The announcement for Lok Sabha bypolls to Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh came on Friday, but canvassing in these Lok Sabha constituencies had begun much earlier, with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya paying frequent visits and launching development projects over the past one month. The byelections were in fact necessitated by Adityanath and Maurya resigning from Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats, respectively, last September following their election to the UP Legislative Council.
The Election Commission on Friday announced that the bypolls will be conducted on March 11 and counting of votes will be on March 14. Filing of nominations will be for a week beginning February 13. Scrutiny of nominations will begin the next day and February 23 will be the last date to withdraw candidature. The schedule is the same for the bypoll to Araria Lok Sabha constituency and two Assembly segments of Bhabua and Jehanabad in Bihar. The BJP has been winning Gorakhpur for the past seven elections. This time the CM has taken charge of his home turf and announced projects worth several crores in a month.
Gorakhpur has seen a flurry of activity since January. The state government organised Gorakhpur Festival on January 11-13. On February 8, Adityanath laid foundation stone of a government polytechnic at Sehjanwa and addressed a public meeting. He inaugurated LED street lights worth Rs 336 lakh on the 10-km Kalesar-Nausarh road and an office building of Gorakhpur Industrial Development Authority (GIDA), and announced capital investment of Rs 1,500 in GIDA in the next year. He said that PM Narendra Modi would lay foundation of Purvanchal Expressway and Gorakhpur would be connected to it. The CM and Union minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot were in Gorakhpur on February 4 to attend a social empowerment camp organised for distribution of aids and appliances to persons with disabilities.
On January 30, Adityanath laid foundation of 20 new infrastructure projects worth Rs 406 crore and inaugurated 33 other projects worth Rs 60 crore. He announced a food processing park in the city, development of Gorakhpur as ‘shaheed sthal’ of Ram Prasad Bismil, laid foundation of five projects worth Rs 81 crore and and dedicated to people 10 projects worth Rs 16 crore. He also laid foundation of ITI Institute.
On January 29, the CM dedicated to people Masehra bridge in Gorakhpur connecting Sonauli with Nepal. He laid foundation of projects worth 133 crore on Jangal Kauria, and launched 25 new branches of Purvanchal Bank in Gorakhpur.
Adityanath and Maurya are at present spending time in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, announcing development projects. The BJP, too, has announced state office-bearers as in-charge for the bypolls. On February 7, Maurya, along with Union minister Nitin Gadkari, visited Allahabad and inaugurated and laid foundation stones for 137-km of highway projects worth Rs 5,632 crore around Allahabad. Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency is in Allahabad district.
On February 5 Maurya reviewed development projects and law and order in Allahabad. He held similar review meetings on January 19 and laid foundation of new projects. On January 22, Maurya laid foundation for projects in Mundera area, a Government Girls College in Phapamau, six power sub-stations and a polytechnic college.
In 2017 Assembly polls, the BJP won all five Assembly segments of Gorakhpur. In Phulpur, four seats were won by BJP while its ally Apna Dal won Soraon. While the BJP considers Gorakhpur a safe seat because of Adityanath, the BJP won Phulpur for the first time only in 2014. The SP won this seat in 2004, 1999, 1998 and 1996 and was in second position in 2009 and 2014.
Phulpur is an OBC-dominated area, hence the SP had been in a strong position there in combination with Muslim votes. The BSP won the seat in 2009. Amar Pal Maurya, BJP state secretary and in-charge for Phulpur bypoll, said the party has completed its ground work. “Canvassing will begin soon,” he added.