However, BJP handed a stunning defeat to Samajwadi Party in Rampur but lost Khatauli to the Rashtriya Lok Dal in the two assembly by-elections.
In Mainpuri, the seat that fell vacant following the demise of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, party candidate Dimple Yadav, wife of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, defeated BJP’s Raghuraj Singh Shakya by a margin of over 2.88 lakh votes. Her winning margin was strikingly much higher than even Mulayam who had defeated BJP’s Prem Singh Shakya by a margin of 94,000 votes in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The victory was crucial for the Samajwadi Party which banked heavily on “sympathy factor” generated after Mulayam’s death. The SP, unsurprisingly, harped on Mulayam’s legacy and turned the contest as a “tribute” to the SP founder – a move that paid well. The win was vital for Dimple who had lost from Kannauj in the 2019 general elections, despite the SP forging an alliance with the BSP.
Dimple, who was elected unopposed from Kannauj in 2012 bypolls, had earlier lost to Congress’s Raj Babbar in Firozabad in 2009 bypolls.
SP’s win in Mainpuri bypolls marked BJP’s failure of getting the better of Akhilesh Yadav who managed to mend fences with his estranged uncle and Jaswantnagar MLA Shivpal Yadav, to put up a united front. According to reports, Jaswantnagar contributed significantly to Dimple’s win – just like it did for Mulayam in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Rampur witnessed a sensational turnaround as BJP’s Akash Saxena defeated SP candidate Asim Raja, a protege of former SP MLA Azam Khan, by a margin of 34,136 votes. Rampur went to the bypolls following Azam’s disqualification from the UP assembly on charges of delivering hate speech. This is the first time when the BJP has won from the Rampur assembly seat.
Only eight months ago, Saxena was defeated by Azam by a margin of over 55,000 votes. In 2019 Rampur bypolls, Azam’s wife Tazeen Fatima managed to defeat BJP’s Bharat Bhushan by a margin of around 8,000 votes. The bypolls were then necessitated after Azam vacated the seat following his victory in the Lok Sabha elections.
BJP’s victory in Rampur has come as a major blow to Azam who has been winning the seat since 1980, except in 1996 when he was defeated by Congress’s Afroz Ali Khan. The BJP adopted the strategy of consolidating Azam’s detractors while reaching out to Muslims who constitute around 65% of the electorate. The BJP created an anti-Azam lobby to turn the tables on the veteran politician.
Rampur had recorded just 31.22% turnout in the by-elections after which the SP upped its ante and accused the BJP dispensation of misusing administrative machinery to scare away the voters – a charge vehemently denied by BJP leaders.
In Khatauli, SP-backed RLD candidate Madan Bhaiyya won the seat defeating BJP’s Raj Kumari Saini, wife of former MLA Vikram Saini whose disqualification from UP assembly on charges of his involvement in Muzaffarnagar riots led to the bypolls. Madan Bhaiyya, a strongman from Ghaziabad, defeated Raj Kumari, a former gram pradhan of Kawal village, by a margin of 22,143 votes.
Experts said that Madan Bhaiyya, a Gurjar, was backed by Gurjar and Jat communities even as RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary carried out a hectic campaign. In 2022 assembly elections, RLD had fielded Rajpal Saini against BJP’s Vikram Saini leading to a split in OBC votes. The BJP has been winning Khatauli – considered as the epicentre of Muzaffarnagar riots – since 2017 when the saffron outfit stormed to power with an overwhelming majority.