Lucknow: The results of the recently concluded panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh have revealed an interesting turn of events for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state ahead of the Assembly elections 2022. The government led by Yogi Adityanath suffered a significant political setback on Tuesday as the BJP failed to retain its hold in its bastions including Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Ayodhya and Mathura.
While in Varanasi, Ayodhya and Lucknow, the Samajwadi Party with Akhilesh Yadav at its helm won by a significant majority; in the Jatland region, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP) and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) emerged victorious. The region has gained significance in the light of the ongoing farmers’ protest recently.
As per reports, SP claimed to have won 24 out of the 40 district-level seats in Ayodhya, even as the BJP managed to win only eight seats here. Meanwhile, BSP has reportedly won in four seats. However, it should be noted that the parties had supported the candidates in the fray and are now claiming that the results have gone in their favour, as reported by the Business Standard.
In Varanasi, which is PM Modi’s parliamentary constituency, the BJP registered victory in only eight out of the 40 zila panchayat seats, while the SP won 15, BSP got five seats, whereas Apna Dal (S) scored three seats. The Aam Aadmi Party, too, managed to win seats in the district.
In Mathura, BSP emerged as the largest party with a maximum of 13 out of 33 seats, while the BJP fared badly here too with only eight seats. SP and RLD won one seat each.
Similar results were seen in Lucknow, where the BJP managed to win only three as opposed to SP’s 10 out of 25 wards. The Congress, meanwhile, failed to win any ward in the two regions. The saffron party seems to have lost its sway in Gorakhpur as well, which is CM Adityanath’s Assembly constituency. Even though the BJP won 20 out 68 wards, the SP was not far behind with 19 seats.
Conceding defeat, the BJP’s district spokesperson was quoted as saying by PTI, “The results are disappointing. Despite having sitting BJP MLAs in all constituencies in Ayodhya district, we won only eight out of 40 zila panchayat seats.”
Panchayat elections are not contested on political party symbols but all parties have officially released names of the candidates backed by them.
Commenting over the party's performance in panchayat elections, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, SP spokesperson, said, "Samajwadi party organised training camps for its workers in different zones of Uttar Pradesh. Party laid much emphasis on preparing grass-root workers. These workers spread out in different villages to garner support for panchayat level candidates. People are opposed to BJP’s policies. It's a mandate against the anti-people policies of BJP. Through Panchayat elections people got an opportunity to teach a lesson to BJP. The double engine government has totally failed in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a vote against deteriorating law and order situation."
BJP FACES FARMERS' ANGER IN WEST UP
In the sugarcane belt of Western UP, the ruling party suffered the ire of farmers which was visible in its lacklustre performance in the region.
According to political analysts, the reason behind this is the central government’s farm laws, which are facing strict opposition from the farmers in the region. "If the results of panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh are anything to go by, it should set the alarm bells ringing for the BJP, which has been in power for the past four years,” according to a poll analyst.
As per the reports, in Western UP, in areas like Meerut, Saharanpur, Bijnor, Aligarh, Agra, Baghpat and Shamli, SP Party performed well while RLD registered a spectacular comeback with the panchayat elections. The rapid inroads made by the RLD among farmers is also visible from the panchayat results, ahead of the crucial Assembly elections.
The RLD has claimed to have bagged eight seats in the zila panchayat in Meerut while the Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party have got six each. In Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Bulandshahr, Baghpat, Hapur, and Bijnor, the RLD has put up a good show.
The BJP, which fielded candidates for all 47 wards of Aligarh District Panchayat, which is known as Kalyan Singh's stronghold, has won a total of nine seats in the district. Six rebel leaders won the elections with a big margin due to the reported lack of support from the party.
The results of 49 seats of the Saharanpur district Panchayat has also been declared. The BSP has once again emerged strongly in Saharanpur, while 16 BSP-backed candidates have won.
Amit Prakash, a political commentator, said that the next elections are going to be a game changer as farmers' agitation has revived the opposition parties and they will surely lead. “Farm laws against the wishes of farmers and mismanagement in handling the COVID-19 pandemic are the reasons for their defeat and this trend will show in Assembly polls too,” he told NewsClick.
Speaking to NewsClick, Satish Prakash, a dalit rights activist and associate professor of physics at Meerut University, said that the results show the people’s anger despite BJP deploying its entire political machinery including MPs, MLAs and ministers in the villages. "For the very first time, after 2014, even BJP voters have started questioning the party for its failure in tackling the pandemic. The performance of BSP in panchayat elections is commendable and is an answer to those who used to claim that the party is almost finished. In the upcoming election, the BJP will lose for sure if Muslim and dalit votes are unified in their support,” he added.
Meanwhile, the State Election Commission has announced that a total of 3.19 lakh candidates have been elected unopposed in the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections. In a statement, the EC said, “As many as 3,19,317 candidates have been elected unopposed in the panchayat elections. This includes seven members of zila panchayat, 2,005 members of kshetra panchayat and over 3.17 lakh members who have been elected unopposed in this panchayat election. As many as 178 candidates for the post of pradhan of gram panchayats were also elected unopposed.”
Notably, the UP government has faced severe criticism for holding panchayat elections amid the pandemic. Over 800 government employees have allegedly died due to COVID-19 following their deputation to panchayat poll duty in Uttar Pradesh.