The SP had won both the seats in 2019 and it is looking to retain both the seats with support of its traditional vote base of Muslims and Yadavs. Counting of votes will take place on June 26.
Both the seats, considered as SP strongholds, were won by the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls – party national president Akhilesh Yadav had won Azamgarh and senior leader Azam Khan in Rampur. Their resignations from their respective Lok Sabha seats to continue as MLA after winning in the recent Assembly elections necessitated the bypoll.
The SP declared its candidates on both the seats quite late – just hours before closure of nomination. In Azamgarh, Akhilesh gave a ticket to his cousin Dharmendra Yadav and in Rampur he fielded Azam’s long time associate, Asim Raja.
After the resignation of Akhilesh and Azam from the Lok Sabha, the party’s strength in the House has come down to three. Its other three MPs are from Sambhal, Moradabad and Mainpuri. If the SP retains both the seats in the by-polls, the party’s number in Lok Sabha will be back to five – as it was after the 2019 elections.
“But if the party loses any of the seats, it will come as a big setback for Akhilesh who is already facing allegations of ‘ignoring’ Muslims after the party’s loss in the recent Assembly elections. Further, he announced the candidates late and stayed away from the campaign. He was supposed to campaign at least in Azamgarh where he had won in 2019 with a bigger vote margin than 2014 when Mulayam Singh Yadav was elected from there,” said a SP leader.
A day before polling, Akhilesh had made an appeal on social media to voters and said that he and Mulayam were members of the “Azamgarh family.”
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is contesting only in Azamgargh and if it wins the seat, the party’s number will go up to 11 in Lok Sabha. “But the bigger outcome would be a message for the 2024 Lok Sabha election that only the BSP can defeat BJP. Also, BSP will win the trust of Muslims,” said a BSP leader.
The BSP had won 10 seats in 2019 when it contested in an alliance with SP. If the party losses, it will not make any change in its Lok Sabha tally. Usually, the BSP stays away from bypolls.
Similarly, if the BJP loses both the seats, its Lok Sabha tally from UP – 62 – will remain unchanged. But if it wins any of these SP bastions, the result will be a morale booster for the saffron brigade after the Assembly polls in which BJP had lost all seats in Azamgarh and three seats in Rampur. With both BSP and Congress out of contest in Rampur, the BJP tried hard their get support of Dalit voters there. Congress has also skipped Azamgarh bypoll.
With a low voter turnout on Thursday, the fight seems to be neck-and-neck between all the political parties in Rampur and Azamgarh.
Azamgarh recorded a voter turnout of 49.43 per cent and Rampur 41.39 per cent.
A total of 35.45 lakh voters were eligible to exercise their franchise.
There are six candidates in fray in Rampur and 13 are contesting in Azamgarh. There were 18.38 lakh electors in Azamgarh and 17 lakh in Rampur.
In Rampur, the BJP has fielded Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi against the SP’s Asim Raja. In Azamgarh, BJP has once again fielded Bhojpuri actor Dinesh Lal Yadav “Nirahua” who had lost to Akhilesh in the 2019 elections by a huge margin. The BSP has fielded former MLA Shah Alam alias “Guddu Jamali” in Azamgarh. The BSP is not contesting in Rampur.
Counting of votes to begin at 8 am today
Lucknow: Counting of votes for the byelections held to the Rampur and Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituencies will begin at 8 am on Sunday, a senior official said. The Samajwadi Party’s Rampur candidate on Friday demanded “fair counting.” “The counting should be fair and round-wise announcements of the counting should be done,” Asim Raja told mediapersons in Rampur.