Ghosi by-poll: The first NDA-INDIA showdown ahead of 2024 LS polls

The by-election has evolved into a political showdown, with constituents of both the blocs throwing their weight behind their respective candidates.

Manoj Bhadra

Manoj Bhadra

The Statesman


File photo of flags of Indian political parties. PHOTO: THE STATESMAN

September 4, 2023

NEW DELHI – The Ghosi assembly seat in the Mau district is set to witness a do-or-die electoral battle on September 5. The by-election for the constituency will showcase the real power of the newly-constituted Opposition bloc, INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), against archrival NDA in Uttar Pradesh.

The by-poll is touted to be a semifinal before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in the state that boasts of the highest number of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the country. The alliances and strategies of the NDA and the INDIA will be put to the test in this by-poll. It will shape the political landscape of Purvanchal and beyond.

Hence, the by-election has evolved into a political showdown of an enormous proportion, transcending the traditional BJP Vs SP in the state to a bigger battleground of NDA Vs INDIA with constituents of both the blocs throwing their weight behind their respective candidates, transforming this seemingly small seat in Poorvanchal into a pivotal battleground.

The outcome of this election is bound to resonate throughout Poorvanchal and potentially influence the Lok Sabha elections. If the BJP candidate wins, the NDA will gain a substantial psychological advantage over the SP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in Purvanchal. Conversely, an SP win would bolster INDIA’s standing in Uttar Pradesh.

In support of the BJP candidate from a backward community, Dara Singh Chauhan, the NDA’s Apna Dal (S), Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and Nishad Party have united with unwavering commitment.

Meanwhile, SP candidate Sudhakar Singh, a Thakur, has garnered support from the Congress, the RLD, Left parties, the Apna Dal (K), and other constituents of INDIA forming a formidable force to reckon with. The electoral atmosphere unmistakably reveals that this contest extends beyond two individuals to a clash of alliances.

The SP and allies have started dubbing Chauhan an outsider pitted against a native in Sudhakar Singh. Singh is a two-time lawmaker, who last won the Ghosi seat in 2012. On the other hand, Chauhan had never contested the seat before 2022.

The intricate caste dynamics among the 4.40 lakh voters have added complexity to the race. The backward-dominated seat has a sizable number of Muslim and upper-caste voters.  Out of the total voters, 1,50,000 are from OBCs including 60,000 Rajbhars, 40,000 Chauhans and 40,000 Yadavs.

The second highest number of voters is Muslim, around 90,000. There are also a sizable number of Dalits (roughly 60,000). The constituency has around 77,000 upper-caste Hindus – 45,000 Bhumihars, 16,000 Rajputs and 6,000 Brahmins.

The stakes are high for BJP candidate Dara Singh Chauhan, whose political future hinges on the outcome of the by-poll. Having crossed over from the SP and subsequently resigned as MLA of the constituency, Dara Singh’s expectation of a ministerial role has yet to materialise. While a victory would see him secure a ministerial berth, a loss could jeopardise his political trajectory.

Chauhan has amassed 1,08,430 votes in the 2022 elections, and replicating this performance is his primary challenge.

In the 2022 assembly polls, he defeated the BJP candidate as a SP candidate by around 23,000 votes only after BSP’s Muslim candidate received 86,000 votes. But if the BSP does not contest this time, SP would benefit by getting an entire chunk of the Muslim votes.

The area also has an influence of mafia don Mukhtar Ansari’s family which could be of an added advantage for the SP candidate.

The Ghosi seat has a sizeable number of Rajbhar voters. Last time, SBSP President Omprakash Rajbhar was with the SP whereas this time he has come from BJP’s side. Voters of the Nonia caste of Dara Singh Chauhan are also considered to be in a decisive role here.

Analysing Sudhakar Singh’s strengths, the SP candidate benefits from his local roots and enjoys the backing of the Congress, RLD, and Left parties and substantial support from the Muslim, Yadav, and Thakur communities. The absence of a BSP candidate will also minimise the risk of a split in the Muslim vote bank.

However, Sudhakar Singh faces the accusation of being implicated in the murder of two Dalits, which the BJP is capitalising on. Additionally, BJP’s alliance with SBSP poses a threat to the SP’s hold on the Dalit vote bank. Even the presence of NISHAD has further strengthened its position.

Nevertheless, Dara Singh Chauhan’s absence from Ghosi and the recurring political instability in the region in the last four assembly elections have generated internal discontent among the electorate. Moreover, the SP is banking on the consolidation of the Muslim-Yadav factor to weaken BJP’s standing.

All the Adityanath Yogi Government ministers as well as the ideological organisations of the BJP and RSS are actively campaigning for their candidate. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is closely monitoring the developments with daily reports and campaigned intensively on Saturday. Deputy CM Keshav Prasad held a couple of Maurya Sabha, underlining the significance of the election.

Of notable importance is SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s personal involvement in campaigning, highlighting the pivotal nature of the Ghosi by-election. His presence during the campaigning reflects SP’s desperation to consolidate its position in INDIA within Uttar Pradesh.

However, the SP has already accused the BJP Government in the state of misusing official machinery to influence the voters and had even petitioned the Election Commission with their charges.

Another key factor in this contest is the crucial role of the BSP voters. Although the BSP has not fielded a candidate, nor has it endorsed any party, the seat’s history demonstrates the party’s enduring influence. With over 60,000 Dalit voters, the BSP’s sway remains robust. In the 2022, 2019, and 2017 elections, the BSP’s candidates garnered substantial support, further emphasising their pivotal role in this election.

The polling in the Ghosi assembly polls, to be held under the supervision of Central paramilitary forces, will be held from 7 am to 6 pm on September 5 while the counting of votes will be taken up from 8 am on September 8.

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