Outcomes in UP and Bihar’s 120 Lok Sabha seats are key to BJP’s hattrick

On Tuesday, it will be clear whose social coalition has managed to capture the imagination of voters in these two States, where caste is cast in stone.

Published : Jun 03, 2024 20:43 IST - 8 MINS READ

Polling officials in Varanasi carry EVMs after voting on June 1.

Polling officials in Varanasi carry EVMs after voting on June 1. | Photo Credit: RITESH SHUKLA

Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, which send a total of 120 Lok Sabha members to Parliament, are the States in the Hindi belt that will test the efficacy of the opposition INDIA bloc when the results are out.

While the Samajwadi Party (SP), the principal opposition party, has allied with the Congress in UP that sends 80 Lok Sabha MPs, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is leading the opposition coalition with the Congress, Left parties and Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar, which has 40 Lok Sabha seats.

In 2019, NDA won 64 Lok Sabha seats in UP with BJP’s tally alone being 62 and the BJP-led alliance winning 39 in Bihar. There are indications that BJPs’ tally will come down in Bihar though the saffron alliance will maintain its dominant presence in both the Hindi States.

Also Read | Uttar Pradesh: Not yet a done deal

In UP, the BJP has allied with Apna Dal (Sonelal), Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and the Nishad party (Nirbal Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal), which caters to three key caste groups: Kurmi, which felt a rivalry from the Yadavs for not getting enough political representation, the assertive Rajbhar and Mallah from the extremely backward castes, whom the BJP has tried to woo by celebrating Raja Suheldev Jayanti (and the projection of his fighting Islamic rulers).

While the outcome of VIP seats in UP such as Varanasi, from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third term and the Gandhi family pocket borough Raebareli is almost clear, a large number of seats in the State had shown signs of a keen contest even as the BJP has an edge in the majority of seats.

In Varanasi, the Congress candidate Ajay Rai, who lost to Modi twice in 2014 and 2019, will be the runner-up at least this time as AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and SP’s Shalini Yadav had pushed him to third position in the earlier two Lok Sabha elections. Rai had also contested from Varanasi as an SP candidate in 2009 and lost to BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi.

In Raebareli, vacated by Sonia Gandhi after five consecutive victories, Rahul Gandhi has stepped in to carry the family’s political legacy in the seat that was held in the past by his grandmother Indira Gandhi as well as grandfather Feroze Gandhi.

Congress leader and party candidate Rahul Gandhi with Priyanka Gandhi and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav at a public meeting in Raebareli, May 17.

Congress leader and party candidate Rahul Gandhi with Priyanka Gandhi and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav at a public meeting in Raebareli, May 17. | Photo Credit: PTI

The adjoining Amethi Lok Sabha seat from where incumbent BJP MP Smriti Irani, who had defeated Rahul Gandhi in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, is getting more eyeballs. With Rahul Gandhi deciding to contest from Raebareli, the Congress has fielded party worker Kishori Lal Sharma from the seat, which has in the past been represented thrice by Rahul Gandhi and four times by his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi had also won from Amethi.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is seeking re-election for the third time from Lucknow. The Lok Sabha seat has been a BJP bastion since 1991, having been represented by Atal Bihari Vajpayee five times; the saffron party seems pretty ensconced in the seat. In Mathura, Hema Malini of BJP looks set to win for the third time with both SP and BSP fielding relatively weak candidates.

SP, which gave tickets to only five Yadavs and all from the family—Akhilesh Yadav in Kannauj, Dimple Yadav in Mainpuri, Dharmendra Yadav in Azamgarh, Akshay Yadav in Firozabad and Aditya Yadav in Badaun—seems comfortable in these Yadav-dominated seats.

Also Read | Daring dozen: 12 crucial States where BJP is likely to face a stiff challenge

The outcome of Muzaffarnagar seats in western UP, the laboratory of hardline Hindutva politics in the State, will be interesting to see as Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan, a two-term MP from the seat, faced massive opposition from Kshatriya groups in the run-up to the election, despite a strong anti-incumbency wave against him. Balyan, who had won the 2014 Lok Sabha election with a margin of more than four lakh votes against Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Kadir Rana, saw his victory margin dipping to just over 6,000 votes when he had to contest against Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh. It remains to be seen whether BJP’s alliance with Jayant Chaudhary’s RLD in the Jat-influenced western UP, helps him sail through or not.

Former BSP MP Danish Ali is seeking a re-election from Amroha, this time on a Congress ticket. BJP is hopeful of a turnaround in this triangular contest between Ali, the NDA’s Kanwar Singh Tanwar, and the BSP’s Mujahid Husain. In 2019, the Muslim vote had consolidated behind Ali, who defeated Tanwar by over 60,000 votes.

Another important seat in western UP is Meerut, where the BJP fielded Arun Govil, who had played the character of Ram in Ramanand Sagar’s television magnum opus Ramayan. In Purvanchal, Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan is the BJP candidate from Gorakhpur, a seat represented by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath five times while don-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s brother Afzal Ansari is seeking a re-election from Ghazipur for a third term.

Former Ghazipur MP and SP leader Omprakash Singh, who campaigned for Ansari vehemently denies any Hindu-Muslim politics and says the Ansari family believes in taking all sections of the society along. He is confident that the SP candidate will defeat BJP’s Paras Nath, a protege of senior BJP leader Manoj Sinha, who is now the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir.

Locked in battle in Bihar

In Bihar, it is a seat-to-seat battle of two alliances with the NDA having inducted two more allies: Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Morcha and Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha. The NDA is also wooing back Nitish Kumar and Chirag Paswan’s parties. While Paswan has been claiming that the NDA will win all 40 Lok Sabha seats this time, indications are that its tally will substantially come down from the 39 seats it had won in 2019 Lok Sabha election.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav with his wife and party leader Rabri Devi and their daughter and party candidate from the Saran Lok Sabha seat Rohini Acharya, in Patna, June 1.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav with his wife and party leader Rabri Devi and their daughter and party candidate from the Saran Lok Sabha seat Rohini Acharya, in Patna, June 1. | Photo Credit: ANI

Two daughters of RJD boss Lalu Prasad are in the fray: Misa Bharti from Patna against former Union Minister Ram Kripal Yadav and Rohini Acharya from Saran against former Union Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Rohini’s kidney donation to her father is an emotional pitch that can help the RJD. Rudy was defeated by Lalu Prasad here in 2009 but he managed to defeat Prasad’s wife Rabari Devi in 2014. If Rudy wins this time, it will be a hat trick for him. In Patliputra also, Ram Kripal Yadav won the last two Lok Sabha elections defeating Misa Bharti. He banks on the BJP-JDU’s Extremely Backward Classes’ support apart from a fraction of votes from members of his caste, Yadav. 

Former Union Minister Ravi Shankar is contesting from Patna Sahib against Congress candidate Anshul Avijit, the son of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. Avijit’s candidature was a last-minute announcement as Congress was seeking to placate Kumar. He could not have contested from the Scheduled Castes reserved seat of Sasaram, represented by his mother and maternal grandfather late Jagjivan Ram, former Deputy Prime Minister and tallest Dalit leader of Bihar. Avijitis a Kushwaha based on his father’s lineage.

Also Read | Bihar: Navigating change and stagnation

Union Power Minister R.K. Singh is seeking a third term from the Arrah Lok Sabha seat, which has gone to the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) from the opposition grand alliance. Former Chief Minister and Mahadalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi is locked in a tense electoral battle in Gaya while “bahubali” politician Anand Mohan Singh’s wife Lovely Anand of JDU is facing a pitched battle in Sheohar.

A very interesting could be from Purnea from former MP with multiple criminal cases Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav of Congress who contested as an independent candidate when the seat went to RJD in the alliance. A lot of emotional scenes were played out and he accused Lalu Prasad of trying to finish his political career. Pappu had won the seat as an independent candidate in past. From Hajipur, late Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan is in a strong position to win the seat.

There is much interest in the outcome in Munger, where illegal arms-making has been an industry for decades. Dreaded gangster-turned-politician Ashok Mahto’s wife Anita Devi is the RJD candidate against former JDU president Lalan Singh from this seat.

With the RJD refusing to give the Begusarai Lok Sabha seat, also called the Leningrad of Bihar, to the Congress, which wanted to field Kanhaiya Kumar, the contest is now between BJP’s Union Minister Giriraj Singh, an MP for the last two terms, and CPI’s Awadhesh Kumar Rai.

All eyes are on what turn Kushwahas take as RJD fielded several Kushwaha candidates to break into the Lav (Lurmi)-Kush (Kushwaha) unity plank of Nitish Kumar. RLD leader Upendra Kushwaha has, however, got the real shock from an independent candidate and Bhojpuri singer Pawan Singh. Singh, an erstwhile BJP leader has been suspended by the saffron party.

When the results are declared on Tuesday, it will be clear whose social coalition has managed to capture the imagination of voters in Bihar and UP, where caste is cast in stone.

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