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With the 2019 general election barely a year and half away and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) waking up to the prospect of fighting a united opposition, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh helmed by Yogi Adityanath will have a mini referendum of sorts in the parliamentary bypoll on the Gorakhpur and Phulpur (Allahabad) seats.
These two constituencies were hitherto represented by chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya, respectively, until they resigned yesterday following their election to the UP Upper House (Vidhan Parishad) earlier this month. Their resignation has necessitated by-elections to these seats, which would be announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in due course.
After taking oath of office on March 19, 2017, the Yogi government has yet not faced any direct poll, since he and four of his council of minister colleagues had also got themselves elected to the state legislature through Vidhan Parishad. The indirect route was purportedly taken to disallow any opportunity to the opposition parties realign against ruling BJP and also divert the attention of the dispensation from governance and rollout of its agenda.
However, the coming bypoll would test the popularity of the Yogi government among the masses as well as the renewed calls for unity among the opposition parties such as Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress to collectively take on the BJP.
Although, 2017 UP poll were held after demonetisation and BJP had went on to sweep the election by cornering 325 (including allies) of the total 403 Vidhan Sabha seats, yet the informal sectors continue to face challenges.
Besides, the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 1, 2017 has added another dimension to the woes faced by small traders and entrepreneurs, which has in turn resulted in slowing down of economic activity and consequently loss of jobs, especially in the informal sectors.
At the same time, several of the Yogi government promises have not materialised, such as improvement in power scenario, repair of pot-holed roads, improvement in law and order etc. evoking a general sense of disappointment among the people, which could be vent out in the form of adverse voting in the bypoll.
Yogi had represented the Gorakhpur seat for five consecutive terms, while the BJP candidates have been winning this constituency for the last over 25 years since 1991. However, this would be the first time, when probably a member of the powerful Gorakshnath Peeth, which is presided over by Yogi, would not be contesting.
So far as the Phulpur constituency is concerned, Maurya had won the seat as BJP candidate in 2004 by securing over 52 percent of the votes and defeating the SP candidate, who won only 20 percent of the votes polled. However, BJP had won the seat for the first time in the last election. In the past, the constituency had been represented by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru twice during the 1950s-60s.
In the current circumstances, it would be a challenging task for BJP to keep its winning momentum going, especially in the backdrop of sacked BSP leader Indrajit Saroj joining SP yesterday.
Since, Saroj belongs to the Scheduled Caste (SC) Pasi community, which form a sizeable chunk of the population and SP president Akhilesh Yadav ready to fire on all cylinders to give a tough fight to ruling BJP in the bypoll to energise its cadres, Team Yogi cannot afford to take things for granted.