UP: The ‘make or break’ phase on Monday for both BJP and the SP-RLD alliance
In 2017 BJP had won 38 of the 58 seats in Rohilkhand where polling is scheduled in the second phase on February 14
The nine districts of Uttar Pradesh going to polls in the second phase on February 14 are considered to be the home turf and hence strongholds of the Samajwadi Party. It is a matter of fact that the party which leads in these nine districts rules the state. Given this stark reality, both BJP and Samajwadi Party are trying hard to woo voters in the region settle the final outcome to a great extent in the second phase of polling. This phase is also expected to set the tone for the rest of the election.
The second phase of the poll will cover most of the Rohilkhand region. These include the districts of Bareilly, Shahjahanpur, Badaun, Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Amroha, and Bijnor. Polling will also take place in Saharanpur.
Traditionally, the 55 seats where polling is scheduled in the second phase have favoured Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. Whenever these two parties’ hold loosened in this region, they lost power in the state. Mulayam Singh Yadav (Sambhal), and his family members Ramgopal Yadav (Sambhal) and Dharmendra Yadav (Badaun) have represented this region in the Lok Sabha. Mayawati has won from Bijnor Lok Sabha once. She also represented Haroda in Saharanpur and Bilsi constituency in Badaun in the state assembly. Both these seats ceased to exist after the delimitation in 2012.
The region is dominated by Muslim electorate. There are around two dozen seats where Muslims are 40 percent plus. Some of the prominent Muslim faces of Samajwadi Party come from this region. They include Azam Khan (Rampur), Javed Ali Khan (Sambhal), Safiqur Rahman (Sambhal), Salim Iqbal Sherwani (Badaun), Imran Masood (Saharanpur), Mahboob Ali (Amroha), Kamal Akhtar (Amroha) and Iqbal Mahmood (Sambhal).
At stake will be the political future of these leaders. Plus, the region will also test Muslim and Yadav unity for the first time in this election. Though Jats are a balancing factor in Saharanpur, Bijnor and Amroha, in Sambhal, Badaun and Bareilly Yadavs will hold the key.
In the last assembly election in 2017, 38 of the 58 seats in the Rohilkhand region were won by the BJP. This time, Samajwadi Party is hoping to bounce back, banking on the return of a big chunk of Yadav and Jat voters from BJP. The party is also hoping that votes of Muslims and Yadavs will not split as they did in 2017.
In 2017 Muslim votes were divided between BSP, AIMIM, Peace Party, RLD and the SP-Congress alliance. The BSP had put up a strong fight in 2017, bringing down the SP-Congress alliance and thus helping the BJP. Also, the AIMIM voters dented the hopes of the SP-Congress alliance on several seats including Kanth in Moradabad.
Prominent candidates for the second phase include Azam Khan (Rampur, his son Abdullah Azam (Swar, Rampur), Mahboob Ali (Amroha), Iqbal Mahmood (Sambhal), Kamal Akhtar (Kanth, Moradabad), Ziaur Rahman (Kundarki, Amroha), Vivek Singh (Dhanuara, Amroha), Dharam Singh Saini (Nakur, Saharanpur). Zia is the grandson of SP Lok Sabha MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq, and Vivek Singh is the son of ex BSP MP Vir Singh. Also in fray is Umar Ali (Behat, Saharanpur), the son in law of Ahmed Bukhari. They are contesting as Samajwadi Party candidates.
Nawab Kazim Ali Khan is the Congress candidate from Rampur, while his son Hamza is the Apna Dal (S) candidate in Swar against Abdullah Azam. Congress leader Sanjay Kapoor is contesting from Bilaspur (Rampur).
If BJP loses here, the tone for the rest of the election will be set. Most of the pollsters agree on the fact that the first phase may turn to a below par performance for the ruling party. If the 55 seats of second phase fail to lift the momentum of BJP, the deficit could become irreparable. For Samajwadi Party-RLD combine also, it is a make-or-break phase.
If the alliance fails to mobilise voters in its stronghold, the dream of regaining the power may be shattered. For BSP it is an opportunity to regain its lost baston and for Congress it’s a chance to lay the foundation for the 2024 General Elections.