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UP Bypolls: Critics Believe Opposition Should Change Strategy For 2024 Lok Sabha Polls

Experts believe in Mainpuri, the Opposition capitalised on the sympathy wave and in Khatauli, they won because of a Gujar candidate – who is already powerful.
Akhilesh Yadav

Image Courtesy: PTI

Lucknow: Just months after it stormed to power in Uttar Pradesh, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a setback on Thursday as it lost the Khatauli Assembly seat, vacated by Vikram Saini, to Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Madan Bhaiya with a margin of 22,143 votes – defeating BJP's Rajkumari.

On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party (SP) lost its stronghold of Rampur to the BJP in the Assembly bypolls. The seat fell vacant after its sitting legislator Azam Khan was disqualified following his conviction in a hate speech case. The Rampur Sadar Assembly seat has always eluded the BJP with Khan winning it 10 times and losing it only once in 1996. However, Akhilesh Yadav has found a reason to rejoice as SP candidate and his wife Dimple Yadav retain has won the high-stake Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat with a margin of 2,88,461 votes, defeating BJP's Raghuraj Singh Shakya.

Bye-election in Mainpuri was necessitated due to the demise of Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav in October. Yadav had won the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat for five terms while the BJP has never won the Mainpuri parliamentary seat even during the “Modi wave” of 2014 and in the 2019 general elections.

The results show that the SP-RLD made a dent in the BJP’s vote bank in Khatauli and Mainpuri respectively. Furthermore, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) keeping away from the bypolls helped the alliance to retain Mainpuri with a thumping majority and won the Khatauli seat with a good margin.

Experts believe the reason behind Rampur Assembly seat loss could have been a low turnout. The SP had earlier accused the administration of preventing its voters from heading to the booths.

The SP dedicated the victory to the late Mulayam Singh. Interacting with mediapersons, the SP president said he was happy to declare that "respected chachaji (Shivpal Singh Yadav) and his party (PSPL) have come together with the SP and now, all will work together under one flag." Shivpal Yadav, who had floated his own party after his relationship with nephew Akhilesh Yadav turned sour, campaigned vigorously in the bypolls in favour of Dimple Yadav. Shivpal Yadav's Assembly seat Jaswantnagar is part of the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat.

He, however, claimed that people in the Rampur Sadar Assembly segment were not allowed to vote. Had there been a fair election in Rampur, it would have been the biggest win for the Samajwadi Party, Yadav added.

 BJP Failed to Break Jat-Muslim-Gurjar Equation

Khatauli has more than 1.5 lakh OBC voters but they are divided into different sub-castes 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 and 25,000 Gujar. 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.

Parvez Tyagi, a journalist based in Khatauli, told NewsClick, "Madan Bhaiya comes from the Gujar community and he has a strong hold on his community. RLD had lost to the BJP in Khatauli by 16,345 votes in the 2022 Assembly elections and won this bypoll with a margin of 22,143 votes. This result not only indicates that Gujar and Muslims came together which benefited RLD but the SP-RLD alliance also dented BJP's core vote among the OBC communities. Furthermore, since the BSP has not fielded its candidate, Dalits had no option other than RLD. Then, Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad coming together with the alliance increased the margin."

Tyagi further added, "Local issues including pending dues of sugarcane and stray cattle menace were key issues which the State government failed to resolve. But Jayant's door-to-door campaign and mobilisation among Gujar and Jaat brought this result. Dalit voters, especially youths, are looking for an alternative and the Bhim Army chief seems to be replacing Mayawati a little bit. They will choose any candidate who protects the Constitution which the BJP has failed in doing,"

Madan Bhaiya polled 97,071 votes, while BJP's Saini received 74,996, according to the Election Commission.

PSPL Merged with Samajwadi Party

The Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party Lohiya (PSPL) founder put all speculations to rest and announced the merger of his party into the Samajwadi Party (SP), at SS Memorial Inter College in Saifai, the ancestral village of Yadavs.

The merger came amid Dimple Yadav’s emphatic victory in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat by over 2.8 lakh votes.

“We have merged the PSP-L with the SP. I was waiting for the right time. We will unitedly contest all the elections. Be it civic bodies’ polls or the Lok Sabha elections, there will be an SP flag on the car,” late Mulayam Sigh's brother Shivpal Yadav said in Saifai where Akhilesh called on him and touched his feet amid workers celebrating the victory.

Following the announcement about the merger, the PSPL’s flag was also brought down from the party office. “This is a new change in Samajwad (socialism). There were misunderstandings between the two leaders, which have now been cleared. And from now on, it will be a fight between BJP and SP,” PSPL’s chief spokesman Deepak Mishra told a news agency.

Commenting over the mandate, Ram Dutt Tripathi, former BBC correspondent and a senior journalist, said, "Samajwadi Party could have won the Rampur seat as well but Azam Khan’s ego and his poor management made him defeated. If BJP is doing Hindu-Muslim politics, the SP should have fielded a Hindu candidate instead of a Muslim or his loyalist. The party should get over this impression that the voters are slaves and they will vote wherever the leader wants. In Mainpuri, Akhilesh managed to consolidate Dalit voters to a large extent and other backward castes. BJP's Hindu-Muslim politics could not succeed as Muslims there constitute a very small chunk."

He further added, "Low turnout in Rampur is not the only reason that SP lost the seat, but Azam Khan could not mobilise the voters the way Akhilesh did. If they want to win the election in future, they will have to change the strategy and should not fall into trap of Hindu-Muslim politics."

Meanwhile, Rampur residents and political experts believe that low turnout in Muslim-majority constituency was the lone reason SP lost it. If the turnout had been higher (55%), the situation would have been different.

"Rampur election was stolen from its electorate. It has largely been ignored. The election for this seat was a well-calculated plan executed with the assistance of the election commission and UP police. The Chief Minister made his prestige issue to win a Hindu candidate. However, the SP will have to change its strategy if they want to perform better in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha poll," Shahid Raza, a political commentator based in Rampur told NewsClick.

Experts believe that there is nothing to rejoice for the Opposition as in Mainpuri, they capitalised on the sympathy wave and in Khatauli, they won because of its Gurjar candidate – who is already powerful.

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