Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers in Uttar Pradesh launched into early Diwali celebrations as the party on Tuesday finally shrugged off the by-poll jinx with a strong showing giving the party a psychological edge ahead of the series of locally important polls it faces from December onwards.
The BJP held six of seven by-poll seats and the SP one in the 2017 assembly polls. The by-elections did not alter the equation.
The BJP was haunted by the jinx ever since the 2018 Lok Sabha by-polls when SP defeated the ruling party. This time around, there was no upset.
The BJP quickly marketed its by-poll success as an endorsement of ‘brand Yogi’ to acknowledge chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s series of online cadre connect campaigns before he addressing a rally in each of the seven by-poll seats along with state BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh, for whom it was the first election since taking over the post.
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The BJP had rejected an offer by its ally Nishad party to let it field criminal- turned-politician Dhananjay Singh on its symbol in Malhani from where Singh had stood second in the 2017 UP assembly polls.
The by-polls would now be followed by a series of locally important elections. After the elections to the graduate and teachers’ constituency polls on December 1, there would be a mini-contest for the upper house of the state legislature as the term of 11 MLCs is ending by January 30 next year, followed by the panchayat polls, likely in February.
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Elections to 35 MLC seats (local body) too would be held before March 2022, just ahead of the big battle for the UP assembly polls.
Experts felt that the by-poll results made it clear that the party would go into the 2022 UP polls with Yogi Adityanath as its face.
“Naturally, post win, it’s Brand Yogi that has gained strength. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the undisputed leader nationally, in UP, Yogi, in my opinion, would be the party’s face in 2022 elections,” said Irshad Ilmi, a veteran journalist.
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While top opposition leaders like Congress general secretary and UP in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati stayed away from the campaign, the BJP mounted a heavy-duty campaign that was led by Yogi Adityanath, who addressed seven rallies in all constituencies followed by deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who addressed rallies in five seats.
Deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma, too, was roped in for the by-poll campaign.
Eight cabinet ministers, apart from party functionaries and lawmakers had camped in the constituencies. State BJP general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal too visited all the constituencies to fine-tune the party plan.
In seats like Deoria, the BJP had served a warning to dissidents not to violate the party line, said experts. Here, BJP rebel Ajay Singh aka Pintoo had contested as an independent after the party rejected his claim on the seat which was represented by his father Janmejay Singh and whose death caused the by-poll. For the same seat, the Samajwadi Party changed the candidate at the last minute though the BJP too sprang a surprise on its opponents by opting for a party worker Satyaprakash Mani Tripathi, an assistant professor of political science, to set up an interesting battle in which all the major political parties had fielded a Brahmin candidate.
“In a way, the BJP’s win in Deoria amid an all-Brahmin cast of other parties, also settled the issue of Brahmins being unhappy with the present dispensation. The opposition conspiracy of labelling Yogi Adityanath government as anti-Brahmin, especially after the Bikru encounter, backfired. Had it been true, the results would have been markedly different both in Deoria and Ghatampur,” said BJP lawmaker Vijay Bahadur Pathak, who is also the party’s state unit vice president.
“The BJP had won the Ghatampur (reserved) assembly seat in 2017 after four decades and hence retaining the seat was special,” he added.
“It’s a win for good governance,” said UP minister Mohsin Raza who had campaigned especially in Bangermau, Unnao where the BJP denied a ticket to its ex-MLA Kuldeep Sengar’s family.
The seat had fallen vacant after Sengar was disqualified from the assembly following his conviction in a rape case in December last year.