Although the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have all fielded candidates in the Bhatpar Rani Assembly by-election in Deoria district, it is the main opposition BSP which is taking it most seriously, making the fight tough for the ruling Samajwadi Party candidate.
BSP sources said the party sees the by-election as an opportunity to capitalise on the anti-incumbency against Akhilesh Yadav and send out a message in the state before the Lok Sabha elections.
Polling is scheduled in Bhatpar Rani on Saturday and 12 candidates are in the fray. Except their national president Mayawati, all senior BSP leaders have campaigned for party candidate Binda, who had contested in 2012 as the Congress candidate and stood third. BSP MPs and MLAs from three adjacent divisions of Gorakhpur, Basti and Azamgarh have been camping in the constituency for the last 15 days.
The SP has fielded Ashutosh Upadhyay, son of former minister Kameshwar Upadhayay whose death last year caused the by-election. The SP is banking on three factors —- namely that it is the ruling party and four years of its tenure are still left; Ashutosh may get sympathy votes because of the death of his father; and that his community, the Brahmins, constitute the second largest chunk of votes after Kushwahas.
On the other hand, Kushwaha votes are likely to get divided between BSP’s Binda and Sabhakunwar, who is contesting as the nominee of little-known Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party. Sabhakunwar had contested the 2012 Assembly election as the BSP nominee and stood second. He decided to contest as a rebel after the BSP denied him a ticket this time.
Binda said she is campaigning against the ruling party’s failure to fulfil its pre-poll promises and the neglect of the area by Ashutosh’s father. On the other hand, Ashutosh is highlighting the government’s populist schemes like unemployment allowance, Kanya Vidhya Dhan, Hamari Beti Uska Kal and promise of free laptops and tablets for school children.
While SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Urban Development Minister Azam Khan were in the list of 40 star campaigners of the party, the task of campaigning for the ruling party has been left to local leaders of Deoria and nearby districts.
It is the same case for BJP’s Raj Kumar Shahi and Congress’s Raghvendra Vir Vikram; for them too, the campaigning is being done mostly by local leaders.