BSP-ASP tussle for Dalit votes on the cards in upcoming UP bypoll

Political scientists also believe that the assembly bypoll would be a trial of the political aptitude of Akash Anand, who has recently been reinstated as BSP’s national coordinator and Mayawati’s successor.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati (R), Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar Azad
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati (R), Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar Azad

LUCKNOW: After drawing a blank in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), in a departure from its long-standing stance, has decided to contest the upcoming assembly bypolls to 10 assembly seats vacated during general elections in Uttar Pradesh. This has set the stage for a trial of strength among Dalit voters as Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad-led Azad Samaj Party (ASP-Kanshiram) has also geared up to try their fate in the bypolls, which are likely to be held along with assembly elections to three states.

Emerging as a prominent Dalit leader by winning the Nagina Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over 1.5 lakh votes in his electoral debut against Om Kumar of the BJP, Chandrashekhar has appointed in-charges for four assembly seats - Khair (Aligarh), Meerapur (Muzaffarnagar), Kundarki (Moradabad), and Ghaziabad Sadar (Ghaziabad). On the rest of the seats, mainly from central and eastern UP, including Milkipur (Ayodhya), Sisamau (Kanpur), Phulpur (Prayagraj), Katehri (Ambedkar Nagar), Manjhwa (Bhadohi), and Karhal (Mainpuri), he will appoint in-charges soon.

On the other hand, addressing her party leaders at a national-level meeting in Lucknow recently, BSP chief Mayawati made her intentions of contesting the assembly bypolls in Uttar Pradesh clear.

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati (R), Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar Azad
BSP draws a blank, vote share hits all-time low

The BSP chief said that she would field candidates on all 10 seats, of which nine fell vacant after the election of sitting legislators to the Lok Sabha and the Sisamau seat in Kanpur got vacated after the disqualification of sitting MLA Irfan Solanki, who was convicted and sentenced by a local court in a criminal case.

Mayawati also made it clear that the party would go it alone in the bypolls. While the senior leaders of the party were asked to start preparations by holding meetings in all the assembly segments set to go to bypoll, coordinators were directed to identify winnable candidates.

With Chandrashekhar Azad leading the ASP campaign, the fight for Dalit votes between both Dalit-based parties - BSP and ASP - will intensify in UP.

Buoyed by the Nagina success, the ASP has also decided to go solo in the bypolls, said party sources. “It will give us an opportunity to expand our base in other parts of the state as well,” said a senior ASP leader, adding that the party would also contest bypolls in nagar panchayats and nagar palika parishads.

As per political experts, BSP’s decision to contest the bypoll might have resulted from the palpable shift of Dalit voters to the ASP in its stronghold of Nagina, where the BSP candidate was relegated to the fourth position in the Lok Sabha elections. In 2019, BSP had emerged victorious in Nagina, considered a bastion of the BSP chief.

Political scientists also believe that the assembly bypoll would be a trial of the political aptitude of Akash Anand, who has recently been reinstated as BSP’s national coordinator and Mayawati’s successor.

The BSP has already announced Akash as the star campaigner for the bypolls in Uttarakhand and Punjab. Once the Election Commission of India announces the schedule for the bypoll on 10 assembly seats in UP, Akash will lead the party campaign on all 10 seats, said a BSP leader.

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati (R), Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar Azad
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