Bypolls: Will Election Commission stop PM’s Baghpat rally on Sunday?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address a public rally in Baghpat, less than 24 hours before polling starts in the by-election for the Lok Sabha seat of Kairana, barely 60 km away 

PM’s photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
PM’s photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Sunita Shahi

The polling for the by-elections is scheduled for Monday, May 28. But a day after the campaigning ends and the day before the polling in Kairana Lok Sabha and Noorpur Vidhan Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing a public rally after inaugurating the Eastern Peripheral Expressway.

The PM’s programme for May 27 was apparently finalised after the BJP lost out on the opportunity of forming a government in Karnataka. The Modi-Shah duo are clearly re-calibrating their strategy and would like to pull out all stops to retain the two seats in Uttar Pradesh.

May 27, the death anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, is also significant, say political observers, because May 29 happens to be the death anniversary of another former Prime Minister, Chaudhary Charan Singh. “We can win over some Jat votes if the PM announces a project to honour the late Jat leader,” confided BJP sources in the state capital.

Nobody expects the Election Commission to step in and stop the Prime Minister from addressing the rally; while everybody expects TV channels to air live the PM’s address even as all other political leaders and parties would be bound by the Model Code of Conduct to stop campaigning.

The political design of the PM is evident because he could well have left the inauguration of the 135-km, six-lane expressway between Kundli and Palwal in Haryana (via Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Faridabad) to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister

If BJP loses Kairana and Noorpur, it would not just be a loss of face but will add to the momentum being gained by the opposition in Uttar Pradesh. BJP has fielded Mriganka Singh and Awani Singh in Kairana and Noorpur respectively, daughters of Hukum Singh and wife of Lokendra Singh, the MP and the MLA whose deaths have led to the byelections. BJP hopes the sympathy factor would work for them.

The Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party have not put up candidates in either seat, and are backing the Samajwadi Party-supported Rashtriya Lok Dal nominee Tabassum Hasan in Kairana and RLD-supported SP nominee Naeemul Hasan in Noorpur. The opposition unity has thus expanded since the SP-BSP combine handed the BJP big defeats in the prestigious Lok Sabha bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phoolpur earlier this year. The BJP is now up against four parties combined.

“Fearing defeat in both the constituencies, Modi doesn’t want to associate directly and campaign in the bypolls. But at the same time, he cannot resist campaigning there because the loss of these two seats may impact the results in the 80 Lok Sabha seats of Uttar Pradesh in 2019,” says Dwijendra Tripathi, a Congress spokesman.

“The Central government completes four years in office on May 26. So, he may pat his back at the rally to woo voters of Kairana and Noorpur, whom the BJP have planned to transport to attend the PM’s programme”, he added.

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