The Gorakhpur seat was vacated by Yogi Adityanath and Phulpur by deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. A win in Gorakhpur is crucial for Yogi Adityanath as he had won this seat five times in a row. Before that his guru Mahant Awaidh Nath had been wining from there. The by-elections will also test the popularity of the Yogi Adityanath government, which completes one year in March.

Both BJP and the Opposition parties are counting on the support of various castes to ensure victory. Yogi had played an aggressive Thakur card by giving all important posts in the bureaucracy to officers belonging to that community, which antagonised the Brahmin community officers. But the party inducted Shiv Prataap Shukla, the prominent Brahmin face of Gorakhpur, into Rajya Sabha and made him a minister in the Union ministry.

BJP is making all-out efforts to neutralise the impact of powerful Brahmin leader Hari Shankar Tewari, who could be the joint Opposition candidate. Tewari, who had been a minister and MLA a number of times dominated the politics of Gorakhpur for several decades, was humiliated by Yogi Adityanath when police raided his home to nab some culprits.

Since the nominee from Gorakhpur peeth had been winning, there is apprehension that this time also Yogi will have a major say in the selection of candidate in Gorakhpur. At least the BJP central leadership will take the opinion of Yogi before announcing the name of the candidates.

Since BJP won Phulpur for the first time it would be a bigger challenge to retain the seats. Keshav Prasad Maurya was state president of state BJP when he won the seat. Later he was elevated to the post of deputy chief minister.

The first prime minister of the country Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had won from this seat. During the 80s and 90s Janata Dal, SP and BSP had won from this constituency on the support of backwards, dalits and Muslims. Keshav Prasad Maurya won over Kumi and Maurya communities in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The by-elections will surely give the people the opportunity to express their assessment of the performance of Yogi Adityanath government in its first year in office, it will also put the performance of the Modi government under the scanner ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections..

The dismal record of the Modi government, as also the Yogi government, in employment generation could also be a major issue in the by-elections. The deterioration in law and order situation and large scale corruption in the government and police administration, which was highlighted by cabinet minister Om Prakash Rajbhar, will also be important issues.

The recent announcement of the BJP executive is being seen as a move to win over all sections within the party organisation for the smooth sailing of party candidates in the by-elections. Certain important leaders from BSP and other parties in Phulpur area are working hard to neutralize the influence of Brahmin leaders in Gorakhpur. BJP is also unnerved by the statement by former chief minister and Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav in Gujarat recently that he was open for an alliance with BSP president Mayawati. BSP leader Satish Mishra has also indicated that his party would not shut the door on an alliance with Congress and SP.

Recent statements by Akhilesh Yadav and remarks by Satish Mishra have given a new hope to those who lobby for Opposition unity to defeat BJP. There is realisation among some Opposition leaders that their unity alone can defeat BJP; otherwise they would all be wiped out.

State Congress president Raj Babbar is opposed to any alliance with Samajwadi Party and has expressed his feeling to the party high command. During the last assembly polls too he was very much opposed to an alliance but had no say once Rahul Gandhi decided to join hands with Akhilesh Yadav and in the process Congress was reduced to only seven seats from 28 seats won n 2012 polls. On the other hand, the BJP’s central leadership is watching the situation and working very hard to prevent the opposition unity.
BSP national president Mayawati has already made it clear that the party will contest the by-elections. Her concern is that otherwise, the situation will help other parties to poach core voters, especially members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes from Bahujan Samaj Party.

At the moment all the political parties are busy formulating their strategies to ensure victory of their candidates while the voters keep their options open, and the by-elections have the potential to throw up surprises. (IPA Service)