In western UP, Congress focus is on cutting BJP votes

AM Jigeesh Meerut | Updated on March 29, 2019

Rahul Gandhi

What is the Congress doing in Uttar Pradesh, the State where its electoral fortunes are limited to two seats — Amethi and Raebareli — in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections? At least in western Uttar Pradesh, the party is busy ensuring the victory of the Grand Alliance of the SP, the BSP and the RJD.

The Congress has fielded its candidates “tactically” in most of the western UP seats so that the BJP becomes the main casualty of “cutting votes”.

In Meerut, the party has fielded Harendra Agarwal, son of former chief minister Banarasi Das, against the BJP’s two-term sitting MP Rajendra Agarwal. The constituency has about 2.5 lakh votes of people from the traders’ community. The Congress’ aim is to split this and ease the victory of Haji Yaqub Qureshi, BSP leader and the candidate of the alliance.

In Ghaziabad, former Army Chief VK Singh may have to worry more about the Congress candidate Dolly Sharma. Suresh Bansal is the alliance’s candidate and Sharma’s entry may help him split the crucial upper caste votes that went in favour of Singh in 2014 and helped him garner a victory with a margin of more that five lakh.

In Gautam Buddh Nagar too, Minister of State Mahesh Sharma is facing a tough fight from Surendra Singh Nagar of the BSP. Arvind Kumar Singh is the Congress’ candidate, and the party has fielded a Thakur, apparently to attract upper caste votes.

In Kairana too, the Congress has fielded Harinder Malik, a leader from the Jat community, apparently to cut the BJP votes.

The Congress had decided not to field candidates against RLD leaders Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudhury. But in Mathura, RLD candidate Narendra Singh has a friend in the form of Congress candidate Mahesh Pathak. “We fielded Pathak as per a request from Singh,” confirmed a senior Congress leader.

Party smells victory

Though the Congress candidates are generally fielded for cutting the BJP votes, in Saharanpur, the party smells victory with Imran Masood as the candidate.

“In 2014, despite a Modi wave, he stood the ground. Even some of his family members campaigned against him. But this time, he has consolidated his ground and we are getting the support of all communities,” said Chaudhary Yashpal Singh, former UPCC secretary and a senior Congress leader from western UP.

The BJP has caught up to this game plan. “This understanding between the alliance and the Congress is not limited to Meerut or Western UP. It can be seen in the entire State,” said Sanjay Maheshwari, a senior BJP activist based in Meerut.

“But voters have made up their minds and they cannot cut trader community votes just by fielding an Agarwal,” Maheshwari added.

The Congress is also trying to campaign on farmers’ issues in the area. “Mandir-Masjid is no more an issue for the people, unemployment and farm crisis are,” said Yashpal Singh.

The party is also urging the BSP to stop attacking the Congress and focus more on defeating the BJP.

“We do not understand why Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav are angry with us,” Singh added.

Published on March 28, 2019

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