declared its support to one-time arch-rival SP.

SP candidates defeated the BJP’s nominees by more than 59,000 votes in Phulpur and 21,000 votes in Gorakhpur. Both seats had been held by the BJP.

“This is a defeat of communal forces. This is a happy verdict for us,” said Congress legislature party leader in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, Ajay Kumar Lallu, ignoring his party’s abysmal performance. “The Congress has emerged victorious wherever it has come out as an alternative to the BJP. This became evident in bypoll results in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,” said Congress legislator Aradhana Mishra.

The victory of the alliance is being seen as a signal that the BJP can be defeated only if opposition parties come together.

A strong votary of alliance politics, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi has already launched an initiative to bring all opposition parties onto one platform ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Congratulating the winners, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said it was clear the people were angry with the BJP and would vote for any non-BJP candidate with a greater chance of winning. “The Congress is keen on rebuilding the party in Uttar Pradesh, but that will not happen overnight,” he tweeted in Hindi.

Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said the results clearly indicate that the people have spoken against the “anti-farmer rule, anti-youth and anti-women policies of the (Narendra) Modi government and rampant unemployment.”

Congress general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad said both he and Rahul Gandhi had separately urged SP chief Akhilesh Singh Yadav to leave one seat for the party, but that he declined.

Political analysts agree that the Congress was in a Catch-22 situation as far as striking an alliance was concerned. “There is a clear message that it may not be a bad idea to think of some understanding if they want to put up any challenge to the BJP in 2019,” said Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

“But it is a Catch-22 situation for the Congress. The party will get around 20 seats to contest in both UP and Bihar if it goes for alliances in the two states but at the same time the organisation will face a huge setback in about 100 seats which it leave for its partners,” he said.

First Published: Mar 14, 2018 22:53 IST