Ghosi bypoll to see first INDIA bloc-BJP clash in Uttar Pradesh

It will be an opportunity for the ruling BJP dispensation to assert its hold in Uttar Pradesh to send out a message on how effective the INDIA alliance would be

Updated - September 27, 2023 12:30 pm IST

Published - September 03, 2023 02:41 pm IST - Lucknow

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav addresses during an election campaign rally in support of party candidate Sudhakar Singh ahead of Ghosi Assembly by-election, in Mau district on August 29, 2023.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav addresses during an election campaign rally in support of party candidate Sudhakar Singh ahead of Ghosi Assembly by-election, in Mau district on August 29, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The stage is set for the first electoral showdown between the BJP and an INDIA bloc constituent in Uttar Pradesh, with leaders of both sides going all out to drum up support for their candidates for the September 5 Ghosi assembly bypoll.

The Congress and the Left parties have not only extended support to the Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate but are also campaigning for him, in accordance with the spirit of the new Opposition togetherness ahead of next year's general election.

Though not a major force in Uttar Pradesh, Arvind Kejriwal's AAP is also drumming up support for the SP nominee.

The BJP's Dara Singh Chauhan, the sitting MLA who crossed over to the saffron party from the SP and resigned from the seat, is seeking re-election. The SP has fielded Sudhakar Singh.

Singh has got support from the Congress, the CPI(M) and the CPI(ML)-Liberation.

Interestingly, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, who had given campaigning for the other two prestigious bypolls in the Rampur and the Azamgarh Lok Sabha seats last year a miss, addressed an election meeting in Ghosi.

He had said this election would bring a change in the country's politics.

Without Mr. Yadav at the helm of its campaign and facing an aggressive campaign by the BJP, the SP lost the Lok Sabha bypolls in Rampur and Azamgarh — once considered its strongholds.

The SP chief had won from the Azamgarh seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections while party veteran Azam Khan retained Rampur in a tight finish. The pair vacated their seats after successfully contesting in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in March 2022.

Realising the importance of the concerted efforts required at the ground level to challenge the BJP, Mr. Yadav, who has been actively involved in activities of the INDIA alliance, said, "The parties once against us are now supporting the SP. We thank them for supporting the 'samajwadis'. This is an important fight. This will be your [voters'] big decision as the bypoll's outcome will bring a change in the politics of the country."

Mr. Yadav also underlined that such an election would hardly have been seen in Uttar Pradesh, where "all boundaries from caste to religion were broken for the SP candidate".

Though the Left parties have remained on the fringes of Uttar Pradesh politics for a long time, their influence in the area has remained important.

"Ghosi is a historical place from where Comrade Jharkhande Rai had been MP or MLA from 1952 to 1985. This election in the Purvanchal area is very important as there are three major players — the SP, CPI and the Congress — and these three major constituents of the INDIA alliance, as well as the CPI(M) and the RLD (Rashtriya Lok Dal), have together made this contest a 'pratishtha ka chunav [contest for pride]'," Communist Party of India (CPI) National Secretary Atul Kumar Anjaan told PTI.

Mr. Anjaan said senior SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav is camping in Ghosi while another senior leader Ram Gopal Yadav has also been to the area.

"Since I have contested Lok Sabha elections twice from there and have an organisation there, our support is very important in the seat," Mr. Anjaan said, adding that CPI workers have already started work there.

The Congress' Uttar Pradesh unit chief Ajay Rai, who has already extended support to Mr. Singh, said the SP candidate backed by other anti-BJP parties is poised for a massive victory.

Anshu Awasthi, the Congress' State unit spokesperson, said party workers and leaders up to the booth level have already started their work and are reaching out to villagers seeking support for Mr. Singh.

District unit leaders are on the job, he said.

Speaking about the all-out efforts being made by the NDA, Mr. Anjaan said the BJP has deployed its two Deputy Chief Ministers — Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak — to corner the Maurya and the Brahmin votes, respectively.

The entire Uttar Pradesh ministry is making a round of the constituency, 32 Ministers have already been there and caste equations are being managed by deploying Ministers from different castes, Mr. Anjaan said.

According to estimates, of the 4.37 lakh voters in Ghosi, 90,000 are Muslims, 60,000 Dalits and 77,000 from the "upper castes" — 45,000 Bhumihars, 16,000 Rajputs and 6,000 Brahmins.

Since the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has not fielded a candidate, there is an all-out effort to woo its core vote bank, Mr. Anjaan said.

The BJP's campaign has been led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who, during an election meeting, accused the Opposition of being focussed on their personal growth rather than that of the constituency.

"People associated with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress have no concern for the constituency. We have worked for the people without any discrimination," Mr. Adityanath had said.

Assisting the BJP in the election campaign is its new partner, Suheldev Bahujan Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar, who is continuously visiting parts of the constituency with his sons.

Rajbhar contested the 2022 assembly polls as part of the SP-led alliance and recently joined the NDA. He has been particularly targeting SP chief Yadav, declaring that no one from the Yadav community will become chief minister of the State in future.

The Apna Dal (Sonelal) and the NISHAD Party — the other two NDA allies — are also assisting in the campaign.

However, the Suheldev Swabhiman Party (SSP) — a splinter group of Rajbhar's SBSP — has announced support for the SP's Mr. Singh.

Both the SBSP and SSP claim to represent the Rajbhars, an OBC group that makes up a sizable population in the constituency.

SP allies RLD and Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) have directed their workers to back Mr. Singh to ensure the BJP candidate's defeat.

Although the bypoll will have no bearing on the BJP Government, which enjoys a comfortable majority in the 403-member House, its outcome is equally important as it comes just before next year's Lok Sabha election and could be an indicator of what is in store in next year's Lok Sabha elections.

It will also be an opportunity for the ruling dispensation to assert its hold in Uttar Pradesh to send out a message on how effective the INDIA alliance would be.

A win for the SP will strengthen Mr. Yadav's position and role within the INDIA alliance and also seal his candidature for leading the bloc in the politically important State, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

The bypoll will be held on September 5 and the counting of votes on September 8.

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