UP by-elections: BJP faces stiff challenge

Deteriorating law and order situation, fake encounters, killing of Brahmins and whirlwind tours of Priyanka Gandhi have drastically altered the political winds in the State.

New Delhi: The BJP will be facing formidable foes in the by-elections slated for the eight Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh on November 3. Of the eight, six were held by the BJP while Samajwadi Party (SP) had won two of them during 2017.  

The protest and agitation over rape and murder of Dalit girl in Hathras has drastically impacted the popular mood in the State and the voters are weighing options between choosing the candidates of Samajwadi Party and the Congress. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is increasingly losing the ground as an opponent due to the stances it adopted vis-à-vis the BJP in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and favourable noises made by its supremo Mayawati in support of the NDA government. The Congress is back in reckoning due to whirlwind tours of the State undertaken by General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi. The midnight cremation of Hathras victim by the police has led to grave suspicion about complicity of the State administration in protecting the youth accused for the heinous crime who belong to the Rajput community. Deteriorating law and order situation has therefore become the prime focus among the issues for mobilizing the voters.  The three farm bills and ordinances too have added to the opposition’s arsenals.

Congress has fielded Arti Vajpayee, daughter of Gopinath Dixit, a former Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh from Bangarmau seat in Unnao district. Arti has a strong pull on Brahmins, a community seen to be largely turning against the BJP. With the former MLA Sengar in jail after having been convicted of rape and murder of a girl, the BJP is finding it difficult to defend the seat. Even the SP has a large support base in the constituency and one Mr. Badlu Khan was elected once from the seat in the past.

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The Ghatampur seat is situated in the centre of three Lok Sabha seats of Kanpur city, Ghatampur and Bilhaur, all of them represented by the BJP. Last time Kamala Rani Varun was elected the MLA from the seat. Her death due to COVID-19 caused the vacancy. It is the same area where notorious gangster Vikas Dube was killed in an alleged encounter. This led to a series of killings of Brahmins in the state. Varun’s name was linked to those providing protection to Dube. The seat may pose stiff challenge to the BJP as the powerful Brahmin community is outraged over specific targeting of gagsters belonging to the community. The SP has decided to field former MLA Indrajit Kori from this seat who had won in it 2012.

Tundla seat in Ferozabad district is considered a stronghold of SP which had however lost heavily due to internal strife between Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivapaul Yadav who had gone against his nephew. Now that the two have resolved their differences and come together, the BJP faces a bitter contest at hand. The SP is fielding Maharaj Singh Dhangar from this seat who may find the contest easier than last time.

Bulandshahr Sadar seat is adjacent to the Hathras, which has turned into the focus of victimization of Dalits. Besides infamy of the rape, the BJP is facing the tiff between two sons of Virendra Singh Sirohi, the deceased MLA whose death caused the vacancy. Both have claimed the BJP nomination, and denial of anyone is all likely to turn the family strife into a political contest. The SP has left this seat for its ally, Rashtriya Lok Dal as Jats are a dominant community here and Chaudhury Ajit Sing has considerable influence.

The BJP is fielding Sangeeta Chauhan, wife of deceased MLA and former cricketer Chetan Chauhan from the Naugaon Sadat seat in Amroha district. It is eyeing sympathy vote. The SP has nominated Javed Abidi from this seat who was the runner-up in 2017.

Malhani seat from Jaunpur district too would witness fierce contest between the principal contender SP and the BJP.  It was held by Parasnath Yadav of SP who died causing the vacancy. Parasnath Yadav was a close associate of Mulayam Singh Yadav and moved him from Lok Dal to Janata Dal to Samajwadi Party. He won the seat several times. BJP has not even once won the seat.

Suar-Tanda seat in Rampur was won by SP strongman Azam Khan’s son, Abdullah Azam Khan who was disqualified by the Allahabad High Court as he was found not to have attained the minimum age of 25 after his nearest rival Nawab Kazim Ali Khan of BSP challenged his election. SP is however a strong contender for this seat while Kazim Ali Khan is likely to be fielded again by the BSP.

Assembly Seat MLA elected in 2017Reason for Vacancy
Bangarmau (Unnao Dist)Kuldeep Singh Sengar, BJPDisqualified, Convicted for rape, in prison
Ghatampur (Kanpur dist) Kamla Rani Varun, BJP She was Minister, Died due to Covid-19
Tundla (Ferozabad dist) S P Singh Baghel, BJPBaghel elected MP, resigned
Bulandshahar (Bulandshahr dist) Virendra Singh Sirohi, BJPSirohi died
Navgaon Sadath (Amroha dist)Chetan Chauhan, Cricketer, BJPChauhan died due to Covid-19
Deoria Sadar (Deoria dist) Janamajay Singh, BJP Death of Singh
Suar (Rampur dist)Abdullah Azam Khan, SPDisqualified due to date of birth discrepancy
Malhani (Jaunpur dist)Parasnath Yadav, SPDeath of Yadav

(PS: The Election Commission has postponed the by-election to Suar-Tanda seat without assigning any reason. It is speculated that it has been done at the behest of the State Government. ) 

M. A. Siraj (with inputs from Akhilesh Tripathi in Lucknow)

Author is a senior journalist based in Bengaluru

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