Lessons from Ghosi and Bageshwar By-polls
These were the first polls after INDIA group’s formation
In the din of the G20 summit meeting in New Delhi, a significant development did not get the attention it deserved in the mainstream media. It was the results of the seven Assembly by-polls in six states. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won three seats, and four seats went to the opposition or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A). This was the first by-polls since the coming together of the 26 political parties under this alliance.
The most significant victory for the opposition is clearly from Ghosi in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh. The sitting MLA Dara Singh Chauhan has been defeated by a record margin of 42,759 votes by the Samajwadi Party (SP) party candidate Sudhakar Singh, who had the support of all the Opposition parties in INDIA.
Chauhan who had won the same seat on an SP ticket during the 2022 UP Vidhan Sabha election had switched allegiance to the BJP at a high profile event on July 17. This was just two days after resigning from the Vidhan Sabha and meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
As a matter of fact, Chauhan was a minister in Chief Minister Adityanath’s first term government. He had joined the Samajwadi Party on the eve of the 2022 Assembly elections. In the by-poll he was contesting on a BJP ticket to regain entry into the Vidhan Sabha and possibly into the UP cabinet.
Dara Singh Chauhana, a Loniya OBC, is notorious for changing parties a record number of times. Starting his political career in the Congress he joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1996 and was elected to the Rajya Sabha.
He won the 2009 Lok Sabha election on a BSP ticket. After the BJP assumed office in New Delhi in 2014, Chauhan joined it in 2015, and won the 2017 Assembly election to become a minister.
However, in January 2022 he joined the SP and won from Ghosi with a comfortable lead of 22,216 votes against the BJP candidate. Not willing to be on the wrong side of power, in July 2023 he resigned from the SP and rejoined BJP contesting from the same constituency of Ghosi in the recently concluded by-poll.
Despite a high decibel campaign by the saffron party Chauhan was trounced by SP’s Sudhakar Singh who cornered 57.19 percent of the votes. More than the victory the margin of victory has taken all by surprise.
Are there lessons to be learnt from the Ghosi results? Ghosi was the first poll after the formation of the INDIA alliance. Ghosi had one common Opposition candidate from the SP, who was supported by other entities of INDIA.
Incidentally, the BSP maintained an equi-distance from the NDA as well as the INDIA alliance and decided not to field a candidate in Ghosi.
According to estimates of the 4.37 voters in Ghosi the majority – 90,000, are Muslims and 60,000 Dalits. Just a year ago during the 2022 Vidhan Sabha election the BSP candidate had cornered 21.12 percent of the votes (53,953 votes).
Hours before the polling on September 5, the BSP sent a message to its voters to abstain from voting or press NOTA. The fact that a mere 1755 NOTA votes were polled clearly explains that the BSP voters defied Behenji’s unwritten order and voted for the INDIA candidate explaining the huge victory margin.
It is clear that besides the base OBC and Muslim votes the SP got the support of the Dalits as well. Is this the end of the road for BSP supremo Mayawati? Or will she grudgingly join INDIA for sheer survival?
Ghosi must have made the BJP realise that its ‘triple engine sarkar’ cannot deliver in the face of a combined opposition. In the entire constituency 40 ministers had been deployed.
The two deputy Chief Ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak did not leave any stone unturned to win over their respective communities.
The BJP state president Bhupendra Chaudhury, and state general secretary Dharampal Singh were camping in Mau. The BJP’s ‘star’ MPs Manoj Tiwari and Ravi Kishan held roadshows making it quite a colourful campaign.
At the same time Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party has emerged as a big loser. He quit the SP-led rainbow alliance of the 2022 Assembly election after SP’s reversal in the Lok Sabha by polls of Azamgarh and Rampur.
After a meeting with HM Amit Shah last month Rajbhar’s party had become part of 38 parties NDA. He claims Mau district, where Ghosi is situated, as his sphere of influence. He was confident of making possible BJP’s victory from the prestigious seat paving his and the BJP candidate Dara Singh Chauhan’s entry into CM Adityanath’s cabinet.
On the other hand the state and district machinery also tried to create a scenario to repeat the Rampur model by scaring away voters on poll day.
However, the Samajwadi party fought a spirited battle unlike in Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha by polls last year when the party president, Akhilesh Yadav, did not bother to campaign and squandered away two hard-earned Lok Sabha seats .
After the demise of his brother and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, national General Secretary Shivpal Yadav had set aside his grievances with nephew Akhilesh Yadav and returned to the party fold in full earnest.
Known for his organisational skills and connection with grass root workers Shivpal’s energetic campaigning helped SP retain Mulayam Singh’s Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat in December 2022. Here, Dimple Yadav won by a comfortable margin of 2.5 lakh votes barely six months after the SP defeat in Azamgarh and Rampur.
This time he had camped in Ghosi and his presence prevented the repeat of the Rampur model. He mobilised the grassroot workers and campaigned door to door. Akhilesh Yadav also addressed an election meeting.
It was Shivpal Yadav who put a spanner in the works by openly accusing the Ghosi and Kopaganj SHOs and Circle Officer of harassing people and threatening voters not to vote. He along with 10 SP MLAs met the IG Police, Akhilesh Kumar, demanding action against the alleged culprits.
“In hotels from Azamgarh to Mau, ruling party ministers are staying and affecting the polls. Money is also being distributed. Muslim are being threatened to prevent them from voting” said Shivpal Yadav charging the BJP government of misusing the state machinery.
He also submitted a memo to the election commission drawing their attention to what he described as “dishonest practices”. This is believed to have put the administration on the back foot.
No wonder after the Samajwadi party’s landslide victory hoardings have appeared on the roads of Lucknow claiming that the ‘Tiger’ (Shivpal) has returned!
In sharp contrast to what happened in Ghosi is what occurred in Bageshwar of Uttarakhand. There is a lesson for the INDIA alliance in Bageshwar which it can ignore at its own peril.
The Bageshwar BJP candidate Chandan Ram Dass defeated his closest Congress party rival by a margin of 11,851 votes. But I.N.D.I.A did not present a united front out here.
The Aam Aadmi party candidate Basant Kumar alone polled 15768 votes, far more than the victory margin. And then there were SP and BSP candidates in the fray as well. The result in Bageshwar could have been different if the INDIA alliance had fought united in Uttarakhand as it did in UP.