Opposition parties have failed to unite against the BJP for the byelections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, scheduled to be held on 11 March. 

While Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP), which had contested the last year’s Assembly elections in alliance, are planning to go alone, another regional player, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), may not contest the bypolls.

The bypolls were necessitated following Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacating their seats in order to become members of state Assembly.

Sources said that the two bypolls could have become a rallying point for the Opposition parties to take on the ruling BJP, but they have not been able to sink their differences, giving a virtual walkover to the BJP. The Election Commission has announced the schedule for the bypolls for which nominations have already started.

Senior SP leader Rajendra Chaudhary said his party will field candidates in both the constituencies and that the name of the candidates would be announced soon. Congress and BJP are also in the process of deciding candidates for the bypolls.

There was speculation that Mayawati may contest from Phulpur, but the BSP later clarified that she was not interested. “We normally do not contest byelections. Moreover, Mayawati may not like to take a risk at this point of time,” said a BSP leader. A section within the party wanted Mayawati to go for byelections as it would have rejuvenated the party cadre, which, at present, is highly demoralised, he added.

The SP leader said his party would give a tough fight in both the constituencies. “Our party was the runner-up in Gorakhpur many times before, while we won the Phulpur seat four times since 1996,” he said. Phulpur was once held by two former Prime Ministers—Jawahar Lal Nehru and V.P. Singh.

In Phulpur, BJP candidate (Maurya) got 52 % votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with BSP candidate Kapil Muni Karwaria coming a poor third with just 17 % votes. SP candidate Dharam Raj Singh Patel came second with about 20 % votes. Congress’ Mohammed Kaif secured just 6% votes. In the last year’s elections also, the BSP came third in four of the five Assembly segments falling under the Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency. 

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