March 2018
11:09 PM IST
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BJP, JD(U) fight prestige battle in UP, Bihar Lok Sabha bypolls today
Voting for three Lok Sabha seats — Phulpur and Gorakpur in Uttar Pradesh and Araria in Bihar — where major opposition parties have fielded joint candidates against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will take place on Sunday.

The arch-rivals Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) had come together in Phulpur and Gorakhpur, first time after 1991, to take on the BJP which swept Uttar Pradesh assembly elections a year ago.

In Araria, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress is pitted against the BJP-Janata Dal (United) alliance.

Uttar Pradesh
The BSP is supporting the SP candidates in the two Lok Sabha seats whereas Congress, which contested the 2017 assembly poll with Samajwadi Party, had fielded its own candidates.

Upendra Shukla from the ruling BJP, Praveen Nishad from SP, Surhita Chatterjee Kareem from Congress are contesting from the Gorakhpur. In Phulpur, Kaushalendra Singh Patel from the BJP, Nagendra Singh Patel from SP, Manish Mishra from Congress are in fray. Mafia-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad, who won from Phulpur in 2004, is contesting as an Independent.

The results to be announced on March 14 are being keenly watched in Uttar Pradesh as it could lead to a bigger opposition alliance before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, the BSP had said that its support to SP was only for the by-polls.

For the BJP, the election is a prestige issue for chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya, who were Lok Sabha members from Gorakhpur and Phulpur respectively before taking up present positions. Both the leaders have campaigned in their erstwhile Lok Sabha constituencies extensively while Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party held the fort for the opposition.

Maurya had won Phulpur for the first time for BJP with a margin of 3.76 lakh votes in 2014. Adityanath, who is also Mahant of Gorakhnath temple, had won Gorakhpur for five times in a row since 1998. For 32 years, the seat had been dominated by successive Mahants of the Mutt — Digvijaynath, Avaidyanath, and Yogi Adityanath.

It is high stake fight between the BJP-led NDA and Congress-RJD combine Araria parliamentary seat and two assembly segments — Jehanabad and Bhabua, considering that it’s outcome would set the stage for the 2019 parliamentary polls.

While the BJP led NDA is hoping to clinch the three seats on its development plank and upper caste- backward vote bank, the RJD-Congress combine is trying to queer the pitch for its rival by riding high on secularism and its Muslim-Yadav combination, especially in Araria and Jehanabad seats.

Out of the three seats, RJD held Araria and Jehanabad seats and the BJP Bhabua.

In Araria, the contest is locked between RJD’s Sarfaraj Alam, son of deceased MP Taslimuddin, and BJP’s Pradip Singh while in Jehanabad the fight is between RJD’s Suday Yadav, son of deceased MLA Mundrika Singh Yadav, and JD(U)’s Abhiram Sharma. The Bhabua seat is witnessing a straight contest between BJP’s Rinki Pandey and Congress’ Shambhu Singh Patel.

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