In the recently held Uttar Pradesh byelections, whose results were announced on December 8, the Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal (SP-RLD) combine bagged two seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won one. Voting was held on December 5 for three seats: Mainpuri (Lok Sabha) and Rampur Sadar and Khatauli (Vidhan Sabha).
While the SP-RLD lost Rampur Sadar to the BJP, where Akash Saxena won with a margin of more than 30,000 votes, it wrested Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar district from the BJP.
Mainpuri fell vacant after SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav passed away on October 10. In Khatauli, BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini resigned after a trial court found him guilty in the Muzaffarnagar riots case. The conviction of SP MLA Azam Khan on October 28, in a hate speech case from 2019, prompted the need for the byelection in Rampur Sadar.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress did not field any candidates in the three seats, making the election a straight fight between the BJP and the SP-RLD.
UP Chief Minister Adityanath said on Twitter in Hindi: “Congratulations to the winning candidates from Mainpuri, Rampur, and Khatauli. The BJP has won the Rampur seat for the first time, congratulations to Akash Saxena and all BJP workers in Rampur.”
On the official SP Twitter handle, party chief Akhilesh Yadav said in Hindi: “This is a win for the people of Mainpuri. It is the people who have given a true tribute to netaji [Mulayam Singh Yadav].”
Rampur Sadar result
Losing Rampur Sadar comes as a big setback for the SP-RLD combine since it is considered a stronghold of SP leader Azam Khan.
Since 1980, Azam Khan has never lost an election in this constituency except in 1996. He also won the Lok Sabha election from Rampur in 2019. Azam Khan, a 10-time MLA, demonstrated his political clout in the 2022 Assembly election too by winning while still in jail, defeating his nearest rival by almost 55,000 votes.
For the 2022 by-election, the SP candidate was Azam Khan’s aide Asim Raza Khan, who lost the Lok Sabha by-election to the BJP’s Ghanshyam Lodhi in June this year.
Dimple Yadav victorious in Mainpuri
In the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat, Dimple Yadav, former MP and wife of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, defeated Raghuraj Singh Shakya of the BJP by a huge margin of more than 3 lakh votes.
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s passing created a wave of sympathy votes that ensured this comfortable win for Dimple Yadav, who previously won from the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat twice. SP leaders were confident of her victory when her name was declared and also saw it as a strengthening of the party in the constituency.
Her opponent, Raghuram Singh Shakya, a carefully-picked candidate, was selected because Shakyas are considered to be the most dominant community in the constituency after Yadavs. However, Akhilesh Yadav’s timely appointment of former MLA Alok Shakya, son of former SP MLA Ram Avtar Shakya, as the new district president of Mainpuri a few weeks before the by-election, came a strategic move.
Mainpuri, which is dominated by the SP’s support base of Muslims and Yadavs, has remained with the SP for about two decades now.
Vindication in Khatauli
The SP-RLD win in Khatauli comes as a vindication for RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary, who held several nukkad sabhayein (street-corner meetings) in villages to connect with voters during his high-spirited campaign.
Rajkumari Saini of the BJP, wife of two-time MLA Vikram Saini, was expected to get sympathy votes after a local court sentenced him in a 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case. But in an unexpected result, the SP-RLD candidate Madan Bhaiya defeated her by more than 20,000 votes.
Even as the votes were still being counted, Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) founder and Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav announced that the two parties would be merged. Shivpal Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav, who parted ways many times in the past, finally seem to have buried the hatchet.