Elections 2021

Grand Alliance in UP weighs on BJP

Poornima Joshi Rampur | Updated on April 23, 2019

Voters wait in long queues to cast their votes at a polling station in Moradabad on Tuesday   -  PTI

Caste arithmetic and minority votes consolidation combats the PM’s popularity

The fast-emerging story of Uttar Pradesh in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections is the nail-biting contest between the Mahagathbandhan and the BJP. The alliance weighed heavily on the ruling party in the 10 seats that polled during the third phase on Tuesday.

From the western parts into the region known as Braj, the arithmetic and chemistry was tilted towards the Opposition alliance in Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Badaon, Aonla, Bareilly and Pilibhit.

Conversation with BJP workers in Moradabad revealed that the enthusiasm of 2014 general elections has waned and that it is not easy to breach the caste fortress built by the alliance this time around.

In the three adjoining seats of Rampur, Moradabad and Sambhal, the BJP’s victory margin in 2014 was relatively narrower at 23425, 87504 and 4932 votes respectively.

Simultaneously, the votes polled by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates in Moradabad and Sambhal and by the Nawab of Rampur Kazim Ali, who stood on a Congress ticket in 2014, were much higher than the difference between the winner BJP and the runners-up Samajwadi Party (BSP) in the three seats.

‘Strongest contest’

The main contest is thus between BJP’s Jaya Prada and SP strongman Azam Khan. Among Rampur’s approximately 16 lakh voters, nearly 52 per cent are Muslims and the Hindu vote is split among Jatavs and Yadavs and many staunch BJP supporters, including Lodhs, Vaishyas, Brahmins, Thakurs, Sainis, Pals and Kurmis.

Although the Muslim vote is not united behind Azam Khan, the alliance is expected to attract substantial Jatav and Yadav voters, making it an uphill task for the BJP. However, BJP candidate Jaya Prada, who has represented Rampur twice as an SP MP, is confident that the local population has had enough of Azam Khan’s strongman tactics and will align with her in the elections.

“When I got the BJP ticket, I was a little apprehensive because the demographics of this seat are, on the surface, aligned in support of the SP. But ever since I have started campaigning, I have realised that the local people, whether Hindus or Muslims, will support me. He has called me names, tried to humiliate me and the people are ready to give him a befitting answer,” Jaya Prada told BusinessLine.

In Moradabad, the State Minister with Independent Charge of Panchayati Raj, Chaudhary Bhupendra Singh, disclosed how the BJP’s strategy is focused on weaning the Jatavs away from the alliance because the Muslims vote “would any way be divided”.

“This election is about whether Narendra Modi will be the Prime Minister or not. Caste alliances will work out eventually in the BJP’s favour,” Bhuepndra Singh told BusinessLine.

The argument on “splitting of Muslim vote” gained ground in Moradabad because of the Congress’ young candidate, Imran Pratapgarhi, who attracted huge crowds because of his flourish with Urdu poetry recitation and energetic campaign.

“There are no Hindus or Muslims. People love me here. I will show that India is not about religion or caste. It is about purity of heart and a will to serve people,” Pratapgarhi said after a massive roadshow in the Moradabad city on the last day of the campaign.

In the neighbouring Lok Sabha seat of Sambhal, SP veteran Shafiqur Rehman Barq lost to Satyapal Saini of the BJP in 2014 by a margin of 4,932 votes. The BSP secured 2,52,640 votes. This time, because of the SP-BSP alliance, Barq’s chances are said to very high.

“Barq saheb is a winner. The alliance will work in his favour,” said Chandravijay Singh, former MP from Moradabad.

In the Yadav strongholds Mainpuri, Firozabad and Badaon, the alliance is depending on Mulayam Singh Yadav and his nephew Dharmendra Yadav to trounce the BJP. Since the seats were won by the Yadav chieftains even in the face of the “Modi wave” in 2014, the calculation this time is that the seats would be retained by a bigger margin.

That leaves out the BJP’s fortress in Bareilly from where the present incumbent Santosh Gangwar is seeking a seventh term, and Pilibhit where Maneka Gandhi has won six times and is now being defended by her son Varun Gandhi.

Published on April 23, 2019

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