UP’s Ghosi By-Poll Prestige Battle Between SP, BJP Before 2024
Representational Image. (File Image)
Lucknow: From riding on the slogan ‘PDA’—pichda (backward), Dalit and alpsankhyak (minorities)—to pitching labhartis (beneficiaries of government schemes) and from a focus on OBCs to bulldozer politics, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders are trying every move to woo voters for the September 5 Ghosi Assembly by-poll. Votes will be counted on September 8.
The last by-poll in the state before the 2024 Lok Sabha election has become a prestige issue and a mini-contest between the BJP and Opposition alliance I.N.D.I.A.
The Ghosi constituency, in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Mau district, fell vacant after the resignation of SP MLA Dara Singh Chauhan, who joined the BJP last month.
The BJP has fielded Chauhan while the SP has fielded its senior leader Sudhakar Singh hoping to get the support of the electorally influential Rajput community besides its vote bank of Muslims and Yadavs. BSP, the third important player in UP, has decided not to contest the by-poll.
With the Congress already relegated to the fringe in state politics, it will be a BJP versus SP contest. In all likelihood, the Congress will opt out of the contest in favour of SP, which is part of I.N.D.I.A.
The constituency, dominated by Dalits, will also test the strength and weaknesses of the two parties before the showdown in 2024.
According to official data, Ghosi has 4,30,452 voters, of which 60,000 are Rajbhar, 50,000 Chauhan (Nonia-OBC), around 40,000 Yadav (they are all OBCs) and 60,000 Dalits. There are around 90,000 Muslim voters.
LITMUS TEST FOR OP RAJBHAR
SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar, who returned to the NDA recently, aggressively campaigned for Chauhan. Both are influential OBC leaders from eastern UP and their alliance with the BJP furthers the saffron party’s aim of consolidating the non-Yadav OBC votes.
While Rajbhar is considered the leader of the Rajbhar caste, Chauhan belongs to the OBC community of Loniya Chauhan. Both groups account for four to five percent of the state’s population, which includes Kumhars, Gadariyas, Kurmis and some Muslims.
After returning to the BJP, both Rajbhar and Chauhan are hopeful of a berth in the Yogi Adityanath government, which has eight vacancies.
Meanwhile, Rajbhar’s old aide and SBSP founder-member
Mahendra Rajbhar, who resigned from the party with more than 24 members last year, announced his support to SP’s Singh in Ghosi.
Mahendra is considered to have a good hold among the Rajbhar community in Mau and adjoining districts. In 2017, he was fielded by the SBSP-BJP alliance against now-jailed gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari.
After quitting the SBSP, Mahendra strengthened his party in Mau and surrounding districts.
Mau-based political analyst Pankaj Singh told Newsclick that a Chauhan win in Ghosi will “boost the BJP’s morale to wheel out the OBC narrative to take on the Opposition”.
On the other hand, SP president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav continued his aggressive ground-level campaign to win back the seat.
“The SP is trying to make it a contest between Chauhan, an outsider who hails from Azamgarh, and Singh, a native of Mau district. Voters also think that if the BJP had to give the ticket to a Chauhan, they could have given it to any Chauhan leader of Mau.”
Singh added that it’s an SP versus BJP fight since the Congress and BSP are not in the fray. “Undoubtedly, Akhilesh has an edge and if he manages to bag Dalit votes, he would surely retain the seat.”
Chauhan started his career with the BSP in 1996, switched to the SP in 2000, returned to the BSP in 2009, went to the BJP in 2015, turned to the SP in January 2022 and then returned to the BJP in July.
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