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UP bypoll results: SP, BSP purge saffron surge; how far will Mayawati-Akhilesh bonhomie go?

Archana Srivastava | Lucknow |

In a stunning reversal of fortunes, the likely impact of which may be visible in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a drubbing in Uttar Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party, ably supported by the Bahujan Samaj Party, wrested the Phulpur and Gorakhpur seats from the BJP.

In Gorakhpur, Praveen Kumar Nishad of the SP defeated Upendra Shukla of the BJP by over 21,000 votes, whereas, in Phulpur, Nagendra Singh Patel of the SP defeated Kaushalendra Singh Patel of the BJP by over 59,000 votes.

The BJP’s performance in what was dubbed as a high-stakes contest had left many red faces in the ruling party. Both the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, whose resignations as MPs had necessitated the by polls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, looked certain to lose both the seats . More importantly, the BJP’s performance in Gorakhpur is being considered as a personal setback for the Uttar Pradesh chief minister who has been a five-time MP from this constituency.

In the run up to the by-election in Gorakhpur on March 11, Yogi Adityanath addressed 11 election rallies, which showed how much importance the chief minister attached to the constituency. He addressed five election rallies in Phulpur. Gorakhpur has been a BJP stronghold as Mahant Avaidyanath was the MP from here in 1991 and 1996.

Phulpur was never a BJP bastion before Maurya’s victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha election — the outcome of the ‘Modi wave’. Significantly, the BJP’s poll debacle in a politically crucial state like Uttar Pradesh comes within a year of Yogi Adityanath’s rule. The chief minister completes one year in office on March 19.

Much as the BJP leadership try to underplay the outcome of the by poll results —state unit chief Mahendra Nath Pandey has been summoned to New Delhi —, the party’s likely defeat at the hands of its arch political adversaries, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, has taken the sheen out of the BJP’s one-year rule in Uttar Pradesh.

Incidentally, chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s, one year in office on March 19 is to be celebrated with much fanfare by the state government, but the BJP’s defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur is likely to act as a dampener on the celebrations.

As compared to the BJP’s dilemma, the expected outcome of the two Lok Sabha by elections has underlined the impact which an alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party with Congress, Rashtriya Lok Dal and smaller parties chipping in can have on the outcome of 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh.

While the SP president Akhilesh Yadav is not averse to the idea of an understanding with the BSP, Mayawati is yet to come out with a clear stand on the issue.

Even after it was decided that the BSP will support the SP in the two Lok Sabha bye elections, Mayawati issued a statement clarifying that this was not an alliance between the BSP and the SP.