The Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday won the Rampur Sadar assembly seat in Uttar Pradesh for the first time as its candidate Akash Saxena defeated his Samajwadi Party rival Asim Raja by 33,702 votes in a by-election.
The by-election to the Muslim-dominated Rampur Sadar seat was necessitated after senior SP leader Azam Khan was sentenced to three years in jail in a hate speech case, and subsequently disqualified as an MLA and barred from contesting polls for six years.
Asim Raja questioned the fairness of the election process, claiming the police "did not allow people to cast their votes in the city and looted booths."
"There was only 20 per cent polling at booths in the city. The police had captured booths. Over two lakh voters were not allowed to cast votes. We have made a complaint to the Election Commission," Raja alleged.
Saxena, the winning BJP candidate, claimed Pasmanda Muslims had voted for him.
This is the first time the BJP has won the Rampur Sadar assembly seat.
Coming as it does just months after the BJP's victory in the June by-poll to the Rampur Lok Sabha seat, the result means Azam Khan's hold over the electorate in the region, considered his bastion, is waning.
In the assembly election earlier this year, Azam Khan had registered a convincing victory, defeating Saxena by around 55,000 votes to win the seat for a 10th time.
It is from this seat that Azam Khan arrived in the Uttar Pradesh assembly for the first time in 1980 on a Janata Party-Secular ticket.
Later, he was elected on a Lok Dal ticket in 1985, from the Janata Dal in 1989, the Janata Party in 1991 and from the Samajwadi Party in 1993.
Although he was defeated by Afroz Ali Khan of the Congress in the 1996 assembly election, Khan wrested the Rampur Sadar seat in the 2002 assembly election, and won all subsequent polls -- 2007, 2012, 2017 and 2022.
After winning the Rampur Lok Sabha election in 2019, he resigned as MLA. His wife Tazeen Fatima won the assembly by-electionin October 2019 on a SP ticket.
In this by-election, the SP fielded Asim Raja, who is considered close to Khan who sought votes from the public through an emotional appeal when he referred to the 'atrocities committed' on him.
The SP had demanded the cancellation of the Rampur by-election, alleging that the local administration did not allow pro-SP voters to cast their votes.