Lucknow: The counting of votes and distribution of victory certificates are still under way for some seats, but it is already clear that the Samajwadi Party (SP) is leading in the Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls held over four phases in April.
The party dealt a big blow to the BJP in districts like Ayodhya, Varanasi, Prayagraj & Lucknow, which the BJP claimed as its strongholds. The SP has won seats in these districts by large margins.
As of 2 pm Wednesday, according local news channels, SP-backed candidates were leading in 779 district panchayat seats, out of the 3,050 that went to polls. Those backed by the BJP were leading in 579 seats.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is leading in 361 seats, while the Congress is ahead in 59. Independent candidates and those from other parties are leading in 1,262 seats.
This means the importance of independents will now increase, as major parties will try to win them over to support their candidates for the post of Zila Panchayat adhyaksh (president).
According to political analysts, rural distress and farmers’ protests are the reasons behind the BJP’s fall in this election. The results, the experts say, are in variance with usual trends, since it’s usually the ruling party that wins panchayat polls in the state.
In UP, though panchayat polls are not fought on political party symbols or along political lines, all parties declare support for certain candidates.
According to State Election Commission (EC) officials, a party can announce a candidate who is a ‘samarthit pratyashi’ or a supported candidate. This time all major parties, such as the BJP, SP, BSP & Congress, released the list of their ‘samarthit pratayashis’ for almost all seats. AAP, PSP (Pragatisheel Samajwadi party), Azad Samaj party, the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and AIMIM, also supported candidates in various districts.
Will analyse, BJP says
The SP is also leading in its claims of victory. Rajendra Chowdhary, chief spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party, said, “According to our tally, we have won more than 1,000 wards. More than half of the independents are also our workers, so they will support us in Zila Panchayat adhyaksh elections. It’s a big victory for the Samajwadi Party. It has happened because people in rural areas are fed-up with the BJP. Covid crisis mismanagement and other rural areas issues are also the reason.”
Speaking to ThePrint, BJP vice-president Vijay Bahadur Pathak said, “We are waiting for the final tally. Till last night we were claiming victory on above 900 seats. The final result is still pending for some seats. We will wait, but I agree that we need to analyse the trends.”
According to Pathak, the result is not a reflection of the state’s Covid mismanagement or rural distress. ”The SP is claiming too much, but it’s better that we should not blame others and rather do our own district-wise analysis,” he said.
Another senior functionary in the BJP added, on the condition of anonymity, “In many districts, where more then one candidate wanted to contest elections for the same seat, we gave them permission to do so. So many of them won as independent candidates. We are sure they will help us in deciding the Zila Panchayat adhyaksh. The party will do chintan & manthan on the results, but we can’t say that we have lost, we are matching our tallies.”
In retaliation, one senior SP leader told ThePrint, “It doesn’t matter what the BJP claims. We got reports from our local leaders, as well as from local media sources that we have won more seats than the BJP and this difference is huge. The BJP can try and manage the independents, but we have won this election, its clear now.”
Blow for BJP in Kashi, Prayagraj & Ayodhya
ThePrint has learnt from the officials in the district administration in Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, that the SP has won 15 seats out of a total of 40. This is followed by the BJP, which has won seven seats, while the BSP and the Congress have won five seats each. Eight seats have been won by other candidates.
In Ayodhya, of the total 40 seats, the SP has won 17, the BJP eight, the BSP four, and other candidates are leading in the remaining 11 seats.
A similar trend can also be seen in Lucknow, which is Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s constituency. Officials in the administration said SP has won 10 of the total 25 seats, while the BJP has won only three seats, followed by the BSP that has won five seats. The remaining 13 were won by others, including independents.
Counting is still under way in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home turf Gorakhpur. Local leaders claimed that it will be a close contest between the BJP and the SP here.
While the local BJP unit said they are leading in 20 sears, SP workers said they are just one seat behind, and are leading in 19. The SP leaders claimed the party will have more seats by evening.
In Prayagraj district, out of a total of 78 seats, the EC has declared that the SP has won 17, the BJP 10, the BSP six, the AAP two, the Congress one and others 32.
BSP & RLD gain in West UP
Meanwhile, the BSP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have gained ground in western Uttar Pradesh, where the Kisan Andolan enjoyed huge popular support.
The BJP has received some relief in districts like Muzaffarnagar, where out of a total of 43 seats, independents have won 18, while 13 seats have gone to the BJP. The newly-formed Azad Samaj Party, led by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar Azad, won six seats, while the RLD and the BSP won three seats each.
In Mathura, the BSP emerged as the largest party, winning 12 out of 33 seats. The BJP won nine seats here, the RLD eight and the remaining five seats went to independents.
The BSP also emerged as the largest party in Saharanpur, with 16 out of 49 seats. The BJP won 14 seats here, the Congress eight, the SP five and the Azad Samaj Party two. The remaining four seats were won by others.
In Baghpat, the RLD emerged as the largest party, winning eight out of the 20 seats. The BJP and SP won four seats each, while the BSP got one and the remaining three seats went to others.
“Our result is satisfactory, we got good numbers. We have not contested on every seat of West UP, but we supported independents on many seats. We are hopeful that with the help of SP and others, our candidates will become the Zila Panchayat Adhyaksh in at least in six-seven districts,” a senior RLD members told ThePrint.
He also claimed that the party has won overall 70 seats in the state.
Rural distress reason behind results
Analysing the result, Professor Pankaj kumar, a political analyst and faculty member at Allahabad University, said, “Rural distress is a major reason [behind the vote distribution] in this panchayat polls. Anger against farm laws, unemployment and stray animals [which destroy crops] were the main deciding factors. The SP encashed on these three issues. The kissan andolan had impacted the polls.”
Talking about popular sentiments against the Covid mismanagement in the state, he said, “It could also be one of the reason, but even if elections had been held a couple of months earlier [before the second Covid surge in the country], the results would have been almost similar. The independents will now control the selection for the Zila Panchayat Adyaksh posts. The BJP will have to work out something with them now,” he added.
According to Kaviraj, professor of political science at Lucknow University, the results this time are in variance with usual trends.
“Generally, the ruling party [in the state] wins the panchayat polls. But this time the tally channels are showing reveals the dissatisfaction against the present government in rural areas. These results are probably beyond the expectations of the Samajwadi Party too. Although the importance of independents will increase now, as both parties (SP & BJP) will try to include them in their camps, the results have given a boost to the opposition before Assembly 2022 elections. I think, the Covid mismanagement may be one of the reasons for this result, but rural issues like farmers’ distress and other hyper-local issues are important reasons behind the results.”
The voting for the panchayat elections was held in four phases, from 15-29 April. According to a statement by the UP Election Commission released two days ago, “3,19,317 candidates have already been elected unopposed. This includes seven members of zila panchayat, 2,005 members of kshetra panchayat and over 3.17 lakh members who have been elected unopposed in this panchayat election.”
As many as 178 candidates for the post of pradhan of gram panchayats were also elected unopposed, according to the statement.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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