For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there is no Lok Sabha seat in western Uttar Pradesh where its victory is possibly as assured — and of symbolic importance — as this Ground Zero of the Hindu-Muslim riots that took place six months back.

Muzaffarnagar has an estimated 5-5.5 lakh Muslims, out of an electorate of over 16 lakh.

The BJP’s candidate, Sanjeev Baliyan, is a PhD in Veterinary Anatomy from the Haryana Agricultural University at Hissar. He was also an Assistant Professor there before joining the Haryana Government as a veterinary surgeon. Baliyan resigned the job about two years ago to become a partner in a real estate firm (A2Z Builders & Developers) and also join the BJP.

What works in his favour are two things. The first is ‘HM’, the religious polarisation resulting from the riots. The second is his being a Jat and the fact that the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) — which is benefiting from the UPA Government’s decision to include the community under the Central list of Other Backward Classes — hasn’t fielded any candidate.

The RLD is now in alliance with the Congress, whose candidate Pankaj Aggarwal is the Chairman of Muzaffarnagar’s municipal council and a Bania.

Jat votes are around 2 lakh in Muzaffarnagar. “I will get 100 per cent of it,” claimed Baliyan. Other significant communities include Sainis, Rajputs, Brahmins/Tyagis and Banias, who number roughly a lakh each. The BJP is counting on all these votes, though a section of Banias may well choose the Congress’ Aggarwal.

All in all, it adds up to a classic ‘HM’ polarisation in BJP’s favour.

The Dalit vote But the one spoiler could be the estimated 2-lakh Dalit voters.

Will they back the Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Kadir Rana, who is among those charge-sheeted in the Muzaffarnagar riots (and whose Rana Steels Group is into manufacture of TMT bars and girders)?

When Business Line posed the question in Kasiara, a largely Dalit-populated village in Muzaffarnagar’s Charthawal Taluk, the almost unanimous view was: “our vote is only for hathi (elephant, BSP’s symbol), the candidate doesn’t matter.”

Communal violence When asked about the communal violence, the general response was that the dange (riots) was a Jat-Muslim mamla (affair) and “we had nothing to do with it.” What do they feel about Narendra Modi? “When we have Jai Bhim (a reference to the Dalit icon, BR Ambedkar), why chant NaMo at all,” shot back Shobhit, a 19-year-old polytechnic student.

The importance of the Dalit vote is obvious to Rana. “He is only going to Dalit bastis and not even bothering to campaign among Hindus this time. BSP is counting on a Dalit-Muslim consolidation to offset the BJP’s HM formula, besides Pankaj Aggarwal snatching away some votes,” noted a local scribe.

Rana refused an interview with Business Line , saying “I have nothing to tell the media and have no agenda other than what Behenji (BSP chief Mayawati) has spelt out.”

Baliyan, on his part, was clear that “my fight is with BSP; the others are time-pass candidates.”

In the 2009 elections, Kadir Rana won by a slender 20,600 votes, defeating Anuradha Chaudhary of the RLD that was in alliance with the BJP.

The spoiler, then, was Sangeet Singh Som, a Rajput who polled over a lakh votes contesting on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

Som has since joined the BJP, and is also facing charges of making inflammatory speeches in the recent riots.