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Locked in a contest with Mahagathbandhan, BJP edgy in western UP

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 10, 2019 Published on April 10, 2019

BSP chief Mayawati, chief of Samajwadi Party Akhilesh Yadav and chief of Rashtriya Lok Dal Ajit Singh wave towards the crowd during their joint election campaign rally. File Photo   -  Reuters

As the politically-critical State of Uttar Pradesh begins voting on Thursday, the ruling BJP is tentative in the eight western region seats, which resulted in tsunami of votes in the 2014 elections.

The BJP swept Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Bijnore, Meerut and Baghpat in 2014, but a keen contest has emerged this time around with the Jat-dominated Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) tying up with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Yadav-dominated Samajwadi Party (SP).

Core issues

In majority of these seats, caste arithmetic favours the Mahagathbandhan of the RLD, the BSP and the SP as the dominant castes — Jats, Jatavs and Muslims — form the core support base of these parties. Apart from social combinations and equations, sugarcane arrears and stray cattle are the main issues that are being discussed among the voters in the communally sensitive area.

“The BJP’s 2014 performance had a lot to do with the communal polarisation that followed the Jat-Muslim riots in Muzaffarnagar in 2013. However, the effect of communal polarisation has dimmed since then and local issues have taken importance,” said Jitender Hooda, a Jat sugarcane farmer in Shamli.

Ghaziabad

A contest is on even in seats such as Ghaziabad, where the BJP’s candidate and retired Army Chief VK Singh got the second best margin in the country — more than 5.67 lakh votes against Congress’s Raj Babbar. This is when the margins were of the scale of 7.58 lakh votes which Singh won as opposed to the total opposition vote of 5.60 lakh that the Congress, the SP, the BSP and the AAP won altogether.

This time around, the main competitors for Singh are Congress’ young candidate Dolly Sharma and the SP-BSP alliance’s Suresh Bansal. The alliance hopes are pinned on Sharma who is expected to cut upper caste votes of the BJP. But the urban constituency, earlier the part of the Hapur seat, has mostly favoured the BJP in the recent past, except in 2004, when the Congress won.

“We will win Ghaziabad convincingly, although the situation is different from what it was in 2014,” said an RSS insider, requesting anonymity.

Gautam Budh Nagar

There are two million voters in the neighbouring the Gautam Budh Nagar constituency. Minister of State in the Union Cabinet Mahesh Sharma is looking for a second chance there. He was defeated by the BSP in 2009, but in 2014, he secured a majority of about 2.80 lakh votes against SP’s Narendra Bhati. The coming together of the SP and the BSP may create some problems for Sharma. BSP’s Satbir Nagar will contest against Congress’ Arvind Kumar Singh.

“My surveys in this area show that there is a disenchantment among the Gujjars against the BJP candidate along with a consolidation of the Muslim vote and the Jatavs and Jats with the Mahagathbandhan,” said sociologist Prashant Trivedi who is associated with the Lucknow-based Giri Institute of Development Studies.

Meerut

In neighbouring Meerut, the BJP is looking for a third term for sitting MP Rajendra Agarwal. But the Congress has fielded Harendra Agarwal, son of former chief minister Banarasi Das, to cut into the BJP’s votes. BSP’s Haji Yaqub Qureshi eyes on the votes of the Jats and Muslims.

Baghpat

In RLD’s family burrow, Baghpat, the third generation leader Jayant Chowdhury is fighting sitting MP Satyapal Singh. The arithmetic shows that the alliance has a clear edge in the seat. The SP and the BSP together has around three lakh votes in the seat and the RLD got around two lakh votes in 2014. RLD supremo Ajit Singh chose Muzaffarnagar seat this time to give a message of “brotherhood” to the Jats and Muslims. The aim of the alliance is the defeat of MoS in Modi Cabinet Sajeev Balyan.

In Saharanpur, the alliance faces threat in the form of Congress’s Imran Masood. Masood, who came second in 2014 against BJP’s Raghav Lakhanpal Sharma, targets BSP leader Hazi Fazalur Rahman this time. This move may split the anti-BJP votes and Sharma may win if the Muslims in the Lok Sabha does not decide to choose one among Masood or Rahman. In Bijnor, BSP’s Malook Naagar faces tough challenge from the Congress’s Naseemuddin Siddiqui. BJP’s Kunwar Bharatendra Singh has placed his hopes on the split in Opposition camp. In Kairana, the alliance hopes that Tabassum Hasan, who won the 2018 bypoll, will retain the seat. The BJP did not give ticket to Mriganka Singh, daughter of former MP Hukum Singh, who fought against Hasan in the bypoll. The BJP chose Pradeep Chaudhary, a local MLA, to fight the alliance this time. The Congress has fielded Harendra Singh Malik.

Clearly, the smooth run of 2014 is not so easily replicated this time.

Published on April 10, 2019
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