Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Uttar Pradesh polls 2017: After SP-Cong pact, BSP, BJP rework strategy in western belt

Muslim voters are a major force to reckon with in Western belt of Uttar Pradesh.

By: PTI | Lucknow |
February 7, 2017 10:44:54 am
narendra modi, modi aligarh, sp congress alliance, rahul gandhi, akhilesh yadav, uttar pradesh elections, up polls, indian express news, india news, elections updates Rahul Gandhi came up with his own acronym of SCAM to counter Modi. He said that for him ‘SCAM’ stood for “Service, Courage, Ability and Modesty”.

With the SP-Congress alliance going strong after initial hiccups, BSP and BJP have been forced to rework their strategies in the western belt of Uttar Pradesh where Muslim voters are a major force to reckon with. Western UP has 140 Assembly constituencies spread over 26 districts which will go to polls in the first two phases on February 11 and 15. BSP, which was expecting a cake walk in the wake of feud in the Yadav family, to provide a strong alternative to BJP, got a blow with the coming together of two young faces of Indian politics – Akhilesh and Rahul – who do not have any previous record of hobnobbing with the saffron party.

To win over Muslims, BSP fielded has fielded as many as 50 Muslim candidates in the first two phases as it felt that Muslim vote along with its own core Dalit vote bank would see its candidates through. However, with the coming together of SP and Congress, the community got an option to choose between the two dispensations sending BSP knocking the doors of Muslim leadership and drum up the Muzaffarnagar riots with renewed vigour.

The fact that Muslims are important in the scheme of things for SP too can be seen in the party fielding Muslims on 42 of the 140 western UP seats. Interestingly on 28 seats in the first two phases, both BSP and SP have fielded Muslim candidates. If the Mayawati-led party is focussing on providing a “riot-free” and “crime-free” state on coming to power, the SP alliance is reopening the pages of BSP’s history, especially its (BSP’s) alliance with the saffron party.

“Can the community ever pardon Mayawati for ‘falsely’ implicating 43 youths on terror charges during her regime which is yet to be proved,” posed a Samajwadi Party leader. BSP is also out to tar Akhilesh Yadav as “anti-Muslim” with the new entrant in the party Afzal Ansari, brother of mafia-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, recalling a statement by Mulayam Singh Yadav in this regard that Akhilesh was working against the interest of Muslims.

Ansari has resolved to campaign all over the state against the “anti-Muslim” Akhilesh. Perhaps it was the importance of Muslim votes that SP showed least interest in allying with Chaudhary Ajit Singh led RLD which is primarily a party with a Jat vote bank. It was Jat versus Muslims during the Muzaffarnagar riots and Akhilesh Yadav was not interested in aligning with the perceived “oppressors” of the community, said SP insiders.

BJP, on its part, hopes for polarisation of Hindus in reaction to the possible consolidation of Muslims behind the SP-Congress alliance. With the pro-Hindutva leaders of the ilk of Hukum Singh, Sangeet Som, Suresh Rana, Sanjiv Balyan, Yogi Adityanath and Ramchandra Katheria leading the campaign and the issue of Hindu migration in the western region finding mention in BJP ‘Sankalp patra’ (manifesto), BJP is expecting a consolidation of Hindu votes like in the 2012 elections when it won Kairana, Saharanpur Nagar, Thana Bhawan, Bijnor and Noorpur in the face of division of votes between two Muslim candidates.

“BJP is clear that it will not get support among Muslims and knows that Hindus will finally come behind them…though Muzaffarnagar has long been done but migration is a recent issue and a reality highlighted by his party,” a BJP leader said. The party’s concern is to check any division in Hindu votes on seats where no mainstream party has fielded Muslims or there is strong Hindu candidate against a BJP nominee.

There are as many as 110 seats where both BJP and the SP-Congress alliance have fielded a Hindu candidate. BSP is also banking on the Mayawati regime providing a communally safe atmosphere during which the three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court pronounced its decision on the contentious Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit in 2009 when the entire country was put on high alert.

It is also highlighting the condition of the community which relied on Congress for 50 years and on SP for more than two decades. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BSP was relegated to the third slot in Saharanpur — where Congress leader Imran Masood had emerged second because of overwhelming Muslim support — as well as Kairana, Sambhal, Moradabad and Bijnor, where SP consolidated its support among Muslims.

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