The Congress was left red-faced when their Gautam Buddh Nagar candidate, Ramesh Chand Tomar, defected to the BJP days before the Lok Sabha polls in April. With by elections to take place in the Noida Assembly on September 13, the Congress is now guardedly looking for a new candidate.
After the ‘loss’ of their candidate to the BJP, the Congress had decided to not support the BSP or SP in the constituency. As a result, the Congress were left without a candidate on polling day and eventually BJP’s Mahesh Sharma — who had previously been the Noida MLA — won from the constituency.
But a section of the party believes that the Noida by-elections might be a silver lining for the party. “Mahesh Sharma has been a very strong candidate in the area. He contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and lost by a narrow margin of less than 2 per cent,” a senior Congress leader said.
It was only in 2012 that Noida became a separate Assembly segment after the delimitation exercise. Previously, Noida was a part of the primarily rural Dadri Assembly seat, where a large section of the rural population eventually chose an MLA who represented Noida as well. In the 2012 Assembly elections, the Congress had unsuccessfully pitted Dr V S Chauhan against Mahesh Sharma.
However, while some in the party believe that the by elections might be a blessing in disguise, others were quick to highlight its tricky nature.
“Unlike the rest of the parliamentary seats, there’s no clear pattern in terms of caste and voting is done on development issue. Here, the BJP has a clear advantage, since their government is at the centre,” a senior leader said.
After Tomar’s defection, sources in the Congress said the high command was divided about giving the opportunity to a debutant. Instead, many believe that the responsibility should be handed to a seasoned Congress leader from the area.
Meanwhile, the Gautam Buddh Nagar Congress unit said they’ve conveyed their proposals to the UP Pradesh Congress Committee and the final decision will be taken by the high command.
“Many people have approached me for a ticket to fight from Noida. Who gets the ticket will ultimately be decided by the high command, but I think the preference will go to Congress leaders who have been working hard for the party,” Dhirendra Singh, spokesperson, UP unit of the Congress, said.