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How Rampur, Azamgarh were won: Behind BJP chipping away of SP votes

With the SP having mounted a creditable challenge to it in the recent Assembly elections, the BJP knows the party as the one to beat in the state, and these two seats were its best chance of sending a message to the party.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: June 28, 2022 9:20:19 pm
Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirahua and Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi. (Images: Facebook, PTI)

The BJP is hoping for gains beyond the immediate in its storming of the Samajwadi Party bastions of Rampur and Azamgarh Lok Sabha seats in the recent bypolls. The planning and strategy to secure the constituencies, supervised by senior leader Amit Shah as per sources, have punched holes in the SP’s confidence in its loyal Muslim-Yadav vote bank.

The results also fit in with the BJP’s Mission 2024 plans, which it has already set in motion. With the SP having mounted a creditable challenge to it in the recent Assembly elections, the BJP knows the party as the one to beat in the state, and these two seats were its best chance of sending a message to the party.

While Muslims make up around 60% of Rampur’s population, in Azamgarh too, they form a substantial number. Party leaders said that the BJP cashed in on simmering anger against SP leader Akhilesh Yadav using different strategies in the two seats.

“In Rampur, considered to be the bastion of SP veteran Azam Khan, the BJP succeeded as the SP fielded a weak candidate. In Azamgarh, the BSP’s presence helped the BJP,” a party leader said.

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Azam Khan, a Mulayam Singh Yadav-era SP leader who felt sidelined under Akhilesh, had his way in the candidate chosen for Rampur. Facing multiple charges and having secured release on bail only recently, Azam Khan threatened a rebellion till Akhilesh agreed on his choice of Asim Raja from Rampur, even though Raja was considered a lightweight. Rampur had been vacated by Khan on being elected to the Assembly, and earlier the talk was that he wanted a family member to get the ticket.

Curiously, in the other corner, the BJP chose Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, letting multiple hints drop regarding Lodhi’s proximity to Azam Khan.

So while the SP lost to the BJP, Lodhi’s victory means Khan is anyway a winner.

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As a BJP source puts it, “With the result, Khan has settled scores with his party leader (Akhilesh), who did not stand by him during crisis (his imprisonment), got a friend of his as an MP, as well as obliged the BJP, which might help him get relief in the charges against him.”

In Azamgarh, the BJP benefited due to the presence of a strong BSP candidate in the race. With a tally of just one seat in the recent Assembly polls, Mayawati had nothing to lose, and all to gain if her candidate made a dent in primary rival SP’s stronghold. In the end, her nominee Guddu Jamali took enough of the Muslim votes away to ensure the SP lost to the BJP. The BJP’s Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ finished ahead of Akhilesh’s cousin Dharmendra Yadav, a former MP, by about 8,600 votes.

After the results, Mayawati said that it was clear “that only the BSP has the theoretical and ground strength to defeat the BJP”. In a clear reference to the Muslim vote, she also directed her party to ensure that “a particular community” was not “misled”.

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Not only was the Azamgarh Lok Sabha seat held by Akhilesh, who vacated it after being elected to the Assembly in the recent polls, the SP had also won it in 2014 at the height of the Modi wave. In the Assembly elections, the SP had won all the five Assembly segments from here.

BJP leaders in UP said while Amit Shah was the person behind the strategy for the two seats, general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal implemented it on the ground, with the backing of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The CM and his entire Cabinet extensively campaigned for the candidates in both Rampur and Azamgarh.

After the BJP’s spectacular Assembly poll performance, the bypoll wins mean the party is unlikely to go in for any major changes in the organisation now. Bansal was said to have been keen to move out of Uttar Pradesh, where he has been working for a long time. But the BJP is likely to keep him there now to maximise the gains in 2024.

For the SP, sustaining the momentum after the Assembly results would have been anyway tough. Some projections had given the party hope that it could return to power. The results in Azamgarh and Rampur mean that its task just got tougher.

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First published on: 28-06-2022 at 12:58:35 pm

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