BJP proves detractors wrong in U.P.

NEW DELHI, NOV. 27. The mixed results of the municipal polls in Uttar Pradesh have given something to cheer for each of the main parties. While the Bharatiya Janata Party is more than happy that the prophets of doom, who predicted a wipe-out for it, have been proved wrong, the Samajwadi Party has demonstrated that it has made inroads in urban areas too. The Bahujan Samaj Party did not do as well as expected, but the Congress which had no presence at all, made itself felt.

Another factor that emerged was the disenchantment of the voters with the mainstream parties and the victory of a large number of independents. Of course, this trend cannot be continued at the Assembly level, as the candidate's own standing has always counted in local body polls.

Mr. V. K. Malhotra, BJP parliamentary party spokesperson, said the party's performance was ``credible and satisfactory'' and that the hype about its downfall had been proved false. The party had a total of 38 chairmen of nagar palika parishads, but this time it had bagged 65, and also won the direct mayoral polls in 6 places of a total of 11. The results had come as a boost to the Chief Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh, it was said.

On the flip side, the BJP won Lucknow narrowly (the Samajwadi Party alleged that this was done by fraud), lost Allahabad to the SP, a blow for the party whose Lok Sabha member from the city is Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, and also lost Kanpur to the Congress.

According to Mr. Akhilesh Singh, SP parliamentary party whip, the fight for the Assembly would be between the BJP and the SP and that his party would try and form a government in the state without the help of the BJP and the Congress. The SP strategy would be to take the help of smaller parties such as the ones led by Mr. Ajit Singh and Mr. Kalyan Singh.

The SP is also angry that the Congress has chipped away at the support base of the BJP as well as the SP. The SP would like the Congress to strengthen its upper caste base to harm the BJP and leave the Muslim vote to be consolidated by the SP, but that clearly is not what is happening on the ground.

Although the Election Commission's date for the Assembly elections in the State is March, 2002, it is almost certain that ``at the appropriate time'' political parties will demand that elections be held before September 2001. ``How can you ignore the fact that MLAs started drawing their allowances immediately after they were elected and not after the State Assembly first met six months later? We will certainly raise the issue,'' Mr. Akhilesh Singh said today.

Even the BJP informally agrees that it may not be possible to postpone the elections to 2002 as the party could then attract the charge that it was sticking to power beyond the five-year term.

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Poor show in urban U.P.

By Our Special Correspondent

LUCKNOW NOV. 27. The civic polls in Uttar Pradesh surprisingly saw a large number of independent candidates winning. Among the mainstream parties, the BJP suffered heavily in the urban areas while the Samajwadi Party made major gains.The SP's gain came in Allahabad, won by an independent in 1995, while the BSP retained Meerut. The BJP lost in Kanpur and in Gorakhpur to a eunuch, who contested as an independent. As many as eight Ministers in the State Government hail from Gorakhpur district. The BJP also lost the prestigious Kanpur mayoral office, where despite local pressure, it renominated the unpopular former Mayor, Mrs. Sarla Singh. Last year, Mrs. Singh's poor performance was attributed to the party losing the Lok Sabha from the city.

In Lucknow, the BJP won just 46 of the 110 wards against the tally of 74 in 1995. The BJP's mayoral candidate, Dr. S. C. Rai, who trounced his nearest rival by 1,18,000 votes in 1995, won by 19,670 votes this time. This erosion in the party base in the State capital, which returned the Prime Minister, Mr. A. B. Vajpayee, four times to the Lok Sabha, brings into sharp focus the infighting, lack of discipline and apathy of the rank and file with the leadership.

The fact that Mr. Vajpayee's victory margin in Lucknow came down substantially in last year's Lok Sabha poll, did not evoke the needed concern and corrective measures by the party bosses in the city. If the performance in the State capital was poor compared to 1995, the party's performance in other civic bodies because of anti-incumbency factor, could not have been better. The BJP had to be content with 44, while the SP, BSP and the Congress secured 36, 23 and 19.

The Loktantrik Congress Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal won two seats each.There was also a glimmer of hope for the Congress. The party not only won in Kanpur, home city of the new UPCC chief, Mr. Sri Prakash Jaiswal.