Moradabad (Western Uttar Pradesh)

The perception in this election that the BJP has an upper hand in Muslim-dominated seats in western Uttar Pradesh is slightly altered by two factors on the ground: one, infighting in the Samajwadi Party (SP) has not really stopped Muslim consolidation towards the INDIA bloc. The other is that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Mayawati aggressively, hence damaging the BJP in some parts.

Of the eight UP seats going to polls in the first phase on April 19, the BJP had won just three in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But this feat was largely attributed to an alliance between SP and BSP in 2019, which does not exist anymore. The SP has tied up with the Congress, and the BSP is fighting alone, a factor that had uplifted the BJP. What was further marring the SP-Congress prospects was intense infighting and confusion over ticket distribution.

In two neighbouring seats heavily dominated by Muslims – Rampur with a 50.57 per cent Muslim population and Moradabad with a 47.12 per cent Muslims – the SP’s ticket distribution has been mired in controversy. In Rampur, Azam Khan, who had won the seat in 2019, has had to resign after his conviction. The SP has fielded the relatively unknown Mohidullah Nadvi from Rampur. There is opposition to Nadvi by Azam Khan’s supporters. In Moradabad, the SP has denied a ticket to the sitting MP, ST Hasan and fielded Ruchi Veera, a Hindu Bania candidate who is an outsider to the city. Hasan has refused to campaign for Ruchi Veera, delighting the BJP.

However, the infighting has not really stopped a consolidation towards INDIA bloc. “This is an election where the vote is either for Modi or against him. The big question before the Muslims is how to defeat the BJP. And hence there is consolidation happening,” said Tamqin Fayyaz, a Rampur-based journalist.

Silent factor

A silent factor that may damage the BJP is the BSP’s aggression. The BSP chief Mayawati has been addressing a spate of rallies. She was in Moradabad on Monday, exhorting her supporters to oppose both the BJP and the INDIA bloc. While her supporters are silent and not forthcoming with their choices, the gathering was enthusiastic.

BJP insiders told businessline that for the past two elections, they have done a survey on how many among Mayawati’s core voters (the Jatavs), support the BJP. “The Jatavs are slowly moving towards the BJP. But if Mayawati is becoming aggressive, they can go back to her. That is not good news for us,” said a local BJP leader.

According to the Mayor of Moradabad, Vinod Aggarwal, a number of Dalit communities such as Valmikis, dhobis and khatigs have been voting for the BJP. “They remain with us. Let us see what the Jatavs do,” Aggarwal told bl.

However, in a closely contested election where Muslims are 47.12 per cent of the population and they vote almost en bloc for the SP, a consolidation of the Dalits who form about 10 per cent of the electorate in favour of the BSP does not help the BJP. A violent incident in Rampur where a Dalit youth was shot dead by the police has further contributed to the community’s consolidation around Mayawati.

It seems that the BJP has its task cut out in these parts.