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HomeIndiaBJP breaches Samajwadi Party bastions Azamgarh and Rampur, Akhilesh Yadav left with...

BJP breaches Samajwadi Party bastions Azamgarh and Rampur, Akhilesh Yadav left with three MPs

Infighting and BSP’s tacit help to BJP in both seats lead to loss of face for SP chief and Azam Khan; Modi and Yogi lead their party in applauding the Lok Sabha bypoll wins

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Lucknow: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sunday stormed the Samajwadi Party’s citadels Rampur and Azamgarh courtesy infighting within the opposition party as well as the division of the Muslim votes by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in one of the seats.

While SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had won Azamgarh in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, SP veteran Mohammad Azam Khan had retained Rampur in a tight finish. The duo had resigned after successfully contesting in the Uttar Pradesh elections in March.

In Azamgarh, BJP candidate Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ defeated SP’s Dharmendra Yadav by over 8,500 votes as BSP candidate Guddu Jamali took away a sizeable share of votes. Though Khan had fielded his aide Asim Raja in Rampur, BJP’s Ghanshyam Lodhi won by over 42,000 votes to ensure his party’s made a clean sweep in the Lok Sabha bypoll in Uttar Pradesh. The BSP did not contest in Rampur.

By wresting Rampur and Azamgarh, the BJP now has 64 MPs from Uttar Pradesh. In contrast, the SP’s tally has come down from five to three.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as BJP chief J.P. Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and other top party leaders came out congratulating people and BJP workers for the emphatic wins in Uttar Pradesh.

The SP, meanwhile, jumped in defence of Akhilesh saying that he avoided the bypoll campaign in Azamgarh and Rampur following the feedback from booth-level workers.

Also Read: What did Akhilesh & Azam discuss at hospital meet amid talk of rift? It ‘wasn’t all personal’

Rampur no longer Azam Khan’s fiefdom?

A surprising defeat at the hands of the BJP in Rampur means more trouble for former Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan leader, who served 27 months in prison and struggled for bail owing to the 87 cases lodged against him (84 under the BJP rule).

While Muslims constitute the largest voteshare with about 8.5 lakh voters in Rampur, the constituency has around 8.30 lakh Hindu voters including 1.25 lakh Lodhis, 75,000 Kurmis and about 45,000 Yadavs.

Though he did not contest the bypoll, Khan spearheaded his party’s campaign addressing rallies across Rampur to seek votes for his aide.

Khan had been making an emotional pitch to the voters of Rampur and urging then for ‘revenge’ for his 27-month long “pain.”

However, the low voter turnout of 39.02 per cent changed the course of the polls. Khan and his son Abdullah Azam had claimed the voters were being “terrorized from going to the polling booths” and “voters in minority-dominated areas being turned away”.

A political analyst suggested that while the fight in Rampur was tough due to the BJP fielding Khan’s former aide Ghanshyam Lodhi, the low voter turnout may have possibly dented the Muslim vote share.

“It was a tight contest, but the low voter turnout had changed the situation completely,” Lucknow-based political analyst Brajesh Shukla, who has covered Uttar Pradesh politics for years, told ThePrint

Though SP leaders had themselves admitted that Rampur was a close fight and they had “difficulty”, the difficulty was more than what reflected on ground — the margin between Lodhi and Raja was 42,192 votes.

SP candidate from Azamgarh Dharmendra Yadav had said that the party had faced difficulty in Rampur due to voters being “harassed”. “Since, there has been repeated harassment meted out with Azam and his aides in the past, somewhere, they succeeded in demoralizing the voters in Rampur,” he told ThePrint.

But another political analyst asserted that it was the infighting and a “weak” candidature that resulted in Rampur loss coupled with the “wrong perception” that the Muslims only vote for the SP.

“Asim Raja is not a big leader in Rampur. Had it been Azam Khan contesting himself, the situation would have been different. Raja was a weak candidate. It is a misconception that the Muslims only vote for the SP. They are as diverse as any other religious community. Moreover, Khan was not able to transfer his votes,” Mirza Asmer Beg, professor, political science, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) told ThePrint.

Beg said that while there could be some truth in the SP’s allegations of “threats to voters”, it was mostly “the lament of a loser.”

Also Read: Why ‘Bulldozer baba’ Yogi Adityanath keeps using the machine for law and order

Maya plays spoiler in SP pocket-borough 

Though Azamgarh is the family bastion of the SP’ first family, Akhilesh cousin Dharmendra Pradhan was fighting from here for the first time. The contest became three cornered after the BSP fielded Guddu Jamali, a Muslim candidate, in the constituency.

While Muslims constitute about 16 per cent of the total population of Azamgarh, Dalits make about 25 per cent.

A SP leader who campaigned in Azamgarh said that the candidature of Jamali who enjoys popularity among a sizeable section of the Muslims made Dharmendra’s ride tough.

What had added to the difficulty was that the Rashtriya Ulama Council extended support to Jamali even as it came as little surprise given that the outfit has opposed the SP earlier too.

“The result was solely dependent on the voting trend of the Muslim voters. The candidature of Jamali who belongs to Azamgarh itself made things tougher for Dharmendra. He enjoys popularity among the locals here and definitely stole a sizeable portion of Muslim votes,” he told ThePrint.

The BJP’s Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ was also no pushover as he had contested against Akhilesh in 2019. The Bhojpuri actor had lost by a margin of 2,59,874 votes in the Lok Sabha poll.

“Nirahua is also an outsider but he remained among the people despite the defeat. The fact that Akhilesh ji has not been visible in Azamgarh as much as him has definitely made an impact,” said the leader.

Also Read: Unhappy allies, estranged uncle — Akhilesh’s Mahagathbandhan ‘on the rocks’, MLC polls fuel fire

Akhilesh missing in action

The bypoll results were as interesting as the incidents in the run-up to the polls as Akhilesh chose to skip campaigning for both Rampur an Azamgarh.

While the SP claimed it was a strategy to avoid “any disturbance” “at their home ground”, political observers asserted that was a sign of immaturity due to “infighting” which cost the party dearly and might continue to damage and demoralise the SP cadre in future as well.

In the March 2018 Lok Sabha bypoll in Phulpur, Akhilesh had extensively campaigned for his party and the SP went on to win after joining hands with the BSP.

Even as the BJP thrust its might with rallies by both CM Yogi Adityanath and deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya in Azamgarh and Rampur, Akhilesh chose to merely issue statements against their narrative stating that the BJP had always ignored and defamed Azamgarh.

However, the BJP led an all-out attack on Akhilesh with Maurya targeting the SP chief for not campaigning in Azamgarh claiming that he “knew that this time lotus will bloom here (BJP will win).”

Highlighting the gaps in the SP strategy, Beg said that Akhilesh failing to campaign in his own seat Azamgarh and Rampur sent a wrong message that the SP leadership took the election results without a serious intent.

“The cycle’s tyres seem to be deflated due to the infighting.  The results will further demoralise the SP cadre and have reduced the chances of the SP emerging as a very serious contender to the BJP even in 2027,” the AMU professor said. “The SP infighting was possibly the reason why Akhilesh stayed away from campaigning, but it has only given weightage to the rumours that Dharmendra Yadav’s candidature did not appeal to him. The tendency to ensure that no other leader grows results in damage to the party.”

The SP downplayed Akhilesh’s absence saying that it was the party workers on ground who suggested that he need not campaign but admitted that he wanted “to avoid disturbances.”

Calling it the SP’s strategy, SP spokesperson Rajendra Chowdhary told ThePrint that it was a strategy to avoid any disturbance on ground as the workers in Azamgarh had effective campaign management and public connect. “The workers suggested that it was like home ground and it was a matter of faith. It was a strategy to avoid any disturbance,” he said.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: Swami Prasad Maurya’s jump from BJP to SP hasn’t paid off, OBC leader trails in Fazilnagar


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