LUCKNOW: Buoyed by the Opposition's grand success in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) today said it would contest the May 28 Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll with the "full support" of like-minded, non-BJP parties.
"We have decided to field Tabassum Begum from Kairana parliamentary constituency," Uttar Pradesh RLD chief Masood Ahmad told PTI.
"We expect the full support of like-minded, non-BJP parties, especially the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), besides the Congress. Tabassum Begum has joined the RLD today and hopefully, she will emerge as the joint opposition candidate," he said.
A former BSP MP from Kairana, Tabassum (47), who had later joined the SP, is a popular face in the Jat-dominated constituency in western Uttar Pradesh, around 100 kms from New Delhi.
The Kairana Lok Sabha seat has around 17 lakh voters, including three lakh Muslims, four lakh backward castes (Jat, Gujjar, Saini, Kashyap, Prajapati and others) and about 1.5 lakh Dalits.
Exuding confidence that the Ajit Singh-led party will win the crucial bypoll, Ahmad said, "The process of forming a coalition (against the BJP) has started and soon, there will be a mahagathbandhan (grand alliance).
He also said the RLD will support the SP candidate for the Noorpur Assembly bye-election, to be held simultaneously with the Kairana bypoll, heralding the process of opposition unity ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
The Kairana bypoll was necessitated following the death of its sitting BJP MP, Hukum Singh, in February.
Similarly, the Noorpur Assembly seat fell vacant after the death of sitting BJP MLA Lokendra Singh Chauhan in a road accident the same month.
Commenting on the development, state BJP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak, who is in charge of the party affairs in western Uttar Pradesh, said, "The confusion arising out of such political manipulations will lead to the opposition's defeat and the BJP will emerge victorious with the people's support.
Both the bypolls are crucial for the ruling BJP as well as the opposition parties, as their outcome may set the tone for the parliamentary election, which is less than a year away.
The BJP will put in extra efforts to retain both the seats to send a message to its cadre, the voters as well as the opposition parties that its drubbing in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls was a closed chapter now and that the saffron party's vote-bank was still intact in western Uttar Pradesh, a party insider said.
On the other hand, the opposition parties -- the SP, the RLD and the Congress -- are viewing the bypolls as another opportunity to convey the message to the voters that the saffron fortress can be breached if the opposition is united.
A hint of the shape of things to come became available when RLD vice-president Jayant Chaudhary, son of party chief Ajit Singh, held nearly three-hour-long confabulations with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav here on May 4.
An understanding was reached that both the parties would jointly contest the two bypolls.
The BSP has already declared that it will not take active part in any by-election and prepare in the right earnest for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Party chief Mayawati, however, told reporters today that the unity among the secular parties had unnerved the BJP.
"The growing unity among the secular parties has frightened the BJP," she said in a television interview.
A broad understanding was also reached that all the opposition parties would contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls unitedly, RLD spokesperson Anil Dubey said.
The SP had caused a major upset in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls in March, wresting both the prestigious seats -- vacated by Yogi Adityanath and Keshav Prasad Maurya after becoming the chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively -- with the BSP extending support to its candidates.
The victory had shown a way to the Opposition to come together to counter the BJP's victory march, especially in the run-up to the 2019 general election.
Commenting on the RLD fielding Tabassum Begum from Kairana, Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh said they were hopeful of a repeat of the Gorakhpur and Phulpur feat.
Indicating that the Congress might extend its full support to Tabassum, he said, "Our party is exploring all the possibilities to ensure that the opposition votes are not frittered away.
Voting for the Kairana and Noorpur bypolls will be held on May 28 and the results will be declared on May 31.
Kairana parliamentary constituency comprises five Assembly segments -- Shamli, Thanabhawan, Kairana (all in Shamli district), Gangoh and Nakur (Saharanpur district).
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP's Hukum Singh had bagged 5,65,909 votes as against his nearest rival, Nahid Hasan of the SP, who had secured 3,29,081 votes.
In Noorpur, BJP's Chauhan had bagged 79,000 votes in the 2017 state Assembly polls as against the SP's Naim-ul-Hassan, who had got 66,436 votes.