Sympathy for the Samajwadi Party (SP) because of its founder Mulayam Singh Yadav’s death trumped the BJP’s social-engineering strategy on Thursday as the Opposition party swept to a victory by 2.88 lakh votes in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha bypoll, registering the third-highest winning margin in the constituency’s history.
Mainpuri is the SP’s citadel. It has won the constituency eight times, with Mulayam winning five times. Though Dimple Yadav, SP president Akhilesh Yadav’s wife, managed to better Mulayam’s 94,389-vote margin from 2019 — it was still lower than the 3.64-lakh margin by which Mulayam won in 2014.
BJP insiders said they were uncertain about their candidate Raghuraj Singh Shakya’s victory in the bypoll and were hoping to reduce the margin as much as possible to boost the morale of party workers. The BJP has never won Mainpuri and all its efforts came to a nought.
The ruling party hoped that its caste arithmetic would help it put in an improved performance. Yadavs are the most dominant caste group in Mainpuri, with more than 4.5 lakh voters from the community, followed by 3.5 lakh Shakyas. The BJP was hopeful about Raghuraj Singh would get some Yadav votes too because of his past association with the SP. Shakya was once a close associate of Akhilesh’s uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav and a Samajwadi Party MP. The BJP also bet on Shakya getting the votes of the Shakya community and other Other Backward Classes, and upper caste groups along with Dalits. There are around 2.5 lakh Dalits and 1.25 lakh Lodh Rajput (OBC) voters apart from 60,000 Muslims.
The BJP’s hopes were also boosted by its victories in the Mainpuri Assembly constituency — won by Jayveer Singh, a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government — and Bhongaon, which also comes under the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency and is represented by former minister Ram Naresh Agnihotri.
To capture the SP bastion, the BJP deployed its top heavyweights for campaigning. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressed two public meetings in Mainpuri apart from Deputy CMs Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak and MPs and MLAs from the Yadav and Dalit communities.
“But the sympathy for the SP due to Mulayam’s death dominated the BJP’s social engineering. Still, we are sure that voters will elect a BJP candidate in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections when they will have to vote for the election of a prime minister,” said state BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi.
“The workers on the ground and the leaders deployed for canvassing in Mainpuri did not perform as per expectations,” said a local BJP leader. “The party lost despite dominating the panchayat and cooperative bodies. When SP leaders were out campaigning, most BJP leaders use to go home in the evening. Some senior leaders and the candidate campaigned responsibly.”
The SP trio
The results will come as a major relief for Akhilesh Yadav who had been facing questions about his leadership after the party lost the Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha seats in June bypolls. The former chief minister skipped the campaigning back then but canvassed extensively this time, given that his father’s seat was at stake and the party’s candidate was his wife.
Crucial to Dimple’s victory was Akhilesh’s uncle and, as of Thursday, SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav whose Assembly constituency Jaswantnagar contributed over one lakh votes to Dimple’s victory margin.
Sensing Jaswantnagar’s importance to their chances, Akhilesh and Dimple met Shivpal ahead of the bypoll to seek his support. All three leaders jointly ran the campaign. “The reunion of the family helped the party in retaining the legacy of Netaji and his honour by winning the bypoll,” said an SP leader.
With this win, Dimple will become a Lok Sabha MP for the third time. She started her political career in 2009 when Akhilesh got the party to field her as the candidate in the by-election from the Firozabad parliamentary seat. She lost to the Congress’s Raj Babbar. In 2012, after Akhilesh moved back to UP to take over as CM, Dimple was elected unopposed from Kannauj. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, she retained the seat but lost to the BJP in 2019.