Low voter turnouts in Thursday’s Lok Sabha bypolls in Rampur and Azamgarh indicated neck-and-neck fights for both seats in Uttar Pradesh. Till 1pm, in almost six hours of polling time, Azamgarh recorded 29.48 per cent polling whereas the turnout in Muslim-majority Rampur was lower, at 26.39 per cent. The average polling was 27.99 per cent, as per the Election Commission.
While the Election Commission said in its periodical report that polling was progressing peacefully without any “serious complaint”, Arvind Kumar Singh, secretary of the Opposition Samajwadi Party, wrote a letter to the panel alleging that his party’s booth agents had been removed from all the polling centres in Azamgarh. Singh demanded the panel take appropriate action to ensure free and fair elections.
A total of 35.45 lakh voters are entitled to exercise their franchise. The counting of votes has been scheduled for Sunday.
Both the seats–considered SP strongholds with a concentration of the party’s traditional vote banks of Muslims and Yadavs–were won by the party in the 2019 polls; party president Akhilesh Yadav won in Azamgarh and senior leader Azam Khan in Rampur. Their resignation as MPs after winning the recent Assembly elections necessitated the bypolls.
There are six candidates in the fray in Rampur and 13 in Azamgarh. There are 18.38 lakh voters in Azamgarh and 17 lakh in Rampur.
In Rampur, the BJP has fielded Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, an OBC candidate, against the SP’s Asim Raja, while the saffron party has once again put up Bhojpuri actor Dinesh Lal Yadav “Nirahua” in Azamgarh. Nirahua had lost to Akhilesh in the 2019 polls by a huge margin. The SP has fielded former MP Dharmendra Yadav in Azamgarh. The BSP has fielded former MLA Shah Alam alias “Guddu Jamali” in Azamgarh. Mayawati’s party is not in the fray in Rampur.
The fight is appearing to be bipolar in Rampur and triangular in Azamgarh, with the SP having to retain both the seats and ruling-BJP looking to breach the Opposition citadels.
According to a release from the chief electoral officer, 4,234 polling booths have been set up. The Election Commission has deployed two general observers, two expenditure observers, 291 sectoral magistrates, 40 zonal magistrates, 10 static magistrates and 433 micro-observers for the bypolls.