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Bypolls | Losing Azamgarh and Rampur will be a setback for Samajwadi Party, winning it will not make a difference

The fact is that the bypoll results will hardly affect the Union government’s position in Parliament. This is one of the reasons why the contest is likely to turn highly localised 

June 20, 2022 / 05:19 PM IST
As both are SP strongholds, wining them in a convincing manner is a matter of prestige for the regional party

As both are SP strongholds, wining them in a convincing manner is a matter of prestige for the regional party

Last month the election commission announced byolls to three Lok Sabha seats and seven assembly seats across India, to be held on June 23. In Uttar Pradesh, the two seats are the parliamentary constituencies of Azamgarh and Rampur, both previously held by the Samajwadi Party (SP). SP chief and former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav held the Azamgarh seat, while senior SP leader Azam Khan held Rampur, before both moved to the assembly.

As both are SP strongholds, wining them in a convincing manner is a matter of prestige for the regional party. A loss here would negate the gains made in the recently-held state elections, and drag its performance in the 2024 general elections.

With the contest in Uttar Pradesh turning bipolar — with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) being relegated to third position and its strength reduced substantially — the SP hopes that it would win the seats easily.

But how significant is this round of elections? Does it have the potential to change the equations at the state level or at the Centre?

A win in Azamgarh and Rampur will give the SP extra ammunition to put pressure on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in addition to the current issues of inflation, stagnation, and unemployment. The SP would also interpret the win as a sign of people getting impatient with the BJP at the national level.

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The fact, however, is that the bypoll results will hardly affect the Union government’s position in Parliament. This is one of the reasons why the contest is likely to turn highly localised.

Azamgarh

Azamgarh, in eastern UP, has a minority population of about 15.58 percent, Schedule Caste are about 26 percent, and it has a sizeable Yadav population. In the recently-held assembly elections, the SP swept all the 10 seats of the district. The SP’s alliance with OP Rajbhar’s SBSP and Apna Dal(K) worked in its favour here.

While BSP has given a pass in Rampur, it has announced a Muslim candidate from Azamgarh.

The BJP is putting up a fight in Azangarh, by re-nominating Bhojpuri singer and actor Dinesh Lal Yadav (Nirahua). As the SP has nominated Dharmendra Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin and three-time MP, the national party has raised the chorus of dynasty politics. The BJP hopes to create a parallel Yadav leadership in the region, and that the BSP’s Muslim candidate could pull some of the minority and Dalit votes away from the SP.

The souring of the bonhomie between OP Rajbhar and Akhilesh Yadav due to MLC nominations could also be exploited by the national party. Moreover, the Mahan Dal, an SP ally in the state elections, has also broken ranks with the party.

Rampur

Rampur, in western UP, has a minority population of about 50.57 percent, and a Schedule Caste population of 13.38 percent. In the recently-held assembly elections, of the five seats in the district, the SP won three and the BJP two.

While Khan’s protégé Asim Raja is the SP candidate here, the BJP’s is Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, who was earlier with the BSP and the SP.

Polarisation here could work to the advantage of the BJP with the Kanpur violence and the controversy surrounding the comments about the Prophet dominating the narrative. In the recent assembly elections the BJP did well in this district despite a high minority population.

Probably fearing another electoral drubbing, the Congress has decided not to contest the bypolls. One of its spokespersons has also given a clarion call to supporters to press NOTA.

By no stretch of imagination are these bypolls a ‘semi-final’ for the 2024 general elections. It must not be forgotten that in 2018 the SP won the bypolls to the seats of Gorakhpur and Kairana, but went on to perform poorly in the 2019 general elections.

 
Amitabh Tiwari is a former corporate and investment banker-turned political strategist and commentator. Twitter: @politicalbaaba.
first published: Jun 20, 2022 05:19 pm
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