UP Bypoll Battle for SP Bastions Azamgarh And Rampur A Test of Popularity for Yogi Govt 2.0

The countdown for the Lok Sabha bypolls in Azamgarh and Rampur has started and nearly all major political parties have narrowed down their candidates. Both seats are considered Samajwadi Party bastions and the ruling BJP has never won them. Now the June 23 by-elections for these seats have emerged as a key test for the state’s Yogi Adityanath-led government after being voted into power a second time.

The Samajwadi Party has fielded Azam Khan’s associate Asim Raja from Rampur instead of Tazeen Fatima as speculated earlier. Raja’s name was announced by Azam Khan in the constituency on Monday, the last day of filing nominations. Raja has been the local chief of the Samajwadi Party in Rampur apart from being a close confidant of Azam Khan.

Many feel that SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has given the command of the seat in the hands of Azam Khan, keeping in mind the Muslim votes for the 2024 Lok Sabha Polls and also to douse the flames of criticism that had come his way for allegedly ignoring his party colleague who had been incarcerated.

The Bahujan Samaj Party has decided not to field any candidate here. Experts feel that this may be due to the clout that Azam Khan enjoys in the district. The BSP though has been focusing on Azamgarh, the Lok Sabha seat that was vacated by Akhilesh Yadav when he decided to stay in the UP assembly. The BSP has also announced a long list of 40 star campaigners including party chief Mayawati, who will be canvassing for their candidate Shah Alam alias Guddu Jamali in Azamgarh. This move by the party may hurt the prospects of the SP in this seat which houses a significant number of Muslim voters. The Samajwadi Party has given the ticket to Dharmendra Yadav, three-time Lok Sabha MP and Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin brother.

The Congress has officially announced that it will not field any candidates for the Rampur and Azamgarh bypolls, citing the results of the recently concluded UP assembly elections in which it was decimated. As per a senior Congress leader, the party wants to focus more on strengthening the organisation ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The BJP is eyeing Azamgarh in the absence of any major member of the Yadav clan in the bypolls. The party has once again fielded Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirhaua’ in an attempt to get traction among Yadav voters. During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Samajwadi Party candidate Akhilesh Yadav had bagged around 6.21 lakh votes while BJP’s Nirhaua got around 3.61 lakh votes.

Speaking to News18 exclusively, Nirhaua said, “The double engine government of BJP has worked so much for the people, be it free ration or free vaccine. Not just Azamgarh, but anyone from Azamgarh who was in any part of the country asked for help and our team reached out to that person and ensured help. That is why people want us to win from Azamgarh. I am thankful to my organisation for showing faith in me once again. I want to say to the people of Azamgarh that you have voted for caste, religion, etc, but this time you should give me a chance. There is a BJP government at the Centre and state. If I don’t perform in these two years, then you can change me.”

Speaking about the contest and challenges in the bypoll, he said the fight this time will be between the BJP and BSP. “The stronger candidate you get in opposition, the more interesting the battle gets. The SP is not in the contest this time, rather the contest is between the BJP and BSP. The love and affection that I got during the last elections when there was a pact between the SP and BSP were no less. Now there is no alliance, and if people shower that much love on me, I will sail through. The vote will be cast this time in Azamgarh on the basis of work and not on caste or religion. If you look at the social equations, then I can say that BSP is in the contest with BJP as SP’s vote is transferring towards BSP candidate Guddu Jamali.”

The Samajwadi Party though seems confident of retaining both seats. Speaking to News18, SP national spokesperson Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said, “The Samajwadi Party strongly believes in the ethos of functional and electoral democracy. Free and fair elections are integral to any healthy democracy. Therefore, for the Samajwadi Party, every election is important as it helps us in ensuring the health of our democratic setup. We are going to contest both by-elections with full energy. These two Lok Sabha seats have been our bastions since long and we are fully confident that we will win both seats with huge margins. People in the 2019 elections reposed their trust and confidence in the leadership of the Samajwadi Party and this time too the Samajwadi Party will emerge victorious. We gave results by defeating the BJP in Gorakhpur and Phoolpur by-elections in 2018. This time too, our candidates will come out with flying colours.”

The BJP, however, feels that there is no “litmus test” as such in the Azamgarh and Rampur bypolls and has accused the SP of dynastic politics. UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi told News18, “There is nothing like a litmus test. The BJP has returned to power in the state with a huge mandate. This shows people of UP have faith in the BJP. By-elections should not be considered a litmus test as there are many local issues that come into play. The SP on the other hand has once again proved that it’s a party of one particular family, whereas in the BJP a common worker is given priority. We will definitely win the two seats which were earlier in possession of SP.”

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