Lok Sabha byelection: BJP fields Brahmin from Gorakhpur, OBC from Phulpur
The two candidates have been chosen with the consent of both Adityanath and Maurya and hence the by-poll is also expected to be a test of popularity of the two leaders, BJP leaders admitlucknow Updated: Feb 20, 2018 21:36 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership announced on Monday a Brahmin candidate for Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-poll and an OBC for Phulpur, thus setting up a direct clash with main opposition Samajwadi Party that has put up OBC candidates on both the seats.
Firebrand BJP leader from the region Upendra Shukla is the BJP’s choice for the Gorakhpur seat that had been represented by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, also the head priest of Gorakhnath Mutt, for five consecutive terms since 1998.
It went for former Varanasi mayor Kaushalendra Singh Patel, a Kurmi, for the OBC-packed Phulpur seat where UP’s deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya opened the party’s account for the first time in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The two candidates have been chosen with the consent of both Adityanath and Maurya and hence the by-poll is also expected to be a test of popularity of the two leaders, BJP leaders admit.
The Congress has fielded a Bengali-Muslim woman gynaecologist from Gorakhpur and a Brahmin ex-bureaucrat’s son from Phulpur. With just a day left for filing of nominations, the possibility of BSP deviating from its usual practice of not putting up candidates in the by-polls were thin, political leaders said.
The BJP waited till the penultimate day to declare its candidates for the two seats ostensibly after it became clear that the opposition parties were unable to come to a consensus on putting up a joint candidate in either of the two seats.
These elections are important as they come just after the BJP’s loss in Rajasthan by-polls, which brought some cheer for the Congress in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections and which has now called for all like-minded parties to unite against the BJP in the 2019 general election.
“Both candidates would win hands down. There was a lot of talk of opposition fielding a joint candidate in either Gorakhpur or Phulpur. They developed cold feet because they have seen the writing on the wall,” UP BJP leader Harish Srivastava said.
“There is no way BJP could afford a loss in either of the seats as that would provide huge ammunition to the opposition to target the ruling party in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This is the first time when BJP has settled for a candidate from outside the Mutt in Gorakhpur and Phulpur isn’t their bastion. So it’s all set for an exciting mini-battle ahead of the bigger one,” said Athar Hussain from the Centre of Objective Research and Development (CORD).
BJP’s Shukla would be up against Pravin Nishad of the Samajwadi Party. Pravin’s father Ashok Nishad heads the Nishad Party formed ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. And though it has not won any seat on its own, the community has traditionally supported Adityanath.
“But this time he is not there and hence it’s going to be tough for the BJP,” says Pravin Nishad, the SP candidate.
The SP has also got the support of the Peace Party. “We will do well and the results would have a lot of meaning and message ahead of Lok Sabha elections,” said former chief minister and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.
In Phulpur, with both the BJP and the SP putting up OBC candidates, the Congress has tried to seek upper caste votes by fielding a Brahmin Manish Mishra, son of former IAS officer JN Mishra. BJP’s Kaushalendra Singh Patel would take on SP’s Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel, belonging to the Kurmi caste.
First Published: Feb 20, 2018 21:36 IST