While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned to power in Uttar Pradesh with a resounding Assembly polls victory, senior state party leader and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya lost his election from his home turf Sirathu in Kaushambi district.
A prominent OBC leader, Maurya lost Sirathu seat to Pallavi Patel, the Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) leader who fought on a Samajwadi Party (SP) ticket, by 7,337 votes.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Friday, Maurya said he did not have any doubt about his victory, admitting that he should have given more time to campaigning in his own constituency.
“I was thinking that the entire state is important for us and so I was addressing meetings wherever the party needed it. I was able to give only one-and-a-half days in my own constituency. I should have given more time here (Sirathu). I had confidence in the people of my area. I had no doubt about my victory,” he said.
When asked about his plans now, Maurya said, “I will follow whatever my party decides for me. I can’t say anything more on it now.”
Pallavi, the daughter of late Kurmi (Patel) leader Sonelal Patel, is the elder sister of Apna Dal (Sonelal) chief and Union minister Anupriya Patel. Apart from Sirathu, the ruling party lost Manjhanpur while its ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) lost from Chail seat in Kaushambi district.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed a poll rally in the district and Home Minister Amit Shah had also addressed a meeting in Maurya’s constituency.
One of the BJP leaders brought from outside to be deployed in Sirathu for managing Maurya’s electioneering said that the party activists could not reach out to Pasis (a Dalit community), who make up a substantial chunk of the constituency’s voters.
Another local BJP leader told the Express, “Most of the BJP leaders from outside working in Sirathu during campaign were from upper castes and they had no personal connect with Dalit and OBC workers. This was a problem down to the booth level.”
When another prominent OBC leader and erstwhile minister Swami Prasad Maurya quit the BJP ahead of the UP Assembly polls and switched to the SP, he had also criticised the BJP for Keshav’s “bechara (weak)” position. However, Swami Prasad also lost his election from Fazilnagar.
A sizeable number of voters in Sirathu belong to the Kurmi (OBC) community. UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh, who is also a Kurmi leader, did not campaign in the seat, party sources said. However, Anupriya Patel held a rally in Keshav’s support.
Former UP BJP president Keshav had won from Sirathu in the 2012 polls, but resigned on being elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 from Phulpur. He quit his Lok Sabha seat after taking over as Deputy CM in the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet in 2017, and was subsequently elected to the Legislative Council.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, Sheetla Prasad had won Sirathu on the BJP ticket, who is also a Kurmi leader. He was replaced by Keshav this time, which is also being seen as a reason why Patel voters were “upset” with the latter in the constituency.