The Opposition will focus its campaign for the by-polls to the eight vacant Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh on the ruling BJP’s handling of the health and unemployment challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The current strength of the 403-member House is 395 (with eight vacancies), of which the BJP has 306, and its ally Apna Dal (Sonelal), nine. The government has the support of three Independents.
The largest Opposition party is Samajwadi Party, with 48 seats. The BSP has 18 MLAs, Congress seven, and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, four.
Which seats are going to bypolls in Uttar Pradesh?
Bypolls are to be held for the Suar and Malhani seats, which were won by the SP in 2017, along with Bulandshahr, Naugawan Sadat, Tundla, Ghatampur, Bangarmau, and Deoria, all of which were won by the BJP.
The byelections are likely to be held along with the Bihar Assembly elections. The term of the Bihar House ends on November 29, and the election schedule is likely to be announced soon.
* Suar, in Rampur district, fell vacant after the Allahabad High Court declared the election of Rampur MP Azam Khan’s son Mohammad Abdullah Azam, who won on an SP ticket, null and void on the ground that he was under the age of 25 when he filed his nomination.
This is a Muslim-dominated constituency, which the BJP is seeking to win for the first time. State BJP vice-president Jaswant Saini, who is looking after organisational preparations in Suar, said, “We are hopeful of winning this time. The BJP government has worked for the welfare of all sections, communities and castes without discrimination.”
* Malhani, in Jaunpur district, fell vacant after the death of veteran SP leader Parasnath Yadav. This constituency has over 80,000 Yadav voters and around 35,000 Muslims voters, along with over 50,000 Thakurs, 40,000 Brahmins, and 22,000 OBC Nishads.
In 2017, the BJP’s Thakur candidate, Satish Kumar Singh, had his chances spoiled by muscleman-turned-politician Dhananjay Singh, a Kshatriya, who contested on the Nishad Party ticket. Dhananjay cut into Thakur and Nishad votes that might have otherwise gone to Satish, helping Parasnath Yadav through to victory.
The only contender for the SP ticket so far is Lucky Yadav, the son of Parasnath Yadav.
* Ghatampur seat in Kanpur Nagar district and Naugawan Sadat in Amroha district fell vacant after sitting BJP legislators, Kamal Rani Varun and the former cricketer Chetan Chauhan respectively, died of Covid-19.
* Bulandshahr and Deoria too, fell vacant due to death of sitting MLAs.
* The vacancy in Tundla was created after former UP minister S P Singh Baghel resigned following his election to Lok Sabha (from the Agra seat) last year.
* Bangarmau in Unnao district was won in 2017 by BJP’s Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who was disqualified following the life sentence awarded to him in the 2017 Unnao rape case.
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What are the main issues in the bypolls?
While the BJP will look to talk up the work done by both the central and state governments, Opposition parties will challenge them on the issues of unemployment, Covid-19, migrants, farmers, and law and order.
SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said: “The BJP government handled the Covid-19 situation badly, created unemployment, and betrayed farmers. The law and order situation has deteriorated. The SP will contest the bypolls on these issues.”
Congress spokesperson Surendra Rajpoot accused the BJP government of pursuing an agenda of communal and social divisions. It had been insensitive on the issues of migrant labourers, unemployed youths, and the security of the common man, he said.
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How are political parties gearing up for the elections?
* The BJP has deputed one state minister and two senior leaders from the party organisation in each constituency. The organisation leaders will hold meetings with cadres and depute teams for booth management. Ministers will focus on getting pending infrastructure development projects completed, and address the issues of the people and party workers at the level of the district administration.
* SP is preparing to contest all eight seats, and has directed its district units to send lists of ticket seekers. Party national president Akhilesh Yadav will take the final decision on the candidates.
* BSP state president Munquad Ali said, “BSP will possibly contest the bypolls. We are well prepared in all the constituencies. But any decision on will be announced only by the high command (Mayawati).”
* The Congress has constituted eight district level committees — one for each Assembly seat — to collect names of ticket-seekers. AICC generation secretary in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and state president Ajay Kumar Lallu will screen the profiles and finalise the candidates.
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How important are these byelections for political parties?
The BJP has a massive majority in the House, and all the three other parties in the state — SP, BSP, and Congress — are trying to become as relevant as possible a year and a half before the 2022 Assembly elections.
SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary claimed that Akhilesh Yadav will be the “only alternative” to the BJP in 2022, “and the bypoll results will indicate that”.
The BSP, which has seen its presence in the UP Assembly and Lok Sabha shrink, will be fighting to keep its Dalit base intact.
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