The stakes are high for the BJP in Lucknow Cantonment Assembly constituency, which has been its stronghold. Since 1991, the party has won the seat, barring once in 1991 when it lost to Congress’s Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who ironically is now with the BJP, and her vacating the seat after becoming an MP this year has necessitated the bypoll.
Dominated by Brahmin population, the constituency in the state Capital has been represented by Brahmin candidates many times, and it therefore except the Congress, all the three major parties — the BJP, Samajwadi Party and BSP — have fielded a Brahmin candidate.
The Congress, on the other hand, has fielded a Sikh candidate, Dilpreet Singh, with an eye on getting the support of the community, which has a considerable population in the constituency, along with Punjabis, Sindhis and Muslims.
The BJP has fielded an old hand and three-term MLA from Lucknow Cantonment, 63-year-old Suresh Chandra Tiwari. He had won the seat for the BJP in 1996, 2002 and 2007, but was defeated by Rita Bahuguna Joshi, then a Congress leader, in 2012 by over 21,000 votes. Five years later, Joshi had shifted camps — joined the BJP ahead of the Assembly polls — and went on to win from the seat again but as a BJP MLA. Despite facing opposition from within the BJP, she managed to secure 95,000 votes against Samajwadi Party candidate Aparna Yadav, the daughter-in-law of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in the high-profile contest. Despite an alliance with the Congress, Aparna Yadav lost to Joshi by over 21,000 votes.
With Joshi winning the Lok Sabha election from Prayagraj earlier this year, the BJP has once again turned to Tiwari to win the seat for the party. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also personally campaigned for Tiwari
The Samajwadi Party, however, has fielded a rather young Brahmin. Ashish Chaturvedi, who retired from the Army as a Major and recently joined the party. The party is hopeful of securing votes of a sizeable Brahmin population and defence personnel considering Chaturvedi’s Army past. The SP is also banking on the works undertaken during the previous regime of Akhilesh Yadav.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has chosen businessman Arun Dwivedi, who is the richest candidates in the fray on all the 11 seats that are going to bypoll. In 2012, Dwivedi had contested the Assembly election from Lucknow (North) constituency on a BSP ticket. He came fourth with nearly 22,000 votes. The BSP, however, is banking on Dwivedi’s Brahmin community votes, and combined with Dalits, it plans to upset the BJP’s chances. “After Brahmins, there is a considerable population of Scheduled Castes on this seat but, so far, they were not consolidated. But, with a Brahmin candidate in the by-election, we hope that our party stands a better chance over others. Moreover, we hope to attract Muslim population as well if our candidate is seen in a direct fight against the BJP,” said a BSP leader, adding that party co-ordinators from different regions have been deployed in the constituency for the campaign.