The Bharatiya Janta Party wrested Samajwadi Party's strongholds of Azamgarh and Rampur in the Lok Sabha bypolls on Sunday. In Azamgarh, in a first, BJP's Dinesh Lal Yadav won a closely-contested triangular contest by defeating SP's Dharmendra Yadav by 8,679 votes. The former Budaun MP is the cousin of SP President Akhilesh Yadav.
In Rampur, BJP's Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi defeated SP's Asim Raja in a straight contest by over 42,192 votes. The bypolls were necessitated because Azamgarh and Rampur were vacated by SP president Akhilesh Yadav and senior party leader Azam Khan after they decided to retain their Assembly seats.
The victory is significant because it broke the myth of the Muslim-Yadav family factor that is said to work for SP consistently in Azamgarh. In 2014, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav won the seat, followed by Akhilesh Yadav in 2019.
Rampur, with around 58% Muslim population, was being seen as a cakewalk for Mr. Raja, a protege of Azam Khan, who came out of jail just before the polls on bail and made emotional appeals in favour of his confidant. The last time the BJP won the seat was in 2014 when its candidate Nepal Singh emerged victorious during the Modi wave.
Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath described it as “the double victory of the double-engine government of the BJP.” The victory in the “challenging battles”, he said, has a “far-reaching message for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.”
“This mandate is a reflection of the PM Narendra Modi’s credo of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Prayas.” The victory, he said, would also send a message to the negative, destructive and nepotistic forces. “People of Uttar Pradesh are not ready to support political parties who provide support to casteist and communal forces and shelter to the professional mafia,” he added.
Mr. Khan addressed a press conference after counting wherein he held the BJP government responsible for the loss as it "misused the administration."
"It is the victory of Thoktantra (vindictive policies) over Loktantra (democracy)," he said, charging the police administration with not allowing the Muslim voters to come out and vote.
The Bahujan Samaj Party's role also proved crucial in both the seats. In Rampur, it did not field a candidate, while in Azamgarh, the party fielded Shah Alam alias Guddu Jamali who secured more than 29 % of total votes.
Curiously, Mr. Yadav didn't hold rallies in the run-up to the bypoll.
SP spokesperson Abdul Hafeez Gandhi charged the BJP for misusing the machinery. "Also, during the bypolls, the electorate usually votes for the ruling party. There are still two years left for the next Lok Sabha polls and perhaps people don't want to antagonise this vindictive government," he said.
On the absence of Mr. Yadav, Mr. Gandhi said the opposition party leaders usually don't address rallies in bypolls and cited BSP Supremo Mayawati's absence.