By-election results: Gorakhpur is the seat that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath held for five terms
- Samajwadi Party wins Gorakhpur and Phulpur assembly seats
- Yogi Adityanath vacated Gorakhpur after being named Chief Minister
- SP and BSP have teamed up in Gorakhpur and Phulpur for bypolls
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said on Wednesday evening that the BJP - which has lost key by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, two parliament seats it held - "failed to understand the significance" of a partnership scripted by the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party. It was "overconfidence," the chief minister said, also stating that his party will study why it lost and prepare a new strategy. It is a massive setback for the BJP; the two seats it lost on Wednesday were vacated by Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya last year. In by-elections to Bihar's Araria parliament seat, the BJP lost to Lalu Yadav's RJD, which held the seat.
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It's a big upset for Yogi Adityanath, who held the Gorakhpur seat for five terms as a BJP lawmaker, and led the party's campaign for the by-elections, holding multiple rallies and roadshows. He had described the by-elections as a dress rehearsal for the 2019 general election, predicting that "the margin of victory will be as big as in 2014".
"Election results in UP always sends out larger political messages," Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav told reporters. "When the seat is of the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister -- if there is so much public anger here, imagine the rest of the state". About the electoral understanding with Mayawati, the SP chief indicated that had it happened in 2017, "perhaps the BJP would not have come to power". He, later in the evening, drove to Mayawati's residence in Lucknow, where the two leaders met for nearly an hour.
Regional heavyweights and arch rivals Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party pooled resources to take on the BJP in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in what was seen as an experiment to test the ground for a larger alliance in the 2019 election.
In both seats, the Samajwadi Party fielded candidates, with the BSP offering support in a rare deal that includes the Samajwadi Party's support for the BSP in Rajya Sabha elections in UP later this month.
Asked if the by-election results would translate into an alliance in 2019, Akhilesh Yadav ducked the question. "Wait and watch," was the response of his key aide and uncle Ram Gopal Yadav, who is seen as the architect of the unusual arrangement.
The Samajwadi Party's Pravin Kumar Nishad won in Gorakhpur, which had voted since 1989 for the head of the Gorakhnath temple - first Yogi Adityanath's mentor Mahant Avedyanath for three terms and then Yogi Adityanath for five terms. SP's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel won the Phulpur seat.
In Bihar, the RJD retained the Araria Lok Sabha seat and has won the Jehanabad assembly seat. The BJP has won the Bhabua assembly seat, which it held.
The by-elections in Bihar were seen as a referendum on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's decision last year to dump Lalu Yadav and the Congress and partner with the BJP. The RJD has accused Mr Kumar of backstabbing voters who chose the Grand Alliance of the RJD, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and the Congress in 2015. Nitish Kumar defended his decision in public speeches stating that he allied with the BJP in the interest of the state.
With Lalu Yadav in jail in a corruption case, his son Tejashwi Yadav fronted the RJD's campaign in Bihar and these by-elections were also seen to test his leadership.
In Gorakhpur, as trends showed the Samajwadi Party go ahead of the BJP, District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela barred the media from entering the area where votes were being counted, triggering a political controversy. The unusual ban was lifted after protests by opposition lawmakers in Parliament and the state assembly.