A clean slate for the BJP in the polls of UP President Zila Panchayat
Amid leaks of videos, visuals and allegations of abuse of official machinery, ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party emerged victorious in Zila Panchayat’s presidential elections on Saturday, with party-backed candidates winning 67 of the 75 seats.
The party won 21 of those unopposed seats after opposition candidates in many cases joined the ruling BJP overnight and withdrew from the contest. Even before the official results were released, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya declared victory.
“Kaho dil se, 2022 pe bhajapa phir se (say with heart, BJP again in 2022 UP polls),” Maurya tweeted.
The “kaho dil se, Akhilesh phir se” is the slogan of the Samajwadi party for the UP polls. The BJP, after losing the vote of zila panchayat constituency members in April to the Samajwadi (SP) party, was desperate to make amends in the polls of zila panchayat presidents.
Only the SP and its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) put up resistance from the opposition ranks. The Bahujan Samaj (BSP) party boycotted the elections, citing an abuse of official machinery as Congress lost the only seat it contested in Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha stronghold of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.
The SP, which won its Etawah stronghold unopposed, recorded a unilateral victory in Azamgarh, the Lok Sabha constituency of party leader Akhilesh Yadav. He also surprised the BJP in Etah, Sant Kabir Nagar and Ballia, but suffered setbacks in strongholds like Mainpuri, Rampur, Kannauj and Ferozabad. He also lost Farrukhabad where the BJP had the ex-wife of SP leader Dharmendra Yadav, Monica Yadav, compete.
The RLD won the Baghpat seat where the SP-RLD co-candidate had first “disappeared”, then allegedly withdrew her papers before an official party protest secured a contest.
“The public created moral pressure and did not let (the ruling party’s) desperate tactics succeed,” RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary said.
The SP released a video alleging that a senior official in the Auraiya district administration was caught plotting against opposition voters.
In Chandauli, another video that went viral showed former SP MP Ram Kishan Yadav touching the feet of members of the Zila Panchayat parish to secure the party’s victory.
“He is known for his dramatic character,” said local SP leader Chandrashekhar Yadav and former MP Ram Kishan reportedly conspired against the party.
Such conspiracy theories also circulated in Lucknow, where the BJP, with just three members of the zila panchayat constituency, beat the SP candidate who had claimed more zila panchayat members by his side. In these polls, members of the Zila Panchayat parish vote.
“The local administration kidnapped my brother Arun Rawat, a member of the zila panchayat parish,” Arun’s brother Tarun said in a video released by the Samajwadi party.
“The SP forgot about its own past when 36 of its candidates won unopposed these elections in 2015 when it was in power,” said Daya Shankar Singh, vice president of the UP BJP.
The BJP also won over the rebels. In Unnao, party candidate Shakun Singh defeated rebel candidate Arun Singh. Here, the SP had expelled its official candidate to side with the BJP. In Muzaffarnagar, Union Minister and local deputy Sanjeev Balyan, responsible for managing the elections, ensured the victory of the BJP candidate over his cousin who was the common opposition candidate.
The elections also revealed interesting alliances and withdrawals. In Jaunpur, BJP ally Apna Dal withdrew from the race in favor of independent candidate Srikala Reddy, wife of former MP Dhananjay Singh, and won the elections.
In Ghazipur, two members who had won thanks to the support of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), led by Asaduddin Owaisi, supported the BJP. Owaisi’s party plans to contest 100 seats in the 2022 UP Assembly polls.
“The link between AIMIM and BJP is now exposed,” said Congressman Surendra Rajput.
In Amethi, the BJP won against the SP even though Congress did not even present a candidate. Congress lost Amethi to BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In Pratapgarh, the BJP “tactfully” boycotted the elections in favor of former minister and local heavyweight Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiya, whose candidate Madhuri Patel won the Jansatta Dal nomination.