Just months after the state elections setback, the by-elections for the Rampur and Azamgarh Lok Sabha seats came as a body blow to Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party on Sunday. While the BJP’s Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ won the Azamgarh seat by over 8,000 votes, Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi won Rampur by over 42,000.
The BJP’s victory in the SP’s stronghold also shows the saffron party’s growing popularity after a comfortable victory in the February-March state polls. For the main opposition party, the result reflects its losing grip over Muslims and Yadavs, its “MY” citadel.
While the BJP left no stone unturned in canvassing for its candidates in two SP-favoured seats, the poll results have raised questions on Akhilesh Yadav’s absence from campaigning in both seats.
In Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituency, Yadavs constitute 21 percent of the electorate, Muslims 15 percent, Dalits 20 percent and non-Yadav OBC voters are about 18 percent. The SP had swept all the assembly segments in Azamgarh in the recently assembly polls.
Given the dominance of Dalits, Muslims and Yadavs in the 18-lakh-strong electorate of Azamgarh, it was believed that the main contest will be between the SP and BSP. However, Bhojpuri actor-singer Nirahua managed to defeat Dharmendra Yadav, taking advantage of the BSP eroding away the Samajwadi Party’s support base.
The SP leadership did not make any concerted efforts to consolidate Muslim and Yadav votes. Akhilesh, who has already faced criticism in the constituency for not paying a single visit during the COVID-19 pandemic, did not turn up for campaigning.
The SP’s alleged silence on Muslim issues also seemed to not go down well with Muslim voters. The BJP has already been charging that the SP has been “using” Muslims for electoral gains.
In Rampur parliamentary constituency, nearly 49 per cent of the voters are Muslims. The SP had won three and the BJP two assembly segments in the state elections.
While the BJP deployed its entire top leadership for canvassing in the SP basin, Akhilesh Yadav left campaigning for Azam Khan’s longtime associate Asim Raja at the hands of the veteran leader and his supporters.
At least 16 state ministers reached out to voters in Rampur, where almost half of the population is Muslim.
But a low turnout of 41.39 per cent aided the ruling party as it managed to increase its vote share from 42.33 per cent in 2019 to 51.96 per cent. The SP and Azam Khan accused the police of intimidating voters and not allowing Muslim voters to move out to cast their votes.
The Indian Express quoted some locals claiming that a section of Muslim voters also did not show interest in the bypoll as the candidate was not from Azam’s family.