The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ally Apna Dal-Sonelal (AP-S) won the bye elections on Suar and Chhanbey assembly seats.
Shafeek Ahmed Ansari of Apna Dal (Soneylal) defeated Anuradha Chauhan of Samajwadi Party (SP) by a margin of 8,724 seats on Suar seat in Rampur district.
Rinki Kol of Apna Dal (Soneylal) defeated Kirti Kol of SP by a margin of 9,587 votes Chhanbey seat in Mirzapur district.
Though the balance of power in Uttar Pradesh would not have been affected by bye-election results as the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government enjoys two-third majority in the assembly, the victory carries symbolic importance. With victory in Suar, the ruling coalition ended Azam Khan's over four-decade hold in the Muslim-dominated Rampur district. Azam Khan and his family watched the poll outcome on TV at their Jail Road residence.
Of the five assembly constituencies under Rampur Lok Sabha seat, Bilaspur, Rampur and Milak (SC) are held by the BJP. Chamraua is held by SP and Suar has been clinched by BJP's ally Apna Dal (Sonelal). The Rampur parliamentary constituency, also a stronghold of Azam Khan, was won by the BJP.
Symbolism of Suar victory
Azam Khan, SP's Muslim face from the days of Mulayam Singh Yadav, remained undefeated in Rampur Sadar assembly seat since 1980 irrespective of the party in power.
In November 2022, Azam's name was removed from the electoral roll in Rampur after he was convicted in a 2019 hate speech case. As a result, he could not cast his vote in the by-election in Suar.
In February 2023, Azam's son Abdullah Azam Khan's name was struck off the electoral roll after his disqualification from the assembly. A Moradabad court had sentenced him to two years in jail in a 15-year-old case.
Referring to his son's disqualification as MLA from Suar, which necessitated the bypoll, Azam Khan had claimed that there was "no one who can defeat him." Campaigning for the SP candidate, he had asserted she will win the election.
"If there is any injustice (in terms of poll results), it will be a deceit," he had said.
Azam also took potshots at Apna Dal (Sonelal), saying, "The candidate who has come with a plate (referring to the party's cup-plate symbol), he is with those who want to give a knife to your (next) generation."
Reacting to Azam Khan's claims, BJP MLA from Rampur Akash Saxena said after the poll results came out, "Azam Khan has lost his mental balance, hence he is speaking like this."
Saxena asserted Azam Khan was "getting the punishment for his deeds".
"The person who has no right to cast his vote, that person after seeing the mandate of the people, should leave the country, and should not stay here. The politics of hatred will not work here. Azam Khan had always worked to create rift between Hindus and Muslims," Saxena told PTI.
In the assembly election last year, Abdullah Khan defeated Apna Dal (Sonelal)'s Haidar Ali Khan in Suar.
Bypoll in Mirzapur's Chhanbey
In Mirzapur's Chhanbey, Apna Dal (Sonelal) candidate Rinki Kol defeated SP's Kirti Kol by a margin of 9,587 votes. While Rinki Kol polled 76,203 votes, Kirti Kol bagged 66,616 votes.
The Apna Dal (Sonelal) candidate secured 46.7 per cent vote share, while the SP candidates got 40.82 per cent, according to the Election Commission.
Apna Dal (Sonelal) chief and Union minister Anupriya Patel is the MP from Mirzapur.
The Chhanbey seat fell vacant following the death of sitting Apna Dal (Sonelal) MLA Rahul Prakash Kol in February.
Though the bypoll results would not impact the BJP government in UP as it enjoys more than two-thirds majority, it is considered important for political parties ahead of the 2024 general election as the state sends the highest 80 members to Lok Sabha.
Rajesh Srivastava, the spokesperson of the UP unit of the Apna Dal (Sonelal), gave credit for the win to party president Anupriya Patel.
"(Rampur), which was once the fortress of Azam Khan, has now become a stronghold of the Apna Dal (Sonelal)," he said.
How parties stand in UP assembly
With these wins, the tally of Apna Dal (Sonelal) in UP Legislative Assembly has risen to 13 MLAs.
In the 403-member assembly, the BJP has 255 MLAs, and its ally Nishad Party has six legislators.
The SP has 109 MLAs while its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal has nine.
The Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party has six MLAs, the Congress and the Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) have two each. And the BSP has one member in the assembly.
(With PTI inputs)