- Bypolls will be held in Gorakhpur and Phulpur on March 11
- Yogi Adityanath has won the Gorakhpur seat five times
- It's crucial for BJP to win these bypolls after the setback in Rajasthan
Which makes the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections on March 11 a prestige battle for UP's ruling party. By-elections will also be held that day for the Araria parliament seat in Bihar and Bhabua and Jehanabad assembly seats. Results for all the bypolls will be announced on March 14.
Yogi Adityanath, 45, who was chosen chief minister of UP in March last year, had won the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat five consecutive times. The saffron-robed chief minister is also the head priest at the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, which is known as his turf.
But Keshav Prasad Maurya was a first-time Lok Sabha member from Phulpur, a seat the BJP won for the first time in 2014, riding the "Modi wave". The constituency, once held by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had come to be known as a stronghold of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party before the BJP's win.
Mr Adityanath and Mr Maurya retained their Lok Sabha seats till September 21 last year. Constitutionally obliged to be members of the state legislature within six months of taking charge, both were elected unopposed to the vidhan parishad on seats vacated by the BJP's sitting lawmakers.
The BJP's current tally in the Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament is 274 of 536 seats, down from 282 that the party had won in 2014. It is still above the majority mark of 272, which the party crossed on its own. Along with its allies the BJP has a big majority in the Lok Sabha where seven seats are currently vacant.
Earlier this month, the ruling party lost the Ajmer and Alwar seats in Rajasthan to the Congress, which turned in its poorest result ever in 2014, winning only 44 parliament seats. With some wins since then in bye-elections the Congress now has 48 seats.
The BJP had won the seats that it lost in Rajasthan by big margins in the 2014 elections, as it swept the state winning all its 25 seats. In UP, the party had won 71 of 80 seats.
Last year, the BJP had lost the Lok Sabha bypolls to the Gurdaspur seat in Punjab to the Congress. Bypolls are yet to be notified for two seats, one each in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, where sitting BJP lawmakers have died. In December last, one BJP lawmaker from Maharashtra quit the party and his Lok Sabha seat as well.
By-elections to the Araria Lok Sabha seat are being held after the sitting lawmaker, RJD strongman Mohammed Taslimuddin, died in September last year.