By-polls: Why it’s turning out to be a one-horse race in UP
None of the parties, barring the BJP, seems too keen on the contest by-polls in UP. The Samajwadi Party government is firmly in the saddle and the BSP does not contest by-polls as a matter of principle. The Congress expects no big gains. So it is turning out to be a one-horse race.
Lucknow: For all the commotion over the by-polls for the 11 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, it appears to be a tame affair on the ground. None of the parties, barring the BJP, seems too keen on the contest — the rivals have either given up or they see no concrete gains from the results. The Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh is firmly in the saddle till 2017 with a strong majority and the BSP does not contest by-polls as a matter of principle. The Congress expects no big gains. So it is turning out to be a one-horse race.
But here are a few stand-out features in the by-polls so far:
Follow the BJP strategy
Copying the BJP strategy for ticket distribution in Lok Sabha elections, the SP has fielded only one Muslim candidate in western UP, Nawaab Jaan Khan from Thakurdwara, as against Muslim candidates from most seats in western UP seats in Lok Sabha election. The SP changed its Muslim candidate Shabbir Balmiki in Balha at the last moment in a bid to garner Hindu votes for him, rather than make it a polarised battle. There are only two Muslims on the Congress list. In all, there are 13 Muslims from amongst all parties in the total 118 candidates in fray from all seats. The strategy, obviously, is to avoid polarisation of Hindu votes in BJP’s favour.
Confusion over the Dalit vote bank
All parties are looking towards the Dalit voters who had decisively supported the BJP in Lok Sabha election, and yet, the Bahujan Samaj Party has apparently left them directionless. The BSP is not only staying away from the by-elections, it has also advised its supporters to vote for "suitable" independent candidates. The advice, even according to some BSP supporters, is more confusing than the decision to stay off the by-election. "What if candidates supported by us win the election? Will they join us or speak on our behalf in the assembly? And what if candidates supported by us lose the electoral battle? What face will we have to show to our voters?" asked a BSP district level leader from Hamirpur who had come to the recent party meeting in Lucknow addressed by Mayawati.
No grand alliance
There is no sign of a combined front against the BJP, unlike in Bihar, where such a common Congress-RJD-JD(U) front had shocked the BJP in recent by-elections. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav did try to bring Mulayam and Mayawati together, but to no avail. The Congress indicated early on that it will contest all seats except Mainpuri.
Leaders missing in action
The campaigning is decidedly low-key since none of the national leaders like Narendra Modi, other national BJP leaders, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul or even Akhilesh Yadav are joining the campaign. Even senior minister Mohammad Azam Khan is staying away from the campaign to avoid any communal slant to the campaigning. The BJP campaign is being handled by the firebrand MP from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath, state BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai and Union minister Kalraj Mishra.
Mulayam Singh Yadav is holding the fort mainly in Mainpuri and his nervousness about the party’s prospects can be gauged from the fact that Mulayam will address half a dozen meetings in what is known as the Yadav family stronghold. His grand nephew Tej Pratap Singh Yadav is the SP candidate from here. The BJP has chosen Prem Singh Shakya to take on the Yadav family scion.
All the seats except Rohaniya were held by the BJP, while Rohaniya was held by BJP’s ally Apna Dal. This time also the seat is being contested by an Apna Dal candidate. The stakes are obviously highest for the BJP. Counting of votes will be held on 16 September.
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