The re-election prospect of actress-turned-politician Hema Malini, the outgoing BJP MP from Mathura, is facing a strong resistance from not just the locals, but also a powerful section from within the BJP.
BJP workers in Mathura have told National Herald that the decision of BJP’s central leadership to overlook Mathura MLA and Uttar Pradesh minister Shrikant Sharma in favour of Hema Malini has created a strong resentment among party’s sitting MLAs as well as residents in surrounding villages, who helped the party clinch the election in 2014.
The BJP won on four of the five assembly seats falling in the Mathura Lok Sabha constituency in 2017 state elections. BJP supporters say that the local unit was hoping for a Lok Sabha ticket to either Sharma, or another sitting MLA.
The Lok Sabha constituency of Mathura goes to vote on April 18 during the second phase of seven-phase elections, the results for which will declared on May 23.
Complaints against Hema Malini have been doing the rounds within the BJP’s local unit, most of them centred around her “inaccessibility” to not only the voters, but also those within the BJP.
Local BJP leaders also say that the symbolism of Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath not accompanying Malini when she went to file her nomination papers was meant to appease the disgruntled legislators. “Even Yogiji wanted a ticket for Shrikant Sharma,” they say.
“She is a celebrity with a lot of tantrums. It has often happened that she has complained of smell from party’s own supporters when in the past they went to see her. She has hardly been seen in the constituency,” says Balveer Singh, a Rajput voter in Chhatikara village on the outskirts of Mathura.
Balveer voted the BJP in 2014 elections, which he said had largely to do with the “Modi wave” at the time than the choice of Hema Malini as the candidate.
Most of the people in our village went with the BJP,” he says, explaining that the village mainly comprised Rajputs and Thakurs, both communities seen as a loyal BJP vote bank. In fact, the Thakhur vote had been backing the BJP until the state elections in 2017.
“We gave Modi a chance because he promised a lot of things to us farmers. Even after demonetisation, we cast our ballot in favour of the BJP in the state elections. We thought that the government would deposit the black money that it got during the demonetisation,” Balveer recalls.
“But look what happened. The black money didn’t come back. The farmers here still don’t have clean water to water their fields. There hasn’t been any increase in the MSP to farmers. Everything they promised turned out to be a jumla,” says Balveer.
He further says that the villagers very well understand why the government is raising the pitch on national security ahead of the election. “But we won’t be fooled this time. We will vote on the basis of issues on the ground rather than what the TV channels are showing,” he says.
Balveer claims that the gathbandhan candidate, Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD) Kunwar Narendra Singh, was a favorite this time.
“He is one of our own. He has worked on the ground. And the Jaats this time are backing him, unlike the last time when they voted for the BJP,” he says.
The Jaats in Mathura, numbering around 4.5 lakh, have a decisive say in the election on the seat. Jatavs form a three lakh strong community, followed by Thakurs who number approx 2.5 lakh and Muslims at two lakhs.
Pradeep Mathur, a four-time Congress MLA from Mathura, says that Hema Malini has always been considered as an outsider, but managed to win in 2014 riding on the “Modi wave.”
“This time around, nobody trusts Modi. Hema Malini is fighting a losing battle,” he says.
“She hasn’t even done anything for the village that she had adopted, which is considered as the birthplace of Radha,” complains Mathur.
Mathur says that the Muslims and Jatavs living in Mathura will throw their weight behind the Congress Party candidate Mahesh Pathak.
He says that despite the BSP being in alliance with RLD, the Jatavs, which form BSP’s core vote bank in the state, will not vote for the RLD candidate due to traditional differences between the Jaat and Jatav communities.
“We have a good chance of winning the seat again,” Mathur confidently says.