Lucknow: It will be a popularity test of sorts for the BJP government when bypolls are held for Phulpur Lok Sabha seat, vacated by Keshav Prasad Maurya when he was picked as the deputy chief minister after elections last year.
The BJP would want to hold onto the seat to keep its count in the Lok Sabha and to boost cadre morale ahead of 2019 elections. But even as it looks to the future, the past of Phulpur hangs heavy.
The constituency, in Allahabad, boasts of association with two prime ministers, including India’s first-ever. Jawaharlal Nehru had contested and won from here in 1952 and then again in 1957. Following his death, bypolls were held on the seat for the first time and were won by Nehru’s sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit.
Pandit retained the seat till 1969. After another bypoll, the seat went to Janeshwar Mishra of the Samyukt Socialist Party after the second bypoll on the seat.
The 1971 elections saw VP Singh — who led India’s first coalition government in 1989 — win the seat on a Congress ticket. In the elections that followed, Phulpur changed hands from the Janata Party, back to the Congress, then to the Janata Dal and in 1996 to Samajwadi Party, whose candidate Jang Bahadur Patel defeated BSP founder Kanshi Ram.
The BSP had to wait till 2009 to finally bag the seat with the victory of Kapil Muni Karwariya. Its hold, however, was short-lived as the BJP rode to power in Phulpur for the first time in 2014 elections. The winner was Keshav Prasad Maurya, now the deputy CM of UP.
Candidate selection will be the key when Phulpur votes in its third bypoll on March 11. The constituency will share the spotlight with Gorakhpur, the Lok Sabha seat vacated by CM Yogi Adityanath. The counting of votes will be held on March 14.
Posters and hoardings of the BJP members have already been put up, portraying them as potential candidates.