First phase of Uttar Pradesh polls to be held today, SP-RLD candidates poised to emerge victorious
Polling will be held in 58 assembly seats in western Uttar Pradesh, home to a large farming community which seems determined to vote out the incumbent BJP government for a multitude of reasons
The trumpet has been blown for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Today, on February 10, polling is being held in 58 assembly seats in the first phase, in which 2.27 crore voters will exercise their voting rights.
The impact of the farmers' agitation is most visible in all these assembly seats, which are adjacent to Delhi.
These 58 assembly seats fall in Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Shamli, Hapur, Bulandshahar, Meerut, Gautam Budh Nagar, Ghaziabad, Mathura, Agra and Aligarh districts.
There has been a lot of resentment against the BJP in these farmer-dominated areas. BJP candidates have faced opposition even in entering villages in the area. The farming-related class seems to be unilaterally angry with the incumbent Yogi government.
Being the largest and most populous state in the country which sends 403 MLAs to the assembly, a good start in the first phase may set the momentum for the remaining poll process.
Many big faces are in the fray in the first phase. This includes UP government's sugarcane minister Suresh Rana, contesting from Thana Bhawan assembly seat, where too the farmers' resentment has given the BJP a tough time.
The Rashtriya Lok Dal, which won only one seat in 2017 from the area, has now become the most important party in the first phase. The importance of Chaudhary Jayant Singh, grandson of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, seems to have increased exponentially following the farmers’ agitation.
According to Vinod Malik of Jalalabad town of Thana Bhawan assembly seat, sugarcane payment and its price are burning issues here. “The sugarcane minister has failed, he has not been able to do anything for his area even though he himself cultivates sugarcane,” he says.
Another important development is that Jats and Muslims are united in their political preference. This posed the biggest headache for the BJP which is why it was constantly trying to allure Jayant Singh.
Jats constitute around 17 percent of the population in the assembly seats going to the polls. They are enthusiastic voters and in the ongoing wedding season, RLD flags can be seen waving during marriage processions.
RLD is contesting elections in alliance with the Samajwadi Party. In some seats, Samajwadi Party leaders are contesting on the symbol of RLD.
This is a different type of chemistry in itself, which has created massive trouble for the BJP, which in 2017 had won 25 out of 28 seats in Meerut division.
This time, in these 58 seats, it is definitely not going to get the same success rate as the last time.
Kuldeep Rathi of Baghpat says the BJP repealed the farm laws only after 13 months of the farmers’ agitation, during which it used abusive terms for the farmers. “This has neither been forgotten nor forgiven,” he said.
In this first phase of polls in western Uttar Pradesh, the BJP deployed all its usual tricks to try sway the poll results in its favour. Even as tall claims of development were made, communal issues to trigger polarisation of votes were bandied about like the Muzaffarnagar riots, migration and Kanwar Yatra. Every effort was made to play the Hindutva card, but it came to nothing.
In fact, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath's remarks about Muzaffarnagar and Shamli only produced resentment among the youth who say that instead of helping them gain employment, the CM was busy delivering negative speeches.
Indeed, the issue of development seems to be missing from the narrative in these polls altogether.
In this part of the state, candidates of the RLD and SP alliance are in a direct fight with those of the BJP. There is a lot of support for Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, but people seem keen to vote out the BJP government and want to avoid division of votes towards that end.
In 2017, the RLD and SP had contested elections separately. If the combined votes polled for them at that time are considered, the BJP seems to be strong in 21 out of 28 seats. But then, in 27 seats, the RLD had polled less than 7,000 votes, which suggests that the Jats, who were the party’s mainstay, supported the BJP at the time.
This time, a majority of the Jats want to change the government.
Further, the last time, Muslim votes were divided between the SP and BSP, but this time, they are clear that their votes must not get split and end up benefitting the BJP.
There is no inclination among the voters towards the BSP, which tried hard to attract Dalit votes. Vicky Kaushik from Siana of Bulandshahr says his community, like the Jats, were into farming too and were keen to overthrow the government.
Incidentally, the Congress has fielded Poonam Pandit from this constituency. She is popular among the youth and has made the election process interesting.
Another important aspect is that in these 58 seats, the margin of victory in about 40 seats is likely to be in the range of 10,000 to 15,000 votes. This has spurred wealthy candidates to splurge money to influence the electorate, following which the Opposition has informed the Election Commission about this as well as the possible misuse of Postal Ballots.
Samajwadi Party’s district president of Muzaffarnagar, advocate Pramod Tyagi explains that in the Lok Sabha elections, most of the government machinery had shown a huge inclination towards the ruling party. “We want fair elections without any kind of influence. The Election Commission has been informed in this regard,” he said.
Incidentally, voting will also take place in Sisauli in this phase, which is home to the office of the Bharatiya Kisan Union and the Tikait family which lead it.
Rakesh Tikait is, of course, now opposed to the BJP government, unlike the last time.
Gaurav Tikait from Sisauli points out that 700 farmers were martyred during the farmers’ agitation. “Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni is still walking with his chest puffed up in Lakhimpur. The government has turned a deaf ear to all our justful demands. The farmers are very angry,” he said.
(Translated from Hindi by Abhir More)
Published: 10 Feb 2022, 8:23 AM