New Delhi, July 8: The BJP today swept the urban body elections in Uttar Pradesh, winning 10 out of 12 municipal corporations in a victory party sources said was a “morale booster” after the disastrous showing in the Assembly polls earlier this year.
The Congress was wiped out, failing to even retain Rae Bareli and Amethi, signalling that it had not succeeded in recovering the ground lost since the February drubbing in the parliamentary seats of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
As neither the Samajwadi Party nor the BSP fought the elections officially, both opting to back Independents, the municipal battle had been billed as a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress.
State BJP sources said a key factor behind the victory was lack of interference from central leaders, who have been busy sorting out problems in Gujarat and Karnataka.
The sources said newly appointed state party chief Lakshmi Kant Vajpeyi, who took the elections as a “personal” challenge, worked “unhindered” and that cadres took directions from him instead of receiving conflicting orders from faction heads as in the past. “The message is clear: united we stand, divided we fall,” a source said.
A Congress MLA said his party “took no interest” in the elections held last week. “The truth is we took no interest in these elections, which is a bad thing for any party. At the end of the day, an election, be it to a panchayat or a municipality, should be treated with the same seriousness. Our workers were clueless about who was contesting and who was not.”
The MLA added that the party apparatus was headless after Rita Bahuguna Joshi resigned as state Congress president.
Rita, elected as an MLA from a Lucknow seat, was busy campaigning for her brother and Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who fought a by-election today.
The BJP won in cities like Lucknow, Kanpur and Agra, losing Bareilly and Allahabad to Independents backed by the Samajwadi and the BSP.
In Delhi, BJP national vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told agencies the result was encouraging as it reflected the mood of the people and their anger against corruption and price rise.
BJP sources in Lucknow, however, said the party’s success needn’t necessarily translate into gains in the impending Lok Sabha polls. “Last time, too, we did well in the local polls that preceded the Lok Sabha elections. We did not keep up our showing subsequently. The dynamics change each time,” a source said.
The BJP’s success was restricted to urban areas. In the three-tier poll, held over several days in the first week of this month, the party managed to win just 35 town planning boards (nagar palikas) out of the 370 where elections were held.
The results for the nagar panchayats — the remaining tier — were still being compiled.
The ruling Samajwadi, a predominantly rural-based party that had unexpectedly notched up gains even in the cities in the Assembly elections, failed to keep up the momentum.
Samajwadi sources admitted that a perception that the Akhilesh Yadav dispensation was not living up to pre-poll expectations had sunk into the minds of urban voters.
The sources said the power and water crises, uneven distribution of the hyped-up unemployment dole for graduates and “bad” law and order had “disenchanted” city dwellers.