As the by-elections in Uttar Pradesh’s two Lok Sabha constituencies – Gorakhpur and Phulpur to be held on 11 March, the state has been witnessing a series of political developments, the significant one being that Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) to back the candidates of Samajwadi Party (SP) with sole agenda to defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The results would be announced on March 14.
The two seats were vacated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Gorakhpur) and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya (Phulpur) when both of them got elected as members in Uttar Pradesh legislative council in September last year. Though the winning candidates in these elections would be serving as parliamentarians till 2019 general elections, the bypolls are considered to reflect people’s mandate on the current BJP rule in the state. Also, the outcome of these elections is said to have profound implications for the 2019 general elections.
Although 10 candidates from Gorakhpur and 22 candidates from Phulpur constituencies have filed their nominations, a triangular contest is expected among ruling BJP, SP and Congress.
Since 1991, Gorakhpur had been the BJP bastion from where Yogi Adityanath was elected in the last five elections held there. However, signs of anti-incumbency against BJP getting materialized in the constituency in the wake of major concerns of the region namely Encephalitis and high Unemployment rate despite an average literacy rate of 82.3% there. In August 2017 alone, a total 290 children have died at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, reportedly mainly due to non-supply of oxygen and Encephalitis disease.
Although BJP won in all the five assembly seats which come under Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency in 2017 assembly elections, the combined vote share of SP and BSP (in seats where both the parties candidates contested) is higher than that of BJP.
Once the Congress bastion (represented by former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru), Phulpur constituency was taken over by BJP in 2014 elections. However, the combined vote shares of SP and BSP exceed that of BJP’s vote share in the assembly seats under Phulpur Loksabha constituency in 2017 assembly elections. With an average literacy rate of 60 %, caste equations are considered to have played a significant role in previous electoral outcomes. The electorate is composed of upper-caste Brahmins, OBCs and Muslim voters.
Congress party in the state witnessed a major setback by failing to continue its earlier alliance with SP in 2017 assembly elections. There are reports that the party also failed to tie up an alliance with BSP, resulting to contest as a single party.
The political strategies of the opposition parties in these elections, nevertheless, will decide the future approach of the political parties not only in Uttar Pradesh but across the country in the upcoming 2019 general elections.