The alliance of the BSP and the SP proved a game-changer in both Phulpur and Gorakhpur. In the Phulpur bypoll, the SP’s Nagender Singh Patel won the Lok Sabha seat vacated by deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya by 59,613 votes. He got 3,42,796 votes while the BJP’s Kurmi candidate Kaushalendra Singh Patel got 2,83,183. Strongman and former MP Atiq Ahmed got 48,087 votes as an independent, more than twice Congress candidate Manish Mishra’s 19,334.
The real heroes of this election, said the BSP, were their cadre who went door to door urging voters to support the SP. “This victory, as much as it is the SP’s, is ours also. Without sharing the stage with them, we went from village to village asking all our supporters to vote for the SP,” R K Gautam, BSP zonal president (Allahabad-Varanasi) said. “It was the need of the hour so we got into the alliance, doing what out leader had told us to. We cannot say if this will go on but it has been a victory today.”
While the BSP helped the SP consolidate backward-caste votes, the SP strategy was to build a stronger backward caste consolidation. Confident of its Yadav voter base, it fielded a Kurmi Patel, a dominant backward caste of farmers which make up around 17% of the electorate. Akhilesh Yadav pitted SP candidate Nagender Patel as an Allahabad local against the BJP’s “outsider” Kaushalendra, a former Varanasi mayor.
The SP had initially been alarmed by the nomination of Atiq Ahmed, currently lodged in Deoria jail for assaulting faculty members of an agricultural institute. The SP branded him an agent working for the BJP trying to eat into the SP’s minority votes, which account for 13% in Phulpur.
Ahmed’s son Umar, 19, who campaigned for him, admitted to the success of “the alliance” as the reason for the estimated drop in their vote share. “It is obvious that the results were affected by the alliance. They had come together on a common goal of defeating the BJP, that is why the minority and backward caste votes were transferred. That just proves how affective the alliance was. Yet, I am thankful to our supporters and voters for their faith in us,” Umar said. Had it not been for Atiq, the SP would have almost doubled the winning margin, said SP leaders.