Lucknow: Principal opposition party Samajwadi Party has emerged as the frontrunner in the just concluded three-tier panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh.
At least 742 candidates for district panchayat membership backed by SP have won the District Development Council(DDC) member seats, compared to around 679 for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Analysts see the polls, held amid a Covid-19 surge in the state, as a key test of the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government’s popularity and an opportunity for opposition parties to gauge the public mood, particularly as the exercise comes against the backdrop of persisting farmers’ protests in the country that have also gripped parts of UP.
Around 320 candidates backed by the Bahujan Samaj Party have reportedly won DDC seats. The Congress, which has been striving to regain ground in the state, maintained 270 contestants supported by it have emerged victorious. Besides Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad’s newly formed party has put up a creditable performance that has surprised many.
Observers say 1,309 independent candidates hold the key to the posts of chairpersons of the district panchayats and the BJP and others are scrambling to woo them. The polls are not contested on party symbols but candidates effectively represent one political party or another.
Speaking on the performance of the Samajwadi Party, its spokesperson Dr Anurag Bhadoria said, “In the panchayat elections, the Samajwadi Party has dented the BJP in districts like Varanasi, Prayagraj and Ayodhya. Not only this, chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s hometown seat of Gorakhpur has also been dented by the Samajwadi Party.”
In the district panchayat elections, there was a tough contest between the BJP and the SP. But trends suggest the biggest battle will be for the posts of zilla panchayat chairpersons.
UP minister and state government spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh, however, said that the BJP has won more than 900 seats in the panchayat elections and is in touch with 400 independent candidates.
UP Congress President Ajay Kumar Lallu alleged that the BJP and SP were now falsely claiming independent candidates as their own.
State Election Commission(SEC) on Tuesday late night had announced that all the results of 3.27 lakh panchayat posts have been declared. In 3.19 posts, tge candidates were elected unopposed.
Officials, however maintained that there is a delay in distribution of winner certificate in some places.
The debutant Azad Samaj Party has made inroads in Western UP, signalling a change in political equations of the state.
The party founded by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad has won seats in Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor, considered traditional bastions of Dalit leader Mayawati’s BSP. Western UP has had a key role in the assembly elections, analysts say, and it is believed that whenever the region has supported her, Mayawati has risen to power. Now, however, her party seems to be on the wane and Azad is looking to fill the void.
Speaking to the media, the state president of Azad Samaj Party, Sunil Chittoor, once considered a close aide of Mayawati, said, “Azad Samaj Party has given an outstanding performance in the UP panchayat polls and we have won eight posts of District panchayat members in Bijnor, seven in Muzaffarnagar and three in Saharanpur. Apart from these districts, the Azad Samaj Party has fared well in other districts as well. The party now looks forward to contesting the state assembly elections. At the moment we are working towards strengthening our organisation. Along with the youth, people from every field and every category are being given place in the organisation. The expansion of our organisation will be completed soon so that we can firmly focus on the upcoming assembly elections.”
Meanwhile, Chief minister Yogi Adityanath tweeted out congratulations to the winners and urged them to work for the welfare of the people and also adhere to Covid protocols.
In the previous edition of the polls in 2015, the SP emerged victorious, the BSP grabbed second place while the BJP came third and the Congress fourth.
The counting process kicked off on May 2, a day after the Supreme Court refused to put it on hold and the state election commission (SEC) said the candidates and their agents will be allowed to enter the counting centres only if they have tested negative for Covid-19 in the preceding 48 hours or have taken two vaccine doses.
The election exercise triggered a controversy as it was carried out despite a huge spike in coronavirus cases that have overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums in the state while around 700 teachers who were on poll duty have allegedly died because of the pandemic.
The panchayat polls were held in four phases from April 15 to 29. The election was held at four levels of panchayat bodies — gram panchayat, gram pradhan, block panchayat and district panchayat.