The upcoming assembly by-elections could give a major jolt to opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh because the BJP is, once again, focusing on OBC and Dalit candidates and, thereby, making a severe dent in the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party vote base.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is determined to replicate its Lok Sabha success, has fielded OBC and Dalit candidates in five of the 11 assembly segments where by-elections are due. The party has struck a balance by putting up Brahmin candidates in three and Thakur, Jat and a Vaishya in one constituency each.
The party has been working overtime to ensure its victory on all seats and is using the fragmentation in the opposition to its advantage.
However, the major challenge for BJP comes from the Ghosi seat in Mau district. The seat was vacated by Phagu Chauhan after he was appointed Governor of Bihar two months ago. Chauhan had won the seat with a small margin of about 7,000 votes while the BSP ranked a close second.
Ghosi has a large population of the Rajbhar community and the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) president Om Prakash Rajbhar has been campaigning against the BJP since he was expelled from his ministerial position in May this year.
The BJP had fielded Vijay Rajbhar, son of a vegetable seller, on the Ghosi seat and Anil Rajbhar, a UP minister, has been entrusted the task of keeping Rajbhar votes in the saffron fold.
The Samajwadi Party has no candidate here because its official nominee Sudhakar Singh is contesting as an independent due to technical reasons.
Another seat where the BJP faces an uphill task is Jalalpur in Ambedkar Nagar. This seat is known to be a BSP stronghold and was won by the BSP in 2017. The constituency has a sizeable population of Dalit, Muslim and Brahmin communities. The BJP has fielded Rajesh Singh its candidate in 2017 and the party is confident of wresting the seat from BSP. Singh, a Thakur, stands a good chance because his father Sher Bahadur Singh has won the seat multiple times.
The most interesting contest, however, will be seen in Rampur where a beleaguered Samajwadi Party MP Mohd Azam Khan is hoping to ensure the victory of his wife Tanzeen Fatima. Azam Khan has been whipping up a sympathy wave in his favour, citing the 84 cases registered against him as a perfect case of political vendetta.
For the first time in his political career, perhaps, Azam Khan is facing a challenge in his own bastion and the BJP is determined to snatch this constituency for its candidate Bharat Bhushan Gupta, a Vaishya. The fact that the Congress and the BSP have also put up Muslim candidate, the going could be easier for the BJP.
The Gangoh assembly seat in Saharanpur, on the other hand, is all set to witness a four-cornered fight.
The BJP, in 2017, had got 39 per cent votes while the Congress was the runner-up with 24 per cent votes. The SP and BSP had bagged 18 per cent votes each even though the constituency has a dominant Muslim population.
BJP's Keerat Singh is leaving no stone unturned to retain this seat for the BJP.
The Zaidpur seat in Barabanki is a test case for Tanuj Punia, son of former MP and veteran leader PL Punia, I who is the Congress candidate.
Tanuj had unsuccessfully contested the recent Lok Sabha elections. This time, he is working hard to challenge BJP's Ambrish Rawat but the latter seems confident of the Modi-Yogi magic working in the constituency.
The BJP also seems to be heading for an easy win in Govind Nagar (Kanpur), Manikpur (Chitrakoot) and Lucknow Cantt.
In all these three assembly constituencies, the party has fielded Brahmin candidates and the constituencies are essentially BJP strongholds.
Besides, the opposition candidates in all these segments are lightweights.
In Iglas (Aligarh), BJP's Rajkumar Sahyogi is comfortably placed before BSP's Abhay Kumar while the BJP is ahead in the other constituencies including Balha (Bahraich) and Pratapgarh where the candidate belongs to BJP but is contesting on the Apna Dal ticket.
The main reason why the scales are tilting in favour of BJP in these by-elections is because despair seems to have surrounded the leadership.
BSP president Mayawati did not campaign in the by-elections while Priyanka Gandhi Vadra of the Congress also kept away. In fact senior Congress leaders, upset over the new UP Congress committee, maintained a safe distance from the campaign.
Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party did not infuse energy into the campaign and confined his attack on the BJP to press statements and tweets.
"When the captain is away, how can you expect the soldiers to win the battle?" remarked a Congress leader on the prevailing situation.
( 808 Words)