THE BYPOLL for the Rampur Assembly seat Monday recorded 33.83 per cent polling, 22.78 per cent less than in the 2022 Assembly elections when 56.61 per cent polling was recorded in the constituency, considered a Samajwadi Party bastion.
In the past, whenever there was a decline in voter turnout, rarely has there been a change in the winning party in the seat and mostly, the SP won it in the general elections had retained it in bypolls.
However, this time the situation appears to be different in Rampur as the SP does not seem that confident and has levelled allegations that the BJP government in the state did not allow SP supporters – especially Muslims – to cast their votes. On the other hand, the BJP that has never won the seat till date appears confident of turning the tables this time. Of the total voters in Rampur, over 56 per cent are Muslims.
In a byelection in Rampur in October, 2019, when senior SP leader Azam Khan vacated the seat after his election to Lok Sabha and he had fielded his wife Tazeen Fatma in the Assembly bypoll, she won the seat by a slender margin of 7,716 votes. Only 40.81 per cent votes were polled in that election: around 15 per cent less than in the 2017 Assembly elections. A decline in polling had put the BJP in a position to challenge the SP. In the 2019 bypoll, there were 3.91 lakh voters in Rampur but in the the 2022 bypoll, this number stood at 3.87 lakh. The state Election Commission officials have said that the allegations made by SP leaders were not substantiated in its investigation and added that Monday’s bypoll was “free and fair.” SP candidate Asim Raja has alleged that polling remained low because the police did now allow his party’s supporters to vote. Raja is an aide of Azam Khan, who won the seat in 2022 for the 10th time and his subsequent disqualification necessitated the bypoll.
“Muslim voters were stopped from polling. In the areas dominated by Muslims, polling has been six to 10 per cent only. Whereas in other areas, polling was 50 to 60 per cent. In the old city where Muslim voters are in majority, on 251 booths there polling is only 18 to 20 per cent. Whereas in other areas of the city and rural pockets where non-Muslim are in majority polling was around 50 per cent there.” he told The Indian Express.
Raja alleged that only those who wanted to vote for the BJP were allowed to cast votes.
On poll results that will be announced on December 8, Raja said, “Let’s see..we (SP) are hopeful of victory despite low polling.” When it was pointed out that low polling in past bypolls meant no change in the winning party, Raja said that polling was “fair” in past polls. Against Raja, the BJP fielded Akash Saxena who had lost against Azam in the 2022 Assembly polls.
A BJP leader part of the party’s election management team said, “We are sure to win Rampur seat because polling in Muslim areas was low and a larger number of SP voters did not turn up deliberately. Further, due to strict vigil by the police, the Samajwadi Party’s could not get bogus votes polled. Bogus votes were their strength in past elections.”
That BJP leader added that the absence of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was an advantage for the BJP in this bypoll. “Almost all the Jatav/Dalit voters have supported BJP in this poll,” claimed the leader. The leader, however, added that Dalit voters did not support the BJP with similar enthusiasm in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha and Khatauli Assembly seats where polling was done on Monday.