UP CM Yogi Adityanath and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.
AYODHYA/VARANASI/MATHURA: BJP faced an embarrassment in the Hindutva nerve-centres of Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura, where Opposition-backed candidates surged ahead in the panchayat poll tally as counting picked up pace on Tuesday.
Despite ambitious plans of turning Ayodhya into the Vatican of Hindus and the buzz of Ram temple construction, the epicentre of the temple movement delivered the biggest jolt to BJP, where it could muster wins in only eight of 40 zila panchayat wards. The principal gainer was Samajwadi Party, which bagged 24 seats. BSP also managed to wrest four, while Independents registered victories on six seats.
BJP spokesperson in Ayodhya, Diwakar Singh, admitted to TOI that the rural poll results were a disappointment, despite the party sweeping all five assembly seats in 2017 assembly elections. He also confirmed that the party could win only eight out of 40 wards in Ayodhya zila panchayat.
In Sohawal sub-district of Ayodhya, where Supreme Court had mandated 5 acres of land for construction of a mosque in lieu of Babri masjid, three wards were won by SP while one went to an Independent candidate.
In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, though BJP and SP claimed to have won 16 seats each of the 40 zila panchayat wards, sources told TOI BJP could muster only 7 seats till reports last came in. Mayawati-led BSP bagged three seats, whereas Apna Dal (S) won three. Remaining seats were won by Independents.
In the temple town of Mathura, BJP again managed to wrest only eight of 33 zila panchayat seats, while BSP emerged the biggest gainer with 13. The remaining seats were shared by RLD, SP and Independent candidates, who won 8, 1, and 3 respectively. BJP’s Mathura district president Madhu Sharma said, “We accept the people’s mandate. We will evaluate the reasons for the debacle.” She further said due to the pandemic, many workers and leaders could not campaign.
UP BJP spokesperson, Harish Chandra Srivastava, said the party brass will introspect on the losses after complete results were declared. He admitted that in many wards, BJP rebels dented party’s prospects by contesting as independent candidates.