Campaigning for the bypolls to 11 assembly seats in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh came to an end on Saturday evening, with political parties making a last minute effort to reach out to voters in the polls seen as a litmus test for the Yogi Adityanath government which has completed 30 months in office.
The bypolls for Gangoh, Rampur, Iglas (SC), Lucknow Cantonment, Govindnagar, Manikpur, Pratapgarh, Zaidpur (SC), Jalalpur, Balha (SC) and Ghosi seats will held along with the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana on October 21. It is a four-cornered contest with the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress fielding candidates on all 11 assembly seats.
Of the 11 seats, eight were held earlier by the BJP and Pratapgarh was represented by BJP ally Apna Dal (Sonelal). The seats of Rampur and Jalalpur (Ambedkarnagar) were held by the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, respectively.
The ruling BJP will try to build on its Lok Sabha success, while the opposition parties hope the results will help them galvanise its cadres ahead of the 2022 elections for the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly.
The Congress, in particular, hopes to show signs of revival in UP after its battering in the Lok Sabha polls in when it won just one seat, party chief Sonia Gandhi's Rae Bareli constituency.
In contrast, the BJP won 62 of the 80 parliamentary seats in the state and an ally bagged two more. Law and order was the main issue raised by both the ruling and opposition parties in the campaign, with the killing of Hindu Samaj Party president Kamlesh Tiwari in the state capital on Friday raising the political temperature.
In an election rally, UP Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh attacked the BJP government over the murder of Tiwari, saying the incident highlighted the poor law and order in the state. "The law and order situation in the state has deteriorated from bad to worse. Yesterday's killing of Kamlesh Tiwari in the state capital drops clear hints that all is certainly not well as far as tackling crime in the state is concerned," Singh told PTI.
He also said that women in the state fear to move out of their houses after sunset. Last week, newly-appointed Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu during his visit to Lucknow had said that his party will become the voice of the deprived, harassed, farmers, youths and women in Uttar Pradesh.
However, state BJP chief Swatantradev Singh claimed that the assembly by-polls will eventually prove to be a "one-sided contest in favour of the BJP".
"BJP workers in the entire state are a committed cadre and working for the party's programmes rather than seeking personal gains," he had told reporters recently.
"The government of Yogi Adityanath is committed for the protection of the poorest and marginalised section of the society. The BJP will make a clean sweep in the upcoming by-elections," he said.
The BJP focused on the abrogation of Article 370, the development work carried out by its government, as well as initiatives to make India clean and "plastic-free".
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, while addressing public meetings in Aligarh, Rampur and Saharanpur, had said, "Congress only gave us terrorism and corruption and insulted Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar by granting special status to Kashmir under Article 370.
"The BJP has achieved what other parties could not do in 70 years of rule," Adityanath said.
He said the opposition is not concerned about nation's interest and only has greed for power. At another poll rally in Kanpur, he had said, "The Congress opposed abrogation of Article 370. No person with self-respect will accept its membership."
The BSP and the SP, which were in an alliance in the Lok Sabha elections, ended their tie-up after the polls. The BSP-SP combine won 15 seats. In the 2017 assembly polls, the SP had a tie-up with the Congress.
In the current assembly, the BJP has 302 MLAs, SP 47 and BSP 18. Apna Dal (Sonelal) has eight MLAs and the Congress seven.
In the recent Hamirpur by-election, BJP candidate Yuvraj Singh won by a margin of 17,846 votes over Samajwadi Party candidate Manoj Prajapati.
The assembly bypolls were necessitated after some MLAs won the Lok Sabha elections and resigned as members of the state assembly.
The Ghosi assembly seat fell vacant following the resignation of MLA Phagu Chauhan after he was appointed the Governor of Bihar.
The maximum candidates, 13 each, are from Lucknow Cantonment and Jalalpur assembly constituencies, followed by 12 in Ghosi and 11 each in Gangoh, Pratapgarh and Balha (SC). Nine candidates each are in the fray in Govindnagar and Manikpur. Seven candidates each will contest the bypolls from Rampur, Iglas (SC) and Zaidpur (SC).