The results of the recent bypolls for Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha seats and the loss of Samajwadi Party has once again strengthened the speculations of cracks in the Muslim votebank, considered traditional voters of the SP.
Muslim voters might have voted unanimously in favour of the SP during the 2022 state assembly elections, but voices of dissent among the community over the stand by SP chief Akhilesh Yadav on issues related to minorities are now showing effect.
From not raising the issue of Azam Khan while he was in jail to the silence on rape threats issued to Muslim women, Yadav’s shaky stand has forced the community to look for other political options.
Highly placed sources in the SP reveal that the rebellion of Muslim leaders and some of them even resigning from the party was first taken lightly by the top leadership.
However, as the voices got stronger, he tried to stand with the community, but only on Twitter.
Sources also reveal the SP leadership’s change in stance came a bit late, which gave a chance to other players such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) to make inroads into the SP’s votebank.
BLAME GAME CONTINUES
The SP, however, has denied that it has lost its grip on Muslim voters, and instead blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for losing the by-elections.
Speaking to News18, SP spokesperson Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said, “We got votes from every community. Our party workers put in a lot of hard work, but the reality of our defeat is the blatant misuse of official machinery by the BJP government. In Rampur, our voters were threatened by police and the result was that the Rampur Lok Sabha constituency saw the lowest voter turnout of mere 41%. This is the lowest percentage of votes polled in the last 18 Lok Sabha elections after Independence.”
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“In both Rampur and Azamgarh, thousands of our party workers were issued red cards so they could stay away from the electoral process. The BJP used every dirty trick to manipulate the elections in its favour. On the day of the election, we registered our complaints about the misuse of official machinery with the Election Commission, but no heed was paid. The SP has always been strong in both the Lok Sabha constituencies. If not for the misuse of police and other paraphernalia by the BJP government, we would have won both the seats,” he said.
Yadav was so confident of retaining both Azamgarh and Rampur that he did not campaign in the constituencies. SP insiders reveal that campaigning in bypolls and that too on stronghold seats was considered “below standard” by those advising the SP chief.
The SP leaders clearly failed to realise how strongly the BJP was preparing for the bypolls. At least 18 ministers of the BJP government, including Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, campaigned with full aggression for both the seats.
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Rampur is considered a stronghold of Khan and even political observers believed it would not be easy for the BJP to defeat the SP in its bastions. When Khan was elected from here in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the SP’s vote percentage was 52.69, which has now come down to 46; the BJP had then got 42.33% votes. This time, party workers carried out the strategy of taking the maximum number of voters from home to the polling booth, due to which the BJP got 51.96% votes.
Also, the SP had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha Polls in alliance with the BSP, which had paid dividends.
Even in Azamgarh, when the SP and BSP contested together in 2019, the results were in favour of the SP. However, with the BSP fielding Guddu Jamali this time, Muslim votes got split as Jamali bagged more than 2.66 lakh votes. This was enough to dent SP candidate Dharmendra Yadav’s prospects.
The backing of Rashtriya Ulema Council and AIMIM for the BSP candidate also ensured more Muslim votes for Jamali.
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Jamali’s votes prove that this time Muslims didn’t consolidate behind the SP like in the recently concluded UP assembly elections, when the SP won all 10 assembly seats in Azamgarh.
Jamali was lauded by BSP Supremo Mayawati on Twitter after the bypoll results.
“All the BSP’s small and big workers, office-bearers and party candidate Shri Shah Alam alias Guddu Jamali etc. have fought the Azamgarh Lok Sabha by-elections with the determination and courage, it is important to continue this till the 2024 Lok Sabha general elections. Not only Azamgarh, but BSP’s struggle and efforts have to be continued in the entire UP to convert the ground preparation into votes for the 2024 Lok Sabha general elections. In this sequence, it is also very important to protect a particular community from being misled in all the upcoming elections,” she tweeted, hinting at the party’s strategy towards bringing disenchanted Muslim voters into its fold.
1. बीएसपी के सभी छोटे-बड़े कार्यकर्ताओं, पदाधिकारियों तथा पार्टी प्रत्याशी श्री शाह आलम उर्फ गुड्डू जमाली आदि ने आज़मगढ़ लोकसभा उपचुनाव जिस संघर्ष व दिलेरी के साथ लड़ा है उसे आगे 2024 लोकसभा आमचुनाव तक जारी रखने के संकल्प के तहत् चुनावी मुस्तैदी यथावत बनाये रखना भी ज़रूरी।
— Mayawati (@Mayawati) June 27, 2022
Reacting to the win on SP’s turf, UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said, “There has been a paradigm shift in Uttar Pradesh after 2014. The BJP government at the Centre and in the state has been working for development without any bias. There were a few sections of society who used to trust BJP a little less, however, after seeing the development by the BJP government, all sections have realised that the BJP government works for everyone. Earlier there were some political parties in the state who used to act like ‘thekedars’ of votes of some specific communities, however, people have rejected such parties. The BJP’s win in the bypolls is the result of unbiased implementation of government schemes.”
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