In a huge blow to the ruling BJP, the Samajwadi Party on Wednesday took winning leads in both the Lok Sabha seats of Gorakhpur and Phulpur which were vacated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya.
With the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) backing its bitter rival Samajwadi Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party appeared to be heading for a shock defeat in both the constituencies in what is seen as a major embarrassment to Adityanath in particular.
Election Commission officials said the Samajwadi Party’s Nagendra Singh Patel had taken an unassailable lead of 22,848 votes over BJP’s Kashlendra Singh Patel in Phulpur, which along with Gorakhpur voted on Sunday.
Pravin Nishad of the Samajwadi Party was leading by 19,201 votes in Gorakhpur, which Aditynath had won five consecutive times, over the BJP candidate Upendra Dutt Shukla.
With just 37 per cent of the votes polled in Phulpur and 42 per cent in Gorakhpur, officials admitted that the BJP was unlikely to reverse the expected result.
“This is a rejection of both (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and Yogi (Adityanath),” Samajwadi Party spokesman Anurag Bhaudauria told IANS.
“They have been making tall promises but not delivering on the ground,” he said, explaining why the voters appeared to have turned away against the BJP so dramatically in these two seats since the 2014 Lok Sabha battle.
In 2014, the BJP stunningly won 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats while one of its allies secured two. The Samajwadi Party won from five seats. The Congress and BSP drew a blank.
The Samajwadi Party took early lead right from the beginning of the vote count that began on Wednesday morning and steadily built up the gap with its BJP rivals as officials counted the tens of thousands of votes polled in the Sunday by-elections.
Gorakhpur District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela earlier sparked a storm by barring journalists from entering the counting centre and did not announce details of counting after the first two rounds.
While Samajwadi Party activists celebrated in Phulpur and Gorakhpur, the BJP was stunned into silence.
In a determined bid to avoid a split in the opposition vote, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) campaigned actively for the Samajwadi Party, otherwise its bitter foe.