When the BJP won Ghatampur, a reserved Assembly constituency in Kanpur Nagar district, for the first time in 2017, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath decided to award MLA Kamal Rani by making her a minister in his Cabinet. But her untimely death from Covid-19 a few months ago has thrown a challenge to the BJP to retain the seat in this bypoll.
Against the expected lines, the BJP chose to field a teacher-turned-politician Upendra Paswan instead of Kamal Rani’s daughter as demanded by the supporters of the late MLA.
Her supporters claim that BJP’s victory in Ghatampur three years ago was because “it was a vote for Kamal Rani”, and point to her huge victory margin — Rani had got 92,776 votes, defeating her nearest BSP rival by nearly 45,000 votes.
A victory margin of 45,000 votes in an Assembly seat is considered a landslide.
With both the BSP and SP having won the seat in two elections prior to 2017, they see an opening this time.
“A lot has changed since the last Assembly elections. While there is a resentment among some of the supporters of Kamal Rani, which would benefit us, it is also a fact that no development work was carried out by her in the constituency in the last three years despite being a minister,” says BSP candidate Kuldeep Shankhwar.
“Moreover, the BJP does not have a voter base in this seat. Even in 2017 polls when BJP swept the state, the BSP got about 50,000 votes in Ghatampur. This speaks volumes of the BSP’s voter base in this seat,” Shankhwar adds.
The BSP had last won from Ghatampur in 2007. Since then, the party came second — in 2012 when BSP’s Saroj Kureel lost to SP’s Indrajeet Kori by only a few hundred votes, and in 2017 when Kureel lost to Rani.
SP’s Indrajeet Kori is once again in the race this time. The former local MLA has been campaigning on the issue of law and order situation in the state and has been highlighting the Hathras case in which a 19-year-old Dalit woman died after she was allegedly gangraped by men belonging to upper castes.
The Congress is also not leaving any stone unturned as the party sees its winning chance in Ghatampur where the party has been consistently polling over 40,000 votes.
In the seven Assembly seats going to the bypoll next week, the Congress sees its best chance in two seats— Ghatampur and Bangarmau in Unnao district.
The party here has fielded Kripa Shankar, a doctor by profession, who had recently quit his government job to contest the election. Therefore, a lot is at stake for him personally in this election. His wife is also a doctor.
To ensure the party’s win, Congress state general secretary Rakesh Sachan, who had come second in 2007 Assembly polls on an SP ticket and recently joined the Congress, has been camping in the constituency along with another party leader — Raja Ram Pal.
“Right from Bangarmau to Ghatampur, we are making people aware of how the BJP Government has failed to provide security to our sisters and daughters, and how a series of incidents have taken place from Hathras to Lakhimpur Kheri. Law and order is a major problem in all the constituencies,” state Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu says as he campaigns for the party in Ghatampur.
“While BJP leaders may talk about development but in places like Ghatampur, one can still see only mud houses and poverty,” he adds.
With the Opposition candidates trying to encircle the Adityanath government over the law and order situation and women security issue, the BJP candidate has been dismissive about them.
“Law and order is not an issue here. We are therefore focusing on development and welfare schemes rolled out by the BJP governments at the Centre and the state,” Upendra Paswan says.
“The Opposition is making a false allegation on the government. Uttar Pradesh is a big state and there are isolated incidents of crime. The development work done in the past four years can’t be compared. I am reaching out to beneficiaries of welfare schemes as they know who has actually worked for their betterment,” Paswan adds.
He says that a large part of the Ghatampur constituency is rural and therefore people have benefited from the welfare schemes. My task is to make voters aware of those benefits,” he adds.
Considering the political significance of the seat, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has already campaigned in Ghatampur, while Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya addressing a rally on Friday.
The polling will take place on November 3 and the counting of votes three days later.
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