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Uttar Pradesh: In Bilari bypoll, a test for Congress’ ‘Dalit programme’

The seat had fallen vacant after sitting Samajwadi Party MLA Hazi Irfan died in a road accident.

Written by Maulshree Seth | Lucknow | Published: April 30, 2016 9:59:06 am
congress, uttar pradesh, dalit, dalit votes,up bypolls, uttar pradesh bypolls, congress news, india news, uttar pradesh news Congress had not contested the seat in 2012 Assembly polls, leaving it for its then alliance partner Rashtriya Lok Dal.

When Bilari votes to elect its new MLA on May 16, the Assembly constituency in Moradabad will also handover a judgment to the Congress party. The electorate will be the first to test and give verdict on Congress’s latest exercise — the Dalit Leadership Programme — that the party has undertaken as one of the several measures for its revival ahead of the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh next year.

Congress has fielded a Dalit, a former BSP worker who had joined the party in February, to contest against a backward class candidate and a Muslim candidate, fielded by BJP and Samajwadi Party, respectively.

The seat had fallen vacant after sitting Samajwadi Party MLA Hazi Irfan died in a road accident. Congress had not contested the seat in 2012 Assembly polls, leaving it for its then alliance partner Rashtriya Lok Dal.

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Sources in the party informed with BSP announcing not to contest the bypolls, Congress has planned to check its formula of “Dalit-Muslim” combination, which it also plans to implement in 2017 polls.

Congress had fielded Shishu Pal Singh Jatav from the seat. Jatav, who a BSP worker in Moradabad, was brought in the Congress as part part of party’s ‘Dalit Leadership Programme’. Under this programme, the Congress has spent months across constituencies identifying new Dalit faces ahead of the state polls next year.

Admitting that it fielding Jatav in Bilari is a part of their new experiment, Bhagwati Chaudhary, chairman of the UP Congress SC department, said, “We have no hesitation in saying that he came into the party recently during our exercise to bring in active Dalit faces, who could emerge as leaders.”

“So, when the two byelections were announced, party decided to experiment with fielding a Jatav face on a general seat. We might not win but the vote share in this election will help us define our future strategy,” he added.

In 2012, SP’s Hazi Irfan, who had won from the seat, was given a close fight by BSP’s Laxmi Singh Saini. While Irfan had got about 55,694 votes, BSP candidate had got 54,154 votes. The RLD candidate, who was supported by Congress, could get only about 10,000 votes.

“Congress has given a chance to a Jatav face like me on a general seat. There are considerable Jatav votes here and we hope to get it in our favour along with the Muslim vote as BSP is not contesting here. Only time will tell whether things will go as predicted,” Shishupal Singh Jatav told The Indian Express.

He said that Congress is promoting Dalit leadership, which even BSP chief Mayawati could not do and party has planned to use the strategy in the upcoming Assembly elections too.

While BJP has fielded a backward candidate Suresh Saini, as part of its own strategy hoping to target non-Yadav backward votes, Samajwadi Party is hoping to gain on sympathy vote as it has fielded Hazi Irfan’s son Faheem.

In other Assembly seat, Jangipur, also going for bypolls on May 16, Congress has fielded Shailesh Singh, party’s district president from Ghazipur. Singh had contested on the seat in the past.

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