After drawing an embarrassing blank in the Lok Sabha elections last year, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) got a fresh lease of life Monday by emerging as a frontrunner in the zila panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh.
While the final results are yet to be declared for 3,112 wards in 74 districts — counting was on in at least 10 districts late into the night — at least 615 BSP-backed candidates emerged victorious.
The zila panchayat elections are not contested on party symbols and some parties, particularly the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), did not officially announce the candidates they had supported.
But in the case of SP, relatives of many party leaders and ministers failed to win their seats.
The polls also ended in disappointment for the BJP, which had openly supported candidates for the first time.
The SP was left red-faced in Azamgarh, the Lok Sabha seat represented by Mulayam Singh Yadav — the party-supported candidate was defeated in Tamauli village, adopted by the former CM. In Etawah, Mulayam’s home district, the party faced humiliation in two blocks where all its candidates lost.
The biggest setback for the BJP was in Varanasi’s Jayapur, the village adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where its candidate Arun Singh was defeated by BSP’s Ramesh Tiwari. While the party claimed to have supported winners in at least 531 seats and runners-up “with low margins” in around 1,000 seats, it could win only eight out of 48 seats in the Prime Minister’s constituency Varanasi.
In fact, both SP and BJP continued to maintain that they had performed well with sources saying that both parties have launched efforts to woo victorious independent candidates.
BJP state president Laxmikant Bajpai expressed “satisfaction” and said the party would “review” its performance and “remove shortcomings”. State in-charge Om Mathur is expected to reach Lucknow on a three-day tour Tuesday to conduct a review.
Significantly, Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) opened its account in Azamgarh with its candidate Kailash Gautam winning in Maksudia. The party, which backed candidates in 73 wards in its first foray in UP at the panchayat level, also claimed victory in two wards in Balrampur district and Charthawal in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar.
Yet, the BSP’s relief was palpable. BSP coordinator and MLC Sunil Kumar Chittor said the party has come up with an “excellent performance…. despite the misuse of government machinery by SP leaders”.
Relatives of senior BSP leaders, such as former ministers Ramvir Upadhyay (Hathras) and Lalji Verma (Ambedkar Nagar), emerged victorious. Verma’s wife Subhawati retained her seat in Ambedkar Nagar while Upadhyay’s two brothers and two sisters-in-law emerged winners.
The BSP made a clear comeback in districts like Agra, Azamgarh and Ambedkar Nagar, where it had lost ground to SP in 2012 and the BJP in 2014.
According to party leaders, BSP supporters won 19 out of 51 wards in Agra district, 26 out of 52 in Aligarh and 25 out of 86 in Azamgarh.
Coming less than a year before the Assembly elections, the results may signal a new political scenario in the state where the SP and BJP were being tagged as the main players, with the BSP lagging behind.
The BSP had entered the panchayat elections hesitantly, with Mayawati and other leaders predicting that the elections would be “bloody” and “violent” under the SP government.