UP bypolls: Lotus wilts, bicycle whizzes past opponents

Lucknow, Sep 16: The lotus wilted and the bicycle sped past its political opponents in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday as results of bypolls to the state assembly gave a thumbs down to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and handed an emphatic victory to the ruling Samajwadi Party.

With 8-3 victory in its favour in the bypolls to the assembly and the lone Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat also won by its candidate Tej Pratap Singh, the Samajwadi Party couldn't have asked for more.

Charged with growing dissatisfaction among people, a grim power scenario, spiralling crimes against women, failing law and order, and failure in containing riots and communal disorder in many parts of Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party's victory in eight of the 11 assembly seats that went for bypolls Sep 13 indicates that not only is the party regaining lost ground but it managed the election well to thwart the further climb of the Narendra Modi juggernaut in the state.

That the elections were a prestige issue for the ruling party was never in doubt, but the way party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav used his time-tested political skills and management to win back his constituency of Muslims, Yadavs and some upper castes has stunned many.

"It is no doubt the Samajwadi Party won under the leadership of Mulayam Singhji and also due to the good work of Akhilesh Yadav and hard work of the party workers," said Naresh Agarwal, party spokesman and Rajya Sabha member.

Soon after the Lok Sabha debacle in which the party won just five of the 80 seats in the state, Mulayam Singh had not only given state leaders a lip lashing but also tasked the state ministers to ensure victory in their areas or be ready to be axed from the cabinet headed by his son Akhilesh.

The tough stand apparently worked wonders as ministers camped in bypoll-bound seats and ensured that they wooed the electorate in favour of party candidates till the last day of campaigning.

"It became a matter of survival of many ministers and they realised the party leadership was not in a mood to tolerate non-performers," a senior minister told IANS, adding that for Netaji as Mulayam Singh is popularly called, this was a battle of honour.

"Mulayam Singh knew that he had lost relevance in national politics for the next five years and hence it was his only option to go full throttle in the bypolls to salvage the lost image before the 2017 assembly election," said a senior party leader.

For the BJP, the bypolls have come as a jolt as the party has lost all the good will and surge that went in its favour just over three months back.

While many BJP insiders feel that its leadership had become complacent and refused to "acknowledge the value" of the bypolls, others feel propping of the likes of Yogi Adityanath as star campaigners boomeranged on the party.

"This is a setback and the party will have to sit down and take stock of the results, which we will do soon and then decide future course of action," said BJP's state president Laxmikant Bajpai.

Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati, while admitting the results are a blow, said it cannot be "seen as a barometer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's performance".

The BJP slipped to third place in Charkhari, the seat she vacated, as the Samajwadi Party's Kaptan Singh Rajput won by over 50,000 votes.

The margin of loss for the BJP in other constituencies too is huge. The fact the humiliating defeat on all these seats held by it since 2012 comes just three months after it stunned opponents by winning 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats only rubs salt to the BJP's wounds.

Political observers feel that while the Muslims voted en masse for the Samajwadi Party, especially with the Congress not keen on a contest in the bypolls, and the fence-sitters who were weaned away by the Modi magic during the general elections, what seems to have handed convincing victories is the fact that the Bahujan Samaj Party vote bank completely shifted to the ruling SP.

The BSP did not contest the polls and many rumoured it to a "secret pact" between it and the BJP to consolidate the Dalit votes in favour of the latter, as it did in the Lok Sabha elections.

Now, however, it is emerging the BSP voters preferred Samajwadi Party over the BJP. This was evident in the Thaurdwara constituency where despite the BJP siding with them on a temple issue in Kaanth village, the Dalits helped the Samajwadi Party candidate romp home.

Insiders say BSP chief Mayawati too preferred it this way as her vote bank shifting to the Samajwadi Party would relegate the BJP to the third position in the 2017 state polls and make it by and large a bipolar contest.

With the assembly elections still two and a half years away, it is time for parties to assess the results and fine tune their future strategy.


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