Litmus Test For BJP, SP in Mainpuri, Rampur, Khatauli Bypolls on Dec 5
Lucknow: A fierce political battle is expected in the Uttar Pradesh bypolls at Rampur and Khatauli Assembly constituencies on December 5.
For the opposition Samajwadi Party (SP), it would be a challenge to retain Rampur and it could spring a surprise in Khatauli, a stronghold of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait. For the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is a litmus test to win Rampur for the first time and retain the Khatauli
The Rampur seat fell vacant after its sitting legislator Azam Khan was disqualified following his conviction in a hate speech case. Last month, the MP/MLA court in Rampur found Khan guilty of hate speech during the 2019 General Election campaign and sentenced him to three years and fined him Rs 25,000. He was granted bail later and given seven days to file an appeal against the verdict.
Khan’s close aide Asim Raja was declared the party’s candidate from Rampur seat. Raja had contested the parliamentary bypoll as an SP candidate but lost to BJP’s Ghanshyam Lodhi.
The BJP has fielded Akash Saxena, who was the main complainant against Khan in the hate speech case. He had contested against Khan in the 2022 Assembly election but lost by a margin of 55,000-plus votes.
A known baiter of the Khan family, Saxena had also complained against his son Abdullah Azam accusing him of submitting a birth certificate with the wrong date while contesting the 2017 Assembly election from Suar. The Allahabad High Court eventually set aside Azam’s Assembly membership with effect from December 16, 2019.
The Rampur Sadar Assembly seat has always eluded the BJP with Khan winning it 10 times and losing it only once in 1996.
SP, RLD bet on Jat-Muslim unity in western UP
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary on Sunday announced the name of ex-MLA Madan Bhaiya as the party’s candidate for Muzaffarnagar’s Khatauli constituency.
The Khatauli seat fell vacant following BJP MLA Vikram Saini’s disqualification after he was convicted in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case. Apart from convicting Saini along with 11 others of rioting and other offences, the court also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on each.
The BJP has named Sani’s wife Rajkumari from Khatauli. The BJP managed to retain Khatauli in the last two consecutive Assembly elections. Saini won the Khatauli seat for the first time by defeating the SP candidate in 2017. The RLD, which had then contested separately, came fourth with just a 6% vote share. In 2022, Saini won again by defeating RLD’s Rajpal Singh Saini with a margin of 16,345 votes.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was third in the 2017 and 2022 Assembly polls. Political analysts believe that triangular contests helped the BJP win in 2022 and 2017.
With a majority of Jatav Dalit voters, BSP has been getting a sizeable number of votes in Khatauli. Mayawati’s party secured 14% and 17.6% of votes in the 2022 and 2017 elections. But the BSP won the seat only once when it got an absolute majority in the Assembly in 2007. In 2012, the party was runner-up with a 24% vote share. However, interestingly, the political outfit set up by Bhim Army has announced its support to the RLD candidate.
Chaudhary made a similar experiment in the 2012 Assembly elections by fielding Kartar Singh Bhadana, from the Gujjar community, against the BJP and won. Following the same formula, the RLD has nominated another Gujjar candidate Madan Bhaiya.
Khatauli has more than 1.5 lakh OBC voters but they are divided into different subcastes like Prajapatis, Jats, Sainis, Kashyaps, Gujjars and Pals, among others. Muslims constitute the single largest chunk of the electorate with 80,000 voters, followed by Dalits with 45,000 voters. Among the OBCs, Sainis have more than 35,000 voters. Jats and Muslims, which are known to be against the BJP, together constitute less than one lakh voters, which is less compared to other Assembly constituencies in western UP.
Fight to save citadel in Mainpuri
The bypoll was necessitated following the death of SP patriarch and former chief minister (CM) Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mainpuri has long been a pocket borough of his family.
The BJP named former MP Raghuraj Singh Shakya as its candidate from Mainpuri against SP’s Dimple Yadav on Tuesday.
Shakya was once a close associate of Shivpal Yadav but quit his Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party to join the BJP earlier this year. He was earlier with SP and switched to Yadav’s faction after he formed his party.
Raghuraj replaces Prem Singh Shakya, who contested against Mulayam in the 2019 Lok Sabha election but lost by a margin of 74,000-plus votes. This will be the second time he will try his luck for a parliamentary seat. In 2009, Raghuraj contested from Fatehpur Sikri on an SP ticket but could garner only 15.7% votes and lost to BSP’s Seema Upadhyay. Actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar too had contested on a Congress ticket from the seat but was second while garnering more than 28% votes.
While the BJP is hoping to dent the SP’s Mainpuri citadel in the same way it did in Azamgarh and Rampur in the Lok Sabha elections, party president and former CM Akhilesh Yadav hopes to cash in on the sympathy wave. Though he will find it tough after the fallout with uncle Shivpal.
The SP had faced defeat and embarrassment after losing the Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha constituencies to the BJP in the by-polls earlier this year. Yadav asserted that a historic win for the party in the Mainpuri by-poll would be a true tribute to Mulayam as his wife and party candidate Dimple filed her nomination on Monday afternoon.
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