In August last year, as the six-month window for Yogi Adityanath to vacate his Lok Sabha seat and enter the UP House neared closure, the chief minister conveyed to the BJP leadership that he would prefer not to contest an Assembly byelection, and would instead like to go to the Upper House of the state legislature.
“Gorakhpur se ek chief minister by-election haar chuka hai (one chief minister has lost a by-election from Gorakhpur),” he told his party, according to top sources. Yogi got his wish, and both the chief minister’s deputies, Keshav Maurya and Dinesh Sharma, too, went to the Vidhan Parishad with him.
The BJP’s shock defeats in the Lok Sabha by-elections for the Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats, held by Yogi and Maurya respectively, would appear to vindicate their apprehensions. Which earlier chief minister’s defeat was Yogi referring to in his communication with his party last year?
After the UP Assembly elections of 1969, Chandra Bhanu Gupta of the Congress became chief minister. But he had to make way in just under a year for Chaudhary Charan Singh of the Bharatiya Kranti Dal who himself lost the chair in just seven months. Charan Singh recommended dissolution of the Assembly, but Governor B Gopala Reddy instead asked him to resign. A 17-day spell of President’s rule followed, at the end of which Tribhuvan Narain Singh was sworn in as chief minister at the head of a Samyukta Vidhayak Dal government put together by leaders of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Swatantra Party and Congress (O), the anti-Indira Congress old guard.
Tribhuvan Narain Singh, who was from Varanasi, and had been a member of the first two Lok Sabhas between 1952 and 1962, took oath as CM on October 18, 1970. To pave the way for him to enter the UP Vidhan Sabha, Adityanath’s guru, the late Mahant Avaidyanath, vacated the seat of Maniram in Gorakhpur, the Assembly constituency in which the Gorakhnath Math is located.
In the byelection that followed in March 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi herself campaigned for Congress candidate Ram Krishna Dwivedi. Tribhuvan Narain Singh became the first CM to lose a bypoll, and was forced to resign. Dwivedi got 33,230 votes, nearly double that of Singh’s 17,137. In 1969, Avaidyanath had won the seat by 19,644 votes to Dwivedi’s 16,663. The 1971 Maniram by-election result remains a bitter memory for the Gorakhnath Math.
Tribhuvan Narain Singh was the first person anywhere in India to become CM without being a member of either House of the state. In Har Sharan Verma vs Tribhuvan Narain Singh (March 16, 1971), a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that Article 164(4) of the Constitution — “A Minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of the Legislature of the State shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister” — was applicable to the chief minister as well.
Singh later served as West Bengal Governor.