Assembly Polls: BJP leaders fishing in troubled western UP

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party petitioned the Election Commission for wholesale transfer of police officers in Uttar Pradesh, the state again simmers with communal tension

Photo by Dheeraj Dhawan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Dheeraj Dhawan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Biswajeet Banerjee

Western Uttar Pradesh with 160 assembly constituencies is once again becoming a communal tinderbox. The Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 had polarised voters before the General Election of 2014 and observers fear that attempts are again being made to achieve a similar result before the assembly election beginning next month.

Alleged exodus of traders from Kairana, alleged cases of ‘love jihad’ in Muzaffarnagar and allegations of minority appeasement can once again be heard in the region from belligerent candidates and political leaders.

During the last few days, at least three BJP leaders have been booked by the police.

  • A Muzaffarnagar riot accused Sangeet Singh Som’s campaign vehicle fitted with LED screen was confiscated in Meerut. Reports said people had gathered around the van and had started raising slogans when police arrived
  • Another Muzzafarnagar riot accused and BJP law maker Suresh Rana was booked in Shamli when he was staging a protest demanding arrest of some Muslims who were allegedly persecuting traders belonging to the majority community
  • In Mathura BJP nominee Puran Prakash, the law maker from RLD who had joined BJP barely a few weeks ago, was found guilty of issuing advertisement with communal overtones in local newspapers.

The ADM Mathura, who is also a part of the the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) mandated by the Election Commission, took cognisance of the advertisement.

District Magistrate of Meerut, B Chandrakala said that she had sought a report from the police on the incident involving Sangeet Som. “We will inform the Election Commission about the incident, once the authorities submit their report,” she said.

SP of Shamli Anil Kumar Jha said that a case was lodged against BJP MLA Suresh Rana as “his complaint was found prima facie to be malafide and far from the truth.”

“We are alive to this situation. We know what can happen if communal elements are allowed a free run. DMs have been asked to take strict action against them,” JP Singh, an official in the state election commission said.

BJP lawmakers have predictably accused the media of making a mountain of a molehill. Sangeet Som in interviews to several TV channels has claimed that the CDs seized by the police contained nothing more serious that what had already been aired on TV channels earlier. At the same time he warned that there was no question of abandoning ‘the issues’. Kairana, he said, was a serious issue that he was determined to pursue.

Som’s campaign van was stopped after police was tipped off by people at the MLA’s native Faridpur village. The vehicle used for canvassing and the CD containing the clip has been seized by police and a case registered against Virendra Kumar and Chandrashekhar Singh for violating the Model Code of Conduct.

The CD is said to contain episodes related to killings in Kawal, the mahapanchayat in Khera village and Som’s arrest during the Muzaffarnagar riots.

BJP leaders maintained there was nothing controversial in the CD. Som told this reporter: “You are making a mountain out of a mole hill. Such videos are available in every house. Police can verify the content. If we are wrong, we will rectify the fault.”

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