It isn’t a VIP constituency. Yet, of the seven assembly segments where bypolls are due in Uttar Pradesh on November 3, Bangarmau in Unnao district is a prestige point for the BJP. The seat fell vacant when Kuldeep Sengar, a local strongman and BJP’s MLA for Bangarmau, was disqualified from holding public office after his conviction in the 2017 Unnao gang-rape case. The bypoll is being held in the backdrop of a political slugfest over another gang rape that happened over 300 km away in Hathras over a month ago.
A defeat for the BJP will be projected as a referendum against the UP government on the issue of women’s safety. The Congress, which has fielded the lone woman candidate in the fray here—Aarti Bajpai, 53—has been vociferous about rising crimes against women in UP and highlighting Sengar’s role in the Unnao gang rape. Bajpai is a kin of the late Sheila Dikshit and daughter of the late Gopinath Dikshit, a former home minister of UP and nephew of Congress stalwart Uma Shankar Dikshit. “Our best chance is in Bangarmau. We have a woman who has been politically active for over two decades and belongs to a Congress family that has old bonds with the people of Unnao,” says a senior party leader. A close aide of Bajpai says she enjoys support from her community—Brahmin—a significant vote-bank, and the Congress is also counting on Muslims, who comprise the second-most dominant block here after the OBCs.