Congress’s Sitapur victory defines BJP’s fall in UP | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Nearly 200km from Ayodhya lies Sitapur, connected to Sita and considered to be the heart of UP and BJP’s fort. Today, Sitapur defines BJP’s debacle in UP.
Having failed to find any takers for the Sitapur seat and passing around the ticket between Samajwadi Party and Congress, it was left to Rajesh Rathore, an anonymous man whom the locals say has neither a name nor a recall value, to fight the elections for Congress.Rathore not only fought the elections, but he also defeated veteran Rajesh Verma, who had been winning the seat first for BSP and then for BJP, by 89,641 votes.
It was a general expectation that after Ram temple consecration in Ayodhya in January, it would be almost impossible to defeat BJP. The perception of BJP’s invincibility was so strong that anyone who was offered a ticket either refused to accept it or returned it after accepting.
Sitapur was first earmarked for SP and it wanted to field six-term former MLA Narendra Verma. But despite repeated attempts by Akhilesh Yadav, Verma did not relent and cited health reasons for refusing the ticket.
Having failed to find a candidate, SP passed on the seat to Congress and it immediately nominated former BSP minister Nakul Dubey. But within four days, Dubey returned the ticket and Congress was left with a seat but no candidate to field.
Observers said it was the fear of losing that made both Verma and Dubey refuse the ticket.
Left with no choice, Congress finally approached Rathore, who immediately accepted the offer. Congress’s desperation was visible in their fielding of Rathore, as he comes from the lower OBC Teli community that hardly has any presence in Sitapur.
To Rathore’s fortune, within days of his nomination there was a clear shift, with OBCs and dalits joining hands against BJP and moving towards INDIA bloc.
Seeing the silent wave of OBCs and dalits moving towards INDIA bloc, Verma is said to have confided to his friends that he had “made the biggest blunder” of his life by refusing Akhilesh’s offer
Sitapur is just one of the many seats that went the INDIA bloc way as OBCs and dalits consolidated against BJP.
In adjoining Dhaurhara, an SP candidate Anand Bhadauria won, while nearby Barabanki saw former Congress MP and dalit leader P L Punia’s son Tanuj winning with ease. In Faizabad, which includes Ayodhya and is a general seat, SP’s dalit candidate won comfortably.
The ‘gatbandhan’ not only swept the Kaushambhi-Pratapgarh-Allahabad belt, but also eastern and central UP.
SP-Congress outreach to OBCs, ‘most backwards’ and dalits saw a silent consolidation of votes in their favour, with the group voting to “save Ambedkar’s Constitution” and the ‘Mandalite agenda’. BJP’s anti-Yadav strategy that had helped woo this group from 2014 moved away from the saffron fold, while Muslim consolidation ensured there was no division of votes even in favour of “BJP’s proxy candidates” from the community under other banners.
“Earlier, kamandalwadi politics was being done with mandalwadis, like Kalyan Singh and then Modi who projected himself as OBC. But this election saw the unification of OBCs for two reasons—BJP’s opposition to caste census and denial of quotas in the appointment of 68,000 teachers, which led to protests. On the other hand, SP-Congress spoke of PDA-caste census and gave tickets to OBCs in large numbers, while restricting Yadavs to the minimum,” said OP Singh, former MLA and minister in Mayawati govt.
Despite PM Narendra Modi throwing the Muslim-mangalsutra-mujra gauntlet at INDIA bloc, the OBC-dalit combine did not get swayed and delivered an unprecedented victory to the opposition.

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