Agra, May 15 With just three days remaining for the crucial by-election for the Agra North Assembly seat on May 19, the campaign has already turned into what locals said was "a sort of referendum" on the performance of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh.
Recognising the importance of this by-polls necessitated due to the demise of five-time BJP legislator Jagan Garg, Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma will on Thursday take part in a roadshow in the constituency.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded Purushottam Khandelwal, state Vice President, from this stronghold of the party. The SP-BSP Gathbandhan candidate Suraj Sharma, an MBA from Cardiff, is taunted as a "bachcha" (kid) in politics, though his father, Madhusudan Sharma, has been a Bahujan Samaj Party MLA from a neighbouring constituency. The Congress has fielded veteran Ranvir Sharma.
Though the BJP is sure of its victory as the seat is predominantly a "bania" constituency, the undercurrents generated by the consolidation of dalit, muslim and Yadav votes is giving sleepless nights to poll-strategists.
"Their leaders are not vocal, nor are they wasting time in pointless debates. Secret meetings are being held at night and a solid network of activists is busy mobilising voters who should turn up in big numbers on May 19," said a Samajwadi Party worker.
"Already we see fatal doses of complacency due to over confidence. They fear that the upper caste and upper class voters may not stir out of their comfort zones to line up for voting in this hot weather. If the voting percentage remains low, it could ring alarm bells for the BJP," said a former socialist leader Jitendra Yadav.
On May 19, over four lakh voters are eligible to vote at 438 booths. The voting percentage in the last election was 58.4.
The BJP has not organised a single public meeting. "We are focusing on personal interaction. Since our candidate, Purushottam Khandelwal, has been a grass roots worker for over 40 years and is a popular face in the area, the strategy is to connect directly with the voters in colonies, markets and mohallas. The response is overwhelming," said IT cell Chief of the constituency, Pandit Jugal Kishor.
Most BJP leaders feel it is a one-sided election. On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party activists are leaving no stone unturned to ensure smooth sailing of their candidate Suraj Sharma, who has even worked on the local manifesto for Agra. Called "Sankalp Patra", the manifesto promises mohalla clinics like in Delhi, promotion to film making in Braj circuit, incentives to young sportspersons, water ATMs, streamlining of university education, better deal for pavement vendors and construction of Yamuna ghats.
While the opposition continues to highlight BJP's failure to clean up Yamuna, begin construction work on the Barrage, the High Court bench issue, and the long pending demand for air connectivity with all big cities, the BJP candidate flaunts Yogi government's effective control of the law and order, transparency in governance, clearance to Metro Rail project, Ganga Jal pipeline that has eased water problem in the city.
"Surely this is not a routine by-election as it comes at a time when the Yogi government's stakes are high. The result will indicate which way the political wind is blowing in the state and whether the 'gathbandhan' will emerge as a successful experiment," comments a senior poll watcher Sudier Gupta.