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Mayawati gaining ground in UP

The defeat of the Samajwadi Party candidates in the recently-held Lok Sabha and Assembly bye-elections in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Baheri seat in Bareilly district which it held in the February general elections, had been interpreted as a reversal for the party and a major gain for the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party. The victory of the BSP nominee in Baheri, a Muslim dominated area, is even illustrated as the result of the drift of the Muslims from the Samajwadi Party to the former. But the figures of the election results tell a different story.

In the bye-elections in one Lok Sabha (Akbarpur) and two Assembly seats (Baheri and Jehangirabad), from where the Samajwadi Party had fielded its candidates, its nominees had secured more votes as compared to the votes polled by the party aspirants in the February general elections. (In the bye-elections in Dibai Assembly seat, the Samajwadi Party had supported the nominee of the Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP) of former U.P. Chief Minister, Mr. Kalyan Singh. The RKP candidate, Mr. Ragbir Singh, son of the former chief minister, had won the seat with a comfortable majority). On the other hand, as compared to the voting figures in the February elections, there was a fall in the votes polled by the nominees of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the BSP who had contested the elections jointly this time.

The Samajwadi Party nominee, Mr. Manzoor Ahmad, (whose murder had resulted in the by-poll) had won from Baheri seat last time by a majority of nearly 3,000 votes over his nearest BSP rival. This time, his widow the Samajwadi Party nominee Mumtaz Jehan, was defeated by the BSP nominee, by about 8,000 votes. But this time, the BSP nominee had the support of the BJP also. In the February elections, the two candidates of the BSP and the BJP had together polled 62,509 votes of which the former's share was 36728 votes. On the other hand, the vote share of the Samajwadi Party had gone up by 4,254 votes from 39,611 votes in February polls to 43, 865 votes in the bye-elections. This amply proved that the combined strength of the BJP and the BSP had led to the defeat of the Samajwadi Party nominee in Baheri and there is no proof of a drift of the Muslim votes from the party to the BSP.In the bye-polls held in Jehangirabad Assembly seat, which was caused by the resignation of Ms. Mayawati from that seat as she favoured to retain the Harora seat, there was a considerable fall in the total votes polled by the joint candidate of the two ruling parties this time as compared to the February polls. The candidates of the BJP and the BSP had together polled over 91,000 votes in the general elections but this time the winning BSP nominee could secure only 53,000 votes. On the other hand, the number of votes secured by the Samajwadi Party nominee had shown a marginal increase this time as compared to the last elections. This is so in the case of Akbarpur Lok Sabha seat also where the bye-election was caused by the vacation of the seat by Ms. Mayawati. Moreover, the defeat of the Samajwadi Party candidates was more or less in tune with the national politics. The ruling parties had won the bye-elections in states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The only exception was in Jharkhand where the nominee of the BJP, which was ruling the state, was defeated by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha candidate in Dumka Lok Sabha seat.

An impression had been created that the Samajwadi Party's image as a secular party had suffered a jolt after it joined hands with the RKP of Mr. Kalyan Singh, who was one of the main accused in the Babri Mosque demolition case, to fight the bye-elections. It is said that since then a section of the Muslims has distanced from the Samajwadi Party. But the voting figures do not substantiate this theory.

In an apparent bid to consolidate the other backward caste (OBC) votes, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Mr. Kalyan Singh of the RKP and Mr. Sonelal Patel of Apna Dal had formed a coalition just before the bye-elections to contest the polls. While Mr. Yadav is the undisputed leader of the Yadav caste, Mr. Singh and Mr. Patel have strong hold among the Lodhi and Kurmi castes among the OBCs respectively.

The bye-election results are, however, a clear indication that the BJP-BSP combination will be a powerful force in any future elections in U.P. In fact, the BJP had struck the alliance with the BSP with the intention of contesting the next Lok Sabha elections, slated to be held in the first half of 2004, together as the party is certain that if contested alone, it will be a disaster for it. The performance of the party in U.P. in the next Lok Sabha elections is important for the BJP to retain its status as a dominant political force in the country as it is not expecting to do well in many states, in which it is a force to reckon with.

P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow 

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