LUCKNOW: The stage is set for the bypolls to 11 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh which are lying vacant as the sitting MLAs had been elected to the Lok Sabha in the 2019 general elections. Polling in all 11 seats will take place on October 21 and the results will be declared on October 24 along with the state assembly results of Maharashtra and Haryana.
With three Yogi ministers along with six other sitting BJP MLAs and one each from the SP and BSP having been elected to the Lok Sabha, the showdown in these bypolls is being perceived as the ‘semi-final’ before the 2022 battle for Lucknow.
Notably, 9 of the 11 seats, including Gangoh, Iglas, Tundla, Govind Nagar (Kanpur), Lucknow Cantt, Hamirpur, Manikpur, Zaidpur Balha and Pratapgarh (BJP ally Apna Dal), had been in the NDA kitty while Rampur and Jalalpur in Ambedkarnagar had sitting MLAs belonging to the SP and BSP respectively.
Having learnt its lessons from the four bypoll defeats of 2018, the BJP, which has the most to lose, is taking no chances. The SP and BSP face the challenge of retaining just one seat each and the Congress will get a huge psychological boost if it manages to win even a single seat after the 2019 drubbing.
It is going to be an interesting four-cornered contest with no alliance on the horizon. The SP and BSP, who had come closer after the 2018 bypoll by defeating the BJP in Yogi land Gorakhpur, Phulpur, Kairana and Noorpur Assembly seats, are set to challenge each other as their grand alliance has ceased to exist. The BJP is gearing up for the upcoming challenge with all its might. The Congress is banking upon youth power as the majority of its candidates are in the age bracket of 30-40 years.
Meanwhile, the Hamirpur seat, which fell vacant because of the disqualification of sitting BJP MLA Ashok Singh Chandel after his conviction in a 22-year-old murder case, went to the polls on Monday. The result for Hamirpur will come on September 27.
While the BSP, in a major shift in strategy, decided to contest the bypolls on its own and took the lead in announcing tentative candidates for all the 11 seats, the Congress too has declared the names of 10 of the 11 probables amid intense infighting among partymen for tickets. However, the BJP and Samajwadi Party are yet to show their cards.
The saffron party has the biggest challenge at hand to retain all its seats as well as snatch Rampur and Jalapur from the opposition's kitty. Amid an intense race for tickets, the BJP has deputed over a dozen Yogi ministers, including the two deputy CMs and around two dozen other senior leaders from the organisation, to take care of the 11 bypoll bound assembly seats as part of its strategy.
The party will push issues like the law against triple talaq, abrogation of Article 370, 100-day performance of the Modi government and 30 months of the Yogi government to convince the voters in its favour.
On the other hand, the opposition will try to corner the ruling party over law and order issues including the Unnao rape case and Shahjahanpur controversy, besides the traditional bijli, paani and sadak issues.
The Samajwadi Party’s strength in the Assembly was 47 MLAs but its tally came down to 46 after Azam Khan, the sitting SP MLA from Rampur, won the Lok Sabha election and went to Parliament. So the SP faces the challenge of retaining Rampur.
Similarly, the BSP has the task of retaining Jalalpur in Ambedkar Nagar. It has a strength of 18 MLAs in the Assembly currently. As for the Congress, it has just seven MLAs in the house and has nothing to lose as it had no sitting MLA in the poll-bound 11 seats.
As the model code of conduct has come into force in all the bypoll bound seats, the ruling party will not be able to announce any policy base welfare scheme in these areas.