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BJP to face divided Opposition in bypolls from Yogi and Maurya’s seat

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will not have to face a united Opposition in the important forthcoming by-elections in Goraphpur and Phoolpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, sources said.

The seats fell vacant as their representatives Chief Minister Adityanath (from Gorakhpur) and his deputy Keshav Maurya (Phoolpur) had to give them up to join the state legislature.

The BJP swept last year’s UP Assembly polls while others, notably the Congress, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party, faced a serious drubbing. For the bypolls though the saffron party is yet to announce its candidates.

The SP is likely to field Santosh Nishad from Gorakhpur. His father Sanjay Nishad heads the Nishad Party, which has a sizeable following among the Nishad community whose members have tradionally been boatsmen. Gorakhpur is said to have a sizeable number of Nishads.

But that’s not the only reason behind chosing Santosh. According to a source close to SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, the party is trying to build the foundation for the Lok Sabha polls.

“Getting an important Nishad leader on board will help in 2019,” an SP leader said.

Fielding Santosh from Gorakhpur can also ensure the support of other smaller outfits like the Peace Party, which has a following among the backward class Pasmanda Muslims.

This could pose a challenge for the BJP and Adityanath. The five-time parliamentarian from Gorakhpur also heads the important Gorakhnath Math there.

In Phoolpur, meanwhile, caste equations may tilt the balance. From this seat once represented by Jawaharlal Nehru, the SP is likely to field Nagendra Patel, a local party leader. The constituency has a sizeable population of Kurmis, to which Patel belongs.

There were talks of Krishna Patel, the wife of Sonelal Patel and estranged mother of Union Minister Anupriya Patel, contesting as the Opposition candidate. But she wasn’t ready to contest on the SP symbol, according to an SP leader.

“We could not afford to not have a candidate contest on our symbol in the bypolls,” the leader said. He also highlighted how talks were initiated about two months ago, but they fell through after reservations on contesting on the party symbol.

“We can give them one or two seats in the 2019 elections. But ceding space in the bypolls is out of question,” the leader said. “Not contesting the by-polls on its own symbol will hurt the morale of the party workers,” he added.

Senior SP leader and state unit chief Naresh Uttam Patel’s name also did the rounds, but the party is likely to chose a local. Naresh Uttam comes from neighbouring Fatehpur.

The SP hopes to capitalise on the Kurmi votebank by fielding a Patel and is banking on the fact that other communities that voted it in the past would not desert it.

“We are also hopeful that since Indrajeet Saroj joined the party after leaving the BSP, we should be able to get some Dalit votes as well. And together with the Kurmi, other backward and the minority votebank, we should be comfortable,” an SP leader said. Saroj, who left the BSP last August, is said to have a following among the Pasi community.

The BSP, as has been its history, is yet again not contesting the by-polls.

Meanwhile, the SP leader said the party has a strong presence in at least five of the six Assembly segments that make up the Phoolpur Lok Sabha constituency. “We are not that strong in Allahabad North,” an SP leader said.

The SP won Phulpur from 1996 to 2004, but lost in 2009 and 2014. Maurya won the last election by a large margin.

Late Friday evening the Congress announced the candidature of Surheeta Chatterjee Karim from Gorakhpur and Manish Mishra from Phoolpur. Karim is a local doctor while Mishra is a general secretary in party’s state unit. He is the son of JS Mishra, who served as the personal secretary to former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

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