Lok Sabha bypolls in UP: acid test for Yogi

Lok Sabha bypolls in UP: acid test for Yogi

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath may be in demand in the forthcoming assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh but he himself faces an acid test in by-polls in the two Lok Sabha constituencies of Gorakhpur and Phulpur in his own state.

The bypolls have become more challenging for Adityanath, especially due to the poor law and order situation in the state and reports of a possible grand alliance between the Samajwadi Party (SP), BSP and Congress.

Both Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats are prestigious for the BJP as Adityanath himself represented Gorakhpur in Lok Sabha and deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya represented Phulpur before resigning after they became members of the UP legislative council.

Although the dates for the bypolls have not yet been announced, both the BJP and the opposition parties have shifted gears and started preparations. As both the seats fall in the eastern UP region, the results of the two by-polls would also be an indicator of things to come in the bigger battle in 2019.

For Adityanath, Gorakhpur, which he had represented since 1998, would be a big test, especially since the BJP would have to field someone who is not associated with the Gorakshnath Peeth, of which Adityanath is the ‘Mahant’ (chief). The Peeth wields considerable influence in Gorakhpur and in some adjoining districts.

Adityanath had won the seat by over 3.13 lakh votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP, keeping in mind the caste calculations, inducted Shiv Pratap Shukla into the Union cabinet in the recent expansion. BJP had emerged victorious in Phulpur for the first time in 2014 and now the party is faced with the daunting task of selecting a nominee who matches his stature.

Samajwadi Party (SP) had finished second in both Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats, though it trailed by over three lakh votes in both. A combined opposition, however, could pose a few problems for the BJP.

BSP supremo Mayawati, who had not shown much enthusiasm for forging a grand alliance initially, is said to have agreed to have an unofficial understanding, without formally stitching an alliance with SP-Congress.

‘’BJP can be defeated if the opposition parties join hands…there are many issues on which we can put the saffron party on the defensive,’’ said SP leader Ram Govind Chaudhary. Chaudhary said that the law and order situation in the state had worsened under the BJP.

A reply to a recent RTI query showed that crimes against women had shot up by 17% after Yogi Adityanath took power. In the first three months of the BJP rule, over 10,000 complaints were received by the State Women’s Commission, of which only 2,800 were disposed of, the RTI reply revealed. “The commission’s reply clearly proves that the BJP government has failed to ensure the safety of women...the chief minister should take the figures seriously and start taking corrective measures,” Chaudhary said.

Problem points

The Adityanath government had also drawn flak from different quarters over the death of 32 children due to lack of oxygen at BRD Medical College hospital in the chief minister’s hometown of Gorakhpur in August.

Rising incidents of rape in different parts of the state have invited sharp criticism from women’s organisations. The alleged excesses committed by the Anti-Romeo Squad and the violence unleashed by the cow vigilantes have also given the opposition the much-wanted ammunition to hit the government with.

“This government has failed completely…the chief minister does not have any control over the bureaucracy…we will expose the failure of the government,” said another SP leader.

The SP also intends to make rising prices of petrol, diesel and other essential commodities and the problems being encountered by small traders due to what they say was a “hasty’’ implementation of GST, a major plank in its campaigning in the bypolls. The opposition is also likely to rake up the recent media reports alleging irregularities in the accounts of a company owned by Jay Shah, the son of BJP chief Amit Shah, in the campaign.

A patch-up between SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav and his father and Mulayam Singh Yadav has only boosted the morale of the party workers. Congress leaders also appeared to be hopeful of putting up a good fight if there is an alliance. The Congress feels that the BJP had managed to win the recent UP assembly polls by wooing the backward castes other than the Yadavs.

“Such a tactic will not work in the bypolls…the state government has done nothing for the non-Yadav OBCs during its 8-month tenure,’’ says state Congress leader Dwijendra Tripathi.

BJP leader Vijay Bahadur Pathak, however, brushes aside the charge of poor law and order. ‘’The criminals are on the run….in the past few days, police have gunned down many hardcore criminals,’’ he said.

Pathak expressed confidence that the saffron party would win the bypolls comfortably. ‘’We will win, irrespective of the candidates of the combined opposition,’’ he said, speaking to Deccan Herald.

The saffron party, however, does not want to take any chances, especially as the results of the two LS by-polls are likely to be interpreted as an indicator of things to come in 2019, and has deployed its senior leaders in the two constituencies.

BJP sources said that Adityanath would himself lead the party campaign in the bypolls. “After all, a victory will only consolidate the chief minister’s position in the state…he cannot afford to lose in either of the constituencies,’’ said a senior BJP leader.

DH News Service

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