Campaigning ends for first phase of Lok sabha polls

  • | Friday | 19th April, 2024

Election campaign in eight Lok Sabha constituencies going to polls in the first phase of election on April 19, ended on Wednesday evening. In Uttar Pradesh, the most crucial political state which sends 80 members to Lok Sabha, elections will be held in seven phases. In the first phase, polling will take place in eight constituencies primarily in western UP – Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Nagina, Moradabad, Rampur and Pilibhit. This region of the state, which has a sizable Muslim population, has historically been a challenge for the Bharatiya Janata Party. Of the eight constituencies going to polls on April 19, the BJP had secured victories in just three in 2019 – Muzaffarnagar, Pilibhit and Kairana. The Samajwadi Party had won Moradabad and Rampur while the Bahujan Samaj Party had bagged Saharanpur, Bijnor and Nagina. The SP and BSP had contested the 2019 general elections in alliance, but the alliance collapsed soon after the election. The BJP had later wrested the SP stronghold Rampur in the bypoll held in June 2022. The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), a mega grouping of opposition parties, was almost conspicuous by its absence during the campaign as Akhilesh Yadav was the only campaigner. He addressed only one meeting in Muzaffarnagar and a press conference in Ghaziabad on Wednesday. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was the only Congress leader to campaign in Saharanpur on Wednesday. Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati and her nephew Akash Anand also addressed election meetings in Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor in support of their party candidates. One of the most interesting contests in the first phase elections will be in Pilibhit, where the Bharatiya Janata Party has denied ticket to its sitting Member of Parliament Varun Gandhi and fielded UP PWD Minister Jitin Prasada, once a close aide of Rahul Gandhi. The replacement of the candidate caused a fair amount of buzz in Pilibhit as the Samajwadi Party made it an issue. BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have campaigned aggressively for Prasada in Pilibhit. Prasada is being challenged by SPs Bhagwat Saran Gangwar and Anis Ahmed Khan of the BSP. Rampur is another constituency to watch out for since it was once a stronghold of jailed SP leader Mohammad Azam Khan. The jailed leader wanted SP chief Akhilesh Yadav to contest from Rampur. Yadav, however, turned down the offer and much to the chagrin of Azam Khan gave the ticket to Maulana Mohibullah Nadvi, a cleric of a mosque in Delhi. Muzaffarnagar, known for its intricate caste dynamics and latent communal divide ever since the worst ever communal violence in the district in 2013, is also witnessing a three-cornered electoral battle, with Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan locked in close contest against SPs Harindra Malik and BSP candidate Dara Singh Prajapati. The electoral contest in Kairana will also be closely watched where the once-dominant issue of exodus seems to have dwindled. Moreover, SPs triumph in Kairana in the 2022 assembly election has prompted a re-evaluation of strategy by the BJP. Saharanpur is also a key battleground constituency, known as the serial number one seat in UP.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned in Saharanpur to canvass support for the BJP candidate and CM Yogi Adityanath held a roadshow there. Over the years, Saharanpur has oscillated between the SP, BJP and BSP. BJPs Lakhanpal won this Lok Sabha seat in 2014 but in 2019 BSP candidate Haji Fazlur Rehman wrested the seat from him. In the run-up to the polls, Imran Masood, the Congress leader who made controversial remarks against PM Modi, has returned to the grand old party after stints with SP and BSP. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has aggressively campaigned in both Saharanpur and Kairana Lok Sabha constituencies. Unlike previous elections, no controversial statements have been made by political leaders during the campaigning this time. All political parties have so far avoided communal statements, which were common in past elections.

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