Saharanpur and Bijnor: splitting hairs over a ‘split’

AM Jigeesh Saharanpur/Bijnor | Updated on April 08, 2019

Imran Masood, the Congress’s best bet in Western Uttar Pradesh, is more interested in attacking his rival candidate from the Grand Alliance, BSP leader Hazi Fazalur Rahman, in Saharanpur.

He tells the crowd in every corner meeting that it is he who fights the BJP at the ground. He reminds them that he lost the 2014 election by 65,000 votes in the ‘Narendra Modi wave’. Indications are that the Muslim votes, for which Masood and Rahman are staking claim, will not split in 2019.

In the huge rally of the Grand Alliance, leaders Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav made separate appeals to the Muslim voters to not allow a split in their votes. “Don’t fall for emotional promises. Don’t allow splitting of your votes. I appeal to you that the re-election of the BJP in Saharanpur should be stopped,” Mayawati said.

Masood, however, is confident of a victory. Talking to BusinessLine during his campaign, Masood said there is no confusion among the voters.

“The difference between the Congress and the BSP in 2014 was 1.5 lakh votes. So people know who are with them during the bad times. The BSP candidate was not even in Uttar Pradesh when Dalits were beaten up, Muslims were denied jobs and farmers were thrown out of their fields,” Masood said.

BJP hoping for Muslim votes

But things may not work as Masood thinks.

A senior Muslim cleric told BusinessLine on the condition of anonymity that the Muslim votes may not split this time. “In 2014, the BJP created such a situation that the value of a Muslim’s vote was zero. It will not repeat this time,” the influential cleric said.

The BJP is also hopeful that the split in the Opposition camp will help its young MP, Raghav Lakhanpal Sharma, to secure a second term. The sizeable Muslim population has been a hindrance to the BJP in the communally-sensitive constituency.

“But this time, we will have a smooth ride. A lot of Muslims are joining the BJP. The Opposition is trying to polarise votes, but it’s helping us,” said Gaurav Garg, BJP’s spokesperson for the seat.

In Bijnor too, BSP’s Malook Naagar faces tough challenge from the Congress’s Naseemuddin Siddiqui in the fight against the BJP’s Kunwar Bharatendra Singh. A former lieutenant of Mayawati, Siddiqui knows where to cut votes. “The Congress is engaged in a dangerous politics,” Naagar said.

But the alliance is hopeful that the Muslim votes will come to Naagar and help him win.

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Published on April 07, 2019

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