Western UP set to witness keen contests

  • | Monday | 8th April, 2024

Western Uttar Pradesh has played a pivotal role in deciding the electoral fortunes of Bharatiya Janata Party in the state during the last decade. Ever since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections followed by UP assembly polls in 2017 and 2022 and the last parliamentary elections in 2019, the opposition has posed a challenge to the BJP and also achieved partial success. With 16 Lok Sabha constituencies going to polls in the first and second phases, the electoral arithmetic in this region is vastly different in 2024 due to Rashtriya Lok Dal joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Unlike 2019, the Bahujan Samaj Party has entered the electoral battle solo and Samajwadi Party and Congress are part of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA). In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the SP, BSP and RLD had joined hands. The SP and BSP had won 15 seats, while the RLD had drawn a blank. In the 2022 UP assembly polls, the SP and RLD were together and they posed a challenge to the BJP. The opposition had pinned high hopes of defeating the BJP in western UP, thus preventing its return to power in UP.  Farmers leader Yogendra Yadav had commented on the dismal performance of the SP-RLD alliance: We had laid a fine pitch for the alliance but Akhilesh Yadav failed to deliver. The SP-RLD tie-up however succeeded in increasing its tally of seats. In 2024, the SP has no ally except the Congress as the RLD has joined hands with the BJP-led NDA. Confusion in SP over selection of candidates for the Rampur, Moradabad and Meerut Lok Sabha seats has added to the woes of the opposition, thus benefiting the BJP. Encompassing the Braj and Rohilkhand regions, the 16 constituencies are slated to go to polls in the first two phases on April 19 and 26. Though the INDIA bloc is confident of garnering a majority of Muslim votes, the presence of BSP is likely to spoil their chances. Western UP is home to 72.29 per cent Hindu and 26.21 per cent Muslim population. In many constituencies going to poll in the first and second phases, the number of Muslim voters is over 40 per cent. The electoral battleground is, thus, set for an intense and keenly-fought contest, particularly in constituencies with sizeable Muslim populations – Rampur, Moradabad, Kairana, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Sambhal, Meerut, Baghpat, Bijnor, Aligarh, Nagina (SC) and Amroha. The BJPs electoral strategy here hinges on development, law and order, crackdown on organised mafia gangs and timely payment of sugarcane price to farmers with a hike in the SAP (state advisory price) of sugarcane. Infrastructure development has been a focal point, with upgraded highways, railway lines and improved electricity supply underpinning the BJPs governance narrative. An additional advantage is the image of Yogi Adityanath as a tough administrator. The chief minister has earned praise of the common people for the crackdown on criminals and anti-social elements, focus on infrastructure upgradation and social welfare. The common man feels safe. This is the biggest achievement of the government as our daughters and sisters can step out fearlessly even at night, says a local panchayat leader in Kairana. The BJP has not only forged an alliance with Jayant Chaudharys RLD, but has also bestowed the top honour of the country, the Bharat Ratna, on his grandfather and former  late Chaudhary Charan Singh. The BJP had performed well in western UP in the 2022 assembly polls largely due to its emphasis on womens safety. Despite communal tensions, western UP witnessed a surge in BJPs electoral fortunes in 2014. The party swept the Lok Sabha elections months after the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 and won all the 16 Lok Sabha seats of this region. The BJP formed the government in UP led by Yogi Adityanath with a thumping majority in 2017, but in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the party suffered a setback as it lost seven out of the 16 Lok Sabha seats in the western region. The SP-BSP-RLD alliance led to the consolidation of Muslim and Jat votes and the BJP faced defeat in most Muslim-dominated constituencies. Almost all the Lok Sabha seats of western UP are set to witness keen contests, with the SP-Congress candidates locked in a direct fight with the BJP-RLD candidates, especially in Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Meerut, Baghpat and Mathura. The key contenders include Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan and veteran actress Hema Malini. The BJPs top leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh along with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, have campaigned here. The BJP leaders have in their campaign focused on the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. However, the top leadership of the opposition parties is still missing from the scene.   

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