The BJP’s 16 vs Azam Khan: Ruling party mobilises to storm Rampur in LS bypoll

Ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha by-election in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, the BJP threw its weight behind taking control of the Rampur constituency which is the stronghold of veteran Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan. The provisional vote became necessary after Azam vacated the seat following his victory from the Rampur Parliament constituency in the state elections earlier this year.

Calculating that he has a higher potential for causing turmoil in Rampur than in Azamgarh, which the cousin of Socialist Party chief Akhilesh Yadav is trying to keep for the Yadav family, the ruling party has deployed no fewer than 16 state ministers to garner votes from among them. Sects and those who can easily reach them because of their wallets. Deputy Prime Minister Keshav Prasad Moriah addressed the public meetings on Sunday while Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath is scheduled to deliver two public speeches on Tuesday, the latest campaign date, in support of Ganshyam Singh Lodi. The BJP candidate, a former SP MLC member, faces off against Asim Raja, Azam’s longtime aide.

Among the senior ministers who tour Rampur frequently is Finance Minister Suresh Khanna who has so far met with associations of local merchants, chartered accountants and tax bar association lawyers. Minister of Social Welfare, Untouchable Caste and Tribal Welfare Asim Aron, a former officer in the Israel Prison Service, addressed Gatav Dalit meetings in various places. The BJP also dispatched Secondary Education Minister Gulab Devi and State Minister for Revenue Anup Pradhan to reach out to Dalits.

To unite the voters from the Lod community, classified as Another Backward Class (OBC), the BJP sent Basic Education Minister Sandip Singh, Federal Minister of State for Cooperation BL Verma and UP Irrigation Minister Dharambal Singh to the constituency. Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Jeten Prasada addressed the Prabuda Varg (Intellectuals) and Brahmin meetings.

While UP Minister Panchayati Raj Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary has been camping in the area, Kapil Dev Agrawal, Dharamvir Prajapati, Jaswant Saini and Rakesh Sachan are some of the other ministers who toured the constituency.

Meanwhile, in Azamgarh, Minister of State Girish Chandra Yadav is overseeing the party’s electoral efforts and local leaders are playing a more prominent role in the campaign. In the past few days, a few prominent leaders like Minister and State BJP Chairman Dev Singh, Energy Minister AK Sharma, Transport Minister Dayashankar Singh, Deputy CM Maurya, Cabinet Ministers Anil Rajbar and Surya Pratap Shahi have campaigned in the constituency. Ministers Ashish Patel and Sanjay Neshad of BJP-allied parties were seen on the podium when Adityanath addressed a rally on Sunday.

“We are focusing more on Rampur because the chances of winning that seat are stronger there as compared to his snarls,” a senior BJP leader told the Indian Express. The BJP has won this seat in the past. There is a bipolar competition because of the majority of Muslims. We should avoid dividing Hindu voices. We have deployed ministers and leaders according to class equations to attract voters. We pay special attention to Dalits because the BSP is not competing and this is an opportunity to win them over.”

The BJP leader said the party in Azamgarh was involved in a three-way battle with the Socialist Socialist Party and Muslim voters were likely to be a decisive factor there.

In Rampur, the Socialist Party relies on Azam Khan factor for sailing and so far no prominent party leader has visited the constituency. Teams of Azam supporters and MLAs from constituencies and adjacent districts took charge of vote-gathering for the Raja. “Yahan Azam Khan ke Alwa zarurat nahi padhti kisi ki. Rampur district chief VSP Virendra Goyal told the Indian Express that Azam Khan is my son Kafi Hen (no one is wanted here. Azzam Khan himself is enough).

Goyal said teams of workers were going door to door with Azzam and his son Abdullah Azzam and Raja. He added that ex-minister Swami Prasad Moriah also campaigned for the candidate.

In contrast, the opposition party was more focused on its Azamgarh. There, Rajya Sabha MP Ramgopal Yadav, veteran leader Ram Govind Chaudhry, Swami Prasad Moriah, former minister Dara Singh Chauhan, and their allies Om Prakash Rajbar (Swedlev Bharatiya Samaj Party, or SBSP) and Sanjay Chauhan (Janvadi Party Chairman) have already campaigned. Azzam himself applied for Dharmendra Yadav last week. The party’s Maharashtra unit chief Abu Asim Azmi and Mau MLA Abbas Ansari of the SBSP, son of imprisoned politician Mukhtar Ansari, also hit the roads to solicit votes for Akhilesh’s cousin.

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