By staying away from the by-elections on the 12 assembly segments and one Lok Sabha seat (Mainpuri), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has virtually left the contest to be fought between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party (SP).
The BSP was being seen as the “main challenge”, in the words of a BJP leader, primarily due to the “the BSP’s increased vote share (in 2014 as compared to 2009)”, but also because its candidates turned “runners up on maximum 34 Lok Sabha seats”.
The SP’s damage control exercise in the days after the results – with reshuffling of the officers, removal of leaders of minister of state status and the dissolution of the state executive committee being the major acts – has allowed its ticket seekers to look for alternatives, with many having already acted upon it by reportedly approaching senior leaders in the state BJP.
Congress, on the other hand, is still engaged in reviewing the reasons for its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.
The 12 assembly seats are those that fell vacant after their MLAs (11 of BJP and one of Apna Dal) moved to the Lower House following their winin the just-concluded elections. The seats by-polls will be held for include Kairana, Bijnor, Thakurdawara, Noida, Saharanpur Nagar, Charkhari, Lucknow East, Hamirpur, Nighasan, Balha, Sirathu and Rohaniya.
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While the BJP will look to keep its tally of 47 assembly seats intact, the SP, smarting under the pressure from the LS defeat, will want to win these seats to give a message that it has not lost its ground completely.
The BJP leaders are confident about giving a good performance, mindful of their candidates getting the maximum votes in 328 of 403 assembly segments in the Lok Sabha elections. Although the party’s state president, Laxmikant Bajpai, rules out any “chance of by-polls being held” at all as “the assembly elections will be held within six months”, suggestive of the falling of the ruling Samajwadi Party-led government in the state.
As for the lone Lok Sabha seat (Mainpuri) that will go to polls after its winning candidate (SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav) decided to retain the Azamgarh seat which he had also contested from and won, the BJP’s hope will be to capitalise on the “fight” it gave to Mulayam. BJP’s candidate Shatrughan Singh Chauhan polled over 2.3 lakh votes in the general elections.