Samajwadi Party says it won UP panchayat polls, will target assembly polls next


The Samajwadi Party (SP) on Wednesday claimed to have defeated the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recently concluded three-tier panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh with party backed candidates winning over 800 zila panchayat member seats. It also claimed that the results were a verdict on the BJP’s ‘misrule’ ahead of the 2022 assembly elections. The BJP disputed the SP’s claims and said it will “emerge as the overall leader” in the polls.

Declaring victory, SP state spokesperson and former UP minister Rajendra Chaudhary said the party “will not waste energy in countering BJP’s horse-trading” to win zila panchayat headship elections that will follow the declaration of panchayat election results.

“We would rather capitalise on putting up an even more impressive show in the UP assembly polls in 2022,” he said.

Zila (district) panchayat headship is an indirect election in which the directly elected Zila panchayat members vote to gain administrative control. The election for over 8.69 lakh posts, including the 3,050 Zila panchayat member seats, was held in four phases last month in Uttar Pradesh. The three-tier panchayat system elected public representatives from the village to the district level and was being seen as a curtain-raiser to the 2022 state assembly polls.

“Seventy per cent population lives in villages and they have given their mandate against the BJP and in favour of the SP already. We had fielded party supported candidates on approximately 1,500 zila panchayat member seats, of which more than 800 won. Not only this, party’s national president Akhilesh Yadav’s strategy of leaving ‘free candidates’… also worked,” said Chaudhary.

The panchayat elections were not fought on party symbols, but rival parties had marked their preferred candidates.

Chaudhary explained that the term ‘free candidate’ is used to describe party supported candidates. “If there are more than one deserving candidate… then the party let’s all of them contest. If anyone of them wins, it becomes the party’s victory. On more than 800 seats, SP’s free candidates won the zila panchayat memberships”, he explained.

However, the UP BJP chief Swatantradev Singh dismissed his claims.

“We fought on more than 3,000 seats for the post of zila panchayat members. The claims of opposition parties that the BJP performed badly are incorrect. We will remain ahead, and emerge as overall leader in the polls,” he was quoted as saying by a news agency.

On Monday, the ruling party had claimed that over 45,000 party-supported candidates won the village pradhan posts and over 60,000 were elected to the kshetra (block) panchayats apart from the zila panchayat member posts.

As per the results announced on Tuesday, the BJP faced losses in strongholds such as Ayodhya, Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. In Varanasi, while the Samajwadi Party won 15 of the 40 wards, BJP and the BSP won seven each and the Congress won five wards. In Ayodhya, SP was the biggest gainer with 24 of the 40 wards, while BJP won six and BSP won five wards. In Gorakhpur, the BJP with 20 of the 68 wards had just one more than the SP’s 19.

SP president Akhilesh Yadav alleged on Wednesday that the BJP was indulging in “horse-trading” to seize control of zila panchayats.

“After tasting defeat in the panchayat polls, the BJP is now engaging in enticing, intimidating and threatening winners to win the indirect elections,” he said in a statement released by the party.

Another party leader claimed that the Samajwadi Party would easily win 25 zila panchayat headship elections. “There is no need to waste energy on the rest of the seats,” he said. The party hopes to win zila panchayat headship in Lucknow, Ayodhya, Lakhimpur Kheri, Sonbhadra, Varanasi, Azamgarh, Prayagraj, Siddharth Nagar, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Deoria, Kushinagar, Kanpur Nagar, Mirzapur, Ballia, Bijnor, Etawah, Fatehpur, Unnao, Auriya, Ambedkarnagar, Firozabad, Kasganj, and Etah.

SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said the results showed that the ruling BJP had “failed miserably on all fronts” and described the party as “anti-farmers, anti-youth.” He added that crime against women in the state, law and order [situation], price rise including petrol and diesel prices affect villagers immensely, which resulted in the SP’s win.

SP member of legislative council (MLC) Sunil Singh Yadav described it as the “beginning of the change”. “The training camps that the party president Akhilesh Yadav ran across the state and attended, foot marches, and events like Kisaan Ghera in villages connected people with his vision,” he says.

Samajwadi Party ran various campaigns such as Kisan Ghera (informal meetings with farmers locally) to mobilise farmers against the three farm reform laws enacted by the BJP-led Union government, held exploitative by a section of farmers. Similarly, it also organised ‘Yuva Ghera’ and ‘Mahila Ghera’ programmes to engage students and the women folk in discussions involving their issues. Akhilesh also travelled widely across 40 districts and held meetings, addressed the public and conducted cadre training camps.

270 Congress-supported candidates emerged victorious on the post of zila panchayat members, while on 571 seats they came second, and third on 711 seats, said a Congress leader.

AAP claimed it had won 83 seats for members of zila panchayat, 300 village pradhans seats, and 232 seats for the post of members of kshetra panchayats.

SP’s ally Rashtriya Lok Dal too performed well in some districts of west UP, such as Baghpat and Shamli.